Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Moral Purpose of Telling Koko the Gorilla How Robin Williams Died

According to press reports, Koko, the gorilla adept at sign language, seemed saddened to hear the news of the death of Robin Williams, whom the gorilla met once in 2001 (and bonded with immediately). I cannot fathom the ethical reasoning behind telling Koko about Williams's death. What is the point of telling her about the death of someone she met once, 13 years ago? The press reports dwelt on the fact that she appeared sad. I don't think any of us can know if she was sad or not — but even if this news opens the possibility of making her unhappy, it seems cruel to bring this into her life. What moral purpose does it serve? RITA LONG, OAKLAND, CALIF.


Klosterman then taps into the knowledge of a a noted veterinarian and author, Vint Virga, for more in-depth analysis because why not? We're already here.

"I would set aside the issue of the animal's cognitive intelligence and focus on the concept of an animal's emotional intelligence, which studies continue to show is much greater than we previously imagined. Animals and humans both experience joy and sadness throughout their life. Why would you want to shelter a gorilla from that experience? I believe a gorilla absolutely has the ability to understand the loss of someone who was important to her, and animals are often able to deal with grieving and loss more effectively than humans."

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I see nothing funny about baldness. The fact that I, personally, have reached age 42 without any significant hair loss does NOT mean that I have the right to make insensitive remarks about those of you whose heads are turning into Mosquito Landing Zones.

- Dave Barry

Monday, October 20, 2014

Quote of the Day

That’s not a world of selfishness or greed. It’s a world of cooperation and mutual benefit through the pursuit of self-interest, enabling satisfying lives not only for the Hank Reardens of the world but for factory workers. I still want to live there.

…In scene after scene, Rand shows what such a community would be like, and it does not consist of isolated individualists holding one another at arm’s length. Individualists, yes, but ones who have fun in one another’s company, care about one another, and care for one another—not out of obligation, but out of mutual respect and spontaneous affection.

Ayn Rand never dwelt on her Russian childhood, preferring to think of herself as wholly American. Rightly so. The huge truths she apprehended and expressed were as American as apple pie. I suppose hardcore Objectivists will consider what I’m about to say heresy, but hardcore Objectivists are not competent to judge. The novels are what make Ayn Rand important. Better than any other American novelist, she captured the magic of what life in America is supposed to be. The utopia of her novels is not a utopia of greed. It is not a utopia of Nietzschean supermen. It is a utopia of human beings living together in Jeffersonian freedom.

- Charles Murray on Ayn Rand

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Wisdom Of The Week

Evolution isn't some ladder, with us at the top. We're just one creature out of zillions, all of them doing OK just as they are. There was no special magic that made us what we were when we were; we just happened to be the right species in the right place at the right time. A lot of different factors entered into it: the climate, the shapes of their hips, the kinds of prey available, the relationship between savannah and forest, etc etc etc. Every situation is different and there are literally billions of alternatives.

If there's an evolutionary factor at play in human "intelligence", it's only in that H. sapiens has somehow decided to wipe out its fellow species at a rate 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the normal rate of it. That is indeed an evolutionary factor that is selecting against them, but I hardly think it's a mark in favor of intelligence that it's causing extinctions at an asteroid-like rate. And it's exactly the kind of thing that can get this species to wipe itself off the earth, leaving the cockroaches and the sea slugs to duke it out in a newly-opened ecosystem. I wish them luck

- Beautiful insight via answer to the question
Why didn't other animals develop intellect like apes did 100,000 years ago?

Quote of the Day

The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.

Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quote of the Day

The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.

- Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Biologically Inspired Design Inspires a New Strategy for Zoo Atlanta

Highlighting these unexpected similarities between what animals do and what people are trying to do is a new strategy Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are using to hopefully increase public awareness about animals and encourage conservation. They’ve created an iPhone app based on biologically inspired design, highlighting two dozen species that have helped engineers solve problems or invent new solutions.

“Learning that owls eat rodents is interesting, but explaining how they’ve helped us invent new technologies is a more effective way of getting us interested in the natural world,” said Marc Weissburg. The Georgia Tech professor led the app project and is co-director of the Institute’s Center for Biologically Inspired Design.

Owl wings are built to disperse air pressure, which allows them to fly silently to sneak up on their watchful prey. Engineers used the same principle to design the super-fast, and super-quiet, Shinkansen bullet train. Flamingos pump water in and out of their mouths at a speed of four pumps a second while eating. They use their beaks to strain water and trap their food. Researchers are studying their bills to construct water filters of the future.

The app also features zebras (keeping ships cool), elephants (transforming floors and walls into speaker systems) and rattlesnakes (all-terrain robots).

The ZooScape app, which also includes a game that tests a user’s knowledge of the animals and their contributions, can be used by anyone, anywhere. It becomes interactive at Zoo Atlanta. The app uses GPS to send notifications to the guests’ smartphones whenever they visit an exhibit of an animal that has contributed a biologically inspired design.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

By looking at 13,000 twins identical and fraternal twins aged 16, the study found that 62 percent of the variability of test scores could be explained by genetics. The authors found that achievement was highly correlated intelligence, but almost as important were other characteristics such as self-belief, personality, well-being, perception of the school environment, and behavior problems. However, all of these characteristics were to some extent influenced by genetics.

- 23&Me Blog