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Animal Social Complexity - Intelligence and Culture

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the don't-look-around-too-hard dept.

Books 245

danny writes "How are brain size and intelligence related to social complexity? What are the evolutionary underpinnings of cooperation? How sophisticated are animal communication and social cognition? And do animals have culture? Read on for my review of Animal Social Complexity: Intelligence, Culture, and Individualized Societies."

How are brain size and intelligence related to social complexity? What are the evolutionary underpinnings of cooperation? How sophisticated are animal communication and social cognition? And do animals have culture? These are some of the broad questions addressed by the eighteen papers in Animal Social Complexity, which look not only at primates and cetaceans, but also at hyenas, elephants, bats, and birds. The common focus is on societies that are individualized, with members recognising each other as individuals, and stable, with long-lived members and on-going relationships, and in which there are learned survival skills and social behaviours. Some of the papers are overviews of particular species or taxa, some address specific questions in the context of a particular species, and some present cross-species comparisons.

Consisting of the papers from a conference held in 2000, Animal Social Complexity is a professional volume, complete with a hundred pages of references. But the topics covered are of widespread interest, and the multi- and inter-disciplinary nature of the papers makes them mostly accessible to the lay reader.

Carel Van Schaik and Robert Deaner present a life history perspective on cognitive evolution: demonstrating a link between social complexity and intelligence/brain size is complicated because both are correlated with long life spans. Randall Wells presents an outline of dolphin social complexity based on long-term studies on the communities in Sarasota Bay, Florida. And Katy Payne gives an overview of social complexity in the three elephant species.

Christophe Boesch describes examples of complex cooperation among Tai chimpanzees, in group hunts for monkeys and in territorial conflict with other chimpanzee groups. Christine Drea and Laurence Frank describe the social system of spotted hyenas and argue that more attention should be paid to social complexity in carnivores. It has commonly been argued that social stress is a consequence of subordination; Scott Creel and Jennifer Sands present evidence suggesting that it may in fact be a cost of domination, at least in some species.

Three of the papers debate the underlying mechanisms of social cognition. Ronald Schusterman et al. argue for equivalence classifications as a basic structure. In contrast, Robert Seyfarth and Dorothy Cheney argue that "nonhuman primates are innately predisposed to group other individuals into hierarchical classes". And for Frans de Waal the conditionality of behaviour suggests a role for if-then structures in primate "social syntax".

Taking a comparative approach to laughter and smiling in primates, Jan Van Hoof and Signe Preuschoft find that "laughter has evolved in the context of joyful play, and that the broad smile has evolved as an expression of nonhostility and friendliness, taking its origin in the expression of fearful submission". Looking at vocal learning in four parrot species from Costa Rica, Jack Bradbury suggests that in "ecology, social organization, and vocal communication, parrots appear to be more convergent with dolphins than they are with other birds".

Gerald Wilkinson looks to bats for an independent test of the Machiavellian Intelligence hypothesis, probing the relationships between brain size, vocal complexity, and colony size. And Peter Tyack explores bottlenose dolphins' use of signature whistles in communicating social relationships.

Following in the footsteps of Imanishi, pioneer of Japanese primatology, Tetsuro Matsuzawa considers, as examples of "culture", sweet potato washing among Koshima monkeys and nut cracking using stone tools by Bossou chimpanzees. Toshisada Nishida describes the "flexibility and individuality of cultural behavior patterns" among chimpanzees at Mahale. And in "Ten Dispatches from the Chimpanzee Culture Wars" William McGrew gives an overview of the arguments between cultural anthropologists, psychologists, and primatologists (among others) over chimpanzee culture -- and over the definition of culture.

Hal Whitehead looks at sperm whales, the cetacean culture debate more generally, and the possible effects of "cultural hitchhiking" on genetic diversity. And Meredith West et al. find a critical role for social interaction in learning and development in cowbirds and starlings.

In addition to the eighteen papers, there are a dozen shorter "case studies" which tackle narrower questions. Animal Social Complexity is an important contribution to the scientific literature. And it has a wealth of material for anyone fascinated by social animals and not intimidated by scientific methodology, a little bit of statistics, references and scholarly language.


Danny Yee has written over 700 book reviews. You can purchase Animal Social Complexity: Intelligence and Culture from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Culture (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251348)

How can Animals have culture, when most people DON'T ?

You're stupid. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251722)

nt

Mmm, animals. (5, Funny)

monstroyer (748389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251366)

As long as these theories about animals don't interfere with my eating them, it's all good to me.

Re:Mmm, animals. (5, Funny)

netfool (623800) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251411)

Hey, it never stopped them from eating us.

Re:Mmm, animals. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251602)

As long as these theories about animals don't interfere with my fucking them, it's all good to me.
Eating off, too.

Re:Mmm, animals. (0, Redundant)

essreenim (647659) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251647)

Yeahh, I was about to read it all and then...

it was too long!

But animals do not have culture - no,
actually not all humans are advanced enough to claim it in my opinion but thats another matter! ;)

I HAVE MONKEY PENIS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251367)

I HAve a animal like monkey penis..

How can you not laugh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251382)

Following in the footsteps of Imanishi, pioneer of Japanese primatology, Tetsuro Matsuzawa considers, as examples of "culture", sweet potato washing among Koshima monkeys and nut cracking using stone tools by Bossou chimpanzees. Toshisada Nishida describes the "flexibility and individuality of cultural behavior patterns" among chimpanzees at Mahale. And in "Ten Dispatches from the Chimpanzee Culture Wars" William McGrew gives an overview of the arguments between cultural anthropologists, psychologists, and primatologists (among others) over chimpanzee culture -- and over the definition of culture.

LOL!

Re:How can you not laugh? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251456)

There is no known animal that even remotely approaches the sophistication of humans. To suggest otherwise is insane.

When a monkey makes a hammer let me know. Using a rock to bash something is not the same thing.

Uh, moderators? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251726)

This is hardly a troll, it's the truth.

I, for one,.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251834)

I, for one, welcome our giant alien ant moderators. Only such as they would think that humans are not the most sophisticated social animals around.

Re:How can you not laugh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251801)

Japanese primatology

Ugh! Ugh! Emperor Hirohito want take over world! Germans help! Ugh! Ugh!

sheila fraser audited my junk liberally (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251384)

sheila fraser audited my junk liberally. she strapped me onto parliament hill and she couldnt keep her offensive accountants off of me. she was performing many red ink calculations. i couldnt believe what the fuck was going on. i told her the New Conservative Party would not approve of an Auditor-General disgracing an elderly Prime Minister for free.

can you believe it? sheila fraser did all this. she picked me off the street, strapped my arms and legs down on parliament hill, and just wouldn't stop auditing my dealings.

they definately were red ink markings. the goddamn accountant she had in the back seat kept on marking up his pad every time she audited my dealings but did sheila fraser care? NO WAY! she just kept on doing it. I couldn't believe what the fuck was going on, indeed. I pleaded with sheila fraser but to no avail. i told her the New Conservative Party would not approve of an Auditor-General disgracing an elderly Prime Minister (at the time I was 65) without at least compensating me for the trauma and the use of my body as her own political plaything.

this got to her, worrying about her image. she continued to audit me, all the while ignoring the accountant's red marks. then she drove the frasermobile to my house and ejected the seat i was in! it was amazing. but surprisingly, after I woke up the next morning, my bank account had $150k in it!!! Can you believe it???

It doesn't help that I've been Prime Minister for two weeks. I can barely tolerate Sheila Copps in the House of Commons. If Fraser catches me with unauthorized contracts, she'll make me drop trau in front of the Speaker of the House.

There it is. They just found my $1.1b airbus contract. I've got to go.

Re:sheila fraser audited my junk liberally (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251403)

looooooooooooool, this batman junk junk is good for a few laughs after all, even if the original was boring

Re:sheila fraser audited my junk liberally (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251436)

i'm curious where this came from, because so far i've seen only the batman one. is there a larger history to it?

Re:sheila fraser audited my junk liberally (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251450)

original #teens4christ creation

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251749)

what about the "A HARD SEX! WOW!" troll? I never did track down where that one came from.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251883)

I've never seen that one. Link?

Re:sheila fraser audited my junk liberally (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251488)

I've seen a GWB version a few days ago. I think the Batman version is the original and the author just made it up tho. He's just a sick puppy, like most of us trolls.

Re:sheila fraser audited my junk liberally (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251720)

I actually did a Google search for more instances of this a while ago, and it looks like the Batman troll is a recent creation of a warped individual. Heheheh.

However, it does bear a strong resemblance to some Wesley Willis songs. I could imagine him singing something like this.

on a more serious note (1)

loveandpeace (520766) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251392)

this sounds like a fantastic set of papers. at any point is there a discussion on the mechanism by which culture is transmitted? how is cognition meansured.

many thanks for taking the time to review this and to bring it to my attention.

Re:on a more serious note (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251490)

is there a discussion on the mechanism by which culture is transmitted

Hint: Unprotected sex can transmit a culture in a hurry. Chlamydia, gonnococcus, you name it...

"The Book of Memory" or "The Civilizing Process" (2, Informative)

The Ape With No Name (213531) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251654)

Carruthers, Mary. The book of memory : a study of memory in medieval culture / Mary J. Carruthers. Cambridge [England] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1990

A multi-disciplinary approach to how medieval memory was constituted. Carruthers goes into how modern memory is "documentary" rather than "rote." Really dense and good book that avoids the pitfalls of behaviorism that animal psychologists can fall into. Since I haven't read the above papers, I would assume these folks are enlightened by contemporary critical psychology.

Also:

Elias, Norbert. The civilizing process : sociogenetic and psychogenetic investigations / Norbert Elias ; translated by Edmund Jephcott with some notes and corrections by the author ; edited by Eric Dunning, Johan Goudsblom, and Stephen Mennell. Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass. : Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

This book goes into the role that manners play in European elitism. Absolutely fascinating. Don't be put off by the Freudian "psychogenesis" stuff, it is a veritable treasure trove and fun to read as well with lots of "Don't wipe your ass then show it to your wife" stuff from the 13th C.

GOAT Discussion Here (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251408)

Please post all comments regarding goats, goatses, or whatever else under this thread.

Moderators, please mod this up, because without this thread, there will be 30 other goat threads to moderate down. Just let the goats have their playground.

Re:GOAT Discussion Here (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251439)

Here's a link for you [geocities.com] . It is not that far off topic: it is a Goat social organization.

Interesting idea (1, Insightful)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251423)

But no, animals do not have culture. When a dog writes "Marraige of Figaro" then it might be possible. Most dogs would rather just drink out of the toilet.

Re:Interesting idea (-1, Troll)

snatchitup (466222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251454)

My Dog eats Poopy Diapers!

But not pee-pee diapers. He leaves them to his un-cultured playmate of a Bitch.

Re:Interesting idea (-1, Offtopic)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251476)

Someone disagrees, fine. But how is this "off-topic?"

By the way, I have about 5300 karma.

Re:Interesting idea (4, Insightful)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251558)

First off -- geez, there are some bad moderators out there today. Parent post offtopic? Hardly. Dead on topic, if you ask me.

That being said, culture doesn't necessarily have to mean an appreciation of the arts or some human social charateristics. It could simply be the existence of order within a group. In that case, culture can be as simple as the patterns of a flock of birds or a school of fish, or as complex as the interactions of humans in determining socio-political norms. It pertains to the possibility of non-randomness in behavior, and this denotes intelligence and possibly culture.

Re:Interesting idea (5, Interesting)

dustmote (572761) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251680)

I would think it would relate more to learned patterns of behavior, though, and exclude instinctive behaviors. Like the flocking simulators they set up in the early 90's that showed that bird behaviors in flocks can be simplified to a few set rules, more or less. I think culture is transmitted information, not encoded. That's just IMHO, of course.

Re:Interesting idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251695)

Didn't read the book or the summary, but maybe some seemingly complex behaviours are epiphenomenons that emerge from interactions of much more basic patterns?

Re:Interesting idea (2, Informative)

Dan the Intern (649261) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251724)

That depends on what opne considers "culture." Coincidentally, I just started taking an elective in cultural anthropology. One of the first things we discussed in the class was animals and culture. It seems that chimpanzees can actually use tree branches to dig termites out of their mounds. I know this isn't new, but I think that learned tool use is at least the beginnings of culture.

Re:Interesting idea (5, Funny)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251770)

Silly man. Dogs drink out of the toilet because the water is more fresh and cool than the water you put in their drinking bowl. Dogs own you. They make you walk around when you dont feel like it, and they make you pick up their poop after them. Dogs assimilate you into their culture in order to have you fulfil their every needs.

Re:Interesting idea (3, Interesting)

NixLuver (693391) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251771)

From reading the review, I assumed that the differentiation was individualization of groups; i.e., a given group of chimpanzees has characteristic behaviors, and another group has a different set of characteristic behaviors; this would tend to indicate learned behaviors as a tribal imperative, or rudimentary culture - as distinguished from instinct. In fact, if these differences in common behaviors didn't exist, we would chalk up most special behaviors as instinctive, no?

Re:Interesting idea (4, Informative)

panurge (573432) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251820)

Most of the human race couldn't write The Marriage of Figaro (sic). You're confusing high culture (play written by senior French civil servant) with culture, i.e. tribally distinct behavior patterns.

As an example, while we're on France around the Revolution, Mariane is often portrayed in French painting as bare breasted. The acceptability of this is an example of a cultural difference between the French of the period and the US of the Superbowl incident. If one tribe of chimpanzees has a characteristic behavior pattern that differs from that of another tribe - there is some ground for discussing whether this is a cultural difference akin to the difference between French and American beach behavior, or the difference between American and European uses of knives and forks.

Re:Interesting idea (2, Interesting)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251832)

But no, animals do not have culture. When a dog writes "Marraige of Figaro" then it might be possible.
Well, when you write "Marriage of Figaro" maybe I'll listen to your judgments on other species.

Meanwhile, "culture" is something everyday, that we all participate in, rather than strictly the highbrow Culture with a capital C.

And who's to say that dogs don't have an extremely elevated aesthetic sensibility that's just beyond the grasp of our (differently limited) human brains?

Re:Interesting idea (3, Funny)

etLux (751445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251920)

I cannot help but note that my dog, Harry, does manage to spell somewhat better...

Brain Size?!? (5, Funny)

Mrs. Grundy (680212) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251430)

How are brain size and intelligence related to social complexity?

Well, if we look at ants, bees and termites, we can safely draw the conclusion that brain size and social complexity are inversely proportional.

Re:Brain Size?!? (4, Funny)

theMerovingian (722983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251461)


Seconded! I have a huge brain, and am above average in intelligence, but my social life is negligible.

Re:Brain Size?!? (5, Funny)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251895)

Maybe people are put-off by your pumpkin-sized head, needed to carry around that huge brain.

Re:Brain Size?!? (2, Insightful)

st1nky187 (641264) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251485)

The common focus is on societies that are individualized, with members recognising each other as individuals, and stable, with long-lived members and on-going relationships, and in which there are learned survival skills and social behaviours.
You might be able to say that but insects do not view each other as individuals and thus are not the subject of the book.

Re:Brain Size?!? (3, Funny)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251502)

Untrue. Human beings have much larger brains than ants/bees/termites, and our society is proportionally MORE complex, not less.

Communal insects have workers, drones, and queens.

We have all those, plus lawyers, porn stars, and programmers. Yee ha. It's good to be human.

Re:Brain Size?!? (-1)

Muda69 (718162) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251511)

I like this quote from the book:

"By looking at the IQ, personal hygiene, and social standing of the editors of popular tech website Slashdot [slashdot.org] we clearly see that brain size has nothing to do with intelligence or social apptitude."

Re:Brain Size?!? (4, Interesting)

catbutt (469582) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251574)

Ants bees and termites have an advantage when it comes to social complexity though: because they have a queen (rather than the workers reproducing directly) a fundamentally different Darwinian dynamic happens, that encourages cooperation. It's not intelligence as much as it is their evolutionary "motivators" that cause them to work together as they do rather than compete with each other as other animals often do.

(Note that a worker bee is designed to die when it stings, since its only motivation is what is good for the colony, rather than what is good for itself. That would *never* happen in a species where all the individuals could reproduce directly.)

Re:Brain Size?!? (0, Flamebait)

etLux (751445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251943)

Ants, bees, and termites are, indeed, quite highly sophisticated and evolved in comparison to mere humans. Not one of their advanced cultures has ever launched a nuclear weapon.

mares (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251445)

mares are very intelligent

Re:mares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251699)

But really!
I jump on mine and shout Are you going or not?!
And she goes or not.

Yeasts have culture (5, Interesting)

djeaux (620938) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251462)

But I wish the "blurb" had left brain size out of the mix. If brain size has anything to do with intelligence (within a group), then humans would be in the zoo & elephants would be running the show.

Once I read "brain size," all I could do was think of the efforts -- well discussed in Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man -- of 19th and 20th century physical anthropologists to use "brain size is correlated with intelligence" to justify racism & sexism.

The only thing that brain size is really correlated with is body size. Cattle have larger brains than most monkeys. Men have larger brains than women. Blacks have larger brains than whites.

Sounds to me like the anthropologists are out looking for grant money...

Re:Yeasts have culture (5, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251567)

Brain size (in terms of mass) does not have everything to do with intelligence, rather I would more likely believe that brain size (in terms of computational circuits) would be more appropriate. For instance, while human brains are not as big as elephants, we have evolved a convoluted surface topology of the brain to maximize total cortical area devoted to processing. To an impressive degree, so have elephants, but check [brainmuseum.org] out their overall topology. elephants have HUGE temporal lobes that may have significance in terms of auditory processing.

You also have to consider that elephant brains while larger actually are a smaller percentage of total body weight than human brains.

dolphins (4, Interesting)

snarkh (118018) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251646)

Here is an interesting table:

Species Brain Weight as % of Body Weight
human 2.10
bottlenose dolphin 0.94
African elephant 0.15
killer whale 0.09
cow 0.08
sperm whale (male) 0.02
fin whale 0.01

http://dubinserver.colorado.edu/prj/jbes03/brain .h tml

Re:Yeasts have culture (1)

southpolesammy (150094) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251836)

So an elephant's brain is to ENIAC as a human brain is to a modern PC? Hmmm...

(Waits for the inevitable BSOD posts....)

Analog: DNA "complexity" (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251880)

I would more likely believe that brain size (in terms of computational circuits) would be more appropriate...

A similar argument could be made -- would be made, intuitively, I'd think -- that the more "complex" a critter is, the more complex its DNA would be. More combinations means more potential "circuits" would be the idea. Actually looking at the human genome, though, makes you scratch your head over that one. Though expected to be around 100,000 genes, the human genome turns out to be 30-40,000 genes instead -- right around the level of bacteria, for one comparison.

Personally I'm into your elephant link, and thinking about how their minds work. I love looking at the old skulls and thinking about what that kind of "people" must've been like with a braincase shaped like that. But I dunno, I was reading someplace about Clark's Nutcrackers possibly needing to trade brain size against memory (for where they store seeds), and thinking "How reductive is that?" Seems like the sort of size=power reasoning that would evaporate under scrutiny. Applied to areas of the brain, or to overall brain sizes, it just seems to belong to the world of phrenology.

(And you left out physeter brains -- sperm whales', which are the biggest out there, right?)

Re:Yeasts have culture (1)

NixLuver (693391) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251886)

"You also have to consider that elephant brains while larger actually are a smaller percentage of total body weight than human brains."

This would seem to contradict your earlier suggestion that 'brain size in terms of computational circuits' should be part of the measure, and in fact contradicts this part:

Brain size (in terms of mass) does not have everything to do with intelligence,

Since we're not really certain what part of our brain houses our 'intelligence', it's difficult for me to accept the common assertion that the Elephant/Dolphin (insert animal here) brain is 'mostly' used for auditory processing. Since 'intelligence' is widely (not universally) considered an 'emergent characteristic', it's impossible to say that those 'circuits' dedicated to 'auditory processing' might not also give rise to an 'emergent identity or intelligence'.

Re:Yeasts have culture (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251598)

Brain size is usually taken in relation to something else, and not as an absolute value.


Popular measures include relating brain size to body mass or body complexity. The premise of these measures is that you've got to factor out the overheads. In computer terms, it's similar to the concept of looking at RAM in terms of the OS requirements, and the overheads for each thread.


Another popular measure looks at the number of folds in the neocortex, but this only works on animals with a neocortex, so it's really not a generalizable measure.

Re:Yeasts have culture (1)

djeaux (620938) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251689)

Brain size is usually taken in relation to something else, and not as an absolute value

Of course.

I will reiterate my recommendation of Gould's The Mismeasure of Man. In it, he traces the history of many of our most cherished statistical methods (Spearman, Pearson, etc), which were developed to relate brain size to "something else." In those cases, the purpose was to adjust the brain size of white males so it consistently came out on top.

Another main theme of Gould's book is "reification" of intelligence. Reification involves (among other things) assigning a numeric value to something that isn't exactly quantifiable.

My original point, though, was to object to the article's use of "intelligence/brain size" as if the two were unarguably interchangeable.

Re:Yeasts have culture (2, Informative)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 10 years ago | (#8252002)

I will reiterate my recommendation of Gould's The Mismeasure of Man.

As long as you also warn those you recommend that Gould wrote Mismeasure, in large part, to aid in the campaign -- largely grounded in Marxist ideology rather than science -- of denigration of E.O. Wilson and Sociobiology.

To put Gould (and Rose and Lewontin) in context, recommend also Ullica Segerstrale 's Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond, a dense but thoroughly entertaining look at Sociobiology (and later, Evolutionary Psychology) and its ideological attackers.

Basically, E.O. Wilson (since "rehabilitated" among the leftist crowd for his string environmental advocacy) was ruthlessly hounded by Gould and his supporters, for purely ideological reasons. One popular chant of the time was "Racist Wilson you can't hide, we charge you with genocide!" -- once culminating in dousing Wilson with a pitcher* cold water at a 1978 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (One anti-Wilson witness dismisses this assault by complaining that he remembers it as a "small paper cup" -- as if it's ok to disrupt scientific discourse with mob aggression so long you only throw "small cups" of water at those you disagree with.)

The brief take-home point: Gould is known in the lay community -- outside the science and biology community -- as a great defender of evolution against the religious right. Inside the scientific community, the opinion of Gould is far more equivocal, with many considering Gould to have served to discredit evolutionary theory in favor of the "punctuationism" pseudo-theory and Marxist ideology. To some, Gould's actions on Wilson and Sociobiology demonstrate his lack of scientific objectivity.

(Personal note: I hope this post serves to confound anyone who assumed that I'm anti-Bush and anti-Ashcroft because I'm some "hippy-dippy" leftist. ;) )

Re:Yeasts have culture (4, Funny)

savagedome (742194) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251610)

Men have larger brains than women

Yes. But if you are talking about putting it to use too, remember what Robin Williams said. "God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.".

Re:Yeasts have culture (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251619)

Its not a matter of the size of the brain. Its a matter of the brain's peaks and valleys (sulci and gyri). The more sulci and gyri, the higher the brain mass and greater complexity. Humans, by far, have the most sulci and gyri in our smaller brains. This allows for more brain in a smaller container!

XBox rules!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251464)

first post!!! you lame assholes... I can post first because my XBox is a american product and my pride in my great country and my great XBox accelerate everything...

If only they would make games for that bitch... IAve played Metroid Prime and it ruled... I hope M$ will buy those japanese bastards and port Metroid to my great american console system!!!

Orkut (-1, Offtopic)

relrelrel (737051) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251480)

Is anyone else locked out of their account, with orkut acting like you don't exist as a member?

earlier i saw the member number drop from about 39,000 to 2,000 and now i try and login and it says invalid username, i do lost password, and it says no such email.

??

Re:Orkut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251730)

They are just flexing their "psychological experimentation" muscles. Thank you for playing, only the truly elite now remain.

Not smiling? (4, Funny)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251484)

"laughter has evolved in the context of joyful play, and that the broad smile has evolved as an expression of nonhostility and friendliness, taking its origin in the expression of fearful submission".

Ah, this must explain why I never felt like smiling during my punk rock days. I was younger, angry and much less secure and could have "evolved" a behavioral approach that prevented my appearing submissive to anybody. (that and I simply thought of myself as one baaaad dude. :-)

Animals 'live in the moment' (5, Interesting)

MarkWatson (189759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251487)

..which is something that a lot of people seem difficulties doing.

Don't get me wrong: nothing wrong with planning for the future, or in a quiet moment remembering cool stuff that we did with our grandparents when they were still alive, but almost all of our thoughts are best focused on what we are doing now.

BTW, I too often rant to my friends and family about what I consider to be an indication of the fall of western civilization: too many people are caught up in a lust for material possessions - I think that is just another aspect of not living in the moment.

-Mark

Re:Animals 'live in the moment' (1)

Tripster (23407) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251662)

I too often rant to my friends and family about what I consider to be an indication of the fall of western civilization: too many people are caught up in a lust for material possessions - I think that is just another aspect of not living in the moment.

Me too! Recently I did my tax returns, I run my own business from home and after all my write-offs I made a whopping $5000/year or so! Obviously I am not out to win any monopoly game here.

I hate jewelry, my wife loves the stuff, but I maintain it is worthless except in tbe minds of those who actually are enamoured by shiny things. Come on, it's freaking rocks and metal! Sure the work the craftsperson did to turn it into a ring is worth something but the materials themselves to me are worthless.

We live in the now, I myself am amazed at life itself, being alive is an interesting experience but really it is just a vacation from death because you will return to that state eventually.

Then there's the real big questions, like is any of this worth the effort? Let's be realistic, science is starting to show us that eventually, no matter what, humanity will die out entirely. We'll either get wiped out by gamma ray bursts, wiped by the Andromeda galaxy colliding with us and flinging us into a hostile enviroment or simply die when our sun runs out of fuel and goes dark, explodes or whatever it plans on doing at EOL.

On the positive side of things, the planet we sit on didn't always exist anyway, and the atoms in us have already been through a few furnaces before, so it's not like we're gonna notice really.

Re:Animals 'live in the moment' (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251797)

I guess impulse purchasing with a Credit Card is AOK then... no delayed gratification there!

Re:Animals 'live in the moment' (1)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251812)

BTW, I too often rant to my friends and family about what I consider to be an indication of the fall of western civilization: too many people are caught up in a lust for material possessions - I think that is just another aspect of not living in the moment.

What is? The lust, or your ranting against the lust?

Man vs Woman (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251492)

There is absolutely no relation in brain size
vs social activities since everybody known
weman are much more social than man, specially
when they have a phone nearby...

Oh, I didn't know it was... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251509)

...random book review day.

Dolphins. (3, Interesting)

bad enema (745446) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251514)

I distinctively remember hearing on a radio talk show (Coast to Coast, late night) that there has been research and soft "evidence" that dolphins form very complex societies, and that they even understand and practice self-sacrifice for the benefit of the population.

But whether or not we as humans regard such a practice as "cultural" or "savage" is another issue altogether.

Art Bell (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251539)

That's the same show that rants and raves about floridation, radio transmitters in $20 bills, HAARP, black helicopters, tinfoil helmets, vast ruined cities on Mars, and ancient astronaut theories.

Ants, termites, wasps, and bees... (4, Interesting)

antdude (79039) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251519)

They are social insects and they work together (in the same family) in growing, foraging for food, etc. Ants do not have big brains, they are complex as a group. Ants socialize by chemical odors to attack, defend, forage for food, etc.

poopie poo poo pants (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251526)

nah nanny boo boo stick your head in doo doo

My thoughts, succinctly: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251552)

Fuck this theory, and fuck you all.

Take a number, dood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251758)

nfm

Hacking into a horse's brain. (5, Interesting)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251572)

Called Natural Horsemanship [parelli.com] . A technique that is based on deep understanding of horses social structures.
Your first step is to teach the horse you mean no danger. Become a -safe- element of the environment. No matter what goes on, the horse feels fine with you.
Second step: Get the horse to recognise you as another horse. Of course no hooves, no eating grass. But typical horse behaviours. Horses yield from pressure from other horses but push against predators. Horses rarely approach each other directly, usually go along some rather obscure curves. And so on...
Third step: Gain leadership of the herd. Challenging the horse, duelling it, in a special kind of fight that doesn't involve violence, but charisma. Strong, hard looks, stepping forward, making the oponent lose ground...
And then polishing the communication. Getting the horse used to unusual situation, generally utilising newly gained power.
Horses that were proclaimed "lost" by the best classical trainers, were "recovered" and wildest ones became nice and gentle thanks to "horse whisperers" as those who practice natural horsemanship are sometimes called.

The final step (1)

djeaux (620938) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251718)

PROFIT!

Whew! Re:The final step (2, Funny)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251965)

I thought you were going to write something about driving the stallions out of the herd and mounting the mares.

zerg (1, Funny)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251575)

So how big are penguin [taipeitimes.com] brains?

Are we not penguins. We are Men. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251583)

Looks like there is gay culture with the Penguin animal communityGay Penguins [emperor-penguin.com] . Sorry Tux fans.

Remember: Flaming me only is a giveaway to your true nature.

Now from Harvard University Press... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251586)

How are trust fund size and physical attractiveness related to the complexity of one's social structure?

Pet peeve. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251604)

"And do animals have culture?"

Of course. One example species would be ourselves.

Sorry, but humans talking of animals as if they don't belong to the group themselves is just a pet peeve of mine.

Re:Pet peeve. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251669)

But they don't belong to the same group. I suppose the truth of that has escaped you.

Re:Pet peeve. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251711)

Then go sling shit for a living with the monkeys, you freak. I'm certainly not an animal!

Re:Pet peeve. (1, Flamebait)

Garridan (597129) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251725)

Do humans have culture? I don't see much evidence of that here in the US...

Re:Pet peeve. (1)

DR SoB (749180) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251753)

Try looking just about anywhere else.. :D Seriously, the original poster was dead on accurate.. But my question, so we can all debate what makes a being "self-aware" yadda-yadda, what makes society "civil", yadda-yadda. But here's my question, what makes an "animal" an "animal"??

Re:Pet peeve. (2, Informative)

Sgt York (591446) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251913)

But here's my question, what makes an "animal" an "animal"??

Any life form that is obligate multicellular, posseses distinct organ systems, is heterophagic and capable of controlled, self-sustained motion at some point in its life cycle is an animal. Humans are animals in the biological sense. We are not a Kingdom unto ourselves.

Re:Pet peeve. (2, Funny)

el-spectre (668104) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251829)

A lot of folks talk this way because the concept of evolution offends them. To which I typically respond "ok, ok... we all didn't evolve... some of you are still monkeys"

(yeah, I know we came from apes, not monkeys... but the insult works better)

so how big are gnat brains? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251658)

C'mon. Everybody knows that Gnats are the most highly ordered social beings in the known universe. The truth is that Gnats will burst forth from the great Bush head (in the event of his dethronement) and will subjugate all Third World nations and France, creating a stinky, rotten fruit smelling disposable army that will destroy the SUV-driving civilizations, and will herald in the Seventh Age of Middle Earth by re-coalescing the soul vapor of Morgoth from Beyond the Infinite, where he will wield the One Black Monolith in utter contempt and hatred of all that is beautiful from his fortress in Abu Dhabi.

some days (1, Insightful)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251685)

I feel like an ant, going daily from the anthill I call my appartment building, to the anthill I call my workplace.

And I wonder, what do the real ants think about me?

Brain size and cognative/communication ability (5, Interesting)

weeboo0104 (644849) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251741)

As the owner of an African Grey parrot, I see everyday how brain size affects communication and social cognition. My Grey tells me "Wanna go to bed" when she is tired, says "Want food", "Want water", "Want a toy", and want scratch whenever she wants one of these other things. She also identifies people by name. My grey (her name is Elmo. I thought she was male until she was DNA tested) also knows how to say "I love you". Earlier in the year, she started learning that women aren't all named the name of my ex-girlfriend. I have a female roomate and a girlfriend now and Elmo started listening for whoever was in the house at the time and saying "I love $PROPERNAME" Whenever she wanted to interact with that person and would also just call them by name.

I have a lot of other stories too. My slashdot name is based on the name "Weeboo" which is what Elmo named me for some reason.

If you want to read more about avian (specifically African Grey) cognitive ability, try going to www.alexfoundation.org [alexfoundation.org] to read more about an African Grey named Alex and Dr. Irene Pepperbergs [wikipedia.org] research with interspecies communication and animal cognitive ability.

Re:Brain size and cognative/communication ability (1, Interesting)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251870)

if your parrot had offspring, would it teach them what it knows?

Animals that can play the piano. (3, Interesting)

bad enema (745446) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251764)

One of the staples of culture as we define it is musical achievement. It has been demonstrated that certain animals can "play" the piano with more complexity than simply banging their beaks/paws on the keys. That is, they can both recognize musical tunes and harmony and demonstrate the capacity to mimic the sounds.

Now considered separately, meither of the abilities to mimic nor to differentiate between pleasant and unplesant sounds is truly "cultural", or more cultural than instinctive. However, this is where we certainly run into a question of the definition of culture -and what exactly makes us as humans gifted with it and not any other animal.

/. FOOD EATERS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251789)

I found a really good dish to make
When making any of those 15 minute Lipton Sidekicks, put in some simulated bacon bits while boiling the water, and it's totally awesome.
My dish was with strogenoff

Hyenas... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251819)

Laurence Frank describe the social system of spotted hyenas and argue that more attention should be paid to social complexity in carnivores. It has commonly been argued that social stress is a consequence of subordination;

Of course it causes social stress and other negative emotions when every female of your species has clitoris of your penis size. [dhushara.com]

Animal intelligence and society (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251869)

First, define intelligence. :) The problem with this kind of research is that intelligence isn't (as yet) quantifiable, only qualifiable and only in very abstract terms.


We have two known examples of demonstrable lateral thinking on the part of avians. Grey Parrots have shown an ability to actually understand sentances containing verbs, adverbs, adjectives and the indefinite article. They also exhibit the ability to handle basic arithmetic.


Crows, on the other hand, have been shown to be able to study problems, manufacture tools from raw materials, and use those tools to solve those problems.


It's easy to argue that these cases are only over a very limited range of conditions, and under very controlled conditions. And that's all true.


The point I'm making is that if we use a simple definition of intelligence - say the ability to handle abstract concepts, logical and lateral thinking, and the ability to handle conceptual modelling (which is basically what a language is), then intelligence is amazingly common on Earth.


Hey, that's not too bad a definition, but it includes too wide a range of life. It becomes useless as a definition, because so little is excluded.


Now we move onto society. If we do a basic study of human society, we see that reptilian traits (eg: the ability to act/react without thought) are far more highly prized than mammalian traits (eg: the ability to have emotional associations, the ability to form bonds that have nothing to do with personal gain, etc).


From a strict study of current social patterns, humans are probably one of the most primitive of all the mammals. The preference of using the older, reflexive parts of the brain, over and above the emotional and intellectual parts, is definitely regressive.


Modern society is the way it is because it actually works. Many things, from riding a bicycle to karate, would be impossible if there was a heavy dependence on the "thinking" parts of the brain.


My point? Societies are going to evolve towards whatever works well, though not necessarily for the same reasons, and are not necessarily constrained to the social norms.


In consequence, any such study is going to be extremely difficult to do. There are a lot of unknowns, and many of them are unknowable. Further, social studies often fall into the "soft" sciences, which are badly-funded and often badly-run.


The papers are worth reading, but I'm not confident that those doing the research know enough to do the research well. I'm not even sure anyone does. That makes the results suspect, even if the actual studies themselves are of value.

Automatic Behaviour in Distro (1)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251884)

Some animal behaviour comes with the distribution in ROM and is documented [uiuc.edu] .

Do animals dance? (1)

gregRowe (173838) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251894)

Do animals other than humans dance to audio? I am serious! It seems like it is a natural reaction for humans to move when they hear a rythmic sound, do other animals do the same?

Re:Do animals dance? (2, Interesting)

Slick_Snake (693760) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251990)

I've seen various birds do it all the time. These included the more intelegent birds such as parrots and macaws. I noticed that some of them only did it to certain song that they "liked."

animals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8251896)

Furry [ctrl-c.liu.se]

One Way Relationship (3, Interesting)

$lingBlade (249591) | more than 10 years ago | (#8251966)

It seems to me that humans are involved in a one-way relationship with every other animal on the planet. If there were a mass extinction of humans, through anything other than a species-hopping virus and/or global thermonuclear war, if we simply *weren't* here anymore, animals (in my opinion) would continue to live and thrive. If our extinction was not based on any environmental factors other than social issues.

I would say that it's their *lack of society* that makes other animals so strong... the way they seemingly operate on instinct and loosely defined (by our conventions) social structures. Oscillating (beyond our understanding) between these two polar opposites. If however all the animals on the planet were suddenly gone, including insects, I think we'd probably last a few years or less. Point is, we need them, they *don't* need us. What's more, I believe we could learn a lot from them in terms of living socially. And I mean that in a sincere way not a dig against us as humans but as suggestion that just because we appear to be the most intellectually motivated species on the planet, doesn't mean we're automatically right and just in our endeavours.

I'm reminded of the line from Aliens when they're discussing the impending break-in of the aliens and someone says something to the effect of "you don't see them fucking one another over for a share".

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