Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

SLAM: debunk creationism, pseudoscience, and superstitions. Discuss logic and morality.

Moderators: Alyrium Denryle, SCRawl, Thanas

Post Reply
User avatar
Thanas
Magister
Magister
Posts: 30761
Joined: 2004-06-26 07:49pm

Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Thanas » 2017-10-16 03:03pm

Guardian
Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives' thanks to big brains, says study

The cultural brain hypothesis of human development could also explain cetaceans forming friendships – and even gossiping


Life is not so different beneath the ocean waves. Bottlenose dolphins use simple tools, orcas call each other by name, and sperm whales talk in local dialects. Many cetaceans live in tight-knit groups and spend a good deal of time at play.

That much scientists know. But in a new study, researchers compiled a list of the rich behaviours spotted in 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, and found that the bigger the species’ brain, the more complex – indeed, the more “human-like” – their lives are likely to be.

This suggests that the “cultural brain hypothesis” – the theory that suggests our intelligence developed as a way of coping with large and complex social groups – may apply to whales and dolphins, as well as humans.

Writing in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution, the researchers claim that complex social and cultural characteristics, such as hunting together, developing regional dialects and learning from observation, are linked to the expansion of the animals’ brains – a process known as encephalisation.

The researchers gathered records of dolphins playing with humpback whales, helping fishermen with their catches, and even producing signature whistles for dolphins that are absent – suggesting the animals may even gossip.

Another common behaviour was adult animals raising unrelated young. “There is the saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ [and that] seems to be true for both whales and humans,” said Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist and co-author on the study at the London School of Economics.

Like humans, the cetaceans, a group made up of dolphins, whales and porpoises, are thought to do most of their learning socially rather than individually, which could explain why some species learn more complex behaviours than others. “Those predominantly found alone or in small groups had the smallest brains,” the researchers wrote.

Luke Rendell, a biologist at the University of St Andrews who was not involved in the study, but has done work on sperm whales and their distinctive dialects, warned against anthropomorphising and making animals appear to be like humans.

“There is a risk of sounding like there is a single train line, with humans at the final station and other animals on their way of getting there. The truth is that every animal responds to their own evolutionary pressures,” he said.

“There is definitely a danger in comparing other animals to humans, especially with the data available. But what we can say for sure, is that this cultural-brain hypothesis we tested is present in primates and in cetaceans,” Muthukrishna said.

There was still much more to learn, though, he added. “Studies with underwater mammals are difficult and vastly underfunded, so there is so much we don’t know about these fascinating animals,” he said.

The fascination, however, should not only be interesting for people studying animals. “We don’t have to look at other planets to look for aliens, because we know that underwater there are these amazing species with so many parallels to us in their complex behaviours,” said Muthukrishna.

Studying evolutionarily distinct animals such as cetaceans could act as a control group for studying intelligence in general, and so help the understanding our own intellect.

“It is interesting to think that whale and human brains are different in their structure but have brought us to the same patterns in behaviour,” Rendell said. “The extent of how this is close to humans can educate us about evolutionary forces in general.”

However, Muthukrishna points out that intelligence is always driven by the environment an animal finds itself in. “Each environment presents a different set of challenges for an animal. When you are above water, you learn how to tackle fire, for example,” he said. “As smart as whales are, they will never learn to light a spark.”
Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
------------
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood
------------
My LPs

User avatar
The Romulan Republic
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 14775
Joined: 2008-10-15 01:37am

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2017-10-16 06:39pm

So at what point do we classify whaling and dolphin-unsafe fishing nets as genocide (only semi- facetious)?
"Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes" When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy." - Lincoln.

User avatar
Thanas
Magister
Magister
Posts: 30761
Joined: 2004-06-26 07:49pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Thanas » 2017-10-16 06:57pm

Should have been done already IMO.
Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
------------
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood
------------
My LPs

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4612
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-10-16 07:51pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:
2017-10-16 06:39pm
So at what point do we classify whaling and dolphin-unsafe fishing nets as genocide (only semi- facetious)?
When they can color coordinate their clothes (stealing an old Shadowrun joke there).

More seriously, it's unlikely to happen. I mean, dogs display a rather large amount of cunning, depending on breed, training, and socialization. They can outwit small children with ease and can be trained in all sorts of advanced tasks. And also display a large amount of empathy towards humans. They are unlikely to end up with more protections, especially in countries that don't view them as pets.

Oddly, one argument I heard was that a species needs to display an act of focused aggression (against humanity or another "not them" group) before you can consider them "advanced." As such, they would display the ability to understand what humans are doing to them and react with hostility and teach this to each other. I read an article about crows having this ability: to learn certain humans are "bad news" and teach future generations to avoid or harass said humans. Something about researchers wearing masks while harassing them, then releasing them back into the wild.

Dolphins even fit into this category. I've read reports of them harassing Porpoises. A pod will keeps the males away while the Dolphins have their way with the female(s), sometimes even raping them to death. Man, they just seem to enjoy killing Porpoises. They don't tend to display this kind of behavior intra-species, even outside their family.

Chimps have "wars" and take "spoils" from said wars and first-world countries still kill them in droves and keep them in cages. Humans just kind of suck.

Either way, it's not so much "genocide" as "depraved indifference."

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-10-31 01:00am

At what point do we have a humanitarian (whaleitarian?) obligation to get involved in intra-cetacean conflicts?
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
Alyrium Denryle
Minister of Sin
Posts: 22023
Joined: 2002-07-11 08:34pm
Location: The Deep Desert
Contact:

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2017-10-31 05:27am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-10-31 01:00am
At what point do we have a humanitarian (whaleitarian?) obligation to get involved in intra-cetacean conflicts?
Once we are able to meaningfully communicate with them, we'll talk. Until then, said conflicts are more or less necessary for survival and reproduction in the wild.
GALE Force Biological Agent/
BOTM/Great Dolphin Conspiracy/
Entomology and Evolutionary Biology Subdirector:SD.net Dept. of Biological Sciences


There is Grandeur in the View of Life; it fills me with a Deep Wonder, and Intense Cynicism.

Factio republicanum delenda est

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20241
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-11-04 03:52pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-10-31 01:00am
At what point do we have a humanitarian (whaleitarian?) obligation to get involved in intra-cetacean conflicts?
At... no point? :?
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-11-05 03:21am

If we came across two tribes of humans, one of which was a cannibal tribe preying upon a second tribe... We would be rather likely to interfere to stop the cannibals, even in the absence of easy communications with either tribe.

The basic argument for why we don't need to try to protect whales and dolphins from predation by orcas seems to be that the orcas don't have a choice in the matter- but if we encountered a mutant tribe of obligate cannibal humans, beings that have no choice but to kill and eat other intelligent beings to live... The solution "kill the sapient cannibals to protect their sapient victims" would certainly be proposed seriously by many.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20241
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-11-05 04:38am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-05 03:21am
If we came across two tribes of humans, one of which was a cannibal tribe preying upon a second tribe... We would be rather likely to interfere to stop the cannibals, even in the absence of easy communications with either tribe.
Yes. But how do we extend our own set of morals, which developed historically in trying to quell violence between those belonging to our own tribe, later nation and finally species as a whole - though we are not quite at the latest stage yet, to what are essentially aliens? We struggle to understand other cultures. It may be that the inter-species gap is simply too great to be bridged by our own understanding, and we simply won't even ever have a common framework with the creatures.

And this works only with creatures we can force to follow our will. If we encounter sapient beings which are roughy on our technological level, but are terrible in our moral framework, should we try to intervene or understand? Or try to create a common moral framework in which we would be more like the ones we try to understand? What is morally right here?

The problem is not just a matter of action, it is also a matter of how we think and how they "think". I kind of like the story from Yudkowsky about the baby-eating aliens, seems similar to the above.
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-11-05 11:27am

It is reasonable to suppose that the orcas want to eat dolphins and whales, but it is also reasonable to suppose that the dolphins and whales do not want to be eaten.

And unlike the example of Yudkowsky's baby-eating aliens*, there is no obvious practical reason why stopping the orcas is bad, except for the deaths of the orcas- whose continued existence requires the ongoing deaths.

Imagine if there were a species of cannibalistic ogres or vampires that lived on land, and which we could not communicate with, but which liked to kill and eat humans. I'm pretty sure we would have exterminated the ogres or vampires, or forced them to adapt to easier prey or die, a long time ago. And I don't think any of us would criticize our distant ancestors for having done so.

...

Basically, most of our willingness to tolerate the sheer brutality and predation that takes place in nature comes from the fact that the animals in question are unthinking, like biological mechanisms. They feel pain, but they have no ability to think about or modify their own actions, and thus cannot be held responsible for those actions. Consequently, while what a lion does to a gazelle would be terrible cruelty if a human did it, it doesn't register on us in real life as a moral problem to be addressed.

But this does not mean we have a duty to allow intelligent victims to be killed painfully for the sustenance of other beings, intelligent or otherwise. And you can at least make a sane argument that we have a duty to protect the intelligent victims.

Or if we do not have such a duty to protect dolphins and whales from predation by orcas, do we have a duty to protect them from predation by hominids? And how far does this duty extend?

*To clarify, this is a species the writer came up with specifically because they are ghastly and present a moral problem. The moral problem is as follows.

The Babyeaters are a species that massively overproduces offspring, due to some kind of built-in biological constraints. To not wreck their ecosystems utterly, they are locked into the choice of mass infanticide. So for all practical purposes, they destroy and torture 99% of their own children to death in each generation. But if they did not do so, given that the other alternatives appear to be ones they are unwilling or unable to consider... well, they'd wreck their ecosystems very, very fast. Consequently, the Babyeaters consider this a necessary sacrifice for the collective good of their civilization.

Every individual member of the species has an incentive and desire to hold back and not do this, namely having more offspring. But this would create an externalities problem, so they enforce it upon themselves. Their entire system of morality (i.e. willingness to make personal sacrifice even at great personal distaste and cost for the greater good) is based around this, to the point where their words for 'good' and 'evil' are basically their words for 'eats own babies' and 'doesn't eat own babies.'
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20241
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-11-05 12:07pm

Simon_Jester wrote:Imagine if there were a species of cannibalistic ogres or vampires that lived on land, and which we could not communicate with, but which liked to kill and eat humans. I'm pretty sure we would have exterminated the ogres or vampires, or forced them to adapt to easier prey or die, a long time ago. And I don't think any of us would criticize our distant ancestors for having done so.
Orcas can kill humans and would not stop from eating them, but it has not led to us exterminating their entire kind. Even for those animals that live on land - man-eating tigers get killed, but we aren't exterminating their entire kind.
Simon_Jester wrote:Basically, most of our willingness to tolerate the sheer brutality and predation that takes place in nature comes from the fact that the animals in question are unthinking, like biological mechanisms. They feel pain, but they have no ability to think about or modify their own actions, and thus cannot be held responsible for those actions. Consequently, while what a lion does to a gazelle would be terrible cruelty if a human did it, it doesn't register on us in real life as a moral problem to be addressed.
So a certain biological mechanism has decided that it is thinking. But to a great extent its own behaviour is determined by hormones. Until you can be sure animals have no intellectual capacity even for rudimentary "thought", would you not be exterminating other species simply based on human presumptions of intelligence or non-intelligence? Can the orcas think about their actions? What if we think they can, but they can't? We are supposed to make a judgement on this based on our own presumptions, too, as I doubt they'd be willing to make a statement leading to their ultimate eradication. That is, if they are intelligent and can understand why we're asking, if they can both think and lie.
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-11-05 06:17pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2017-11-05 12:07pm
Simon_Jester wrote:Imagine if there were a species of cannibalistic ogres or vampires that lived on land, and which we could not communicate with, but which liked to kill and eat humans. I'm pretty sure we would have exterminated the ogres or vampires, or forced them to adapt to easier prey or die, a long time ago. And I don't think any of us would criticize our distant ancestors for having done so.
Orcas can kill humans and would not stop from eating them, but it has not led to us exterminating their entire kind. Even for those animals that live on land - man-eating tigers get killed, but we aren't exterminating their entire kind.
Tigers are not obligate human-eaters; they can and usually do choose NOT to eat humans. I'm talking about a species that only preys on humans, the way that some (not all) pods of orcas prey only on other cetaceans.

My point being that the one thing we don't readily think of as a way to deal with an intelligent species that as a matter of habit preys on us is "I'm sorry, but some among you self-aware selves are going to have to be killed and eaten to keep this small population of predators alive, forever." We are not, usually, comfortable staying at this level of 'rawness.'

The conclusion is entirely repugnant when we apply it with humans as the prey animal. I don't think humans occupy a unique and privileged position among the set of all intelligent creatures, in terms of having a right to not be killed and eaten, either.
Simon_Jester wrote:Basically, most of our willingness to tolerate the sheer brutality and predation that takes place in nature comes from the fact that the animals in question are unthinking, like biological mechanisms. They feel pain, but they have no ability to think about or modify their own actions, and thus cannot be held responsible for those actions. Consequently, while what a lion does to a gazelle would be terrible cruelty if a human did it, it doesn't register on us in real life as a moral problem to be addressed.
So a certain biological mechanism has decided that it is thinking. But to a great extent its own behaviour is determined by hormones. Until you can be sure animals have no intellectual capacity even for rudimentary "thought", would you not be exterminating other species simply based on human presumptions of intelligence or non-intelligence? Can the orcas think about their actions? What if we think they can, but they can't? We are supposed to make a judgement on this based on our own presumptions, too, as I doubt they'd be willing to make a statement leading to their ultimate eradication. That is, if they are intelligent and can understand why we're asking, if they can both think and lie.
If orcas aren't capable of choosing not to kill and eat other intelligent beings, they are in effect a mindless threat and don't have a greater right to life than their intelligent victims would.

If orcas are thus capable, it is not unreasonable to demand that they stop.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
Alyrium Denryle
Minister of Sin
Posts: 22023
Joined: 2002-07-11 08:34pm
Location: The Deep Desert
Contact:

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2017-11-05 10:22pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-05 06:17pm
K. A. Pital wrote:
2017-11-05 12:07pm
Simon_Jester wrote:Imagine if there were a species of cannibalistic ogres or vampires that lived on land, and which we could not communicate with, but which liked to kill and eat humans. I'm pretty sure we would have exterminated the ogres or vampires, or forced them to adapt to easier prey or die, a long time ago. And I don't think any of us would criticize our distant ancestors for having done so.
Orcas can kill humans and would not stop from eating them, but it has not led to us exterminating their entire kind. Even for those animals that live on land - man-eating tigers get killed, but we aren't exterminating their entire kind.
Tigers are not obligate human-eaters; they can and usually do choose NOT to eat humans. I'm talking about a species that only preys on humans, the way that some (not all) pods of orcas prey only on other cetaceans.

My point being that the one thing we don't readily think of as a way to deal with an intelligent species that as a matter of habit preys on us is "I'm sorry, but some among you self-aware selves are going to have to be killed and eaten to keep this small population of predators alive, forever." We are not, usually, comfortable staying at this level of 'rawness.'

The conclusion is entirely repugnant when we apply it with humans as the prey animal. I don't think humans occupy a unique and privileged position among the set of all intelligent creatures, in terms of having a right to not be killed and eaten, either.
Simon_Jester wrote:Basically, most of our willingness to tolerate the sheer brutality and predation that takes place in nature comes from the fact that the animals in question are unthinking, like biological mechanisms. They feel pain, but they have no ability to think about or modify their own actions, and thus cannot be held responsible for those actions. Consequently, while what a lion does to a gazelle would be terrible cruelty if a human did it, it doesn't register on us in real life as a moral problem to be addressed.
So a certain biological mechanism has decided that it is thinking. But to a great extent its own behaviour is determined by hormones. Until you can be sure animals have no intellectual capacity even for rudimentary "thought", would you not be exterminating other species simply based on human presumptions of intelligence or non-intelligence? Can the orcas think about their actions? What if we think they can, but they can't? We are supposed to make a judgement on this based on our own presumptions, too, as I doubt they'd be willing to make a statement leading to their ultimate eradication. That is, if they are intelligent and can understand why we're asking, if they can both think and lie.
If orcas aren't capable of choosing not to kill and eat other intelligent beings, they are in effect a mindless threat and don't have a greater right to life than their intelligent victims would.

If orcas are thus capable, it is not unreasonable to demand that they stop.
To say someone ought to do something implies that they can. Not just have the capacity to not do a thing, but to have the necessary context to make the choice, and have other options on the table that they could choose to do instead.

The hypothetical aliens above, for example, might not have ever considered abortion rather than eating their own living young. They might lay eggs in mass spawning clutches and thus never developed the societal pressures leading to abortion, for instance.

We don't know how culturally sophisticated Orca are. Do they have a concept of self-awareness and why that matters? It took us to the post-enlightenment to get that far. Do they have an alternative? The mammal eating pods... mammals are all they eat, Bro. You are literally going to have to teach them to fish, and somehow keep them out of competition with the fish eating pods.

And that is leaving aside the fact that our ethical conceptions might be completely foreign to them AND the dolphins they sometimes prey upon
GALE Force Biological Agent/
BOTM/Great Dolphin Conspiracy/
Entomology and Evolutionary Biology Subdirector:SD.net Dept. of Biological Sciences


There is Grandeur in the View of Life; it fills me with a Deep Wonder, and Intense Cynicism.

Factio republicanum delenda est

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-11-06 03:04pm

For most morally abhorrent things a person can do, "but I have to do this to live, you can't ask me to stop or I'll die" is a valid defense. In law we call it duress, as I recall.

But the defense of duress doesn't apply to murder. If thirty intelligent ogres have to kill and eat three hundred intelligent humans over the course of a lifespan in order to live, killing all the ogres starts to look like a pretty good utilitarian arrangement, even if you don't have any special biases against the ogres.

I can understand taking some time for fact-finding and thinking this over, but if we accept the premise that whales are intelligent beings as worthy of life and rights as humans, then I still think we need to get around to doing something about predation on whales.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20241
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-11-06 03:13pm

Simon_Jester wrote:Tigers are not obligate human-eaters; they can and usually do choose NOT to eat humans. I'm talking about a species that only preys on humans, the way that some (not all) pods of orcas prey only on other cetaceans.
We still accept a certain amount of human lives lost to tigers without thinking about extermination. So there is a degree of acceptance even of the fact that some humans will be eaten by other predators, without striving to wipe out these predators in entirety.
Simon_Jester wrote:My point being that the one thing we don't readily think of as a way to deal with an intelligent species that as a matter of habit preys on us is "I'm sorry, but some among you self-aware selves are going to have to be killed and eaten to keep this small population of predators alive, forever." We are not, usually, comfortable staying at this level of 'rawness.'
Usually not, but if humans are not the only prey, then suddenly we can accept "some of the self-aware will be eaten" as a matter of random chance, a danger to die similar to what happens when humans are killed by the elements.
Simon_Jester wrote:I don't think humans occupy a unique and privileged position among the set of all intelligent creatures, in terms of having a right to not be killed and eaten, either.
Me neither.
Simon_Jester wrote:If orcas aren't capable of choosing not to kill and eat other intelligent beings, they are in effect a mindless threat and don't have a greater right to life than their intelligent victims would.
What if they don't comprehend the intelligence of their victims?
Simon_Jester wrote:If orcas are thus capable, it is not unreasonable to demand that they stop.
Humans keep exterminating each other in wars and conflicts, but will be saying to others that they can't do the same because... because humans find those others repugnant? This may not be so easy to explain if the opposing side can comprehend as much. Of course, if it can't, humans can play gods and "demand" something which can hardly happen, then get on their extermination horse and add another badge to their "species we've wiped out for good" belt. Which is already a pretty heavy one.
Simon_Jester wrote:I can understand taking some time for fact-finding and thinking this over, but if we accept the premise that whales are intelligent beings as worthy of life and rights as humans, then I still think we need to get around to doing something about predation on whales.
We need to think about the fact humans, an intelligent species, has almost wiped out many species of whales. This was not necessary for human survival or anything at all. So before humans can get on their judgement throne an inch higher than that of the cannibalistic mammals, they have to solve a big problem - the "judges" brought about destruction of many species ... just for their own entertainment.
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-11-06 03:34pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2017-11-06 03:13pm
]What if they don't comprehend the intelligence of their victims?
If a lunatic is attacking you with lethal force because they are under the delusion that you're a mindless golem or something... You still have the right to defend yourself with lethal force and kill your attacker. Your attacker's right to live doesn't override your right to not be killed.
Simon_Jester wrote:If orcas are thus capable, it is not unreasonable to demand that they stop.
Humans keep exterminating each other in wars and conflicts, but will be saying to others that they can't do the same because... because humans find those others repugnant? This may not be so easy to explain if the opposing side can comprehend as much. Of course, if it can't, humans can play gods and "demand" something which can hardly happen, then get on their extermination horse and add another badge to their "species we've wiped out for good" belt. Which is already a pretty heavy one.
If aliens who had never wiped out a species in this way decided to stop the deaths to predation of intelligent creatures, would they be wrong to do so?
We need to think about the fact humans, an intelligent species, has almost wiped out many species of whales. This was not necessary for human survival or anything at all. So before humans can get on their judgement throne an inch higher than that of the cannibalistic mammals, they have to solve a big problem - the "judges" brought about destruction of many species ... just for their own entertainment.
Yes; the obvious first step is to try Japanese whalers for mass murder. There aren't a lot of living whalers besides the Japanese and maybe one or two other countries, though... unless you count native tribes in the Arctic and such, whose predation on the whales is de facto comparable to that of the orcas, to the point where condemning one without condemning the other is hypocritical either way.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20241
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-11-07 05:04am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
If a lunatic is attacking you with lethal force because they are under the delusion that you're a mindless golem or something... You still have the right to defend yourself with lethal force and kill your attacker. Your attacker's right to live doesn't override your right to not be killed.
So what if intelligent aliens - committed to non-violence - come to Earth, then be repulsed by the human violence, and start eradicating humans involved in said violence without any remorse?
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
If aliens who had never wiped out a species in this way decided to stop the deaths to predation of intelligent creatures, would they be wrong to do so?
You tell me. If aliens arrive, observe humanity, divide it into semi-arbitrary groupings based on our own divisions, then run their Fantastic Utilitarian Calculator - and in the end decide that, say, the US starting a war against Iraq resulted in 300 000 excess deaths at minimum, and a proportionate number of people should be immediately put to death in the starting nation? Or that anyone involved in the chain of decisions should be put to death - which would lessen the death toll, but still leave it a pretty sizeable one.

Somehow I doubt that at least a part of humans would easily accept the above moral reasoning.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
Yes; the obvious first step is to try Japanese whalers for mass murder.
Okay... I think that'd gonna be even more unrealistic than human "humanitarian intervention" in the matters of aquatic mammals!
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
There aren't a lot of living whalers besides the Japanese and maybe one or two other countries, though... unless you count native tribes in the Arctic and such, whose predation on the whales is de facto comparable to that of the orcas, to the point where condemning one without condemning the other is hypocritical either way.
Yes, their predation on whales is very much comparable to orcas. Should they be eradicated, if they refuse to stop whaling?
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-11-07 03:22pm

K. A. Pital wrote:
2017-11-07 05:04am
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
If a lunatic is attacking you with lethal force because they are under the delusion that you're a mindless golem or something... You still have the right to defend yourself with lethal force and kill your attacker. Your attacker's right to live doesn't override your right to not be killed.
So what if intelligent aliens - committed to non-violence - come to Earth, then be repulsed by the human violence, and start eradicating humans involved in said violence without any remorse?
For whose sake are they doing this thing?

When you intervene to protect Group A from being killed and eaten by Group B, you are carrying out a clearly defined operation that allows you to perform a utilitarian calculation: saving X lives per year from Group A is the payoff, the price is the loss of Group B.

What you're proposing sounds more like "we had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Or did you mean that the supremely nonviolent aliens just start pushing a button that disintegrates individual humans that use violence, regardless of their reasons? Because that's a more interesting scenario, though I'd like to have a philosophical conversation with the aliens before they enact it.

[And yes, the orcas might want to have a conversation with us- but then, the other dolphins and whales might want to ask us something too. Something like "AAAH WHY HAVEN'T YOU KILLED THEM ALREADY STOP THEM BEFORE THEY EAT ANY MORE BABIES ALIVE AAAAH!"]
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
If aliens who had never wiped out a species in this way decided to stop the deaths to predation of intelligent creatures, would they be wrong to do so?
You tell me. If aliens arrive, observe humanity, divide it into semi-arbitrary groupings based on our own divisions, then run their Fantastic Utilitarian Calculator - and in the end decide that, say, the US starting a war against Iraq resulted in 300 000 excess deaths at minimum, and a proportionate number of people should be immediately put to death in the starting nation? Or that anyone involved in the chain of decisions should be put to death - which would lessen the death toll, but still leave it a pretty sizeable one.

Somehow I doubt that at least a part of humans would easily accept the above moral reasoning.
Is my right to protest such treatment as it continues to be ongoing more important than other people's right to not be killed by my nation's army?
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
Yes; the obvious first step is to try Japanese whalers for mass murder.
Okay... I think that'd gonna be even more unrealistic than human "humanitarian intervention" in the matters of aquatic mammals!
The thing is, what the hell else do we do, if we accept that whales and dolphins are as worthy of life and respect as human beings?

We may say that this cannot be done, but we should at least be prepared to acknowledge that it should be done.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
There aren't a lot of living whalers besides the Japanese and maybe one or two other countries, though... unless you count native tribes in the Arctic and such, whose predation on the whales is de facto comparable to that of the orcas, to the point where condemning one without condemning the other is hypocritical either way.
Yes, their predation on whales is very much comparable to orcas. Should they be eradicated, if they refuse to stop whaling?
All I know is that the argument works about the same for the human whalers as it does for the orcas... and yet I've seen people demand that the human whaling stop, without demanding that the orcas be stopped.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
Alyrium Denryle
Minister of Sin
Posts: 22023
Joined: 2002-07-11 08:34pm
Location: The Deep Desert
Contact:

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2017-11-08 02:33am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:04pm
For most morally abhorrent things a person can do, "but I have to do this to live, you can't ask me to stop or I'll die" is a valid defense. In law we call it duress, as I recall.

But the defense of duress doesn't apply to murder. If thirty intelligent ogres have to kill and eat three hundred intelligent humans over the course of a lifespan in order to live, killing all the ogres starts to look like a pretty good utilitarian arrangement, even if you don't have any special biases against the ogres.

I can understand taking some time for fact-finding and thinking this over, but if we accept the premise that whales are intelligent beings as worthy of life and rights as humans, then I still think we need to get around to doing something about predation on whales.
The defense of duress doesn't apply in a legal sense to murder no. But human ethics also didn't evolve in a setting where orca-like behaviors are something we needed to guard against. There might be ritual cannibalism, but there are no obligate-cannibal humans and never have been. This is an outside context problem for our ethical systems in the same way that another intelligent species is going to be a complete outside context problem for theirs.

We simply cannot apply our ethics in this situation without modification. Unless you want to commit to a policy of ethnic cleansing, which I somehow think is not the best utilitarian choice.
GALE Force Biological Agent/
BOTM/Great Dolphin Conspiracy/
Entomology and Evolutionary Biology Subdirector:SD.net Dept. of Biological Sciences


There is Grandeur in the View of Life; it fills me with a Deep Wonder, and Intense Cynicism.

Factio republicanum delenda est

User avatar
Thanas
Magister
Magister
Posts: 30761
Joined: 2004-06-26 07:49pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Thanas » 2017-11-08 03:44am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-07 03:22pm
All I know is that the argument works about the same for the human whalers as it does for the orcas... and yet I've seen people demand that the human whaling stop, without demanding that the orcas be stopped.
The thing is though that we as the human race easily have methods to stop whaling and preventing the whalers from starving at the same time.

Unlike the Orcas.
Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
------------
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood
------------
My LPs

User avatar
K. A. Pital
Glamorous Commie
Posts: 20241
Joined: 2003-02-26 11:39am
Location: Elysium

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by K. A. Pital » 2017-11-08 06:25am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-07 03:22pm
Or did you mean that the supremely nonviolent aliens just start pushing a button that disintegrates individual humans that use violence, regardless of their reasons? Because that's a more interesting scenario, though I'd like to have a philosophical conversation with the aliens before they enact it.
Yes, I meant this. I think I've even written something with this as plot. The utilitarian calculation to enact such "just retribution" would, in my view, end with mass slaughter due to the prevalence of violence... Not necessarily morally wrong, but something to keep in mind.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-07 03:22pm
[And yes, the orcas might want to have a conversation with us- but then, the other dolphins and whales might want to ask us something too. Something like "AAAH WHY HAVEN'T YOU KILLED THEM ALREADY STOP THEM BEFORE THEY EAT ANY MORE BABIES ALIVE AAAAH!"]
They may say this, but for that they need to realize we're capable of killing them all.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
Is my right to protest such treatment as it continues to be ongoing more important than other people's right to not be killed by my nation's army?
Maybe not, but I don't think you find yourself guilty. So it will be seen as senseless mass killing, because humans often favor a different procedure to establish guilt and deal with the guilty.
Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-06 03:34pm
The thing is, what the hell else do we do, if we accept that whales and dolphins are as worthy of life and respect as human beings?
No idea. I think that there will be a problem of expanding the concept of "human rights" to other mammals, and this thread demonstrates a few of them.
Lì ci sono chiese, macerie, moschee e questure, lì frontiere, prezzi inaccessibile e freddure
Lì paludi, minacce, cecchini coi fucili, documenti, file notturne e clandestini
Qui incontri, lotte, passi sincronizzati, colori, capannelli non autorizzati,
Uccelli migratori, reti, informazioni, piazze di Tutti i like pazze di passioni...

...La tranquillità è importante ma la libertà è tutto!
Assalti Frontali

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-11-08 10:54am

Thinking over my views on this issue, it comes down to this:

If we are prepared to say "whales are intelligent," this is a major shift in the way we perceive our place on Earth and what it means to be "a person," as opposed to being "human." It would be extremely surprising if such a huge revelation came with minimal consequences. If the only consequence was "do not kill whales yourself," that's kind of an anticlimax. Very few humans still have a desire to kill whales.

So accepting cetacean intelligence comes with a very large complex of implications and consequences that need to be thought through, and almost certainly some of those consequences will involve re-evaluating important decisions we've made about how to manage the oceans and their ecosystems.

While I can accept that "cetacean-eating orcas have X years to either find a different diet or die out" is possibly not one of those consequences... I think the question should at least be seriously considered and not casually dismissed. The problem of dealing with a population of obligate 'cannibals,' that is to say beings that must prey on other intelligent creatures to live, is a very thorny one.

I appreciate that some here are taking the proposition seriously, even if they continue to disagree.
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

User avatar
Alyrium Denryle
Minister of Sin
Posts: 22023
Joined: 2002-07-11 08:34pm
Location: The Deep Desert
Contact:

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2017-11-09 01:05am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2017-11-08 10:54am
Thinking over my views on this issue, it comes down to this:

If we are prepared to say "whales are intelligent," this is a major shift in the way we perceive our place on Earth and what it means to be "a person," as opposed to being "human." It would be extremely surprising if such a huge revelation came with minimal consequences. If the only consequence was "do not kill whales yourself," that's kind of an anticlimax. Very few humans still have a desire to kill whales.

So accepting cetacean intelligence comes with a very large complex of implications and consequences that need to be thought through, and almost certainly some of those consequences will involve re-evaluating important decisions we've made about how to manage the oceans and their ecosystems.

While I can accept that "cetacean-eating orcas have X years to either find a different diet or die out" is possibly not one of those consequences... I think the question should at least be seriously considered and not casually dismissed. The problem of dealing with a population of obligate 'cannibals,' that is to say beings that must prey on other intelligent creatures to live, is a very thorny one.

I appreciate that some here are taking the proposition seriously, even if they continue to disagree.
The problem is, the change to the way we view our place in the world is so large, we have to re-evaluate how we handle these questions entirely. We can't just slap "equivalent to human" on alien beings and react as we would with people. We have to do things like assess what our obligations are toward entities with which we don't share a common cognitive framework, ecology... or anything really.
GALE Force Biological Agent/
BOTM/Great Dolphin Conspiracy/
Entomology and Evolutionary Biology Subdirector:SD.net Dept. of Biological Sciences


There is Grandeur in the View of Life; it fills me with a Deep Wonder, and Intense Cynicism.

Factio republicanum delenda est

Simon_Jester
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 30099
Joined: 2009-05-23 07:29pm

Re: Whales and dolphins lead 'human-like lives'

Post by Simon_Jester » 2017-11-09 07:44am

I don't disagree, I just see there are being a few basic points of very probable common ground among all intelligent life. "Preference for not being killed and eaten by predators" would tend to be pretty high on the list, for evolutionary reasons.

Likewise, I believe there are a few common heuristics that should apply across species lines, such as "the needs of the many for survival outweigh the needs of the few for survival."
This space dedicated to Vasily Arkhipov

Post Reply