Recent Nova and Nature Episodes

It was quite an amazing night of viewing the other evening on PBS with Nature and Nova and their respective reports on animal bonding across species lines, and animal cognition.

What is so obvious from watching the behavior of the various animals profiled, but at the same time was abjectly missing in the discussion offered, is that there is a group consciousness predicated on emotion as a function of attraction. In other words, what could be more plain that every animal is attracted to every other animal, just as every object of mass is attracted to every other object of mass. Therefore it’s not incongruous that under certain circumstances the prey is able to lay with the predator in total peace. When the emotional capacity is high enough, either due to the Temperament of the individual or the emotional conductivity of the circumstances (notice that the animals had to feel safe in order to consummate the attraction into a bond), this attraction can then germinate into into a full fledged emotional connection that defies instinct and the separation of the species enforced by genes. In the seventies when I began to understand emotion as the organizing principle of a group mind, it was quickly obvious that a bee hive is a single mind. All together they compose one feeling, as do for example starlings in a murmuration. We can then see in the experiment on bees reported on, that the bee that feels the strongest pull toward the optimal nest, goes first and the rest follow. The strength of a feeling is what the “waggle dance” that is performed with the most intensity demonstrates to the other bees, and then around which they align. So we saw synchronization of the hive through the dance, (turbulence in Constructal law parlance) and then alignment in direction of travel (laminar in Constructal law parlance) which then carries the entire hive to their best available nesting site. Furthermore, it turns out that the human brain functions just like that bee hive featured in the experiment, which again is in perfect accordance with the Constructal law and what it elucidates about evolution, i.e. that the animate is predicated on the inanimate, which inescapably  means that the laws of nature are the organizing principles of consciousness and animal behavior, not human reason. But meanwhile in this show we see that all the cognitive research is looking for human reason and theory of mind to understand this collective behavior, the nature of an emotional bond and the nature of animal intelligence. Inexplicably they leave the nature out of the animal’s nature.

Perhaps you noticed the glaring contradiction in the program on cognition. It begins with Alexandra Horowitz debunking the dogs-feel-guilt assumption of many dog owners, and then it ends with the Austrian experiment interpreted to mean dogs have an understanding of fairness. If a dog can apprehend fairness, then he must experience guilt when he acts unfairly. So modern cognitive research is now trying to reverse the last forty years of behavioral dogma. To resolve this internal contradiction, behaviorism is going to have to add a new level of complexity to the personality theory of dog as self-contained entity of intelligence. And I’m sure they can.

The laws of nature are most evident and easiest to see in the behavior of dogs because their emotional capacity is so high, but it slips through unnoticed because human thoughts and reason are being projected onto the behavior. In the Austrian experiment which I have commented on earlier, which purports to demonstrate that dogs understand fairness, we can see the group mind taking shape right before our eyes. When it is one dog and one researcher offering the treat, the dog gives paw whether rewarded or not. But when there are two dogs and only one dog is rewarded for giving paw, the other dog stops giving his paw. We have two different frames of reference, one-on-one and two-on-one. Two different group minds emerge. In one-on-one, the dog gives paw whether rewarded or not because this makes it the equal and opposite to the human researcher in possession of the treat. But in two-on-one, a new frame of reference, since the one dog is being rewarded for the behavior, the one denied the treat has to migrate to the equal and opposite polarity, OF THE ONE BEING GIVEN THE TREAT. It’s a different frame of reference because each dog projects into the other, just like the goat that leads the blind horse to where it wants to go, or the cheetah playing with the dog, or the deer bonding with the dog. One dog gives paw and is rewarded, the other dog then must gravitate to the equal and opposite polarity of not giving paw in order to stay within the frame of mind that has been defined by a human in possession of a preyful aspect (food). This may very well be the evolutionary antecedent of our intellectual conception of fairness, but it has nothing to do with human thoughts and in fact this is precisely where we go astray in our own affairs that revolve around issues of fairness, we don’t understand the energetic basis by which our own animal minds compose a view of reality and so we go by reason rather than by feel.

To quote from “Incomplete Nature” by Terrence Deacon:

“As physicists work toward completing a theory of the universe and biologists unravel the molecular complexity of life, <<and I would add: behaviorists the complexity of learning>> a glaring incompleteness in this scientific vision becomes apparent. The “Theory of Everything” that appears to be emerging includes everything but us: the feelings meaning, consciousness, and purposes that make us (and many of our animal cousins) what we are. These most immediate and incontrovertible phenomena are left unexplained by the natural sciences because they lack the physical properties–such as mass, momentum, charge, and location—that are assumed to be necessary for something to have physical consequences in the world. This is an unacceptable omission. We need a “theory of everything” that does not leave it absurd that we exist.”

This is where we now stand: cognitive research and learning theorists are only concerned with the material, that which can be poked, probed and prodded. It’s said that reinforcements determine behavior. In fact modern behaviorism is actually denying that there is an emotional force termed Drive (emotion plus stress) necessary to fully account for the nature of why animals do what they do. But when one watches these shows, emotion as a universal force of attraction, something that can’t be tangibly measured, visually jumps out from the screen. The animal magnetism that exudes between the animal “odd couples” and the flow of emotion as a current between them, changing their very physiology and perceptions, a bond evolving by way of the laws of nature, could not be any more apparent.

Dogs can lead us to water, but they can’t force us not to see our thoughts reflected on the surface.


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Published November 9, 2012 by Kevin Behan
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5 responses to “Recent Nova and Nature Episodes”

  1. Josh D says:

    I watched the episode of Nature “Murder of Crows” the other night and felt like there were very similar assumptions being made about the research on crows and facial recognition. Now it certainly could be because of the necessity to make it entertaining for tv audiences but some very crucial information was left out if you were to draw the same conclusions as the scientist. He was “testing” wether the knowledge of fear from a previous encounter with a masked individual would be communicated to a yearling. Some holes I discovered in this from the viewers perspective:

    Are we to suppose that the crows are responding to the communicated threat and not the mask itself with its huge imposing eye holes? Not mention is made of any control tests in this regard only that the scientist unmasked was payed no heed.

    Why is it assumed that crows cawing is a communication rather than a simple reaction to a feeling?

    What sort of differentiation are we purported to be talking about here? If there was a big shiny bald mask with the face cut out to reveal the scientist’s actual face what sort of effect would they see?

    So many assumptions in the scientific trials…

    I was curious about the tool usage though. Again I felt like we didn’t get the whole story but the Crow got hold of a short twig at the hens of a hanging rope to then get a longer twig tucked out of reach but apparently visible to then get a bit of food tucked away far enough that the short twig wouldn’t reach. Unfortunately they only showed the successful trial no failed attempts or mention if this crow had been involved with the previous 2 step experiments.

    Anyone else watch this or have input?

  2. kbehan says:

    I can use my limited understanding of calculus to show how emotion is a calculus of motion and is the basis for how dogs solve problems. (This is also how memory is formatted and to your point about the mask, I agree it doesn’t represent cognition, but the memory component to an earlier emotional experience I do feel is a valid interpretation and consistent with an emotional interpretation of behavior.) But I don’t know enough to apply it to what birds do. What’s most interesting to me in crow “problem solving” is that the crow seems to arrive at the answer with very little trial and error as we expect to see when a child is tasked with something difficult for their level of understanding. So the length of the stick, the width of the opening, the depth of the hole at the bottom of which is the food treat, must be an exercise in calculus and the crow can almost immediately feel the proper angle to resolve all of these variables into a smooth wave function. Note that they also build nests by fashioning sticks into curves and juxtaposed into various angles in order to interlace and support the whole matrix of sticks. I intend to put up a video of my chickens and rooster to demonstrate the power of emotional projection that composes a group mind, (have to wait for the last snow to melt off so they come out into their yard) and then apply this to the question as to why ravens call to other ravens when they’re at a large carcass. As I think you already suspect from your comment, they’re not calling to another raven ala the theory of reciprocity.

  3. Josh D says:

    There’s another corvid study just published with a brief write up in the NYT:

    This sounds like very similar behavior to what they showed in the “Murder of Crows” Nature episode I referenced earlier. It’s nice to see that there is the recognition at the end that the Jay’s behavior may have something to do with emotion!

  4. kbehan says:

    I read that article as well. My interpretation is that the body of the dead jay triggers the physical memories in every other jay of the living individual, and since the animal/bird mind is a group mind given the influence of emotion as medium for a networked intelligence, they feel a void when the dead jay isn’t emanating energy like it used to. Like the elephants, they’re trying to will the dead bird back to life since the animal mind works through feedback and from its point of view, everything that happens around it is because of what it is feeling internally. Unlike the elephant however, a jay’s will is not as developed and so it will get on with life with a lot less fanfare.

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In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
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