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A Girl and a Wild Mustang—or “There Are Many ‘Right’ Ways to Train Animals”

A-Girl-And-A-Wild-Mustang

A Girl and a Wild Mustang

—or “There Are Many Right Ways to Train Animals”

 

“A Girl and a Wild Mustang” by Elsa Sinclair is a beautiful documentary—and yes, I’m biased. 

I’ll explain why I find it beautiful and why I’m biased in a while. See, these days a tendency prevails in claiming there’s only one right way for us to interact with our animals. If you adhere to that idea, I fear I have bad news for you. There isn’t only one way to train animals; there are many. Let’s start from the beginning.

If you know a bit about evolutionary biology, you’ll know there are countless more ways to be dead than alive. Once we are alive, there are many ways of living, depending on anatomical, physiological, and environmental constraints. Once we’re over that, we are what we are, based on genetics, epigenetics, early imprinting, education, adaptation, goals, and circumstances.

It’s no surprise we differ from one another, no two humans, dogs, horses, or jellyfish being clones of each other.

In humans, the values, morals, and ethics we acquire throughout life accentuate peculiarities. Perhaps they do also in some other species (the evolutionary biologist suspects); only we don’t know.

Like/don’t like (the Facebook syndrome, as I coined the phenomenon) expresses our normative side (emotions and values) more than their descriptive counterparts (reason and facts). They reveal the radical and inescapable subjectivism and singularity of any conscious living organism—a condition Oriental philosophies heroically attempt to elude. We judge as we find suitable and as we can. We reason, but I’ll argue that normative judgments have the better of their descriptive analogs—at least for the human species at large. Perhaps once that gave us an evolutionarily advantageous edge.

Because we act according to our norms and not de facto facts, disagreement is expectable. Compound that with a good dose of faulty logic—the standard in human reasoning—and the probability of dissent moves one notch up from expectable to inevitable.

White is the safest color for a car, yet silver is the most popular. Why? Because car buyers chose by emotion, not reason. There’s nothing wrong with that (from a logical perspective) as long as we don’t claim that (A) safety is a concern of ours, and (B) color does not matter. Why is that so? Because, although the argument is valid, it is unsound.

The validity of an argument does not depend on its premisses being true, but its soundness does. A deductive argument is sound if and only if it is both valid, and all of its premises are true. In our example above, (B) is false, and the argument is, therefore, unsound. 

There are many ways to train animals, depending on our knowledge, skills, goals, and preferences. Say, we want to establish a reciprocal, beneficial relationship with our dog or horse. We may choose any method we want: reinforcers only, combining reinforcers and inhibitors, a particular lead/leash, food or no food. Different approaches can be equally good. What we cannot do—provided we want to stay rational—is to justify our actions based on values with false facts.

What science tells us, does not oblige us to adopt any one method. Science doesn’t say a particular method is unconditionally better than another. It says that under specific circumstances A rates over B and B over C with a certain probability. A may be better for speed, B for reliability, and C for individual comfort. I choose, you choose, we choose what suits each of us best. We may want to go for speed, reliability, or what feels most comfortable for us. As long as we do not deny the facts science gives us, there’s nothing wrong with any choice of ours. What is wrong (unsound argumentation, as we saw above) is to state that we choose a particular method because of its efficiency for a specific purpose despite science telling us otherwise.

For example, during my career, I have assisted many owners and their animals. Invariably, my first questions would be, “what is your goal?” and “what price are you willing to pay?” And by price, I didn’t mean bucks, dimes, and pennies, but deviating from your values if need be.

Gimmicks—leads, collars, halters, food treats—speed up training a dog or a horse. Using neither is slower, and it requires much more knowledge, skill, and empathy. Again, it depends on what you want.

Students and clients often ask me which lead I recommend or prefer. My answer is always the same. I endorse none, but I can tell you what studies (not opinions) say about the effects of the various types—and you pick one, given your goals and principles. 

If you ask me, I prefer none: no leads/leashes, collars, or any gimmicks. For me, the primary in any relationship with an animal (human or not) is the connection per se. I want it to be one between two free agents: no constraints besides the inevitable of having neighbors and having to share the world with others. That’s me, and I don’t expect you to think likewise—and I wouldn’t dream of imposing my view on you.

Given, I could achieve faster and more accurate and reliable results using other methods. Denying that is out of the question for it would compromise my intellectual integrity, which I am utterly incapable of doing. Blame my genetic constitution, early upbringing, education, and fortuitous circumstances. 

Therefore, I’m willing to pay the price of sticking to my philosophy of life (and being slower, less accurate, etc.)—perhaps because I find the payback worth it. As I write elsewhere, “[…] (I) enjoy the closeness, not the training, not (the) achievement, […] relating to the animal (I) face as a living organism, an equal, a creature (I) meet for a brief moment in space and time.” (Animal Training My Way, 2015).

And so, you make your choices, to which you are fully entitled, and I mine. We are equally right as long as we do not deny facts or use faulty logic in our reasoning—which takes us to “A Girl and a Wild Mustang.”

As to my preferred interaction with animals (humans too), I’d suggest you watch Elsa Sinclair’s “A Girl and a Wild Mustang.” Sinclair made her choices and proved her point. Incidentally, she also proved my case, better than I could have done it—for which I’m grateful. You must see this documentary. 

Sinclair does not impose her thoughts on you, rather states her case. It’s a take it, or leave it. As I said at the start, it’s a beautiful movie, and I am biased. My most avid readers will know right away, barely 30 seconds into the movie, why I recommend it so dearly.

Let me give you a teaser by quoting Sinclair: “Have you ever wondered if a horse would let you ride her if there was no threat of punishment or encouragement of a reward such as food? Would a horse let you ride her simply because you had built a strong relationship?”

I wrote in my book Evolution (2014), “We humans can contemplate nothing without changing it. Yet, the most important, it seems to me, must be to understand, accept, and respect other living beings independently of species and race.” 

That’s a normative statement, all right, and one you may beg to differ. I read, recently, a claim that respect being a human construct, does not exist for dogs. I’ll dispute vigorously that respect is a human construct. Sinclair’s movie is all about mutual respect between human and horse.

“We both have the right to live. I have the right to chase you, you have the right to fly,” the lion says to the gazelle. I suspect respect, as in acting as others have the same freedoms as we do, even though they may conflict with ours, is a fundamental law of nature. If so, this statement of mine, paradoxically enough, will cease to be normative and will become a premise for this universe’s sustainability.

That is something to ponder on.

Photo by Elsa Sinclair. Artwork by Anton Antonsen.

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Learn more in our course Ethology and Behaviorism. Based on Roger Abrantes’ book “Animal Training My Way—The Merging of Ethology and Behaviorism,” this online course explains and teaches you how to create a stable and balanced relationship with any animal. It analyses the way we interact with our animals, combines the best of ethology and behaviorism and comes up with an innovative, yet simple and efficient approach to animal training. A state-of-the-art online course in four lessons including videos, a beautiful flip-pages book, and quizzes.

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Psychology Rather Than Power—for the Umpteenth Time, Reinforcers Are Not Rewards

Roger Abrantes and Petrine 1982

For the umpteenth time, a reinforcer is not a reward. When I hear “Force-Free” trainers say, “dogs like to work to earn rewards,”1 I suspect and fear they miss by a mile and a half the essence and function of reinforcers in learning theory (and so also of inhibitors).

I’m not splitting hairs. There is a crucial difference between “reinforcing a particular behavior” and “rewarding an individual.” I suspect ignorance hereof being as well the cause of the many incorrect statements on inhibitors2 from the “Radical Force-Free” camp (emphasis on radical).3

“Dogs like to work to earn rewards” reminds me somehow of the old days when I opposed the old school of military dog training. Not everything was hassle and squabble; we had our moments of pleasantries. After ten minutes of marching forth and back, the instructor would say, “And halt! Now, praise your dogs.” Yes, I went to that kind of dog training with my first dog. That was what we had by then.

I walked out in disgust and decided, there and then, my dog and I would train by ourselves and we would show them. We did.

I substituted praise with reinforcers, the real thing—not rewards,—including my ‘dygtig’4 and treats given at strategic points. I stopped using a leash and started using a lead. Leash jerks gave place to “No” immediately followed by “dygtig” when the dog, not me, corrected the mistake. That, my dog would undisputedly do because she visibly enjoyed being my “teammate.” I was a student of ethology and I knew about social canines, our domestic dog being one. Old Professor Lorenz’s words rang in my ears, “To understand an animal, first you have to become a partner,” and he knew better than anyone for he had done it with his goslings.

I signed up for the final “obedience” competition at the club, a hunting dog club run by real hunters, and we won with max points. That a young long-haired fellow in faded Levi’s and clogs had won created some agitation; and, as to add insult to injury, my dog was a little, only seven-months-old English Cocker Spaniel (a genuine one, not one of those oddballs we see in the US today), red and female, on top of that. Petrine was intelligent, beautiful, charming, a workaholic, and a sweety-pie—though I might be a tad biased.

Our performance generated some raised eyebrows and more humming than the establishment would have wished. At the prizes and punch social function, a few civilians asked me whispering whether I would help training their fidos (read companion dogs).

The following Saturday, we were training on a grass field across the road where I lived, now the local firemen’s station. That was 1982, the summer before my son Daniel was born; and that’s how dog training came into my life. I never planned it.

Two years later, in 1984, I wrote my first book, “Psychology Rather than Force,” with far too little experience but loads of good ideas including force-free, hands-free, reinforcement-based training with as few inhibitors as possible, and it even included a whistle (the precursor of the clicker).

I was positive dog training would change. It did, and the rest is history.

 

__________

Notes

1 – This is an actual quote from a document published on the internet by a confessed “Force-Free” trainer.

Note that Skinner writes about reinforcers and rewards, “The strengthening effect is missed, by the way, when reinforcers are called rewards. People are rewarded, but behavior is reinforced. If, as you walk along the street, you look down and find some money, and if money is reinforcing, you will tend to look down again for some time, but we should not say that you were rewarded for looking down. As the history of the word shows, reward implies compensation, something that offsets a sacrifice or loss, if only the expenditure of effort. We give heroes medals, students degrees, and famous people prizes, but those rewards are not directly contingent on what they have done, and it is generally felt that the rewards would not be deserved if they had been worked for.” (Skinner, 1986, p. 569).

2- In 2013, I suggested we changed punisher and derivatives to inhibitor and derivatives to avoid the moral and religious connotations of the former, particularly in the Latin languages, and to emphasize its function and use as a learning tool.

3 – “Radical Force-Free dog trainers” (also “radical positives”) is my denomination for those trainers adhering to the positive reinforcement-based or force-free movement, but having extreme views like claiming positive reinforcers are the only learning tool one needs, they never use aversive stimuli, one should never say “no,” everyone else but them is wrong, and other absurdities. Please do not confuse them with the non-radical positive or reinforcement-based dog trainers who are equally force-free but sensible, open-minded, prudent in their claims, and polite and considerate to otherwise thinkers.

4 – “Dygtig” is my preferred semi-conditioned sound reinforcer. It’s a Danish word meaning’ clever,’ ‘skilled.’ It has a good doggy sound.

 

References

Abrantes, R. 1984. Psykologi Fremfor Magt (Psychology Rather Than Force). Lupus Forlag.
Abrantes. R. 2013. The 20 Principles All Animal Trainers Must Know. Wakan Tanka Publishers.
Skinner, B. F. 1986. What is wrong with daily life in the Western world? American Psychologist, 41(5), 568-574. Retrieved Jun. 29, 2019.

Featured photo by Annemarie Abrantes.

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Learn more in our course Ethology and Behaviorism. Based on Roger Abrantes’ book “Animal Training My Way—The Merging of Ethology and Behaviorism,” this online course explains and teaches you how to create a stable and balanced relationship with any animal. It analyses the way we interact with our animals, combines the best of ethology and behaviorism and comes up with an innovative, yet simple and efficient approach to animal training. A state-of-the-art online course in four lessons including videos, a beautiful flip-pages book, and quizzes.

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English Writing Aids


Roger Abrantes
Articles and Blogs
Writing
Posts Online (English Writing Aids)

I’ve tested several English writing aids, tools that improve our writing and grammar. We have come a long way since the first, primitive spell checkers.

“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?” To mirror our current reality, I took the liberty to update this Buddhist saying.

“If you propose to post, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind—is it well written?”

The way you say what you say matters, language matters.

 

Grammarly and ProWritingAid are by far the best English writing aids. Accuracy is similar in both apps; none is perfect. Since they are prone to miss different issues, using both improves our documents.

Grammarly is faster to use. ProWritingAid gives you more help—and work as well—for it goes into more details. To write a 100% satisfactory document for ProWritingAid is no mean feat; but you must be prudent since several suggestions, even though they may lighten the writing, will change your style.

Both apps allow you to save your documents in their clouds, which is an excellent facility for storage and quick editing. Both have browser extensions that will help to improve your writing nearly anywhere on the web.

Writing aids are like GPS instructions. They get you to your destination when you don’t know the route, and the more you know, the better they will serve you.

Bottom-line: Both are excellent tools. Grammarly is better suited to blogs, posts, and short essays. ProWritingAid appeals more to the professional author aiming at near perfection. Combining them is the top choice. None turns the pro copy editor superfluous yet. I recommend both apps for native and non-native English speakers. Because one is a native speaker does not mean one doesn’t commit language blunders or cannot improve. Both apps will turn you into a better writer.

See also “Recipe for answering questions.”

To achieve such a document score, you must work hard, especially in longer documents. PWA will detect colloquialisms, cliches, too many glue-words, passive sentences, sentence structure and variation, and much more.

PWA Document Scores 1

You can see your sentence length at a glance. Varying the length of sentences makes it for more engaging reading.

Use adverbs with moderation in creative writing and outside dialogues. I use one adverb in my text, which is OK. Hidden verbs make for more difficult reading. PWA warns you of such instances.

Passive sentences are unclear. Write who, what, and when in unequivocal terms.

PWA Document Scores 2

Sticky sentences contain too many common words and are not interesting for the reader. The optimal percentage is up to 40%. PWA gives my text a thumbs down by 0.1% which means it is virtually OK. I could correct that but I choose not to do it for it would change the style or tone of my post. 

An interesting note: PWA warns me (not shown here) that “virtually” may be unnecessary. PWA is right. I disregard it, though, to give you an example of the depth of the app’s analysis.

PWA Document Scores 3

A dynamic vocabulary makes for compelling reading. Readability measures show you how you can expect your readers to understand your message. Flesch over 60 is a must when you address readers at large. When you write to educated readers, the reading ease score may be lower. If you expect your audience to be non-native English speakers, keep your writing close to Flesch 60. In this caption, the vocabulary is more dynamic than 85% of ProWritingAid users and the Flesh score is 61%.

PWA Document Scores 4

Featured artwork by Anton Antonsen, photo by Roman Kosolapov.

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Animal Welfare Animal welfare is an objective science studying the needs of animals, an interaction between natural science, ethics, and law. This course is a must for everyone working with animals. Learn how to assess your pet's quality of life.

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Take a look at Ethology and Behaviorism. Based on Roger Abrantes’ book “Animal Training My Way—The Merging of Ethology and Behaviorism,” this online course explains and teaches you how to create a stable and balanced relationship with any animal. It analyses the way we interact with our animals, combines the best of ethology and behaviorism and comes up with an innovative, yet simple and efficient approach to animal training. A state-of-the-art online course in four lessons including videos, a beautiful flip-pages book, and quizzes.

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Dogs Point North-South When They Pee and Poop

Dogs Point North-South

Dogs point North-South when they pee and poop. They use the Earth’s magnetic field when urinating and defecating, aligning their bodies in the N-S axis.

If I wrote this on April 1st, everyone would take that for an April Fool’s prank. It is not. It is the conclusion of a scientific project conducted by Hart et al. and involving researchers from the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Sciences, Czech University of Life Sciences, and the Faculty of Biology, University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany (Hart et al. 2013).

 

Dogs Register Small Variations in Earth’s Magnetic Field

The study concludes dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) register small variations in Earth’s magnetic field after examining the behavior of 70 individuals (28 males and 42 females) belonging to 37 breeds, collected by 37 dog owners/reporters.

The researchers collected data on alignment during defecation (n = 1,893 observations, 55 dogs) and urination (n = 5,582, 59 dogs) from December 2011 through July 2013 in the Czech Republic and in Germany.

Under calm magnetic field conditions, dogs preferred to defecate with their bodies aligned along the north-south axis, even when sometimes facing south. Dogs not only favored N-S but also avoid E-W.

The data shows that larger and faster changes in magnetic conditions result in a random distribution of body alignments, i.e., a lowering of the preferences and ceasing of the avoidances, which may result from the magnetic disturbance or the intentional shutdown of the magnetoreception mechanism.

To avert any bias, all dogs moved in a free-roaming environment, off-lead and not restricted by walls or roads that would influence their movements. The routes of walks changed to exclude or limit pseudo-replication caused by the dogs defecating and urinating in the same few places.

The researchers also excluded the sun, polarized light, and the wind as determining factors for the body alignment of the dogs.

 

No Differences Between Males and Females

The study found no differences in the alignment of males and females during defecation and of the latter during urination. They all assume similar postures during defecation and females’ urination. Urinating males showed slightly different preferences to the females’ choices. The male leg lifting posture, while urinating, could explain these discrepancies.

 

No Answer to Why Dogs Prefer the North-South Axis

We have no answer to why dogs prefer the north-south axis and avoid east-west. It may be intentional, in which case they must perceive the magnetic field with one of their senses (as a haptic stimulus), or maybe they feel more comfortable aligning them in a particular direction (controlled at the vegetative level).

 

New Perspectives

Earlier studies confirmed that the natural fluctuations of the Earth’s magnetic field may disturb orientation in birds, bees, whales, and even affect vegetative functions and behavior in humans.

Studies on the wolves’ (Canis lupus lupus) homing are inconclusive. We cannot rule out the possible influence of an inherent sense of direction. There may be critical periods during a wolf’s life during which specific elements of its environment may imprint on it. In a study, the simplest hypothesis that explained the movement of four wolves was responses to visual, olfactory, and auditory cues with the latter probably being the most important. The wolves seemed driven to return to familiar territory, using the strongest learned exogenous cues (Henshaw and Stephenson 1974). Magnetoreception could have been a homing aid.

The findings of Hart et al. open new perspectives on how organisms use magnetic fields for direction.

References

Begall, S., Malkemper, P., Burda, H. 2014. Magnetoreception in mammals. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 2014. pp 45-79.

Dimitrova, S., Stoilova, I., and Cholakov, I. 2004. Influence of local geomagnetic storms on arterial blood pressure. Bioelectromagnetics 2004, 25:408–414. https://doi.org/10.1002/bem.20009.

Hart V, Malkemper EP, Kušta T, Begall S, Nováková P, Hanzal V, Pleskač L, Ježek M, Policht R, Husinec V, Červený J, Burda H: Directional compass preference for landing in water birds. Frontiers Zool 2013, 10:38. https://doi.org/10.1186/1742-9994-10-38.

Hart, V. et al. 2013. Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field. Frontiers in Zoology 2013, 10:80.

Henshaw, R.E., and Stephenson, R.O. 1974. Homing in the gray wolf (Canis lupus). J Mammal 1974, 55:234–237.

Southern, W.E. 1978. Orientation Responses of Ring-Billed Gull Chicks: A Re-Evaluation. In Schmidt-Koenig K., Keeton W.T. (eds) Animal Migration, Navigation, and Homing. Proceedings in Life Sciences. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp 311-317.

Featured illustration by Anton Antonsen.

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Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.

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Canine Epigenetics

Canine-Epigenetics

Epigenetics [Greek epi– ἐπι- = above, over, on, in addition to] is the study of heritable gene functions that cause stable phenotypic variations without affecting the DNA sequence of the organism.

Conrad Waddington coined the term in 1942 before we knew that DNA was the molecular basis of genes. He proposed that genes are differentially turned on and off by another level of “epigenetic” processes to produce different cells in the developing embryo.

 

Epigenetics, Environment, Phenotypic Plasticity

Behavioral epigenetics studies the role of epigenetics in forming behavior. It seeks to explain how nurture may shape nature. It attempts to provide a framework for understanding how the environment may influence gene expression to produce individual differences in behavior.

However, we must be careful with the term ‘environment’. To a geneticist, the environment is everything that isn’t the cellular environment of the DNA. To a social scientist, the environment catches everything from parental care to the stock market climate. That the cellular environment might be essential for understanding gene expression does not imply that one’s housing conditions have a similar impact.

The environment influences particular changes in gene action. For example, in alligators and specific turtles, egg incubation temperature affects the gene expression defining the sex of the individual. In these cases, the state of the gene passes down through cell divisions within a single organism, but it resets in eggs or sperm most times, so it does not transfer between generations. Thus, the mechanism does not influence evolution. An epigenetic state must carry over into the progeny to have any evolutionary relevance. For instance, molecules that bind to DNA and transfer to the offspring partially control the coat color of mice, Rattus norvegicus.

We must not confuse ‘epigenetics’ with ‘phenotypic plasticity,’ i.e., the capacity of one genotype of producing different phenotypes depending on the environment.

 

Belyayev’s Experiments

Belyayev’s experimented with silver foxes, Vulpes vulpes, which he bred based on a selection for tameness. He tested the animals, gave them a tameness score, and placed them in one of three groups. By the 20th generation, 35 percent of the animals were in the higher class, the ‘elite’ group; and as of 2009, ‘elite foxes’ made up 70 to 80 percent of the population. In addition, the changes in the tame foxes over the generations were not only behavioral but also physiological.

Belayev didn’t prove the effect of epigenetics in domestication. He proved the probability of domestication having occurred through selective breeding. In his own words, “It seems possible that the high frequency of the star mutation is due to strong selection intentionally applied for behavior.” (Belyaev et al. 1981). His experiments are a unique resource for studying the genetics of domestication.

The question of epigenetics goes deeper. Genes controlling plasma glucocorticoids were probably the targets during selection for tameness and the effects showed at all levels from phenotypic parameters to the gene expression of the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), proopiomelanocortin (POMC), and the glucocorticoid receptor (GCR). Trut et al. conclude that “It appears plausible that the phenotypic novelties in the experimental fox population could be due to changes in gene activity, largely in its epigenetic modification.” (Trut et al. 2009).

If environmental conditions prefer a gene expression which parents pass to their progeny, and which, in turn, is more environmental independent than in the previous generation, then we can talk of a genuine epigenetic effect. If it is not, then we are talking about phenotypic plasticity and not epigenetics.

Most epigenetic changes occur only within the course of one individual organism’s lifetime—and that’s it. They can, though, pass to the organism’s offspring (transgenerational epigenetic inheritance). Also, if gene inactivation occurs in a sperm or egg cell that results in fertilization, this epigenetic modification may transfer to the next generation.

 

Conclusions

Do epigenetics make Lamarck right and Darwin wrong? To answer that, we must determine whether usage or selection causes epigenetic effects. Evidence supports the latter. Thus, epigenetic factors are yet another source of heritable natural variation. Darwin would have appreciated it. In fact, in 1868 he cautiously proposed ‘Pangenesis’ to cover the possibility that acquired characters might transfer to the progeny (whereby gemmules passed from somatic to reproductive cells). Modern discoveries seem to confirm that Darwin was right again.

At the time of writing, I have not found conclusive studies showing the effect of epigenetics on canine (Canis lupus familiaris) behavior, although Belyayev’s and subsequent studies make it plausible. I would appreciate if my reader has relevant information that may clarify this topic.

In popular writings appealing to the broad public, epigenetics seems to be everything that is not in the genes. However, that is not the scientific view, one requirement being that an effect is only epigenetic if it impacts the evolution of a trait. Therefore, I would recommend prudence when analyzing any statement claiming ‘epigenetic’ effects. These days, the term ‘epigenetic’ (like ‘quantum’) is prone to arouse the fantasy of quacksalvers.

References

Belyayev, D.K., Ruvinsky, A.O., and Trut, L N. 1981. Inherited activation/inactivation of the star gene in foxes. Journal of Heredity, 72: 264-274.

Chandler, V.L. 2007. Paramutation: from maize to mice. Cell. 128 (4): 641–45. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2007.02.007. PMID 17320501.

Cimarelli, G., Virányi, Z., Turcsán B., Rónai, Z., Sasvári-Székely, M., Bánlaki, Z. 2017. Social Behavior of Pet Dogs Is Associated with Peripheral OXTR Methylation. Front Psychol. 2017 Apr 10;8:549. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00549.

Darwin, C. R. 1868. The variation of animals and plants under domestication. London: John Murray. 1st edition, second issue. Volume 1.

Dias, B.G., & Ressler, K.J. 2014. Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations. Nature Neuroscience, 17(1), 89-98. doi: 10.1038/nn.3594.

Dupont C., Armant D.R., Brenner, C.A. 2009. Epigenetics: definition, mechanisms and clinical perspective. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine. 27 (5): 351–57. doi:10.1055/s-0029-1237423. PMC 2791696. PMID 19711245.

Florean, C. 2014. Food that shapes you: how diet can change your epigenome. Science in School, Issue 28.

Hughes, V. 2014. Epigenetics: the sins of the father. Nature, 507, 22-24.

Kaplan, G. 2017. Why is my dog this way, does it matter if we know, and what can we do? IAABC journal.

Pörtt, D., Jung, C. 2017. Is dog domestication due to epigenetic modulation in brain? Dog Behavior. Vol 3, No 2 (2017). ISSN 2421-5678.

Trut, L.N. 1996. Sex ratio in silver foxes: effects of domestication and the star gene. Theor Appl Genet (1996)92:109-115. ISSN
1432-2242.

Trut, L., Oskina, I., and Kharlamova, A. 2009. Animal evolution during domestication: the domesticated fox as a model. Bioessays. 2009 Mar; 31(3): 349–360.

Featured image by Anton Antonsen, photo by Hitdelight.

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Animal Welfare Animal welfare is an objective science studying the needs of animals, an interaction between natural science, ethics, and law. This course is a must for everyone working with animals. Learn how to assess your pet's quality of life.

Featured Price: € 98.00 € 49.00

 

Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.

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Do Animals Show Altruism?

Do Animals Show Altruism?

Introduction |Etymology | Definition and Problems | The Altruism Paradox- Group selection—Wilson | Kin Selection—Maynard Smith | Reciprocal Altruism—Trivers | Genetic Selfishness—Dawkins | Phenotypic plasticity | An Example We All Know—Do Dogs Show Altruistic Behavior? | Conclusion and Perspectives

________

 

Altruism means unselfishness, selflessness, the regard for others as a principle (the opposite of egoism or selfishness). We all use the word in our daily language, feeling confident we know everything about altruism, its meaning, and implications, but do we? The concept poses many questions to biologists, philosophers, and other scientists. It has always done. For one, defining altruism isn’t as straightforward as the introductory paragraph above may seem to imply. Then, setting up a model where such behavior makes sense and can evolve without contradicting evolutionary theory has proven to be a real brain twister.

 

 

Etymology

Altruism derives from the French autrui = other people. Autrui developed from the Old French autre = other which itself comes from Latin alter = other. [1] Under the influence of alter, the French autrui produced the altrui- of the French altruisme and the English altruism. The English term has been in use since the mid-1800s. The translation of Auguste Comte (the French founder of the philosophical school of positivism), who coined the term for an antonym of egoism, [2] contributed to spreading its adoption in English.

 

 

Definitions and Problems

What is altruism? The vague definition of the term makes us doubt whether altruistic behavior is possible at all. Note that most synonyms of ‘altruism’ are not much more enlightening—also needing some explaining. If to be altruistic, the actor must get nothing at all in return for its actions, then we may question if any act qualifies as altruistic. Self-satisfaction always seems to follow a charitable act. Therefore, according to the theory of psychological egoism, we cannot describe sharing, helping, or sacrificing as altruistic. [3]

If we define altruism as unselfish conduct in the short term, i.e., without immediate benefit, then we can find more examples of such acts. One typical case is parental behavior. Parents do plenty for their progeny with no direct advantage to themselves. Female canine mothers, including our domestic dogs, Canis lupus familiaris, spend enough time and energy looking after their pups, feeding them, and teaching them various skills. [4] They regurgitate for them and defend them if they are in danger.

In the wild social canids, pack members also support caring for youngsters without immediate benefits. In jackals, Canis aureus—a group comprising father, mother, and cubs—when a juvenile is present (almost always, a sister to the newborn), she will help rear her younger sibling. [5].

However, note that some behavior we classify as altruistic may have a different and more plausible explanation. The case (in the Samburu National Park in Kenya) of a female lion adopting an oryx calf is more likely to result from a hormonal imbalance affecting its maternal instinct, than to altruism. [6]

Last, a problem of great concern, one that had preoccupied great minds in biology, is the ‘altruism paradox.’

Darwin well knew of that. He writes, “It is extremely doubtful whether the offspring of the more sympathetic and benevolent parents, or of those who were the most faithful to their comrades, would be reared in greater numbers than the children of selfish and treacherous parents belonging to the same tribe. He who was ready to sacrifice his life, as many a savage has been, rather than betray his comrades, would often leave no offspring to inherit his noble nature.” [7]

 

 

The Altruism Paradox

In explaining kin selection, evolutionary biologists imagine a gene that causes its bearer to behave altruistically toward other organisms and those without it to behave selfishly. “The altruists will be at a fitness disadvantage, so we should expect the altruistic gene to be eliminated from the population.” [8] That is, in a nutshell, the problem of altruism for the evolutionary scientist.

How can an altruistic gene, coding for the weaker altruistic phenotype, thrive in competition against a selfish one that codes for the fitter selfish phenotype? Hence, we have the altruism paradox. As we shall see, there might be a workaround this issue, but let us first review the traditional models.

 

 

Group Selection

Group selection is another proposed mechanism of evolution in which natural selection operates at the group level, instead of at the level of the individual [9][10].

Darwin, in “The Descent of Man” in 1871,[7] attempted to explain the evolution of human altruism as a selection process at the group level: “When two tribes of primeval man, living in the same country, came into competition, if (other things being equal) the one tribe included a great number of courageous, sympathetic and faithful members, who were always ready to warn each other of danger, to aid and defend each other, this tribe would succeed better and conquer the other.” [7]

Darwin’s explanation seems a tad non-Darwinian, thus revealing the magnitude of the problem.

A winner has no impact on evolution, per se, unless it has a better ‘Darwinian or inclusive fitness’ (the genetic contribution of an individual to the next generation’s gene pool relative to the average for the population). An altruist may win but if its ‘Darwinian and inclusive fitness’ is nil, altruism stops with it. If altruism survives, even though donors perish leaving no progeny, the survival of the fittest is not true for the fittest are those who leave the most copies of themselves in successive generations.

This issue has bothered many since Darwin, among them, Hamilton [11]. E. O. Wilson and D. S, Wilson write: ‘‘[…] something more than natural selection within single groups is required to explain how altruism and other group-advantageous traits evolve by natural selection.” [12]

For natural selection to favor altruism in a broader scenario, the ‘within-group’ disadvantage of the altruist must be offset by the ‘between-group’ advantage of the group including altruists. [13] ‘‘Cooperation is always vulnerable to exploitation by defectors; hence, the evolution of cooperation requires specific mechanisms, which allow natural selection to favor cooperation over defection.’’ [14][15]

For group selection to be viable, we must assume that the variation between groups is larger than the variation within groups. Since selection acts upon the phenotype, competition and selection can operate at all levels. Therefore, D. S. Wilson contends that “At all scales, there must be mechanisms that coordinate the right kinds of action and prevent disruptive forms of self-serving behavior at lower levels of social organization.”[16] He summarizes, “Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary.”[16]

As we shall see, not everyone agrees with that. ‘Between-group’ selection is possible, in principle, although it is weak compared to any which may happen ‘within-group’. Therefore, if we are to explain ‘for the good of the group’ behavior, then we must do it without group selection.

In fact, all models for explaining how cooperative and altruistic social behavior evolve, such as kin selection, reciprocity, and the selfish gene theory developed as alternatives to group selection.

 

 

Kin Selection

To explain altruism, we must find a way of natural selection to favor altruistic genes as in the theory of kin selection.[11] Kin selection is the evolutionary strategy that supports the reproductive success of an organism’s relatives at one’s cost. It is kin altruism based on inclusive fitness. Maynard Smith used the term ‘kin selection’ for the first time in 1964.[17]

Charles Darwin discussed this strategy in “The Origin of Species,” (1859)[18] arguing that a selection benefit to “the same stock” (kin) would allow the evolution of a trait while destroying an individual. Seventy years later, Fisher and Haldane figured out the mathematics of kin selection. [19][20] According to Maynard Smith, Haldane resumed the conclusion of his calculations by saying that, “he was prepared to lay down his life for eight cousins or two brothers.” [21]

Hamilton’s inclusive fitness rule states that kin selection increases the frequency of particular genes when the genetic relatedness of a recipient to a donor multiplied by the benefit to the recipient is greater than the reproductive cost to the donor.
rB>C
where r=the genetic relatedness of the recipient to the donor; B=the reproductive benefit gained by the recipient of the altruistic act; C=the reproductive cost to the donor.

Thus, kin selection is a special consequence of gene selection. The degree at which one should extend altruistic behavior toward others depends upon their coefficient of relationship. There are two ways to achieve this: (1) by kin recognition and/or (2) by living near one’s relatives (Hamilton 1964).

‘Kin selection’ is not the same as ‘group selection’ where a genetic trait may become widespread because it benefits the group as an entity.

 

 

Reciprocal Altruism

Reciprocal altruism is all behavior whereby a donor, with one act, reduces its fitness while increasing a recipient’s fitness, expecting subsequent payback. [22] Thus, the reduction is temporary. The mechanism is close to the “tit for tat” strategy in game theory.[23]

Reciprocal altruism, regarded as an instance of the prisoner’s dilemma, [24] is an evolutionary possibility if chances of meeting another reciprocal altruist are high enough, or if the game continues long enough.[22]

Reciprocal altruism, [22] is a possible way for natural selection to favor altruistic genes provided that:
(1) the individuals must have plenty of opportunities for reciprocation;
(2) they must be able to recognize each other as individuals;
(3) they must remember the obligations;
(4) and that they must be motivated to reciprocate.

Although this model seems to be evolutionarily unstable, evolutionary biologists found a way in which it would work.

There are striking parallels between altruistic behavior and exaggerated sexual ornaments. Both are costly in fitness and easy to detect, and both might be fitness signals turned evolutionarily stable by the handicap principle. The handicap principle suggests that honest communication is expensive to the signaler, therefore only affordable to special individuals. Receivers know that reliability must backup quality because lesser signallers couldn’t afford such extravagances. [25][26][27]

Then, we have the homogeneousness norm. Change in phenotype and functionality, caused by a non-silent mutation, will often stand out in a population. Thus, we can expect sexual individuals to prefer mates with the least number of unusual or minority features. As a result, and given enough time, a whole population will develop similar looks. In a similar way, the behavior repertoire of a population will become evolutionarily stable once it has developed as homogeneous as is the rule in most species. This includes any altruistic and cooperative features.[28]

 

 

Genetic Selfishness

When parents sacrifice themselves for their progeny, they are benefiting themselves since their offspring have 50% of their genes. Therefore, we can regard altruistic behavior as genetically selfish. That is Haldane’s extrapolation from ‘kin selection’.

For example, in wolves, Canis lupus lupus, [29] it pays off for each parent to sacrifice its life saving two of their progeny because this equals twice 50% of their own genes. However, such a calculation is more complicated than so if we take into account the cubs’ chances of survival without parental support. Giving their lives to save their youngsters when they are only one week old is a bad trade since they are unlikely to survive. In this instance, the best strategy is for the male and the female to protect themselves and keep the prospect of producing more offspring later.

This model explains why individuals sacrifice more for their progeny than for those of relatives or strangers, as we saw.[30] What the defenders of the selfish gene want to emphasize, besides agreeing with kin selection and inclusive fitness, is that the selection process happens at the gene level.[31][32]

In the genetic selfish model, the unit of replication is the gene, and the organism is the vehicle it uses and upon which selection acts directly. “Natural selection favours some genes rather than others not because of the nature of the genes themselves, but because of their consequences—their phenotypic effects.”[32]

Because genes are selfish, they will promote selfish behavior in the individuals they produce. ‘Selfish’ means, in this sense, to take care of itself as the first priority. Dawkins writes, “[…] gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behaviour. However, […] there are special circumstances in which a gene can achieve its own selfish goals best by fostering a limited form of altruism at the level of individual animals.”[32]

Gene selection soundly explains kin selection and eusociality. An organism acts altruistically, against its individual interests, because by supporting a related one to reproduce, genes help copies of themselves (or sequences with the same phenotypic effect) in other bodies to replicate. Thus, sometimes, ‘selfish’ actions by the genes lead to unselfish behavior by the organisms.

The survival of each gene, being replicators, depends on the survival of some others. Being a selfish gene does not imply that genes are entirely uncooperative. To be successful, a gene needs to cooperate with the other genes with which it shares a phenotype. Genes cooperate in building bodies because they all share the same exit route into the next generation. That’s their only way to survive. An organism, a body, is a vehicle for its genes, built up by a cooperative of genes.

Vehicles are important, but replicators are essential. Darwinian natural selection is still viable with no vehicles, only replicators, but not the other way around. In fact, when life began, there were probably no vehicles, only replicators.

A group is not a replicator because there is no ‘group pool’ (like there are ‘gene pools’). There is no metapopulation in which some groups are more successful than others at making replicas of themselves. And a group is not a vehicle because to qualify as one, all the genes in the same group would need to share the same exit route to the next group in the generational sequence.

Selection based upon groups is rare compared to selection on individuals, according to the selfish gene model. Researchers could not confirm simple interpretations of group selection, though more sophisticated ones proved to make accurate predictions in specific cases.[12]

E. O. Wilson writes that although the selfish-gene approach has been widely accepted “[…] Martin Nowak, Corina Tarnita, and I demonstrated that inclusive fitness theory, often called kin selection theory, is both mathematically and biologically incorrect.” He argues that group selection is a more realistic model of social evolution.[12][33[[34]

Dawkins rejects replacing ‘kin selection’ with ‘group selection.’ According to the selfish-gene model, viewing evolution as driven by the differential survival of whole groups of organisms is incoherent. He does not deny ‘group selection’. What he contends is that, even in the rare cases where it is not wrong, it is cumbersome, time-wasting, and distracting to what would otherwise be a straightforward understanding of what happens in natural selection.

Both Dawkins and Wilson agree that favorable genes are likely to prosper and replicate and that living in groups is helpful in some circumstances. The dispute arises mostly over definitions. They aim toward representing empirical facts with precision, but both use too broad definitions for ‘group,’ ‘group selection’ and ‘kin selection’. Thus, it becomes rather difficult to test their models.

We might find a consensus if we can simulate various evolutionary scenarios with narrower definitions, similar to what Markvoort et al. did for simulations of cellular group selection.[35]

 

 

A Workaround the Classic Approach

The altruism paradox, as we saw, goes down to the question: how can an altruistic gene, coding for the weaker altruistic phenotype, thrive in competition against a selfish one that codes for the fitter selfish phenotype?

Perhaps this is a confirmation that an answer cannot be better than the question it addresses. What if we are posing the wrong question and, hence, creating the paradox?

The thought of a distinct altruistic allele risking being overrun by a distinct selfish one is the basis for all the models we reviewed above.

As Dawkins writes, “‘cheat genes’ are spreading through the population while ‘sucker’ genes are driven to extinction.”[32] E. O. Wilson also summarized the problem in the same lines, “How might such a behavior evolve if the genes promoting it are at such a disadvantage in competition with genes that oppose it?” [36]

Now, suppose there are no two genotypes coding for the two competing phenotypes, selfishness and altruism. What if both phenotypes were due to one single genotype carrying both alternatives—no two distinct alleles? The Altruism Selfishness Plasticity (ASP) model suggests exactly that. Thus, let us for a moment set the prevailing Altruism Selfishness Allelomorphism (ASA) frame aside and explore what the ASP approach can add to the debate.

 

 

Altruistic and Selfish Phenotypes as Plastic Expressions of a Single Genotype

There is a way around the altruism paradox: to consider the altruistic and selfish phenotypes as plastic expressions of a single genotype. [37]

Phenotypic plasticity is the property of a genotype to produce different phenotypes in response to distinct environmental conditions.[38] There is nothing strange about that. We have known about phenotypic plasticity for quite a while. It denotes particular morphological and physiological changes in an organism—and behavior—as a response to a specific environment. Although biologists, to begin with, used the term to describe some developmental effects of a morphological character, they use it today to describe all phenotypic responses to environmental conditions, e.g., acclimatization and learning.[39]

In fact, we have plenty of data to support the ASP model. It is very plausible that no distinct genotype codes either the altruistic or the selfish phenotype, that they are rather plastic expressions of the same genotype, determined by particular environmental circumstances. And if this is true—the altruistic and selfish phenotypes being creations of a single genotype—then, they cannot be competing. To use Dawkins’ metaphor, the same genotype has the plasticity to express itself either as a ‘cheater’ or a ‘sucker’ depending on accidental contingencies.

Yakubu provides plenty of evidence in support of such a solution to the altruism paradox.[37] Let us review some of them.

 

The Social Hymenoptera

The social Hymenoptera are a favorite of biologists because they are highly social and haplodiploid. A honeybee, Apis mellifera, colony has three castes consisting of a queen, a few hundred males (drones), and thousands of non-reproductive females (workers). The queen’s role is to reproduce and the drone’s job is mating a queen. The workers, on the other hand, strive hard keeping the colony, foraging, and defending it from intruders. The reproductive queen is selfish, while the nonreproductive workers are perhaps the epitome of altruism.

Now, we can ask whether there are distinct alleles (genotypes) for altruism and selfishness in eusocial populations as the classical models of altruism presume. Evidence refutes that conclusively.

Whether a larva becomes a queen or a worker begins with where the egg is laid and continues with the received feeding.[40] The workers will nurse a larva in a queen cell with royal jelly.[41] On the other hand, if the larva is in a worker cell, they will feed it worker food. Amazingly enough, the former will become a queen and the latter a worker. We can say the eggs and the larva are totipotent [40] or multipotent (according to this author).

The honeybee provides us with even more staggering evidence. We can move eggs and larva from a queen cell to a worker cell, or the other way around, and if we do that within the first three days, they will develop as they are fed and as to where they reside.[40] We can thus infer that there is no genotype involved in the queen/worker distinction. Whether a bee becomes selfish (queen) or altruist (worker) depends only on environmental stimuli.

The caste differentiation happens via an epigenetic process where non-heritable factors contribute to gene expression. Queen and worker morphological forms both originate in the same genome. Royal jelly nourishment is the non-genetic determiner. The genes encoding the major royal jelly proteins present one of the clearest examples of a gene class acquiring new functions during the evolution of sociality.[42]

Researchers have sequenced the genome of the honeybee.[43] In fact, we know the particular genes in the honeybee whose differential expression results in queen and workers. Evans and Wheeler identified and characterized transcripts from seven genes that are expressed differently by the worker- and the queen-destined larvae at a critical point in their development. They are indeed genes with phenotypic plasticity.[44]

 

Altruistic Expression and Social Cues

Let us now consider non-eusocial social organisms. Trivers explained the Vampire bats altruistic behavior based on the ASA assumption.[22] However, we can explain that behavior as well without presuming the existence of distinct selfish/altruistic genotypes.

In vampire bats, hungry individuals often solicit food from those that are better fed. Sometimes, an individual obliges and regurgitates to a soliciting individual—and, sometimes, it steadfastly refuses to share food.

Trivers is right as to the reciprocity of this altruistic behavior. Whether a vampire bat shares blood depends on whether the solicitor has given the donor blood earlier or is likely to give blood to the donor later.[45] The same individual behaves selfish and altruistic depending on social circumstances. This conclusion is compatible with reciprocal altruism.[37] However, as genotypes do not change overnight, it is more plausible for the distinct phenotypes to be due to the plasticity of the same allele.

Male adult olive baboons, Papio anubis, help troupe members depending on whether he has earlier received help from those individuals or they are deemed likely of lending him help in the future.[46]

The behavioral strategy of efficient coercion also supports the plastic phenotypic deployment of a single genotype. In ten studied social insect species, social sanctions kept individuals altruistic in situations where they would have been selfish (Wenseleers and Ratnieks 2006).[47]

Altruists can become selfish. In white-fronted bee-eater, Meropsis bullockoides, young males do not set up nests because older males harass them. They become altruistic helpers instead. However, some of these helpers turn selfish once they build their own nests.[48]

In meerkat societies, the altruistic lower-ranking females become selfish if they attain a higher ranking, not only by breeding but also by killing the infants of other (by then) subordinate females.[49]

Social organisms may assume subordinate roles, not because of their altruistic genes, but because it is the best of the options, they have at the time.[50]

The reviewed examples seem to confirm the hypothesis of altruism being due to a single genotype with plastic phenotype options. An individual will behave altruistically under particular environmental conditions and will respond selfishly when those same cues are absent. As far as this author knows, no evidence has yet proved that only certain individuals can react altruistically or selfishly, given they act in the same scenario.[37]

 

 

An Example We All Know—Do Dogs Show Altruistic Behavior?

We know dogs for teaming together against rivals. That is widespread territorial behavior among pet dogs, strays and wild canids. They also defend their household, including humans and other animals. The females bring up and protect their pups at their own expense. These are all examples of behavior we can classify as altruistic. Even considering the difficulties inherent to the concept of altruism, we described, a prudent statement would be that dogs show reciprocal altruistic behavior under the right circumstances, as the ASP model describes.

 

 

Conclusion and Perspectives

The altruism paradox is perhaps among the most interesting in ethology (biology) and has, therefore, preoccupied many researchers. It poses highly pertinent questions to enhance our understanding of behavior, genetics and evolutionary theory. Scientists have proposed various models, some of which are more consensually accepted than others. Still, they have all contributed to increasing our global knowledge. The application of the ASP model to behavior promises perspectives far beyond the one we studied in this paper. Perhaps other behaviors that conventional approaches ascribe to distinct phenotypes are but phenotypic plastic expressions of a genotype.

 

References

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Many philosophers distinguish between awareness and consciousness, awareness being a form of perception, and consciousness involving a special kind of self-awareness. Consciousness, in this view, requires a propositional awareness that it is I who am feeling or thinking. However, a dissociation between conscious and unconscious perception can occur in people with brain damage, who yet can make correct judgments even though they are not conscious of what they see.

The question of animal consciousness is indeed a difficult one. The spectrum of scientific opinion is vast. Some believe that consciousness does not occur in animals, and others maintain that most animals have consciousness. The difficulty of arriving at an acceptable and consensual definition of consciousness confounds the situation further.

To define consciousness in such a way that it only fits Homo sapiens sapiens seems to me too anthropocentric. To argue that if we have it, they can’t have it, is definitely committing the fallacy of anthropodimorphism, the opposite of anthropomorphism (Abrantes 2017).

Our tentative definition is: “Consciousness is the presence of mental images and their use by the organism to regulate its behavior. To be conscious is to be aware of what one is doing or plans to do. It is having a purpose and intention in one’s actions” (Abrantes 2012). This definition is quasi-identical to McFarland’s (1998).

Yet, we can imagine intentional behavior that does not involve consciousness. The standard examples of automatic, absent-minded activities, are walking and driving, where we solve relatively complex problems apparently without being conscious of (at least) some of the intentional states through which we must be passing.

“Another way to put the point is to note that intentionality alone is not sufficient for introspectibility, and so, insofar as introspectibility in the normal human case is a necessary condition for a state’s being conscious, intentionality is therefore also not sufficient for consciousness” (Rey 2008).

Another definition, proposed by Chandroo et al., is, ” Consciousness might be broadly described as an awareness of internal and external stimuli, having a sense of self and some understanding of ones place in the world” (Chandroo et al. 2004).

Damasio (2010) states that “[…] no one can prove satisfactorily that nonhuman, nonlanguage beings have consciousness, core or otherwise, although it is reasonable to triangulate the substantial evidence we have available and conclude that it is highly likely that they do.”

 

Private Experiences—Emotions

Emotion has subjective, physiological, and behavioral manifestations that are difficult to reconcile with each other. An emotion is a private experience. There is no way we can know the emotional experiences of another person. We tend to assume they are the same as ours, but we have no experimentally conclusive or logical way of verifying this.

In scientific terms, we cannot assume that animals have particular subjective feelings any more than we are entitled logically to make such assumptions about other people. In physiological terms, emotional states in humans are typically accompanied by autonomic changes, but these are not a reliable guide to identifying particular emotional states. Most animals, at least vertebrates, react to stressors in roughly the same way whether their emotional response is one of fear, of aggression or sexual nature.

Darwin (1872) postulated that facial expressions and other behavioral signs of emotion had evolved from protective responses and other utilitarian aspects of behavior. Darwin’s description was somehow anthropomorphic, which prompted psychologists to react. Lloyd Morgan (1882) advocated an approach devoid of speculation about the private thoughts and feelings of animals. The behaviorist attitude that the private mental experiences of animals cannot be the subject of scientific investigations dominated the first three-quarters of the 20th century.

The behaviorist position seems unassailable, but we can circumvent it in two ways. One argument (the logical one) is that although we cannot prove that animals have subjective experiences, it may be true nevertheless. No proof (yet discovered) does not conclusively imply non-existence. Another (the evolutionary probability argument) is to argue that it is unlikely, from an evolutionary stance, that there should be a marked discontinuity between humans and other animals in this respect. Therefore, if we accept the existence of subjective experiences in humans, then we are forced to admit that animals might have them as well.

 

Self-Awareness

Are animals aware of themselves in the sense that they know what posture they are adopting and what action they are taking? Sensory information from the joints and muscles is available to the brain, so it seems that animals should be aware of their behavior.

In an experiment, researchers trained rats to press one of four levers (Beninger et al. 1974). The rats learned to push a different bar, depending on whether they were grooming, walking, rearing up or remaining still when the buzzer sounded. In a sense, the rats must have been aware of their actions, which does not necessarily mean that they are conscious of them. They may be aware of their actions as they are aware of external stimuli.

 

The MSR (Mirror Self-Recognition) Test

Many animals respond to a mirror as if they saw another member of their species. Does that prove self-awareness? After many years of research, this remains a controversial question. There is evidence that chimpanzees and orangutans can recognize themselves in the mirror. Does the ability to respond to parts of one’s body seen in a mirror indicate self-awareness?

The questions are whether the MSR test is suitable for some species and whether it demonstrates self-awareness. Animals can be self-aware in ways the mirror test cannot measure, e.g., distinguishing between their own and others’ songs or scents (Bekoff 2002). Also, animals can pass the MSR, not necessarily having self-awareness (Cammaerts 2015). Very few species have passed the MSR test (Turner 2015).

The MSR test has limited value when we apply it to species that primarily use senses other than vision, as for example in dogs that mainly use olfaction and audition. Dogs do seem to discriminate their own odor from that of other dogs and to spend more time investigating their own modified odor ‘image,’ precisely as subjects who pass the MSR test do (Horowitz 2017).

A capacity for self-recognition in a mirror does not necessarily imply an awareness of one’s own psychological states and the understanding that others possess such states (Povinelli, 1998).

 

Imitation

Does the ability to imitate the actions of others indicate self-awareness? Imitations do not demonstrate the implication of mental states because of the extensive training involved in the experiments.

We take the ability to imitate as a sign of intelligence. Parrots, Psittaciformes, and mynah birds, Sturnidae, can reproduce human sounds with extraordinary fidelity. Are they particularly intelligent?

To be able to imitate, an animal must perceive the external auditory or visual example and match it with a set of motor instructions of its own. For example, a baby who imitates an adult waving must somehow associate the sight of the hand with his own motor instructions for waving. The baby does not need to be aware that he has a hand, it merely has to connect a particular perception with a specific set of motor commands. How that is done, it is a mystery, but the question of whether imitation necessarily involves self-awareness is debatable.

Even though deliberately copying behavior would be a strong argument for self-awareness, we cannot be sure all apparently imitative behavior is.

Allelommetic behavior (synchronous behavior, mimetic behavior, imitative behavior, and social facilitation) may have evolved because a specific synchronization was advantageous. Sometimes, environmental cues initiate this behavioral synchrony (seen in dogs, horses, sheep, chicken, etc.) (Miller 1996, Stoye, S. et al. 2012).

Humans often find themselves assuming similar postures without being aware of that (not conscious of that). It may be the result of empathy, which may also have developed in some species because of the conferred benefits.

Does the brain potential associated with movement occur before or after we are aware of our movement intention? Do I think, “I’m going to move my finger” and then do it? Or does it happen the other way round: I move my finger, and then I’m aware of that? Does consciousness have a causal influence on movement decision? (Guggisberg et al. 2013).

 

Awareness of Others—Empathy

Empathy means some awareness of others as beings with feelings similar to our own. Some researchers argue that the evolution of close-knit societies made recognition of others, i.e., empathy, advantageous. Empathic behavior is subject to evolutionary laws as any other behavior.

Bischoff-Köhler (1990) investigated the onset of empathy in infants. The results showed that between 16 and 24 months of age, there was a transition from non-recognition to mirror recognition and a simultaneous transition from non-empathy to empathy. Moreover, these transitions occurred at the same age in a given child.

The nature of the phenomenon of empathy in animals is also a topic of investigation (Preston & de Waal 2002). Mice that observe a cagemate in pain are more sensitive to painful stimuli than mice that see an unfamiliar mouse similarly treated (Langford et al. 2006). Empathy can also be the best explanation for some elephant behavior (Byrne et al. 2008).

Finally, empathy does not need to be an all-or-nothing phenomenon (DeWall 1996). Neither does consciousness. As there are various degrees of empathy, there are possibly different levels of consciousness.

The concrete encounter of self and other fundamentally involves empathy, as a unique and irreducible kind of intentionality. Thus, empathy seems to be a precondition for consciousness (Thompson 2001).

However, self-awareness (consciousness) does not always require empathy. That means we can conclude that animals showing empathy must be self-aware. However, we cannot conclude that those who lack manifestations of empathy do not possess self-awareness.

 

Pain—Do Animals Have to be Conscious in Order to Suffer?

It is difficult to define and analyze pain as the interpretation of findings rest primarily on the behavioral criterion we use. A pure withdrawal reflex would probably not be a good indication of pain. Such reflexes are widespread in the animal kingdom, occur in very primitive animals, and are not always associated with any strong aversive.

The criterion of crying out in pain is not good either. While a dog or a monkey scream in pain when they are seriously injured (or even less seriously), an antelope torn to pieces by a predator remains relatively silent.

Do animals have to be conscious in order to suffer? When we are unconscious, we do not suffer pain or mental anguish because parts of our brain are deactivated. However, we do not know whether these parts are involved only in consciousness or also in other aspects of brain activity. Thus, we cannot say that because we do not experience pain when we are unconscious means that consciousness and suffering are intrinsically related. Perhaps whatever makes us unconscious also stops the pain, but the two are not causally connected.

The truth is that we have no conception of what the conscious experiences of animals might involve if they exist because we have no precise understanding of what consciousness is. Therefore, we can draw no conclusions about the relationship between consciousness and suffering in animals.

Amidst our ignorance, it would be wrong to assume that suffering in animals is confined to those that are intelligent, that use language or that show evidence of conscious experience.

Orch OR Consciousness

Orch-OR is fully compatible with the view that non-human animals possess consciousness to some degree or another. In fact, the opposite would be absurd (illustration from “Consciousness in the Universe: A Review of the ‘Orch OR’ Theory.” Physics of Life Reviews, 2014).

Consciousness as a Quantum State—Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch OR)

The Orch-OR model, based on quantum physics, suggests that consciousness originates from microtubules and actions inside neurons (Hameroff 1988, Hameroff and Penrose 2016).

Classic and quantum physics differ in their accounting of events. When I hit a pool ball, I use traditional physics (and geometry) to predict where it will be at any particular moment. I expect it to do so (assuming I hit it correctly). However, in quantum physics, such expectation is null and void. According to the (Copenhagen) interpretation of quantum mechanics, any movement is unknown until it is observed. That is not as weird as it might seem. Imagine, I close my eyes just before I hit the cue ball. While my eyes remain shut, the object ball is both pocketed and non-pocketed. It is first when I open them, that the ball is definitely in one place. Physicists refer to this observation, which determines what happened, as a wave collapsing into a single state.

In quantum systems, inside the neuron, Hameroff and Penrose argue that it is every single collapse of the wave function that returns a conscious moment. Their model met some criticism. Most scientists believe the brain is too warm and wet for quantum states to have any influence on neuronal activity because quantum coherence only seems possible in fairly shielded and cold environments. Biological processes, in general, seem too messy for quantum physics o thrive.

However, researchers have recently found that quantum effects are indeed significant for particular biological processes, like photosynthesis (Engel 2007, Brookes 2017). When a photon hits an electron in a leaf, the electron delivers it to another molecule (the reaction center), which converts light into chemical energy (and feeds the plant). The electron uses the quantum effect of superposition, where a particle can be in two places at once while testing various routes to the reaction center where the photosynthesis occurs. Then, it takes the most efficient one. Besides photosynthesis, olfaction may also be a product of quantum processes (Brookes 2017).

Another support for the idea that quantum physics are indeed possible in the inhospitable organic environment of the brain is via the Phosphorus molecule. The central idea is that the Phosphorous molecule in the brain with its nuclear spin can potentially act as a qubit (quantum bit) and promote quantum computation. This hypothesis circumvents the problem of quantum decoherence by proposing that the qubits remain stable, in spite of the higher temperature of the brain, by organizing themselves into a Phosphate ring (Fisher 2015).

The microtubules, essential in the Orch-OR model, may very well be the first cause of thought. The traditional view is that neurons fire when a channel within the cell membrane opens, flooding the neuron with positively charged ions. Once a determined threshold is reached, an electrical signal travels down the axon—the nerve fibers within the neuron—and the neuron fires. Axons connect neurons to other cells, and inside each axon are nanowires, including the microtubule. Bandyopadhyay found that he could apply a charge to the microtubule, causing activity to raise in the neuron. The nanowires fire thousands of times faster than the average activity in a neuron. The neuron, opposite prevailing scientific knowledge, wasn’t the first cause of the human thought process (Bandyopadhyay 2014).

According to the Penrose–Hameroff model, consciousness results from discrete physical events; such events have always existed in the universe as non-cognitive, proto-conscious events. Biology evolved a mechanism to orchestrate such events and to pair them to neuronal activity, resulting in meaningful, cognitive, conscious moments of quantum state reduction. In the Orch OR theory, these conscious events are terminations of quantum computations in brain microtubules reduced by objective reduction (OR), and having experiential qualities. In this view, consciousness is an intrinsic feature of the action of the universe (Hameroff 1998, Hameroff & Penrose 2016).

Darwin’s theory of natural selection suggests that life evolved by natural selection in incremental steps and random mutations. Therefore, we would not expect the substantial level of coherence across the brain that would be necessary for the non-computable Orch OR of conscious human understanding to appear any other way. More primitive (less elaborated) forms must have preceded it, shown variation, and been subject to natural selection. Thus, proto-conscious Orch OR states might have emerged step by step in the course of evolution.

Orch-OR is fully compatible with the view that non-human animals possess consciousness to some degree or another. In fact, the opposite would be absurd.

Quantum Consciousness Abrantes Billiards

When I hit the cue ball, I use traditional physics (and geometry) to predict where it will be at any particular moment. I expect it to do so (assuming I hit it correctly). However, according to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, any movement is unknown until it is observed. Imagine, I close my eyes just before I hit the cue ball. While my eyes (and my opponent’s, Michael McManus, in this case) remain shut, the object ball is pocketed and non-pocketed at once. It is first when we open our eyes, that the object ball is definitely pocketed.

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

Publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, reads:

“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates” (Low, Philip, et al. 2012).

The essential point in this declaration is that concurrent studies concluded that human and some non-human animals share the neurological substrates that we consider indispensable to generate consciousness. That may indeed be helpful in our quest for non-animal consciousness.

Otherwise, the document (as other similar ones) is more a political statement than scientific proof. The fact that it is signed by many (argumentum ad populum) prominent (argumentum ad verecundiam) persons does not add anything to the truth or falsity of its statement about consciousness (Copi 2014). Were the opinion of many the truth, the earth would be flat, after having been created in seven days (Genesis 1 and 2). Were the opinion of prominent persons the truth, DNA would have three intertwined strands (Linus Pauling), and life could originate from inanimate matter (Aristotle); and the Spiroptera carcinoma would (falsely) cause cancer (for which, in 1926, Johannes Fibiger won the Nobel Prize in Medicine).

 

Final Note

Human consciousness is by definition subjective and private. We access it through verbal, non-verbal, and instrumental records. Animals do not have language (as we define it), but we can still study their consciousness via behavioral investigations, as we do in preverbal infants. Like humans, animals display different behaviors depending on levels of consciousness. During sleep or anesthesia, no individual—unconscious or having low levels of consciousness—independently of species, can process information (not the full range, at least). On the other hand, behavioral and neurobiological data lead us to the conclusion that animals can express some forms of what we call a higher level of consciousness.

The subject of non-human animal consciousness is relevant to many topics, e.g., ethics and theory of mind. Some scientists and philosophers believe that the foundations have been set for addressing (at least) some of the questions about animal consciousness in an empirically way. Some remain skeptical, maintaining that subjective phenomena are beyond the reach of scientific research. The arguments on both sides are many, and the jury is still out.

 

Conclusion

As a sort of conclusion, it is the view of this author that we have two main unsolved problems related to consciousness: (1) to formulate a conclusive and clear operational definition, and (2) to devise a valid verification method for single species.

As such, at this moment, the most prudent statement seems to be that animals (humans included) show varying degrees of consciousness depending on species. It appears beyond any reasonable doubt that some have it and, therefore, (1) if some have it, others (high) probably have it, too, albeit differently—and (2) that some have it, doesn’t necessarily imply all have it—unless, of course, Hameroff and Penrose are right.

Thank you to John Larsen and Parichart Thongparkdee Abrantes for the exciting exchange of ideas we have had while I wrote this paper.

References

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Abrantes, R. 2017. Do Animals Have Feelings? Ethology Institute Website. 

Bandyopadhyay, A. 2014. Evidence of massive global synchronization and the consciousness. Physics of Life Reviews.
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Brookes, J.C. 2017. Quantum effects in biology: golden rule in enzymes, olfaction, photosynthesis and magnetodetection. Proc Math Phys Eng Sci. 2017 May; 473(2201): 20160822. doi: 10.1098/rspa.2016.0822.
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Cammaerts, M-C, and Cammaerts, R. 2015. Are ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) capable of self recognition? (PDF). Journal of Science. 5(7): 521–532.
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Collin, A. and Trestman, M. 2017. Animal Consciousness. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
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Damasio, A.R. 2010. Self comes to mind: constructing the conscious brain (PDF). New York: Pantheon Books, 2010. ISBN-10: 150124695X

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Dawkins, M.S., 1998. Through our eyes only? The search for animal consciousness. Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN-10: 0198503202
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Dennett, D. C. (1969). Content and Consciousness—An Analysis of Mental Phenomena. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ISBN: 9780710065124
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Featured Price: € 98.00 € 49.00

Learn more in our course Ethology. Ethology studies the behavior of animals in their natural environment. It is fundamental knowledge for the dedicated student of animal behavior as well as for any competent animal trainer. Roger Abrantes wrote the textbook included in the online course as a beautiful flip page book. Learn ethology from a leading ethologist.

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Is Your Body Language Helping or Confusing Your Animal?

By Jennifer Cattet Ph.D. To read this article, please click here.

A recent study confirms that in dogs, body language indicating a relaxed, interested and content state of mind during training correlated with better training results.

This article is selected and posted by our Tutor Team. Jennifer Cattet, the author, is not a tutor at Ethology Institute.

 

Jennifer Cattet, Ph.D., has been training dogs professionally since 1984. Her career as a dog trainer started with traditional training techniques, which were the only methods available at the time. Frustrated and concerned with the effects such methods had on some of the dogs and on their relationship with their owners, she went back to college and studied Psychology and Ethology (animal behavior) at the University of Geneva, Switzerland (she spent most of her early years in France). After her bachelor’s degree, she worked as the Assistant Professor in the Ethology Department and completed her studies with a doctorate on spatial navigation in dogs.

Jennifer Cattet (Body Language)

Featured Course of the Week

Animal Welfare Animal welfare is an objective science studying the needs of animals, an interaction between natural science, ethics, and law. This course is a must for everyone working with animals. Learn how to assess your pet's quality of life.

Featured Price: € 98.00 € 49.00

“Creation,” the Movie About Charles Darwin—too Controversial for Religious USA?

(originally published September 12, 2012)

 

Creation opened the Toronto Film Festival 2009 and had British premiere on September 25. The movie relies on the book “Annie’s Box—Charles Darwin, his Daughter and Evolution,” first edition from 2001, written by Randal Keynes, a great-great-grandson of Darwin.

Creation has been sold in almost every country around the world. However, US distributors purposefully passed on the film, which they expected to prove hugely controversial in a country where only 39% of Americans accept the theory of evolution (according to a Gallup poll conducted in February 2012). Finally, the movie was released in the USA on January 22, 2010.

The creationists’ attacks on Darwin and evolution are unscientific and irrational, using tricks to stir strong emotions up and numb reason (with very few exceptions). Movieguide.org, an influential site, which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as “[…] a racist, a bigot and a 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder.” His “half-baked theory” directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to “atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering,” the site stated. The movie has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as “[…] a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying.”

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

For the full article on the Telegraph.co.uk, by Anita Singh, Showbusiness Editor, September 11, 2009, please click here.

 

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea*

*This is the title of a book by Daniel Dennett from 1995, a book this author recommends to all who want to know the full extent of Darwin’s magnificent idea.

 

 

Acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, or just evolution, is remarkably low in the USA as various polls and statistics have shown. Please, see statistics below from the New York Times here, Science 11 August 2006, Vol 313, here, and the National Geographic, here.

 

 

A recent study commissioned by the British Council reveals interesting facts (see the full spreadsheet). The study asked samples of a population of 10 countries different questions about Darwin and evolution. From among the many answers, the two below are maybe particularly interesting: as to whether people had heard of Darwin and they agreed we had scientific evidence supporting evolution.

The first column indicates the answers ‘No’ to ‘Have you heard of Darwin?’ The second column indicates the answers ‘No’ to ‘Do we have scientific evidence for evolution?’ All columns show percentages of the asked population.

 

Steve Kramer analyzed the full results for statistical significances (click here).

That 28% of the Spanish and 16% of the USA populations had not heard of Darwin is staggering. On the other side, it may surprise westerners that 90% of the Chinese and 93% of the Russians had heard of Darwin. 24% of the USA citizens deny the massive amount of scientific evidence in favor of evolution gathered throughout the last 150 years. This figure is impressive because since only 39% of all the USA population accepts evolution, this means that there are many who take the evidence for evolution as valid and yet refuse to accept it—an apparent contradiction and proof of irrational behavior for if A => B and B => C, then A => C.

Only 5% of the Chinese and 2% of the Indians disputed the scientific evidence. As to South Africa and Egypt, the figures may reflect these countries’ enormous social and economic struggle and, therefore, insufficient school and information systems—they have more pressing issues at hand than thinking of Darwin or evolution—which is not the case in the rich Western countries. However, among the South Africans that know about Darwin and evolution, only 4% dispute the scientific evidence.

It may appear surprising for westerners, not proficient in Asian culture, that Chinese and Indians seem to accept evolution much better than many westerners, even though Darwin was a western born and educated scientist. His theory of evolution by means of natural selection is a typical western idea, maybe the most brilliant product of western scientific thought.

 

The Asian Acceptance of Evolution

The Asian acceptance of evolution becomes less surprising, though, when we realize that most arguments against evolution are religious. Christianity and Islam are the religions with the highest numbers of followers, and both have a god creator and omnipotent.

Asia has Hinduism and Buddhism, and none of them precludes the notion of evolution, nor conflicts with it. In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is no god creator. In this sense, regarding Hinduism and Buddhism as religions might even be misleading. Both are more philosophies of life, a list of codes of conduct, help to self-help, than real religions based on faith alone rather than arguments of reason. Therefore, Buddhists and Hindus are more liable to welcome a sound explanation of the origins of life and evolution, when offered one, than Christians and Islamists. Western mainstream ideology and traditions are to a great extent based on matters of belief, religious oppression, faith rather than fact. That may seem paradoxical since most of the great scientific discoveries happened in the western world.

Hinduism is a way of living according to the understanding of the principles of Vedas and Upanishads. Veda is revealed knowledge, just as the knowledge of gravity was revealed to Newton. Hinduism is the world’s oldest ‘religion’. It has no single founder; it is a mixture of various traditions, practices, and lineages.

Buddhism, the largest ideology in Asia, derives from Hinduism and began with Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) who told people to assume responsibility for their lives, to search the end of suffering by modifying their lifestyle and seeking knowledge. He led by example, as human as anyone else. He gave people choices, a manual to self-help, the four noble truths and the eightfold path, all making perfect sense, no mysteries, no secrets, no threats, no holy wars.

 

Western Religion and Evolution

The Western World had an excellent chance to emulate Buddha, when Jesus of Nazareth came around some 500 years later, but didn’t. It could have given people a manual to self-help, like Buddhism’s. Instead, it made Jesus the son of God, the creator, the omnipotent, and omnipresent. The ensuing fanaticism and the church did not inspire people to seek their own fortunes by actively improving their lifestyle and searching for results. It took their responsibilities away, put all the burden on the shoulders of Jesus of Nazareth, declared him the savior of humanity, God himself (according to the Bible). Then, it created a lot of mysterious occurrences like the descent into hell and resurrection. It scared people senseless and exercised coercion—like the infamous Inquisition and the Crusades (holy wars)—declared the holiness of the church, and told the followers, “believe, repent and leave the rest to us” (or otherwise you’ll burn in hell—if we don’t burn you on Earth).

It took many years for westerners to liberate themselves from the iron hand of the church and some did it better than others for various reasons. While Europe managed that to an extent, the USA still finds it disturbing. Still, religion alone does not explain why USAnians more than Europeans find it difficult to accept evolution. Many religious Europeans reconcile their faith with evolution (and so do some USAnians). The explanation lies rather in the way USA politicians have used, and use, religion to achieve their goals. “Believe (in us) and leave the rest to us” suits them perfectly well.

 

Evolution in the USA

The USA is a country of strong emotions, of great economic and political manipulation and clever demagogues. It is maybe fitting, not by accident, that, in the USA, Darwin is also often misquoted and the “survival of the fittest” becomes “the survival of the strongest.” USA fundamentalism differs from mainstream Protestantism in both the USA and Europe. The biblical fundamentalism in the United States considers Genesis, as a true and accurate account of the creation, superseding any scientific evidence.

In contrast, mainstream Protestants in Europe (and in the USA), as well as the Catholic Church are more contemporary in the sense that they keep pace, until a certain degree, with the evolution of the world and scientific discoveries. They consider Genesis as a metaphor and are more likely to reconcile their faith with the work of Darwin and other scientists. Furthermore, evolution has been politicized in the USA in a manner never seen in Europe or anywhere else. The conservative wing of the Republican Party has adopted creationism as a part of their program to consolidate their support. In the 1990s, the Republican plans in seven states included explicit demands for the teaching of creation science (see 1 and 2). There are Christian political parties in Europe, but none, at least major party, uses opposition to evolution as a part of its political program.

Creation (the title is somehow unfortunate, and I’m sure Darwin would find it too pretentious) will stir up some (evolutive) discussions. We have had them in Europe (we still have them), and we grew fitter, I believe. What (most) Europeans don’t accept any longer is, “believe and leave the rest to us.” It will happen one day in the USA as well—it’s only a question of time.

Oppression, censorship, conformism, in their many facets, are not evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS), not in the Christian world, not in the Islamic world, not in any world. Variation leads to ESS and has proved it again and again. Evolution is in no rush, time works for it, and its algorithm is relentless.

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