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Recipe for answering questions

Today, my friends, I would like to give you the recipe I use to answer your questions. Feel free to use it as you please.

When you ask about a well-researched topic, it’s easy. I check the relevant literature, weight arguments, come up with a conclusion and answer you.

On the other hand, when you ask about a subject-matter not so extensively studied, I have to think more carefully. Your question may be difficult to answer for different reasons. Maybe it depends too much on unclear definitions. Perhaps, a plausible answer builds upon how we measure evidence. Sometimes, your question is too broad.

Whenever I face questions like those, I stick to my home-made recipe, the one I give you here, one inspired to me by the great masters.

Composing my answer, I have to be overly prudent, for disagreement and controversy befall so readily—the nemesis of the writer sitting on my shoulder—no matter which words one chooses, someone can and will misinterpret them.

Finally, allow me to remind you, we do not always have bullet-proof explanations to everything, in which case suspending judgment seems to me the wisest approach.

Then again, we don’t need to have all the answers, to be able to contemplate life with wonder and to enjoy it fully.

The Evolution of Life in 60 Seconds

Rinjani_1994

Today, I have this little movie for you showing the evolution of life in 60 seconds. It puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it?

I’m still fascinated by this amazing logarithm “the survival of the fittest.” As Daniel Dennett writes, “I say if I could give a prize to the single best idea anybody ever had, I’d give it to Darwin—ahead of Newton, ahead of Einstein, ahead of everybody else. Why?  Because Darwin’s idea put together the two biggest worlds, the world of mechanism and material, and physical causes on the one hand (the lifeless world of matter) and the world of meaning, and purpose, and goals.”

Let me quote from my own little book “Evolution“:

“When we say that natural selection favors the fittest, we do not mean the one and only champion, but the fitter (or best-fitted) in the population. How fit they will have to be, depends on the environmental circumstances. In times of food abundance, more individuals will be fit enough to survive and play another round. In times of famine and scarce resources, maybe only the champions will have a chance. In any case, the algorithm ‘the fittest’ is always at work.

Most objections to the theory of evolution by natural selection fail to realize the function of time. Given enough time, whenever there is variation, natural selection will come up with all imaginable forms of life, always the fittest for the given environment and period.”

It’s all so simple. For example, I know beyond any reasonable doubt that you, my friends reading these lines right now, have all had fit ancestors. How do I know that? I’ll leave that one for you to figure out.

Keep smiling!

Featured image: Simulations of the volcano hypothesis were able to create organic molecules. Life could have originated in a ‘warm little pond’ in similar ways. (From “Evolution” by Roger Abrantes. Picture: Mount Rinjani, Indonesia by Oliver Spalt.)

He Told Me a Story of Freedom and Eternity, Togetherness and Solitude


Roger Abrantes
Articles and Blogs, Free
Life, Love, Wolf
He Told Me A Story

I don’t have preferences. Life fascinates me, and I’ve been a student of life, as long as I remember. I have no favorite animal, as such. I have enjoyed equally the many days (and nights) I’ve spent studying dogs, horses, cats, ducks, bees, sea-horses, and wolves. All have taught me valuable lessons that I carry with me, within me.

I was only a boy, by then. It was a late-summer afternoon, and I had been exploring the forest and the mountain all day, like I always did, curious about all life forms, big and small. The creek behind the pines was not that large that time of the year, but its water, slowly running down the slope was crystal clear and deliciously cold. After filling my canteen, I raised my eyes, and there he was, just across me on the opposite bank. He looked at me, drank some water, then looked up again. I did the same. I didn’t feel any fear, though I should have, for they—the adults—told scary stories about this bloodthirsty and merciless beast.

RAAandWolf1

I listened to my friend the wolf’s stories, stories I carry with me, within me, and made me what I am. (Photo by Monty Sloan from Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana, USA.)

He looked at me with his deep eyes, and for a time we stood still, barely daring to breathe and break the magic—as if time had ended, and we were but memories of an era bygone. We looked at one another for a moment scarcely, one which remains imprinted on my mind, one that made me what I am. I don’t know what my eyes told him, though his glance told me a story of freedom and eternity, togetherness and solitude. I went home with my secret; and a strange, warm feeling like when one made a new friend, I reckoned, for I didn’t know, by then, how it felt to be in love. I never told my parents, my grandparents, or anyone. I knew he was in danger, and you don’t betray a friend, do you?

A few days later, maybe more, there was some commotion in the village. My grand-daddy and I went down to find out about the uproar. On the old market square, laying there on the ground, dirty and bloody—there, he was.

A farmer had shot him. His eyes were open and serene. They had lost the spark I guess is the gift of life, but they spoke to me, nonetheless. I held back the tears I felt were building up. Big boys don’t cry, and my friend the wolf didn’t cry, so I wouldn’t either. My grand-daddy grabbed my hand and led me away while I listened to my friend the wolf’s stories, stories I carry with me, within me, and made me what I am.

Photo by Monty Sloan. Artwork 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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“Life of Pi” — Read the Book, Watch the Movie

LifeOfPiMovie

I read Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi” many years ago. I took the book to bed, my intention being to read 10-12 pages before falling asleep. This was one of the few books I’ve read from one end to the other in one go. I went to sleep at five in the morning.

The other day, I revisited “Life of Pi,” not the book from 2001, but the movie from 2012 directed by Ang Lee with screenplay by David Magee.

The movie gets my five stars. It’s a near perfect screenplay adaptation of a book. It misses a bit of the first part of the book that would be too cumbersome to render in pictures anyway, but it presents the second part magnificently. It’s a beautiful 3D movie, a thrilling adventure, an experience for afterthought—you can take it as you wish.

“Life of Pi,” book and movie, is not intrusive, does not force you to think or accept anything in particular. It leaves you with your freedom to draw your conclusions, or ask your questions, as the case may be.

Take a break, read the book and savor it. Yann Martel succeeded in writing a book that you want to read word by word, not by paragraphs.

The following quotations indicate “Part.Chapter.Paragraph.”

“Just beyond the ticket booth Father had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question: DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO? An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror.” (1.8.4)

The most dangerous animal in the zoo is the human being maybe because of the relationship of danger with unpredictable evil.

“Rank determines whom it can associate with and how; where and when it can eat; where it can rest; where it can drink; and so on. Until it knows its rank for certain, the animal lives a life of unbearable anarchy. It remains nervous, jumpy, dangerous. Luckily for the circus trainer, decisions about social rank among higher animals are not always based on brute force.” (1.13.3)

Here, Pi is (between lines) talking more about human relationships than human-animal relationships, one suspects. He’s also thinking about how to train Richard Parker.  Throughout his misery, Pi comes to see cleverness and willpower as two remarkable human skills, but the question is, do not these skills also bring about evil?

“There are many examples of animals coming to surprising living arrangements. All are instances of that animal equivalent of anthropomorphism: zoomorphism, where an animal takes a human being, or another animal, to be one of its kind.” (1.32.1)

Zoomorphism (in a way, the opposite of anthropomorphism) means that animals treat another species (almost) like their own. Our dogs are great zoomorphists.  This is more philosophical that it may seem and definitely more obscure in the movie than in the book, which, as I’ve mentioned, is more elaborated in its first pre-boat part. One suspects that Pi is talking about his own struggle: Pi the Hindu, Pi the Muslim, and Pi the Christian all in one and the same Pi, not only tolerating one another but living in harmony.

I leave you with one last quote without any comment. Read the book, watch the movie.

“I had to tame him. It was at that moment that I realized this necessity. It was not a question of him or me, but of him and me.” (2.57.8)

As always, I wish you a great day.

Time for Those You Love

My blog, today, is short, just to share with you some questions that appear to me the more pertinent, the older I get.

We spend one third of our lives turning in our sleep, one third dwelling on the past, and one third worrying about the future. Think about it: you are probably worrying right now about something that you can’t do anything about or that you can resolve in due time, crying about something that can’t cry back.

Life is a countdown, every moment counts, don’t waste it. Take time off and spend it with those you love—no worries, no schedules, no deadlines. All the rest can wait, the world will continue spinning round and the sun will rise again, I assure you. Do it now, for time is what you never have enough of when you realize how much you have wasted.

And so, as ways to setting a good example, I took a day off and went sailing with my wife Parichart, my sister Nor and my son Daniel. It wasn’t really planned. It was more a “let’s go and sail.” We grabbed some supplies and to the sea we went—and we spent a delightful day as four spoiled and naughty kids cutting class and giggling the day away—and that, my friends, it what life is all about.


Featured image: Time is what we never have enough of when we realize how much we have wasted (Picture by Elias Vidal).

I’m Alive and I Have Only One Option

It dawned on me the other day at sea, one of those days with scattered clouds on the horizon and a fair wind barely sufficient to keep the boat sailing. Simplicity, that’s what it makes it so soothing and scaringly beautiful. The sea invites you to dream, but does not make promises, it is what it is, no more and no less, be wise and it will reward you, be foolish and it will punish you.

You can’t hide at sea, you’ll meet yourself whether you want it or not, the only viable strategy being honesty and integrity. It’s all so simple. The sea has this power, I discovered—the pertinent appears suddenly as frivolous, and the complex reveals itself in all its simple parts.

I felt absolutely ecstatic like something major was happening, and yet there was nothing particularly noticeable. As far as the eye could see, the world was an endless blue, only slightly interrupted by a thin line, far, far away. Sea and sky, a few clouds on the horizon, the sun to the west, no birds, no fish, no sounds bar the slight, rhythmic splashes of the boat gracefully cutting thru the water, almost as silently as the flight of the owl.

Simplicity—I guess, is what fascinates me most in Darwin’s brilliant concept, evolution by means of natural selection. The algorithm the survival of the fittestis the simplest idea one can conceive, and yet so powerful that it cuts thru everything our understanding touches.

I come to think of the principle of simplicity as a good old friend, standing by me as long as I remember. From my young student days to the times of book writing or when on practical commissions, my friend Simplicity has been there, unobtrusively muttering, “seek the simple…”

The principle of simplicity, as such, was first propounded by the English philosopher, William of Occam (1300-1349). We know it also as Occam’s Razor: “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem,” which is Latin for “Entities should not be multiplied more than necessary,” or “If two assumptions seem to be equally valid, the simpler one should be preferred.”

Simple is beautiful and simpler is beautifuller—and the sea has this influence on you. Thus, I took the liberty to apply the principle of simplicity to the definition of the principle—and the three following corollaries emerged.

Thus, my principle of simplicity reads:

If you have more than one option, choose the simplest.

  • First corollary: “If you have only one option, you don’t have a problem; don’t waste your time complaining, just take it and keep smiling!”
  • Second corollary: “If you don’t like to have only one option, work to create more; then you’ll have the problem of choosing one.”
  • Third corollary: “If you don’t like to have a problem, don’t create options.” Return, then, to the first corollary, don’t complain and keep smiling!

And so it is that I keep sailing this immense sea of blue, my heart beating for every, ever-so-slight splash of the hull in the water. I am but a ripple in the vast ocean. I’m alive. I’m alive and I have only one option, to enjoy life fully—and I wouldn’t want it any differently.

Featured image: A few clouds on the horizon and a fair wind, barely enough to keep the boat sailing.

How Difficult Can It Be to Be a Dog Owner?

How Difficult Can It Be to Be a Dog Owner?

You don’t have to excuse yourself or your dog for the way you are. As long as you’re both happy, and you don’t bother anyone, you are entitled to do what you like and be the way you are.

You don’t need to be good at anything, whether it be Obedience, Agility, Musical Free Style, Heel Work to Music, Flyball, Frisbee Dog, Earth Dog, Ski-Joring, Bike-Joring, Earthdog, Rally-O, Weight Pulling, Carting, Schutzhund, Herding, Nose Work, Therapy, Field Trials, Dock Dogs, Dog Diving, Disc Dogs, Ultimate Air Dogs, Super Retriever, Splash Dogs, Hang Time, Lure Course Racing, Sled Dog Racing or Treibball; and you don’t need excuses as to why not.

We are over swamped by labels because labels sell, but they only sell if you buy them. Should you be a positive, ultra-positive, R+, R+P-, balanced, naturalistic, moralistic, conservative, realistic, progressive, clicker, force-free, or an authoritarian dog owner?

Labels are not a guarantee of life-quality or scientific correctness. They are trademarks, devised by people who want to sell you a product and control you.

Stop caring about labels. A label is a burden; it restricts you; it limits your freedom. Labels are for insecure people who need to hide behind a mask. Harmony and serenity don’t need labels.

Be skeptical of everything that spreads like fire on the step. Be suspicious of anything with a broad mass appeal. Think, question everything, control your emotions, be open-minded but constantly use your critical reasoning. Believe in yourself, be yourself. Be the person and the dog owner you want to be, and you won’t need labels.

Forget labels and focus instead on knowledge, empathy, reciprocity, and respect. These are the pillars of any healthy relationship you may develop with any individual, independently of species.

Life is great—enjoy it!

Featured image: Just do whatever you and your dog enjoy, whichever way you like it so that both of you feel good. It’s as simple as that!

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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Life Is a Rainbow

In our times, I’d call it the Facebook fallacy. It’s a false dilemma. We tend to classify everything promptly as ‘like,’ ‘don’t like.’ Peculiar habit this one for it limits us tremendously. We consort with the ‘like,’ inebriating us with its shallow compliment; and repudiate the ‘don’t,’ rejecting its challenge, missing the boat that for once might have taken us to undiscovered shores.

Facebook makes us believe that everything must either be liked or not liked (or rather ignored). This is an informal fallacy, an error in reasoning that does not originate in improper logical form. Arguments committing informal fallacies may be formally valid, yet fallacious.

The real name for my Facebook fallacy is the false dichotomy, but it is also known as the false dilemma, black-and/or-white thinking, the either-or fallacy, the fallacy of false choice, the fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses, the fallacy of the false alternative or the fallacy of the excluded middle. It is an informal fallacy in which we only consider limited alternatives when there is at least one additional option.

The options we consider or give as a choice to our opponent may be two extremes or completely different alternatives. We can also have a false trilemma (if we reduce the options to three, instead of two).

A false dilemma can be constructed intentionally when we attempt to force a choice. The fallacy can also happen by accidental omission of alternatives or by ignorance. In situations where we are emotionally involved, it is not rare that we only see two (or a few) options to solve a problem when there are several.

As it is, life is not black and white, neither are your options in the vast majority of the situations when you feel cornered.

Life is a rainbow!

Why Do We Keep Pets?

Why Do We Keep Pets? Every-New-Day

We all keep pets (dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, parrots, etc…) because it pleases us. We feel good about having pets. One way or another, pet ownership satisfies some need of ours. There’s nothing wrong with that, in principle. All harmonious relationships are “give and take.” If we give in the same measure as we take, everyone should be happy. Species do not matter, in this context. Nature gives us many examples of animals of different species forming harmonious relationships with benefits for all parties.

That being the case, it seems to me, each of us (pet owners) should ask, “what do I give back to my pet?”

I’m not thinking about a place to sleep, food and medical care. Those are the self-evident duties most (if not all) pet owners do observe. I’m thinking about allowing our pets to be the animals they were (and are) before they became our pets.

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Featured Price: € 148.00 € 89.00

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with our selfish motives for pet ownership, but we may have a problem if we don’t realize it, or deny it. Then, we may fall into a series of pseudo-explanations, inadequate interpretations, and knee-jerk solutions—and that’s abuse in my book.

I have a deep respect for all life independently of species and race. It appears to me that the pet/owner relationship, in this one aspect, should not be much different from any other relationship, be it with a spouse, a lover, a friend, a parent, a child. We should be content with what they can give us and not ask for what they can’t give. We should grant them plenty of room to be themselves. And, we should never take any relationship for granted. Every new day should be one more day we should feel privileged to share with that particular living being—independently of species.

Think about it. Am I wrong?

Have a fabulous day!

Featured image: Every new day is one more day we are privileged to share with any particular living being—independently of species.

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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The Single Most Damaging Belief of Ours

Damaging belief (WolfMuzzleGrab)

The single most damaging belief of ours is that everything is one-sidedly good or bad, right or wrong.

Good or bad, right or wrong depend on the conditions. A strategy is only good at a certain time, under particular circumstances. Behavior is dynamic and changeable. An individual displays one behavior at one given moment and another a while later. It is the ability to adopt the most beneficial strategy in the prevailing conditions that ultimately sorts the fittest from the less fit—moral strategies included—and decides whose genes will prevail in the next generation; and which memes will play the following round.

Opposing strategies, e.g. honest/dishonest, dominant/submissive, aggressive/fearful, hold one another at bay (in all groups, including humans). Whether it pays off to play one role or the other is ultimately a function of cost and benefits and the number of individuals adopting each particular strategy.

Life is fascinating, isn’t it?

Featured image: The single most damaging belief of ours is that everything is one-sidedly good or bad, right or wrong. (Photo by Monty Sloan).

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.

EthologyCourse