Censorship In Dogdom and the Nature of Dominance
Psychology Today has the right to summarily delete any column or terminate any columnist as they see fit, even on a whim, and so their decision to end Lee Charles Kelley’s column “My Puppy My Self is not censorship by any means. When it comes to privately held methods of discourse all’s fair in a free marketplace of ideas. But for those seeking a full spectrum of opinion and information on the nature of the canine mind, a different way of seeing things in a well written and well reasoned way, such a voice will now prove a little harder to find. In Constructal law this would be called a “brake” on flow. Psychology Today’s termination of Lee’s blog may not be censorship, but given that it wasn’t based on the quality of writing or of reasoning it’s not a noble or honorable act either.
Tellingly, it would seem that the topic which might have breached Psychology Todays’ threshold of tolerance is the notion of dominance. In my model, only human beings are capable of dominance because if one would think about it with a clarity free of external prejudices and vested interests, dominance is ultimately a thought. It requires the capacity to compare one moment with another moment or one point of view with another point of view. And there is no empirical evidence to support the notion of dominance. There is only the subjective interpretation of empirical evidence. I understand why many behaviorists believe they see dominance in the doings of animals. They observe friction between animals, and that there is something that ameliorates these volatile interactions so that actual violence is quite rare, they observe a clearly defined social structure, and most behaviorists believe that dogs can think and compare one moment to another, one point of view to another. So this is an understandable interpretation, it's just that it can't encompass the evidence and is constantly contradicting itself. It raises questions.
There is however something the thought of dominance has in common with the instinctive impulse in animals that behaviorists mislabel as dominance; Fear, specifically, fear of change. This archetypal fear works according to relative height, if the predator gets on top of the prey it gains physical leverage and can smother its every attempt at defense or escape. One animal trying to gain height over another is what behaviorists have mislabeled as dominance when it really is fear, a fear of being knocked off balance. (For example you may have noticed that the more confident dog is the one that offers its neck, looks for a stick or goes belly up to induce a state of flow in its partner. It's not depending on looking down in order to feel safe, it only wants flow. And if it flips to counterbalance the other's dogs tentativeness, they can get the flow going. They're not thinking this out, they're feeling it.) The human intellect is built on that same scaffolding of relative height and thus occupying the “high ground” or “gaining” an advantage minimizes an underlying fear.
Furthermore, the capacity to think about being dominant over another factors out into the belief that an external source of authority is more valuable than an internal source of guidance. Such a believer identifies with authority in order to mollify the fear of being disconnected from the hierarchy, they want to feel safe. This can indeed motivate one to ascend a social, tribal, corporate or military ladder of power so that they can control others. (Although a more powerful motive is the hunger for flow.) When closely questioned about their position a dominant person doesn’t rely on the strength of their argument and quickly alludes to outside authority figures or august certifications. And they believe that consensus settles the argument, ignoring that virtually every advance in understanding comes at the expense of consensus. Paradoxically they see themselves as a free thinker and are apt to drift into saccharine treatments of their subject matter. But that again is the nature of Nature as every trait is accompanied by its equal and yet opposite counterbalance.
And so as if we needed the reminder, the editorial policy at Psychology Today have demonstrated once again, that since time immemorial the mind of man can very well entertain the notion of dominance and is prepared to squelch honest debate due to a fear of change. Apparently at Psychology Today critical thinking on the science of dogs, even for those who live and work with dogs on a daily and professional basis, is to be left wholly to credentialed scientists no questions asked. In that case it will now take another twenty years for behaviorism to realize that dominance is a thought that cannot be applied to the animal mind, just as it took twenty years for these same folks, who in 1992 were maintaining that the social structure of canines is predicated on a hierarchy of social rank, to notice the social fluidity that undermines that premise. The back channel intellectual-blacklisting machinations at Psychology Today is not censorship, but it does indeed prove that dominance is alive and well in the intellectual affairs of human beings. Not to worry, while it may take Time, Flow is on our side.
Lee, Keep On Pushing!