After the blogfest Wednesday, Lugh has taken up a solid residence in my brain. Highly distracting, and definitely not conducive to a break from writing. I've caved, and I'm putting down some words to satisfy him for the short term, but in the meantime I'm going to take a bit of a break from blogging here for a week or so. I'll be back with something for you next Friday (and a guest post elsewhere), but I'll be skipping Tuesday's usual substantive post. Anything in the middle means that I've either overloaded on research or driven myself a bit demented. I'll let you decide.
In the meantime, I want to talk a little bit about Killer Whales today, because they've been in the news a bit, and I found a really fascinating article about Killer Whale intelligence on Physorg.com. (Man has it been a while since I surfed their website!)
The thing of it is, we work with these amazing animals and study them, and the more we learn the more we realize that we really haven't scratched the surface. Some scientists consider Killer Whales to be on par with Chimpanzees as far as intelligence goes, and you'll see in the article words like "Culture" thrown around. This is because we can't explain by any measurable scientific evidence why three populations, without significant genetic differences, have found such startlingly different ways to live, and not just live, but pass on their method of successful living through generations. These populations have distinct dialects, and distinct lifestyles. And what other animal, with startlingly few genetic differences, exists in distinct populations with distinct dialects, passing on those distinctions to their offspring for generations?
I've said it for years, and I'll keep saying it, not because I'm a tree-hugger or some crazed environmentalist, but because of studies like these that come out every so often and don't get the attention they should. Humans are animals, and the more research we do, the more I believe that we'll find ourselves less unique within the animal kingdom. The brain of a Killer Whale is 15 lbs. They're highly social animals, capable of learning, interested in interacting, and inquisitive. They are also, taking into account the incredibly different environment in which they thrive and the lack of opposable thumbs, not all that different from us.
One of the questions the article asks is whether Killer Whales, as intelligent as they are, could be capable of intentionally killing a trainer. Obviously we have no scientific way to know this, just as we have know way of knowing if a man murdered someone purposefully or not. That the question is even being asked at all is kind of a testament to the level of intelligence exhibited by these animals. Have you ever heard someone wonder if the tiger that attacked Roy did it on purpose, to lash out at the man who had been its trainer? It isn't exactly a common refrain. In my reading, the only other animal (non-ape, mind you) that has been accorded that level of consciousness is the elephant. The idea that animals might be capable of vengeance or the purposeful intent to kill a person which whom a relationship has been built is shocking. But so is murder.
Just because we have no way to measure it, does it mean it isn't possible? Just because we have no way of communicating effectively across the species divide, does it mean that we are the only animals capable of experiencing the things that we experience? Capable of thinking the things we think?
I'm inclined to think that it just means our understanding is too limited. And that's another thing that isn't really measurable by science, but we all know it exists in varying degrees. Ego. Hubris. Pride.
Sometimes we forget that science is just a method of observing the universe, not the entirety of the universe itself.