It is hard to believe nowadays that people could ever have been as brilliantly duplicitous as James Wait—until I remind myself that just about every adult human being back then had a brain weighing about three kilograms! There was no end to the evil schemes that a thought machine that oversized couldn’t imagine and execute.

So I raise this question, although there is nobody around to answer it: Can it be doubted that three-kilogram brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?

A second query: What source was there back then, save for our overelaborate neural circuitry, for the evils we were seeing or hearing about simply everywhere?

My answer: There was no other source. This was a very innocent planet, except for those great big brains.

-Vonnegut, “Galapagos”

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6 responses to “

  1. @agnophilo – You raise an interesting point, I suppose, but you’re using some of these terms inappropriately. Murder and rape are usually used in a legal context, and imply unlawful killing and non-consensual sexual contact, which really doesn’t apply to animals. Animals kill each other, certainly, for food. It’s a utilitarian purpose, not one borne of malice. Animals also obviously mate in order to reproduce. All of that is instinctual. Cruelty is another iffy word. Yeah, if you watch a cat dismember a mouse, it seems cruel to you, because you’ve been conditioned to associate that kind of act as cruel. But it’s not cruel to a cat. To a cat, if it’s not food, it’s a plaything. Animals don’t intentionally perform cruel acts for the sake of cruelty, because they don’t have the higher level thinking to actually make that decision.Even if we were to grant that animals are capable of cruelty on a basic level, they still are nowhere near as capable of evil as man is. Only man could have invented firearms, chemical warfare, and atomic weaponry. We are the only creatures with the higher level thinking to willingly make the decision to murder, rape, or act cruel towards another human being.

  2. @gamecubeholic – Why when I right-click on your page does some dialogue about chernobyl pop up?”You raise an interesting point, I suppose, but you’re using some of these terms inappropriately. Murder and rape are usually used in a legal context, and imply unlawful killing and non-consensual sexual contact, which really doesn’t apply to animals. Animals kill each other, certainly, for food. It’s a utilitarian purpose, not one borne of malice.” Well obviously there are no literal laws in nature, but if one animal is mounting another and it’s not aroused and screaming and trying to get away it is for all intents and purposes the same thing. I’ve seen video of a ferret raping a nest of baby ferrets, this kind of thing does happen in nature. A law doesn’t make rape rape, the violation and pain does. If I raped someone outside of any legal jurisdiction it would still be rape, for instance. And by murder I meant species killing their own kind for sport, not for food – which has been documented. This is why animals have an instinct of revenge – if one animal exhibits psychotic, violent behavior it escalates until the rest of the pack put the bad member of the group down. We are more civilized (usually) about it, but only because we have that luxury.”Animals also obviously mate in order to reproduce. All of that is instinctual. Cruelty is another iffy word. Yeah, if you watch a cat dismember a mouse, it seems cruel to you, because you’ve been conditioned to associate that kind of act as cruel. But it’s not cruel to a cat. To a cat, if it’s not food, it’s a plaything. Animals don’t intentionally perform cruel acts for the sake of cruelty, because they don’t have the higher level thinking to actually make that decision.”And it’s not cruel to a sociopath who doesn’t feel the pain of the person they’re killing. But the behavior does happen in nature as it does in human society. As do bizarre acts of altruism such as a predator protecting an infant of a species it normally eats for food (because the maternal instincts override the predatory ones).”Even if we were to grant that animals are capable of cruelty on a basic level, they still are nowhere near as capable of evil as man is. Only man could have invented firearms, chemical warfare, and atomic weaponry. We are the only creatures with the higher level thinking to willingly make the decision to murder, rape, or act cruel towards another human being.”We are capable of doing more harm (and good) but that doesn’t make us more evil. A psychopath with a machine gun can do more harm than one with a knife but that doesn’t make him more evil, just more dangerous. And overall we’ve done far more good than harm despite all the wars and atrocities we’ve committed. More than one invention are estimated to save over a billion lives, that is more good than all the wars in history combined have done harm.

  3. @agnophilo – Quit right clicking then! Ha, it’s a script I had put in ages ago to prevent copy pasting, though it’s not exactly difficult to circumvent. “Well obviously there are no literal laws in nature, but if one animal is mounting another and it’s not aroused and screaming and trying to get away it is for all intents and purposes the same thing. I’ve seen video of a ferret raping a nest of baby ferrets, this kind of thing does happen in nature. A law doesn’t make rape rape, the violation and pain does. If I raped someone outside of any legal jurisdiction it would still be rape, for instance. And by murder I meant species killing their own kind for sport, not for food – which has been documented. This is why animals have an instinct of revenge – if one animal exhibits psychotic, violent behavior it escalates until the rest of the pack put the bad member of the group down. We are more civilized (usually) about it, but only because we have that luxury.”I define rape by its motivation. There are usually two: sexual gratification and/or dominance. Animals don’t have sex for gratification; they have it to reproduce. While animals certainly do demonstrate dominance in pack scenarios, they don’t do it by sexual means as far as I know. Rape doesn’t exist in the animal world because it isn’t a choice that they make, regardless of violation, pain, etc. Animals are driven to have sex by instinct. We are too, actually; we just have societal inhibitions and laws that keep us from acting on our urges whenever we like. It’s the same thing when a dog humps your leg. You wouldn’t say the dog is raping you, would you? It’s just instinct. It comes down to choice. Animals don’t act on that. We do. I’m genuinely interested to see an example of animals killing each other for sport in nature. Got a link? I’m also highly skeptical of animals being capable of feeling revenge; that really seems like a higher level type of emotion that requires far more reasoning than animals are capable of. Again, I’d love a link.”And it’s not cruel to a sociopath who doesn’t feel the pain of the person they’re killing. But the behavior does happen in nature as it does in human society. As do bizarre acts of altruism such as a predator protecting an infant of a species it normally eats for food (because the maternal instincts override the predatory ones).”Well yeah, but it still isn’t cruelty. It’s just cruel to humans who are capable of defining that term. The difference is that in human society, we can CHOOSE to be cruel simply to be cruel. Our actions can be driven by cruelty alone, as opposed to simply being seen as cruel. Got a link for the predator protecting the infant bit? I’ve heard of cats taking care of puppies, but it’s pretty rare to see interspecies maternal scenarios, I think. “We are capable of doing more harm (and good) but that doesn’t make us more evil. A psychopath with a machine gun can do more harm than one with a knife but that doesn’t make him more evil, just more dangerous. And overall we’ve done far more good than harm despite all the wars and atrocities we’ve committed. More than one invention are estimated to save over a billion lives, that is more good than all the wars in history combined have done harm.”I didn’t say it makes us more evil. I said that it makes us more CAPABLE of evil. And we absolutely are. I posited that animals are capable of cruelty before for the sake of argument. I don’t believe that they are, and they aren’t capable of evil either, since evil is a moral choice and animals can’t make moral decisions. Man is the only creature who has defined evil and who can be labeled as such.

  4. @gamecubeholic – “Quit right clicking then! Ha, it’s a script I had put in ages ago to prevent copy pasting, though it’s not exactly difficult to circumvent.”Nope, harder for pictures though.”I define rape by its motivation. There are usually two: sexual gratification and/or dominance. Animals don’t have sex for gratification; they have it to reproduce.” No they don’t – they have sex because it feels good and they feel compelled to. Animals don’t understand the biology of reproduction. There are even tribes of humans still around in africa that don’t know there’s a connection between the two – they see sex as pleasurable and babies as gifts from the gods. I seriously doubt animals are capable of connecting the dots between an event and an action months prior.”While animals certainly do demonstrate dominance in pack scenarios, they don’t do it by sexual means as far as I know.” You’ve never heard the concept of the alpha male being the only one that gets to mate with the females?”Rape doesn’t exist in the animal world because it isn’t a choice that they make, regardless of violation, pain, etc.” I agree that an animal and a human do not have the same moral responsibility that comes with self-awareness, I’m not equating the two morally just saying they are essentially the same act and have the same consequence.”Animals are driven to have sex by instinct. We are too, actually; we just have societal inhibitions and laws that keep us from acting on our urges whenever we like.” Animal psychology is actually not very different from ours, there have been many morality experiments done with animals that show that they have a strong sense of fairness, are capable of selflessness etc. And I’m sure this varies in animals as it does in humans.”It’s the same thing when a dog humps your leg. You wouldn’t say the dog is raping you, would you? It’s just instinct. It comes down to choice. Animals don’t act on that. We do.”I would say a dog was raping me if he pinned me down and fucked my asshole for 20 minutes. Just as I would say the dog killed me if he ripped my throat out, which most dogs are capable of given the proper motivation. I agree there’s a difference I’m just saying violent behavior of all sorts has been documented in nature, and not just predator-to-prey, but within species and when one animal is not a threat to another.”I’m genuinely interested to see an example of animals killing each other for sport in nature. Got a link?” Here’s a video of a male hippo killing a newborn baby hippo (link). You might also find this interesting (link).”I’m also highly skeptical of animals being capable of feeling revenge; that really seems like a higher level type of emotion that requires far more reasoning than animals are capable of. Again, I’d love a link.”I don’t see any need for higher reasoning (or any reasoning at all), it’s just building a negative association. If you kick a dog it will feel anger and fear. Kick it once a day and it will growl if you come near it. Keep it up and it will either be too afraid and cower or attack you. What is that if not vengeance? Bear in mind vengeance in nature is from direct assault, not the abstract things we humans commit vengeance over.”Well yeah, but it still isn’t cruelty. It’s just cruel to humans who are capable of defining that term. The difference is that in human society, we can CHOOSE to be cruel simply to be cruel. Our actions can be driven by cruelty alone, as opposed to simply being seen as cruel.” I think we’re just using different senses of the terms.”Got a link for the predator protecting the infant bit? I’ve heard of cats taking care of puppies, but it’s pretty rare to see interspecies maternal scenarios, I think.”(link). Lots of examples.”I didn’t say it makes us more evil. I said that it makes us more CAPABLE of evil. And we absolutely are. I posited that animals are capable of cruelty before for the sake of argument. I don’t believe that they are, and they aren’t capable of evil either, since evil is a moral choice and animals can’t make moral decisions. Man is the only creature who has defined evil and who can be labeled as such.”There are two senses of the word evil, 1) bad stuff, death, destruction, carnage etc, as in the “problem of evil”, and 2) evil in the sense of knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway, being an evil person, malice etc. Animals commit evil in the first sense, but are incapable of the second sense – though I suspect many animals are dimly aware of moral notions and struggle with moral questions to some degree. I don’t think we have a monopoly on self-awareness, we’re just the most intelligent species.

  5. I mean, I didn’t imply that they’re aware that they’re having sex in order to reproduce. But yeah, you’re right. I’ll concede there. I think the distinguishing factor is that animals will have sex during specific times when it’s appropriate to mate, as opposed to humans who will fuck whenever just because they feel like it. The alpha male gets to have the female, but he doesn’t demonstrate his dominance over the other males by raping them. He will fight them, however, if they challenge him. Eh, animal psychology may be similar to ours insofar as basic instincts go, but I think that’s where the similarities end. I think that any perceived “morality” from an animal is just wishful thinking. But I’d love to read about some experiments if you’ve got them handy. Super interesting hippo clip. I think there’s room for about a metric ton of interpretation though. What one may deem as “killing for sport”, another can deem as simply an act of aggression. It’s difficult to judge what would drive a hippo instinctually to do something like that. I highly doubt the hippo derived enjoyment out of that, which “sport” would imply. I dunno. The giraffe clip’s a bit more straightforward; I think that’s just a simple fight for dominance. Maybe that’s how giraffes decide who gets to mate? Don’t confuse revenge or retribution with a conditioned response. A dog getting kicked everyday will not retaliate because he wants revenge. He’ll retaliate because he’s been conditioned to expect pain in the presence of a stimulus and so his instincts make him act in such a way to try and avoid this pain. Revenge involves actually planning a retaliatory response to a perceived grievance. Mind blowing story about the lionness and the impala. Wow. No idea what to make of that intellectually. I guess the lionness saw the baby as one of its own. Makes you wonder if the tables would turn once the impala became full grown. I think in order to commit evil, one must be self-aware. Otherwise the action is simply perceived as evil from the outside. It’s like the criminally insane; they can commit heinous crimes but they’re not actually aware that what they’re doing is wrong. I don’t call that evil. Animals act solely on instinct and exterior stimuli, and thus are not capable of judging their actions or any actions. I don’t believe that there is any species besides man capable of self-awareness.

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