Wednesday, February 23, 2011

of mice and men, monkeys and dictators

A less sciency post....

A funny thing met my eye on Dagens Nyheter home page the other day. A small notice wrote about monkeys resistance to things they knew that they would fail. The headline said “Monkeys feel insecurity too”. Next to it, a big notice wrote about Kadaffi’s resistance to give up power.
Beneath the monkey notice it said “Not only people have insight and feel insecurity, tests are showing that monkeys feel the same”. So does my family cat.

DN is quoting BBC homepage that in turn is reporting from a scientific meeting.
Now why are we amazed that monkeys show insight to cause and effect and also that they hesitate when they might fail? For the first time scientists have actually proved that animals have awareness of their own thinking. Apparently I did not understand this, I thought it was proved by all those Machiavellian intelligence experiments like 40 years ago.
These monkeys were taught a computer game where they could win a treat, loose, or not loosing not winning but get a new chance by “pass”. They quickly learn to pass when they could not answer. "Monkeys apparently appreciate when they are likely to make an error," "They seem to know when they don't know." Dr Smith reported. They just tried two spieces, one new world and one old world monkey. The new world monkey failed, whici tickled the imagination of the scientists to claim that this was a difference between the conintents that made evolution of humans possible.

For example, every cat owner knows that not only monkeys have and express human emotion, our family cat have a range of expressions, like shame for example. He knows when he has shamed himself and deals with it by extreme sucking up. That is how you know something has happened if you missed him falling of the shelf. The cat is aware of how he is being perceived.

Now to my question …Why are we studying animals for human emotions and insights to cause and effect, when we have all these dictators that lack all there of. Is it not more interesting to analyze why these men has gone not only inhuman but apparently in-animal as well. Lack of cause and effect; check. Lack of empathy; check. Lack of experience of shame and guilt; check. The family cat is more fit to rule a north African country. And my Sister would say that he is also evil enough :D

Just saying…

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