Wednesday, May 10, 2006

All Dolphins go to Heaven

From CNN.com:

...a dolphin might be expected to recognize its name if called by its mother, but the new study found most dolphins recognized names -- their signature whistles -- even when emitted without inflection or other vocal cues.

More than that, two dolphins may refer to a third by the third animal's name, said Laela Sayigh, one of three authors of a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Dolphins have specific names for each other and refer to other dolphins in the third person with very specific sounds. Is it possible that they have even greater communication depth than this?

In fact, the more we learn about dolphins, the smaller we perceive the gap to be between our intelligence and theirs. Some people even argue that a dolphin has cognitive capability equal to or greater than that of a human.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, dolphins are smart. So what?"

Well, what about the afterlife? Do dolphins have souls? Do dolphins go to heaven or hell? Do they get reincarnated?

Are dolphins saved by Jesus? Are dolphins Kafir? Do dolphins have any hope of achieving nirvana (or maybe they already have)? Can dolphins drink the poison Kool-Aid and hop aboard the UFO that's following Hale-Bopp? Can dolphins reach OT-8?

Giving humans unique afterlife or soul status from some special pleading argument is the height of idiocy and small-minded arrogance. Either that, or it’s flat out intellectual dishonesty. Because as I argued before, if one life form gets afterlife status, then all life forms should get it. But giving all life forms afterlife status makes the concept of an eternal soul seem much more silly, and even most pro-afterlifers (perhaps subconsciously) don't seem too comfortable with the idea of all life forms having eternal souls.

It is much easier for most pro-afterlifers to believe that "lower" life forms (read: non-human) don't have eternal souls that survive bodily death. Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, it is much harder for them to believe the same thing about the species they belong to: Homo sapiens.

19 comments:

Aaron M. Rossetti said...

I'm Aaron from Out of Christianity. We are former Christians providing support for those coming Out of Christianity.

Here's a couple of recent posts that may pertain to your recent topics...

The Last Days

&

End times

Aaron Kinney said...

Hey Aaron, thanx!

I just added your blog to my links section.

Love your name.

Aaron Kinney said...

Why does the damn comment indicator say "1 comment" when there were two?

Hopefully this comment will make it say "three comments"

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hey, Aaron. Great post.
In the intricate swirls of atheist/theist debate, I've noted that it seems that dolphins and/or porpoises sometimes rescue human beings.
Hmmm....seems someone else attributes intrinsic value to our lives besides us. The kicker is that they aren't domesticized in any way.
I was also wondering if you'd link to me (please?).

Aaron Kinney said...

Sure I will, ra!

But which blog do you want me to link to? Your blogger profile says you got 3 blogs.

Just paste a direct link in here to the blog(s) you want me to add and I will do it.

TheJollyNihilist said...

Giving humans unique afterlife or soul status from some special pleading argument is the height of idiocy and small-minded arrogance. Either that, or it’s flat out intellectual dishonesty. Because as I argued before, if one life form gets afterlife status, then all life forms should get it. But giving all life forms afterlife status makes the concept of an eternal soul seem much more silly, and even most pro-afterlifers (perhaps subconsciously) don't seem too comfortable with the idea of all life forms having eternal souls.

It is much easier for most pro-afterlifers to believe that "lower" life forms (read: non-human) don't have eternal souls that survive bodily death. Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, it is much harder for them to believe the same thing about the species they belong to: Homo sapiens.


Nice post.

Here's my question, to continue our ongoing debate: Isn't it special pleading to say humans have self-ownership and other life forms do not? And, if other life forms do have self-ownership, then why is it worse to have a slave than have a pet?

Krystalline Apostate said...

Aaron:
This 1 please, & thanks.
http://biblioblography.blogspot.com/
Here's something odd:
I was somewhat inspired by this post, & wrote 1 of my own, about dolphins.
In retrospect, you're usually doing posts on morality, & I'm doing the religious implication posts.
I dunno, it just seems weird. Or maybe I am.
It is much easier for most pro-afterlifers to believe that "lower" life forms (read: non-human) don't have eternal souls that survive bodily death.
I'm starting to think that maybe dolphins are a higher life form than we are, in some respects.
I mean, they don't slaughter each other in wars, foul their own nests, build crap that chokes the earth.
http://www.bartleby.com/65/do/dolphin-mam.html
Really: what makes us so special anyways?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to comment off-topic, but is there any way I can email you Aaron? I havn't been able to find an address on your blog site, so forgive me if I've overlooked it.

-andrew

Aaron Kinney said...

Sure Andrew, but Im not going to post my email address here for everyone to see ;) Why dont you just call me and ask for it?

Frances,

I havent come to a firm decision in my head yet about animals and self-onwership. Right now though, I am leaning towards the "animals own themselves" idea. However, humans do require animals for food and for products and such, and many animals are actually perfectly content as being in a "symbiotic" relationship with humans.

For example, my friend has two cats. He lets the cats go outside, but they always come back to him by nighttime. They get food, warmth, safety, affection, etc... and they seem happy to be in the relationship. Is that a violation of self-ownership? Im not sure.

What about animals we need for food? Well, I am all in favor of humane and kind treatment of animals, but we need our hamburgers dammit! So what if we have cows on a ranch that live happy grass eating lives, and then eventually they get slaughtered. Is that a denial of self-onwership? Maybe... maybe not. But how else can humans get the animla products they need?

Life feeds on life. Your animal argument cold be made about plants or fungii or even protozoa and bacteria if one wanted to.

I wonder if the animal argument is a red herring? Or maybe it isnt?

I, for example, have a turtle. I have to keep my turtle in its glass aquarium. I clean its tank and feed it and give it atention. My turtle actually has alot of personality for a reptile; youd be suprised!

But am I enslaving the turtle for my own sick amusement? Or am I participating in a symbiotic relationship with it? I cant just let the turtle go and drop it off on the sidewalk! It would surely die in short order in this big concrete jungle of Los Angeles. The turtle seems fairly happy living with me... but I cant tell too much because it only has three expressions: im excited, im hungry, and im scared. The turtle doesnt have the range of communication capabilities with its human "owner" that a pet mammal does.

So what is to become of my turtle? It will live in an aquarium all its life and eat turtle sticks and swim around and watch me do my daily thing. Is this slavery? Or is the turtle to be considered a part of my property?

Questions questions. I dont have all the answers figured out for the concept of pets and animal products.

RA,

Im going to link you as soon as I post this. You do know though, that dolphins participate in gang rape and to fight eachother and people sometimes. Although they dont tend to do too much damage to other mammals... they save the killing blows for sharks and stuff.

But the degree of violence in a species doesnt necesarily indicate intelligence as much as the complexity of the behavior, especially social behavior, of the animal. At least in my opinion.

:)

BlackSun said...

The idea of all or nothing self-ownership is totally simplistic. Living beings have self-ownership to the degree that they have self-awareness.

This does not include creatures who operate on pure instinct. Consciousness research over the next few decades, which will include reverse engineering of brains, will ultimately decide this question.

But to insist that there are no shades of grey in the debate is completely irresponsible.

Dolphins appear to have similar if not greater intelligence as humans. So I would say they have a similar degree of self-ownership.

Aaron brings up an important distinction between the right to self-ownership and the right to be treated in a certain way. Humans have used other humans to their own advantage for all of history. Animals have slaughtered each other and established dominance hierarchies from the beginning.

Self-ownership does not imply a 'right' to be treated or not treated a certain way. The rules of evolution and competition still apply.

Only in civilization, where we trade brute-force competition for attemps at peaceful coexistence, does self-ownership have meaning. Some animals, such as dolphins, chimps, and others have formed the rudiments of a civilization. It is that fact, combined with larger brains necessary for sentience, that is the salient point.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Aaron:
Im going to link you as soon as I post this.
Muchas gracias.
You do know though, that dolphins participate in gang rape and to fight eachother and people sometimes. Although they dont tend to do too much damage to other mammals... they save the killing blows for sharks and stuff.
I didn't know about the gang rape portion. They do get rough w/people on occasion, I did know that. Sometimes they get...a little frisky w/people, as I understand it.
They've also been known to commit suicide, which is rare in most creatures. Cetaceans & people engage in this, to my knowledge (no, lemmings don't: that's a myth perpetrated by an old Disney film, where the poor daft mammals were herded off a cliff, for cinematic drama).
But the degree of violence in a species doesnt necesarily indicate intelligence as much as the complexity of the behavior, especially social behavior, of the animal. At least in my opinion.
Agreed. I thought only the wildebeest & man were the only creatures who do violence for pleasure?
Until dolphins and/or porpoises start engaging in anything resembling genocide, however, I'm going to invest in the opinion that they're a terrible enlightened species.
Of course, as FTM would say, that's my subjective opinion. ;)

Aaron Kinney said...

BlackSun,

You made good points. I didnt think about the gray area issue as you put it. Probably because, as I admitted, I am still undecided on my stance regarding animals and self-ownership. But you definitely gave me some important points to think about.

RA,

Yes, Dolphins gang rape eachother. More specifically, a group of 3-6 males will "herd" a female who is ovulating or otherwise ready to conceive a baby, and they will take turns screwing her. the males swim around the female, essentially trapping her. Any attempts made by her to flee are met with resistance from the surrounding males.

Although to be honest, Im not exactly sure how much of that scenario involves forced imprisonment of the female, and how much of that scenario the female is actually happy to partake in. Obviously, girl and boy dolphins will both be "horny" and want to have sex and certain times.

And yes, if a human is to be worried about being treated improperly by a dolphin in the water, the human should be more concerned about being sexually harassed than being killed or beat up. Usually when a dolphin acts funny towards humans, its due to sexual urges rather than violent ones.

I didnt know about the suicide thing with dolphins, but it makes sense. I mean, they probably have the mental capacity to understand their actions and that they can take their own lives. I guess sometimes they would come to that conclusion and carry it out.

MichaelBains said...

If dolphins grew opposable thumbs, or any other emminently suitable to tool-use appendage, they'd be as bad as H. Sapiens.

Since we're still here, so far, I'm thinkin' this Intelligence trait worth the headaches. It's funny, but this post proves it.

Btw, my dolphin name is Reeeuhreet Eee 'ee Eee. Don't wear it out.

streetapologist said...

BTW-

The Goose is still cooked. As I told Zach, my blog was only on hold temporarily.

TheJollyNihilist said...

The idea of all or nothing self-ownership is totally simplistic. Living beings have self-ownership to the degree that they have self-awareness.

I think the alleged relationship between self-ownership and self-awareness is wholly unsubstantiated. On what basis do you propose this relationship?

Anonymous said...

Sure Andrew, but Im not going to post my email address here for everyone to see ;) Why dont you just call me and ask for it?
Haha, I'm pretty sure that'd rack up some long distance charges or something. But for the sake of your privacy, I don't mind posting mine. andrewroq AT gmail.com

Aaron Kinney said...

Darn it Streetapologist! Now I gotta uncross your blog name on my list. Curses! ;)

It appears that, unlike Jesus, your blog DID get resurrected :P

Gord said...

Someone asked why it is that we think ownership of other humans is different from ownership of animals.

As for pets, there are theories that their evolution was deeply impacted by their living with us as, well, big cute parasites. In exchange for being useful guards, maybe helpers in hunting, and so on, dogs also got the pleasure of our scraps. Cats, similarly, though less impactedly, got benefits from being domesticated for a long time.

One might argue that there are attendant benefits to being enslaved, or that some people were impacted evolutionarily by slavery, since it's been a universal practice in pretty much every part of the earth at some point (and often many points) in time. However, we have the documented response to such ideas as made by slaves themselves. Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, and more: slave narratives were a top-selling genre of book in the 19th century. So much for that...

As for our "ownership" of other species, such as chickens, cows, and pigs, well... yeah. Many non-PETA vegetarians find the way we own and use those animals exploitative and repugnant. It's quite possible that they're right, and the majority of us are too stubborn to see it, just as masses of people refused to see the institution of slavery as repugnant.

But in any case, the argument put forth makes a lot of sense: the closer you study human evolutionary biology and sociobiology, the more you start to think, well, then chimps would have souls, but then, so would monkeys, and marmosets, and koalas, and spiders, and bacteria, and the whole shell game collapses.

I'm uncomfortable using the word "soul" for these very reasons.

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How come dolphins can identify the sound of the mother when she calls him by emitting strange sounds.