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Are Humans Meant to be Monogamous?
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2008 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LizE wrote:

Tee wrote:
There is no way animals could create a civilized society as we know it today. It just couldn't happen.


Well, you're right there. You won't see a badger living off the work of another badger in a sweatshop across the world. You don't find deer coming up with a plan to infect humans with deer ticks so they can get their land back--or lions deciding it would be a helluva lot easier to factory farm their prey. Humans have created not one, but many societies with vastly different moral codes, practices and customs, many of which I find personally abhorrent (just as, no doubt, people from other cultures would find mine). 'Civilized' is definitely in the eye of the beholder.


This reminds me of the joke I once read about how our pet dogs see us when we get back from the grocery store: they think, "What amazing hunters! Look at what they come back with every time!" Laughing

Anyway, I'm with Tee and Dick on this one. LizE, you've mentioned a lot of horrible things about modern civilisation, but none of the great things. Animals may not have our capacity for malice, but neither do they have our capacity for some real virtues. It's disheartening to remember truly terrible episodes in our past, such as the Nazi concentration camps; but in the same way you won't find grizzly bears systematically exterminating wolves, you won't find an abused animal writing anything like Wiesel's Night.


LizE wrote:
Tee wrote:
Animals react to instinct only, unless they're taught differently (domesticated pets). But those in the wild have a code in the way they live; and if human beings did it right, it would be different from the animals in the majority of cases.


So what drives people to spend trillions of dollars creating bigger and better weapons--and using them? Wouldn't that be the instinct to dominate our environment? When we doom animals to a life of pain and misery so meat will be cheaper in the grocery store--or we participate in wars over land and resources--what are we but territorial animals bent on survial at any cost?

I agree that we're the cleverest and most powerful animal on the planet, but I think many of our 'codes' are just window dressing. If the human race was on the brink of extinction, you can bet that Mr. Seed-Spreader would become the guest of honor at every party--and monogamy would disappear so fast that heads would spin. No doubt we'd come up with some deeply 'moral' reason for the 'choice,' but it would be survival of the species in the driver's seat.


Well, we're not just the cleverest and most powerful animals on the planet, but also the only ones who can, as Dick pointed out, go on hunger strikes at will . . . or abstain from meat during the Fridays in Lent . . . or restrict our diets in any way.

And with due respect, regardless of the state of the human population or my own screaming biological clock, Mr. Seed-Spreader would never become the guest of honour at any of my parties. Smile
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desiderata



Joined: 23 Oct 2007
Posts: 226

PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been thinking about this more while I've observed all the critters out and about over the past few days. I watched the mama racoon growl and swipe at her baby who wanted a bite of her food. I helped the neighbor girl move the baby guppies out of the tank so the parents didn't eat them. While I was visiting my horse I watched the mares out in pasture. Mare one walked past mare two, who was peacefully grazing. Mare one bit mare two on the butt and moved on. Mare two squealed and kicked out, missing mare one, who was out of reach, but getting mare three. Three retaliated on mare two, the others got in on the action, and there was chaos in mare pasture, with all of them kicking and biting each other, squealing and bucking ... this isn't terribly unusual. I watched my own beloved dog steal the food and biscuits from the dog we are babysitting. I broke up numerous fights between them over food.

I'm a huge animal lover, but I also spend time observing them. Outside of caring for their young for a short time, they are motivated solely by what benefits them. Although they can be trained to cooperate with and serve humans, they do this because they've accepted the human as their pack leader, which is tied into their instinct for self-preservation.

I'm always fascinated when people romanticize animals and hold their behavior up as a standard for humans. If I behaved as do my animals, I would steal the food off your plate, bite you if you tried to stop me, take whatever you had that I wanted, watch without trying to help as you fell in a deep hole and stuggled to get out, and growl at you if you annoyed me. I wouldn't fight you to the death, but I wouldn't go out of my way to help you if you were in life threatening trouble, either. A world filled with animal behaving humans hardly sounds like nirvana. Actually, it sounds like perfect libertarianism -- no offense intended if any libertarians are on board.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2008 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was really interesting, desiderata. Thanks for sharing that insightful observation on your part.
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LizE



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 253

PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2008 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

desiderata wrote:
If I behaved as do my animals, I would steal the food off your plate, bite you if you tried to stop me, take whatever you had that I wanted, watch without trying to help as you fell in a deep hole and stuggled to get out, and growl at you if you annoyed me.


Sounds like a course in international politics! Really, I'm not romanticizing animals, I'm just not romanticizing humans, either. Obviously we have done and created wonderful things and are capable of great selflessness and generosity. But there are many people in the world capable of exactly the behavior you describe above and many political systems that support them. In some ways, we're still pack animals, whether we identify our pack as our country, our religion or our ethnicity--divisions created entirely by the human mind.

I'm not dissing humans. (Some of my best friends...) I just don't buy the whole mindset that says humans can do as they like to the 'lesser' animals because we're superior in thought or feeling or we have souls and they don't or whatever. Yeah, we've created civilization. But if our civilization depends on wantonly destroying habitats (and societies) that get in our way, or subjecting animals (and people) to torture when we're afraid, then maybe it's time to rethink the whole concept. Many of us still have the freedom to close our eyes to the the suffering, both animal and human, that makes our insulated lifestyle possible--and that's exactly what we do, filliing our time and thoughts with pre-fab images fed to us by the entertainment industry. I've found it's a heck of a lot easier to start a conversation about a hit tv show than about the ethical implications of factory farming or national policy, and people are more animated talking about characters and plots than real life dramas going on around the world. Besides, it's not the done thing to bring up politics or religion or ethics in public. Makes people uncomfortable.

Well, the world is an uncomfortable place. It's fascinating and confusing and appalling and beautiful and I'm still trying to figure it all out. That's why I like to come here and share my thoughts--not because I think I know everything, but because it's a great relief to say exactly what I think and hear what you all have to say.
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desiderata



Joined: 23 Oct 2007
Posts: 226

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2008 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I just don't buy the whole mindset that says humans can do as they like to the 'lesser' animals because we're superior in thought or feeling or we have souls and they don't or whatever.


I completely agree with you. To me, it's about stewardship. The earth and animals are entrusted to humans to meet our needs and for our enjoyment. There is a corresponding responsibility on our part to nurture, protect and care for the earth and all her creatures.
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LizE wrote:
desiderata wrote:
If I behaved as do my animals, I would steal the food off your plate, bite you if you tried to stop me, take whatever you had that I wanted, watch without trying to help as you fell in a deep hole and stuggled to get out, and growl at you if you annoyed me.


Sounds like a course in international politics! . . .


I'm not romanticising either humans or animals either, but something occured to me while I was thinking about Paranormals the other night--specifically Kresley Cole's No Rest for the Wicked.

Someone (maybe Retrograde?) remarked on how heroes in Paranormals are the most biologically like monsters or animals (especially the werewolves and shapeshifters), but buck the animal kingdom trend by also being the most fiercely monogamous in all Romancelandia. Anyway, there's a part in Cole's novel when the hero ponders how easy it is for a good Forbearer vampire to become an evil Horde vampire--and how close he himself came. The moral seemed to be that being a monster is no excuse for acting monstrously.

I think that paradox applies to the "real world" as well: being part of the animal kingdom is no excuse for acting like the worst of the animals . . . even if we are in international politics! Laughing
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"To be in a romance is to be in uncongenial surroundings. To be born into this earth is to be born into uncongenial surroundings, hence to be born into a romance." (G.K. Chesterton)
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 8:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

desiderata wrote:
To me, it's about stewardship. The earth and animals are entrusted to humans to meet our needs and for our enjoyment. There is a corresponding responsibility on our part to nurture, protect and care for the earth and all her creatures.

I believe this also, desiderata. And it is a huge responsibility on our part to do this, even to the smallest detail. I was raised with the mentality that if everyone on the street took care of even just their own area surrounding their living space, what a great world it would be. Unfortunately, too many people rely on others to take care of theirs too.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2510

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2008 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with some parts of the previous posts and disagree with other parts of the same posts. I am, in fact, hopelessly ambivalent about the relationship of humans to the other animals and to the planet as a whole. I'm in complete accord with those who believe we should conserve what we can of the planet and its denizens, but I'm equally certain that my children and grandchildren are more important than say the darter fish or whatever. If it comes to the point of either/or, I would trade not a single hair on their heads for all the sequoias presently standing. That ambivalence and that certainty, I think, is what makes being a human so very difficult at times and probably what makes us human.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 7:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="desiderata"]I've been thinking about this more while I've observed all the critters out and about over the past few days. I watched the mama racoon growl and swipe at her baby who wanted a bite of her food.



Speaking of baby racoons...a couple weeks ago I was outside throwing the ball for our little sheltie while the beagle was rooting around in the brush and out walks a baby racoon. The beagle jumped back and started barking. I quickly got the dogs in, because full grown racoons (I didn't know where the mama was) can be mean fighters with dogs and our beagle is just a little guy. The baby then proceeded to cry and cry and climb a very, very tall tree...hang upside down, and fall! I was horrified and called a wild life rescue number. The guy who answered said that the babies fall all the time. I was very worried thinking that the mother had been killed or the baby was abandoned. He told me that the scenario that is going on in our backyard happens in the forest all the time. He said the mom won't come out to get the baby until it is dark. Sure enough the baby was gone, or wasn't crying, when it was dark, but the next night at dusk...3 more babies were happily walking around alone...playing. I wondered where that mother was. I pictured her off playing poker or something with her friends. lol. Not a very attentive mommy.
At any rate...it was interesting to watch them, and they were cuties.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xina wrote:
I pictured her off playing poker or something with her friends. lol.

And maybe glugging margaritas while dealing the cards? Laughing
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 6635
Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2008 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tee wrote:
xina wrote:
I pictured her off playing poker or something with her friends. lol.

And maybe glugging margaritas while dealing the cards? Laughing




Oh yes.... she thinks the kids can raise themselves...she needs her "mommy time"! lol...she wins the Irresponsible Racoon Parenting Award!
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