Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Animal analysis

For past two nights I was watching Animal Planet before going to bed (to avoid repeats on CNN). One night I saw "Monsters Inside Me" which showed the dangers of parasites lurking around us. The wilder the environment gets the more danger we run into. The show reminded how our "civilization (= rights + responsibilities)" process was not just for sympathy, empathy in the high-functioning sense but essentially a Darwinian process. We had to cluster around to separate other killers and the purpose of clustering is defeated without civilization because we would kill among ourselves. We still do but we came a long way.

Yesterday I watched "Killing for Living" which showed how in many species many babies are born-murderers and kill their siblings and in some cases parents kill their children etc. for food. Males kill each other and get killed by females for mating etc. The show said "Just because you are their kind doesn't mean they won't kill you!" One particular instance was striking: Typically stags fight almost to death for mating with female deers but one specific sub-species just have an "abstract fight" where they decide who the winner is without touching each other just by making abstract fight moves!! That is an instance of using brain more than bran! We probably evolved from such sub-species of apes who loved being alive more than sex and reproduction! This probably was the first instance of questioning the instincts! Of course now questioning is one of the seed pillars of our civilization!

Sometimes when things in our high-functioning world relationships (both professional and personal) are frustrating such animal knowledge can give good perspectives on how better off we are in the race of evolution. Killings in today's societies are still very marginal (except for extreme cases like Darfur etc. where the population is still behind in civilization) and most of us get food and get to mate without getting killed!!

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