Author Topic: What Do We Know?  (Read 134 times)

Offline Wake-up!

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What Do We Know?
« on: April 08, 2019, 04:15:03 pm »
Author and legendary conservationist Lawrence Anthony died March 2, 2012 at his home within the Thula Thula Game Reserve in Africa. Almost immediately after his death, a unique event unfolded. Two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zulu bush until they reached the Anthony house. Lawrence was the conservationist who had saved the elephants’ lives several years before when they had been destined to be slaughtered by hunters and government officials.

There are two elephant herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both arrived at the Anthony family compound shortly after Anthony’s death. They had not visited the house for a year and a half. The first herd arrived Sunday. It must have taken them twelve hours to arrive. The second herd arrived the next day, after a thirty-six hour trek. They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush.

What a fun story! Animal behaviorists have claimed for some time that elephants definitely mourn the death of other elephants. And tame elephants have been known to quit eating and die when their human owner of many years has died.

But here we have two herds of elephants that somehow became conscious of the death of a human. How does a human death register in elephant consciousness? They held a vigil for that human. Elephants traveled for hours to mourn this man’s death? Or maybe to quietly celebrate that man’s life? Or maybe to help him cross over? Or do we just want to assign the event to coincidence?

Are humans ever aware when elephants die? Besides some sets of twins, how many humans are instantly aware when another human dies? Who has greater consciousness, elephants, or humans? Humans find out about another's death by a phone call. Apparently elephants have telepathic telephones. The original smart phone?

Lawrence Anthony wrote a very engaging book, “The Elephant Whisperer”. It tells a story of how little we do know.
What light is to the eyes, what air is to the lungs, what love is to the heart, Freedom is to the souls of humankind.

What if dogs bring back balls that people throw
because dogs think people enjoy throwing?

If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it. -Mark Twain 1835-1910

Offline Wake-up!

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Re: What Do We Know?
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2019, 08:12:39 pm »
There is an interesting flower that grows in the Serengeti Plains of Africa. It stands several feet above the native grasses, blowing softly in the wind. Somewhat like North America's native lupine in initial appearance, its inflorescence is long and cylindrical, with many deep blue flowers and a few cream-colored terminal flowers. It is so beautiful it begs touching and picking. Soon as the stalk is touched the flowers take flight and leave you holding a naked stem of last year’s grass. After all, it is not a flower, it is a colony of moths on a grass stem, imitating a flower.

Entomologists have studied the moths. They fly around and light on another naked stalk. They alight in the identical pattern each and every time. The colony has a hierarchy, A through Z, although in reality there are more than 26 individuals in each colony. Each A through Z lands in the same spot relative to the other individuals every time. The alpha individual lands on top of the stalk. This individual is completely cream-colored. The next five or so individuals are partly cream-colored and partly blue. The remainder are all blue. They land in the same spiral pattern each and every time.

Science calls this imitation of another 'mimicry', an adaptive mechanism used primarily to avoid predation. Mimicry is classically along the lines of a non-poisonous snake looking like a poisonous snake. Science is somewhat reluctant to call a colony of moths imitating flowers mimicry because it stretches the limits of scientific explainability. Stretches its limits because science has a problem thinking that ‘lower’ life forms have consciousness. Stretches its limits because there is no flower in the Serengeti that the moth colony mimics. The colony has created a flower!

The big question is how have a colony of moths adapted to look like a non-existent plant? How does evolutionary theory account for this? Is it coincidence, if not natural selection, that a colony of moths looks like a plant? Maybe. Maybe there is no mimicry.
 
If consciousness is brought into the discussion, maybe the moths know something about the world of plants. Maybe they understand that birds do not eat flowers. At least the risk of predation is reduced when not in flight. Maybe 'resting' in the open avoids insect predation in otherwise shared habitats.

The questions and possibilities might go on for paragraphs. Beyond that the colonies are ineffably beautiful, just as elephant consciousness of a human death is. They really need no explanation. Attempted explanations belittle their creation and their magic.

What light is to the eyes, what air is to the lungs, what love is to the heart, Freedom is to the souls of humankind.

What if dogs bring back balls that people throw
because dogs think people enjoy throwing?

If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it. -Mark Twain 1835-1910

Offline Wake-up!

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Re: What Do We Know?
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2019, 05:59:51 pm »
What light is to the eyes, what air is to the lungs, what love is to the heart, Freedom is to the souls of humankind.

What if dogs bring back balls that people throw
because dogs think people enjoy throwing?

If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it. -Mark Twain 1835-1910