From: John Burgeson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Dec 26 2002 - 12:20:27 EST
Adrian wrote: "It is extremely tempting to ascribe human emotions and
thoughts to animals who behave like us, and as scientists, we have to
extra careful and critical."
While I agree, it is also very tempting to apply "nothing buttery" to the
question and claim victory for "scientific objectivity,"
I recommend highly the book WHEN ELEPHANTS WEEP which I revied in
PERSPECTIVES a couple of years ago. A copy of my review is on page 2 of my
John W. Burgeson (Burgy)
>From: "Adrian Teo" <email@example.com>
>To: "Robert Schneider" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, <email@example.com>
>Subject: RE: animals and humans (was "Evolution wars")
>Date: Sat, 21 Dec 2002 13:47:57 -0800
>There are clear limitations to Behavior modification that does not
>require a free will explanation. In fact, one of the strongest
>criticisms of Behaviorism is that it ignores completely biological
>nature. In studies of conditioning aversions, we know that even with
>animals, it is harder (and in some cases impossible) to condition
>aversion to certain objects, and much easier to condition fear and
>aversion to other objects (such as snakelike objects). It is not
>because these animals are exercising their free will, but that by
>nature, through evolutionary accumulations, they are biologically
>predisposed to develop fear and aversion to certain types of objects.
>I am also well aware of the primate language projects, but while
>advocates like Jane Gooding and others argue that they show evidence
>of compassion, morality, and even altruism, others like Marc Hauser
>(Harvard), Pinker (MIT), Kagan (Harvard) are extremely skeptical.
>One simply cannot know for sure if an animal who shares food is doing
>it out of compassion or a sense of justice, or simply acting under
>the powers of reciprocal altruism, social conditoning, or kin
>selection. It is extremely tempting to ascribe human emotions and
>thoughts to animals who behave like us, and as scientists, we have to
>extra careful and critical.
>From: Robert Schneider [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
>Sent: Sat 12/21/2002 5:32 AM
>Subject: Re: animals and humans (was "Evolution wars")
> Adrian writes:
> > AT: What you wrote appears to support my argument for a clean
> > qualitative break between animals and humans. One chooses freely and
> > the other doesn't. Humans arrived on the scene suddenly, although
> > there were other human-like, but instinct driven creatures roaming
> > around.
> I'm not so certain that there is "a clean qualitative break
> and humans. One chooses freely and the other doesn't." I can
>think of many
> instances when my dog Joshua has chosen freely. And I recall
> many years ago by a colleague of mine in Psychology relating a paper
> published by a former disciple of B. F. Skinner. He was
> with and trained in Skinnerian psychology and the method of positive
> reinforcement. An applied psychologist, he was once hired by
>a bank that
> was opening up a new branch in a major city. The bank wanted to put a
> display in their front window containing a pig and a piggy-bank. The
> bankers wanted this pyschologist to train the pig to pick up
> and drop them into the piggy-bank. There would be a painted barnyard
> backdrop and dirt, rocks, plants, etc., to give the scene
> Well, the psychologist got to work, put the pig in the
> began a training regiment with positive reinforcement. The training
> proceeded step by step: first getting the pig to pick up a
> then to carry it to the piggy bank, then to drop it in.
>Every time the pig
> successfully concluded a step he would get a reward. The
>training seemed to
> be going well, for the pig started to drop these wooden
>nickels into the
> piggy-bank; then all of a sudden the plan started to go awry.
> that the pig developed a fondness for these wooden nickels,
>and decided to
> keep them for himself. Instead of putting them in the bank,
>he would bury
> them in the sand or hide them behind the rocks or plants.
>The rewards he
> was given became less important to him than these little wooden prizes.
> Nothing the pyschologist tried in order to get the pig with the program
> worked. The bank had to find another way to amuse potential
> the psychologist came to the conclusion that the pig had free
>will and that
> Skinner was wrong.
> I do not deny that animals in general are
>instinct-driven (as my dog
> is), but I think that one can make a case that in the
> some mammals at least have emerged that exhibit behaviors
>that arise from
> the animal freely choosing one course over another. Some primates,
> including great apes and chimpanzees exhibit behavior that is arguably
> self-reflective. Koko the gorilla (The Gorilla Foundation:
> communicates thoughts to humans that are clearly
>self-reflective, using a
> form of sign language for which she herself has invented signs to put
> together phrases and communicate feelings and desires. She
> any philosophical or theological sentences (at least not
>yet), but she seems
> to have a moral sense and communicates moral judgments.
> Bob Schneider
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