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.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reviews by Hubie Goode: Clever Hans, Apes and Bees, and Communication Part 2

Clever Hans,
Apes and Bees,
and Communication

Part 2

If you missed part 1 you’ll need to scroll down or select from the links on the side bar.

Damn Dirty Apes

What really happens if animals DO learn some sort of language? In this case it means that human intelligence has succeeded in releasing animals from instincts they received at birth. This of course also leads to the possibility that animals could eventually learn to use this language to communicate with one another. If enough time is allowed, it is not hard to imagine that animals could indeed begin to resemble humans in the way that they communicate. Then, after this fact, the animals could begin to inform us of how their present state of affairs is the result of “adverse” evolutionary circumstances. If conversation then became common, laws against discrimination and in favor of equal opportunity could then be developed to protect animals from environmental factors that victimize them into a disadvantaged position relative to human beings.

They’d acquire rights.

Despite the fact that humans differ on many levels from animals, it would be easy for people to be blind to the fact that a division between man and animal was God given. Many seem to feel that except for human culture and education, it’s man’s mind that is indeed not so different from the apes, not the other way around. If indeed an ape was exposed to human culture, would the natural progression be an ape that has acquired human qualities? This kind of reminds me a little bit of “King Louie” from the Disney movie “The Jungle Book”. Interestingly enough Louie’s complaint was that he didn’t know the secret to fire; fire being a kind of power in this instance, and that does indeed sound like a human trait. But that’s NOT science, people.

The factual content on this matter is hugely diverse from what would be popular culture and wishful thinking. I seriously doubt that any orangutan in any zoo sits around all day imagining any other relationship between man and ape than the one he enjoys everyday. Imagination often leads to invention, and we’ve seen no inventions from the ape species - ever! If there is any difference between the two minds, that of man and that of ape, then it is by human choice and not by necessity. Science today will tell you that there is no common ground between ape and man that can be bridged naturally. Monkeys haven’t changed in all the time of their existence and yet mankind has landed on the moon in the same period of time. The belief that special circumstances produced a difference that can now be overcome with special engineering is to invent happenings of the past that are in fact unknown, and still unexplained and also beg to be accurately reproduced as only the superior mind of man can accommodate. This special circumstances belief is also a direct contradiction of the current evidence on the subject.

Primordial Snooze

Up until the 1980’s it was believed that apes could indeed be taught a language eventually. Many experiments had been done before this time with apes as varied as Austin, Sherman and Lana. They were taught to label different foods and tools. The fourteen year old chimp, Sarah, was said to be able to congnitize specific problems and even think her way into a solution. There were also six wild born chimpanzees that were said to prove an affinity for spatial memory organization. Paper marking tests were devised three years after “social conditions” were believed to determine the rates at which the chimps approached “hidden distant goals”. Language between chimps and children was at this time believed to be comparable.

How new indeed is the idea that animals can acquire language? It’s actually a very old concept. In 1661 Samuel Pepys wrote that it was his opinion that apes could indeed be taught a language. He devised this information from his first time encounter with a baboon. In 1885, Sir John Lubbock wrote that rather than trying to teach animals our ideas, it might be a better idea to produce a code of signals that allow the animal to impart his ideas to us. Twenty years later, and influenced by the academic antics of a horse named Clever Hans, a psychiatrist revealed that animals can think in human ways. They can also express ideas in human language.*

* Lubbock J. Note on the intelligence of the dog (1885) British association for the advancement of science.
Prepys S. in Marx J. (1980) op. cit.
Wolff G. Die denkenden Tiere von Elberfield und mannheim :456 (1914) Suddeutsche Monatshefete, Berlin

Just the Facts Mam’

Due to the fact that science is all about observable data, and any data that is not observable is something else entirely, and not science, the only facts we can truly devise from all this is that animals consistently prove that they are indeed organic machines energized by instincts. In the absence of human intelligence, animal behavior expresses itself under a dictatorial genetic system that imposes common controls from generation to generation. This is why the language experiments required training so structured as to be logically equivalent to teaching a child to swing through trees while supporting him with cables, harnesses and nets. The idea of training animals to complete tasks for rewards is not all that new at all. This has been successfully done with pigeons and even worms. This does not however lead to any kind of language use. All sign behavior can indeed be so mechanistic that it can be duplicated on a computer.

The language of the chimp, Lana, is attributable to only two basic processes called paired associate learning and conditional discrimination learning. Therefore as a practical matter, a computer can be programmed to simulate the alleged language of the chimp. This in turn reveals the mechanistic behavior of the animals themselves. Animals never act illogically against their programming unless mankind sticks his nose in the mix. (Of course, I speak of healthy animals.) Any animal rights person will inform you that elephants never sway back and forth while they stand in one spot, and yet you can witness this in any zoo in America. This “swaying” is actually a mental/emotional problem brought on by captivity.

A Horse is a Horse is a Horse of course

All of this brings up a very good question: Why are there so many highly intelligent people who believe that apes have the ability to use signs in a way that is characteristic of true language? How were these folks influenced into believing that animals can do things they really can’t do? This is mostly due to an ability that animals DO have. Believe it or not, apes have actually fooled human beings, really smart human beings, too. Although, the apes are not actually cognizant of their ability to do so. But there is a trotting horse called Clever Hans who can illustrate this idea for us.

Clever Hans couldn’t speak like the Mr. Ed of TV fame, but his owner was so captivated by his seeming intelligence that he went so far as to give the horse the benefit of a high school education. People came from all over the land to see the horse perform his amazing intelligence “tricks”. Clever Hans could solve very complex mathematical problems, and this astounded audiences. He could also solve non-math problems as well.

When given a math problem, Hans would paw the ground with his hoof. Yes and no answers were solved with a shake of the head left and right or else up and down. (yes and no). He could also name colors. If asked to find the color red, he would pick up a red rag, or a green rag for green and so on. Many people of the day investigated the horse; the owner, the people who had seen the horse perform. No one could discover the source of the intelligence that the horse displayed, this included Calvary men, psychologists and well known scholars.

One day however, after years of amazing feats by the horse, a person asked a question of the horse whose answer was unknown by the questioner or anyone physically close to the horse. Suddenly Hans was an idiot. Not only did he not know the answer, but it became alarmingly obvious that he had never known any answer to any question ever given to him.

Years of constant familiarity between the horse and his teacher enabled the horse to pick up the slightest signs and movements of the trainer’s head and body. At each demonstration, when asked a question, the horse was able to view, with his “jungle” eyesight and wider visual scope, the slightest unconscious movements of his trainer’s body. The trainer knew which rag was red and would naturally face the red rag in some small way either with his eyes or his head or his body, and therefore the horse would then grab a red rag. If asked a math question, the trainer would lean slightly forward while the horse pawed the ground and then when the correct number had been reached, the trainer would relax. All this happened imperceptibly to the humans in the surrounding viewpoint. But animals see these things. (In much the same way as a cat or dog knows a human who likes or dislikes a cat or dog.) Likewise with head movements, the horse might see the trainer blink, or move his head slightly, perhaps even a raising of the chin, and this would tip off the horse to answer in a pre-trained way to either a yes or no question.

Animals see things you and I do not, and it has been discovered that head movements can be perceived at well under a hundredth of an inch. Without the seeming superior intelligence of mankind, animals have been given an almost superpower advantage that man knows only a little about. The interpretation of this gift in human terms has lead many to believe that similarities between man and animal are only a bridge that needs to be gulfed, but in essence, they possess something quite different than what we assume they must have.

Cats and Dogs, cats and dogs. I was just thinking about dinner tonight.

About this time, as you can imagine, pet owners everywhere were revealing their special family members as being oracles of wisdom. In the next thirty years after Hans, there were as many as 70 pet owners who appeared on the popular circuit hoping for a chance at stardom with “Arnold” the pig and such. The problem behind each of those animals was the ubiquitous presence of its master. Without Jimmyjo Bob or Peggy Sue, Arnold knew nothing. This was something new, the connection between masters and their pets, and science moved forward to study this effect with the removal of the human element involved. An animal’s ability to recognize and interpret a human’s smallest movements due to its ultra sensitive and unseen perception fueled the so called discoveries of language possibilities that were then reported. Animals know their trainers and owners and also their expectations. They then combine this with their superior sensory organization and history is made.

But what happens when we pull the human element out of the equation?

More on this in Part 3.

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