Think Of The Homeless

There are over 30 million Americans who live on the streets of our nation. Can you consider giving something to a shelter near you? Your fellow human beings need socks because they walk everywhere. Food and shelter are great too, if they will take them. So please give.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Clever Hans, Apes, Bees and Communication

Clever Hans, Apes,
Bees and Communication

Whether we realize it or not, we are all cognizant of a rather unique talent that is inherent in mankind. Namely that mankind is capable of receiving, supplying and transmitting the written word. This has been going on for thousands of years. We’ve seen temple walls embossed with hieroglyphics, drawing
s along the sides of inner walls of caves, and lunar calendars engraved on bones. These are all evidence of humans synthesizing abstract elements and placing them into ordered composites, to be followed by written records that contain and communicate information that would otherwise be unavailable.

Mankind has this talent to lift himself up and outside of the time frame of his birth, and many would feel that this is indeed a unique circumstance germane to mankind and only mankind. If this is so, then how can we explain experiments that offer
evidence of an ability in animals for the capacity for language, mathematical concepts, and even forming simple sentences? Haven’t we seen the fact that dolphins are capable of language? Haven’t we seen the videos of chimpanzees forming simple sentences with plastic symbols, or computer generated tokens? If the “word” is unique to mankind, then how can animals also posses it?

The ability to pass on information beyond one’s own locus of control and into the next generation is an ability that belongs solely to mankind. There has never been an animal that gathered information beyond it’s hard wiring
and then passed it along to their descendants. Yet in recent years there are those who have made some impressive strides and amazing claims in the field of animal communication. Even orangutangs have been described as being “all too human”. This would seem to imply that if we were to give monkeys the benefit of human education and culture, that human qualities would be further developed.

There once was an ape named “Lana” who is said to have done this back in the 1970’s. A computer based language was developed that was targeted at seeing if indeed an ape could learn language. It was all very basic, symbols were created for a keyboard, and Lana had to type the symbols in an order to receive a banana, or some such thing. The results of this study seemingly proved that indeed an ape could use symbols in communicating its wants and needs.

That's NOT Lana --->

Sarah was a chimpanzee who preceded Lana and was given plastic symbols to organize into language. Evidence suggested that indeed Sarah could really form sentences out of the arrangement of plastic symbols. Scientists even went so far as to report that Sarah had a vocabulary of about 130 words and her work revealed actual sentence structure.

Supposedly, Sarah understood the use of verbs, adjectives, conditionals, and even compound sentences. Until the 1980’s, these concepts were considered canon. But in latter years the research has been shown to have been premature, and today we now accept that apes are indeed NOT capable of language. To understand this, let’s contrast their so called language with the waggle dance of the s
cout bee.

Say it ain’t so, Doctor Dolittle!

Honeybees are genetically able to perform rapid movements known as a “waggle dance”. A scout bee finds food outside of the hive and then returns and relays the information to the rest of the hive. It does this by moving in
a circle if the food is less than 300 feet from the hive. It moves in a figure eight motion if the food is more than 300 feet from the hive. (Studies have been done!) The faster the bee moves, the farther away the food is. Also, the direction of the scout bee’s body with respect to gravity inside the hive reveals the direction that the bees must fly outside the hive with respect to sunlight. (Stop laughing, see for yourself.*) If the scout bee’s body is pointed upward, the bees fly toward the sun; if his body points downward, they are to fly away from the sun. So what happens on cloudy days you might ask? The bees have a back up mechanism. The bees remember the sun’s previous diurnal course in relation to landmarks that are local to the hive. The shape of the pattern traced out in the dance, together with the speed of the bee and the orientation of its body with respect to the gravity inside the hive, all serve to communicate information to the other bees as to the distance and direction of the flight they must take to reach the food. (Face it, for this to be explained by evolution is impossible since it would have taken so long for this system to develop that bees would have died out long before hand.)

* Dyer F. & Gould J. Science (1981) 214:1041 nov 27.

The important thing to take away from all this is that when a scout encounters a flower, the waggle dance is not something that it intellectually assimilates. A bee can see through 8,000 individual lenses in its eye with which it sees in all directions at once. Its reporting to the hive is totally an instinctual act where it automatically does the waggle dance. This act of communication is the direct result of DNA preprogramming which contains the information the bee needs to make the whole hive survival possible, and this includes knowledge of gravity and the presence of the sun. The bee doesn’t make instant cognition of this, of course, it just simply is the way things are for them.

Keep in mind also that every time a bee leaves its hive, it only takes as much honey with it as it needs to reach the flowers that the scout bee has reported. To return alive to the hive, they must use the sugar from the flower that they find. No 401K plan for these workers. If you see a bee limping along on the sidewalk, you are looking at a doomed creature who didn’t receive the message properly or was interfered with and will soon succumb to starvation.

The instructions for the waggle dance are imbedded inside of the bee’s genes. Even young bees raised outside of the hive understand the waggle dance. Despite its sophistication, the waggle dance actually exists of a small number of moves.

Consider for a moment the parallels here of the message of God. Only one bee comes from outside the hive with information on how to get to
the flowers that will provide continued life for the hive. Any other bee with information will not be correct and will doom the whole hive. If an Eagle were to be flying over the flowers and then transmogrified into a bee in order to give the proper information for reaching the flowers, you would then have a “re-telling” of the Biblical story.

What did the Elephant say to the Ostrich? Apparently nothing.

In all places among the animal kingdom, communication is shared among members of the same species with no interference from mankind at all. In
the case of apes, however, the new ingredient is added, namely: humans. Human intelligence is used to interpret if indeed apes are capable of using language. Necessarily, the studies are done in such a way that requires apes to interact over periods of time with human intelligence and expectations.

Where the scout bee tells other bees in the hive where the food is
with genetically controlled body odors in conjunction with instinctive body movements, in the language experiments human intelligence attempts to teach apes the use of language with words created by the use of tokens on a computer screen or plastic symbols. But the ramifications are profound if you and I engage in such activity and actually teach these animals “language”.

More on this next time.

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