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Gorilla Encounter
May 13, 2010 11:30 AM   Subscribe

"In the African jungle, conservationist Damian Aspinall (of the Aspinall Foundation) searches for Kwibi, a lowland gorilla he hasn't seen for 5 years. Kwibi grew up with Damian at his Howletts Wild Animal Park in England. When he was five, he was released into the forests of Gabon, West Africa as part of a conservation programme to re-introduce gorillas back into the wild. Now Kwibi's 10 years old, much bigger and stronger." This is their reunion.

Brings to mind the reunion in the wild of Christian the lion with his caretakers.
posted by ericb (57 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christian, previously on MeFi: Bear hug? How about a lion hug?
posted by ericb at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2010


Animal Planet (UK) is now showing its new 13 part series: 'Gorilla School with Damian Aspinall.'
posted by ericb at 11:36 AM on May 13, 2010


This reminded me of a very cool episode of Radiolab called Lucy - you can listen to the whole thing online or download it.
posted by exhilaration at 11:37 AM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just enough time for a photo-op and then he spent the rest of the time across the river? The gorilla loves him, ambled through the jungle to try to get some more time with him, and he's just staying on the other side of the river?

If that gorilla loved me, I would invite him and his wives back to Boston with me. And then we would RULE my neighborhood because no one around here is hard enough to fuck with a gorilla. Talk about missed opportunities.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:47 AM on May 13, 2010 [18 favorites]


ericb just watched the One Show ;p
posted by afx237vi at 11:48 AM on May 13, 2010


Awww...

It's interesting how when they first meet, the guy has to 'act like a gorilla' in terms of his movements and stuff. I guess it's not good to 'bare teeth' to them? Later on he was smiling though.
posted by delmoi at 11:49 AM on May 13, 2010


...I would invite him and his wives back to Boston with me.

Ah, memories of Little Joe escaping from the Franklin Zoo in 2003.
posted by ericb at 11:50 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


afx237vi, I wish we got BBC/UK here in the States. We have to settle for BBC America.
posted by ericb at 11:51 AM on May 13, 2010


Its weird to see this kind of behaviour - Kwibi and Christian, I mean. Do they act that way with long lost siblings of their own species? I mean, it LOOKS like love and affection, but what is really going on?

I mean, I love my three fluff ball cats, but I know they could care less about me, as a person. I'm just a thing that disperses food and pets and can be sat on.

Do we do something wrong with these animals when we encourage them to show this kind of 'affection'?
posted by sandraregina at 11:53 AM on May 13, 2010


I too, was reminded of Lucy. What a sad ending that was.
posted by tellurian at 11:55 AM on May 13, 2010


afx237vi, I wish we got BBC/UK here in the States. We have to settle for BBC America.

Weird coincidence then, because they just had a segment about this project. Very interesting it was too, as is your post.
posted by afx237vi at 11:55 AM on May 13, 2010


That Radiolab episode had so much in it which was making my head spin, especially the latter segments about the bonobo who has learned to understand and speak (!) English. I was driving down the highway at 70mph while I listened, and nearly felt the need to pull over and get out of my car and walk around a bit.

This Smithsonian article about Kanzi (the bonobo) completely destroyed me:
Whatever the dimension of Kanzi’s abilities, he and I did manage to communicate. I’d told Savage-Rumbaugh about some of my adventures, and she invited me to perform a Maori war dance. I beat my chest, slapped my thighs and hollered. The bonobos sat quiet and motionless for a few seconds, then all but Kanzi snapped into a frenzy, the noise deafening as they screamed, bared their teeth and pounded on the walls and floor of their enclosure. Still calm, Kanzi waved an arm at Savage-Rumbaugh, as if asking her to come closer, then let loose with a stream of squeaks and squeals."Kanzi says he knows you're not threatening them," Savage-Rumbaugh said to me," and he'd like you to do it again just for him, in a room out back, so the others won't get upset.”

I’m skeptical, but I follow the researcher through the complex, out of Kanzi's sight. I find him, all alone, standing behind protective bars. Seeing me, he slapped his chest and thighs, mimicking my war dance, as if inviting me to perform an encore. I obliged, of course, and Kanzi joined in with gusto.
posted by hippybear at 11:56 AM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Rachel in Love
posted by infini at 11:57 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I recognize the body language of Kwibi's wife: "So you're that hairless idiot he goes on and on about"
posted by hal9k at 12:00 PM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I love my three fluff ball cats, but I know they could care less about me, as a person. I'm just a thing that disperses food and pets and can be sat on.

Our cats seem to genuinely have a sense of person when it comes to the two-legs in their house. If one of us goes out of town for a few days, the change in behavior in the pets is obvious and dramatic. They change where they hang out in the house, they make odd circling motions around the chair or room either me or my partner are usually found in, etc. They obviously know there are two of us, and each have a distinct mode of interaction with each of us, and seem to be missing the person who is gone. (I try not to anthropomorphize the animals TOO much -- I know how much they hate that.)
posted by hippybear at 12:03 PM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


They know something in their routine and environment has changed and that's what they're reacting to. If you didn't come back, or were replaced, they'd adapt, and may even get agitated if you returned later.
I don't think animals are capable of 'love', or even really 'affection'. But I'm cynical that way. I pour money, affection, and furniture capable of being ruined down a great big hole in order to keep my boys content (or at least I hope they're content), but I have no illusions they feel any affection back, whatsoever. They're ruled by instinct and routine.

The gorilla might be working out some sort of primate pack thing with Damian but the lion's behaviour confuses me. I really want to know if they react so 'friendly' with cubs from a shared litter. Attacking them as rivals or food sources seems more appropriate.
posted by sandraregina at 12:15 PM on May 13, 2010


After watching the video I was left with the feeling "that was really mean to that gorilla". In hindsight, I think he should never have gone back. It's clear that Kwibi doesn't understand what is going on and is compelled to keep connected. This is a sad/bad story.
posted by qwip at 12:18 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think animals are capable of 'love', or even really 'affection'.

You are an animal. You are capable of love or affection. Your dividing lines between human and animal are artificial and based on exceptionalism. There is ample evidence of demonstrated love and affection available for other primates, cetaceans, birds, elephants, and other species.
posted by norm at 12:26 PM on May 13, 2010 [34 favorites]


My ex wife was that way when I fed her a few leaves...we had been divorced for 5 years, and I had set her free in NY city.
posted by Postroad at 12:37 PM on May 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


I mean, I love my three fluff ball cats, but I know they could care less about me, as a person. I'm just a thing that disperses food and pets and can be sat on.
Well, lions, unlike housecats are social animals. Clicking the links I ended up here, which shows some pictures of lions eating their pray, etc, and it had this at the begining:
Lions are the only truly social cat, living in groups called prides. A pride is a set of females, often but not always sisters, along with their cubs and subadult cubs. There are also one or more males, usually a coalition of two brothers, but sometimes unrelated lions.
So I would think lions, being more social animals will display more affection then housecats. I think dogs are generally more affectionate, if you had a dog instead of a cat I don't think you would find this that surprising. Or who knows.

---
I mean, it LOOKS like love and affection, but what is really going on?
...
I don't think animals are capable of 'love', or even really 'affection'. But I'm cynical that way.
You know Humans are animals, right? In particular, humans are just Apes. So why wouldn't Gorillas be capable of the same kind of emotional response? The only difference between Humans and other apes is the language skills and the tool use, a bit more brain power.
posted by delmoi at 12:43 PM on May 13, 2010


Norm - I'm not sure I believe humans are really capable of love or affection either, though we label many different behaviours that way. So there is that. Animals are all too often mistaken for acting in human like ways when what they are doing is based on something completely different. What we think is evidence of love or affection is more likely to be something else, and its our own biases that keep us from seeing it. Especially when its a dynamic between animals of different species (including humans).
posted by sandraregina at 12:45 PM on May 13, 2010


what? we evolved from those nasty hairy things? no way....
posted by infini at 1:05 PM on May 13, 2010


Every emotional trait and instinctive need you have comes from your limbic system, a system you share with every mammal on the planet. So don't be telling me that critters don't love and hurt and care and feel. And in fact because they can't explain why things happen to them, because they don't have a huge neocortex and language ability, you can bet they feel things primally. Ever notice how kids are totally wrecked by emotions they can't explain? Critters have it worse, although they don't express it obviously because that would be an anti-survival trait -- throwing tantrums, crying or doing anything obvious with their pain, because being obviously in distress is not a survival trait.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:13 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Norm - I'm not sure I believe humans are really capable of love or affection either, though we label many different behaviours that way.

Well, at least you're consistent in your cynicism. I think the evidence is pretty clear that there are many animals that have as much capacity of love and affection as 'we' do. I also thought of the Lucy experiment when I saw this. The reason we feel bad about such stories is not (just) that humans have taken these animals from their normal societies and ecosystems, it's that they appreciate a qualitative difference when they go back, and our interference has real and long-lasting negative effects on these animals that we can also appreciate.

It's not attributing any anthropomorphic labels on what we see here to know that Kwibi misses Mr. Aspinall in the same way that we miss an old friend. It's poignant and sad that the only real part of comprehension that Kwibi doesn't have is an understanding of why things have to be that way.

what? we evolved from those nasty hairy things? no way....

I get the joke, but the inner pedant in me feels compelled to point out that while gorillas and humans have a common ancestor somewhere back there, we didn't 'evolve' from gorillas.
posted by norm at 1:17 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


They know something in their routine and environment has changed and that's what they're reacting to. If you didn't come back, or were replaced, they'd adapt, and may even get agitated if you returned later.

Yeah, but so would you - adapt, I mean, and freak out if someone who had just disappeared from your life for some period of time just up and reappeared. Let's say you have a roommate, or a partner you live with, and the person just up and vanishes one day, with no note or anything. No one you ask can tell you anything about where they've gone or what's happened. You adapt. Some weeks later, the person returns and acts delighted to see you. Wouldn't you be "Where the FUCK have you been??"
posted by rtha at 1:38 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think animals are capable of 'love', or even really 'affection'.
From two weeks ago: Video: Chimpanzees Mourn Their Dead.

And from last fall: Chimps Mourn Passing of One of Their Own.
posted by ericb at 1:40 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


rtha- of course I would freak out if someone disappeared without any explanation and then returned just as unexpectedly. It would not be any evidence I was feeling love or affection for them. I'd react the same way if it was someone I hated.


I actually think these reunions border on cruelty. Causing confusion for the animal, just to get a cheap emotional thrill for the human. Especially if animals are actually feeling the emotions we ascribe to them.
posted by sandraregina at 1:51 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually think these reunions border on cruelty. Causing confusion for the animal, just to get a cheap emotional thrill for the human. Especially if animals are actually feeling the emotions we ascribe to them.

Totally agree with you.
posted by rtha at 1:52 PM on May 13, 2010


What we think is evidence of love or affection is more likely to be something else, and its our own biases that keep us from seeing it.

On what basis are you making this statement? Like seanmpuckett said, cats and dogs share our limbic system... and as if that's not enough, they've also undergone countless generations of selection in favor of human interaction (for instance, dogs seem to understand pointing despite having no fingers). Given these animals' physiology and observed behavior among members of their own species, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that their "affectionate" behaviors are what they appear to be: an expression of affection.

On the other hand, if we're to assume that "what we think is evidence of love or affection" is not evidence of love and affection, then we need at least an equally good reason to make that assumption. These are animals which act like they can love, react like they can love, and have the necessary brain structures to be able to love; if this is "something else", then what is it? What's the alternate hypothesis which better fits the evidence? "It LOOKS like love and affection" -- but we should assume that it's not, because...?

As far as I'm concerned, nobody has ever filled in that sentence convincingly. I'd be willing to concede that animals' apparent demonstration of love and affection might not reflect an ability to feel love and affection, just as I'd be willing to concede the same for other humans -- maybe we're living in the Matrix! Maybe the solipsists are right! -- but the idea that animals are more likely not to feel love and affection is an unsupported and unreasonable conclusion.
posted by vorfeed at 2:15 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I actually think these reunions border on cruelty. Causing confusion for the animal, just to get a cheap emotional thrill for the human. Especially if animals are actually feeling the emotions we ascribe to them.

Exactly. If they can experience the good parts of a reunion with a long-absent family member, I'm sure they experience the sense of loss when they leave, again. Why put them through that once more?
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 2:16 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, if we're to assume that "what we think is evidence of love or affection" is not evidence of love and affection, then we need at least an equally good reason to make that assumption. These are animals which act like they can love, react like they can love, and have the necessary brain structures to be able to love; if this is "something else", then what is it? What's the alternate hypothesis which better fits the evidence? "It LOOKS like love and affection" -- but we should assume that it's not, because...?

perhaps a randomized control trial might help?
posted by infini at 2:25 PM on May 13, 2010


sandraregina:

Okay, you don't want to be sentimental or silly about animals and 'love': beasts aren't sentimental, agreed. But love -- bonding and affection -- is a survival mechanism for all mammals. If mammalian mothers didn't bond with their young, the young wouldn't survive, and since caring for them is exhausting and dangerous, there needs to be a big emotional payout in order to make momma do all that work. And the experience of mammalian young is framed by that payout.

Love is intrinsic. Hate to tell you. :)
posted by jrochest at 2:56 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually think these reunions border on cruelty. Causing confusion for the animal, just to get a cheap emotional thrill for the human. Especially if animals are actually feeling the emotions we ascribe to them.

Exactly. If they can experience the good parts of a reunion with a long-absent family member, I'm sure they experience the sense of loss when they leave, again. Why put them through that once more?


Yeah - we should never do anything nice, because as soon as it stops - well, it's just cruel. Chocolate is practically abuse.

I'm sorry, but that's just silly. It's not like he used to live with them 24/7. He's gone away before, and for all we know, 5 years in the jungle has given Kwibi a very good grasp of the transience of stuff.
posted by Sparx at 4:28 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Exactly. If they can experience the good parts of a reunion with a long-absent family member, I'm sure they experience the sense of loss when they leave, again. Why put them through that once more?

Yeah, that's why once I stop seeing any of my good friends regularly, I stop seeing them forever. Why put myself through them leaving again?
posted by flaterik at 5:23 PM on May 13, 2010


Admittedly it was emotionally moving, but I had a different problem with the reunion.

I grew concerned for the gorilla's safety. How long had it been since the gorilla had had human contact? Would the gorilla now begin thinking it was safe to be near humans?
posted by surplus at 5:43 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


But you can explain to your friends/family why you're not going to see them for a while, and let them know when you'll see each other again. If you've ever had a dog with separation anxiety, you'll know what the difficulties are when it comes to this kind of interaction between humans and animals. You can't explain to the dog that you'll be back in a few hours.
posted by rtha at 5:43 PM on May 13, 2010


Just for once, I'd like to see one of these "reunion with animal once in captivity" videos where the guy gets his face torn off and eaten.
posted by markkraft at 6:04 PM on May 13, 2010


It is the height of human arrogance to assume that we as a species are the only ones capable of emotion.
posted by bwg at 6:42 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think its arrogant to assume an animal's emotional response is the same as a human, or is expressed the same way.
posted by sandraregina at 6:45 PM on May 13, 2010


sandraregina: "I think its arrogant to assume an animal's emotional response is the same as a human, or is expressed the same way."

Exactly. Assuming either that an animal is incapable of emotion or that it mirrors our own complex biochemical responses is folly.

As Carl Sagan said: There is much to be learned.
posted by bwg at 6:57 PM on May 13, 2010


Occam's Razor: If it feels like love, looks like love, and acts like love, until you can prove it's not love, "love" is the simplest, and therefore most likely, cause of the behavior.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:04 PM on May 13, 2010


Just noticed... can anyone explain why the first "Related Post" below an FPP on gorillas is "Beyond 40 acres and a mule"?

West Africa vs African American, I suppose... but still, weird.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:06 PM on May 13, 2010


sandraregina: “I think its arrogant to assume an animal's emotional response is the same as a human, or is expressed the same way.”

Sorry this response is so long – this is something I care about a lot.

I appreciate the notion that there's certainly something artificial going on when we sentimentalize human-animal interactions. This makes sense to me, and it's true that human beings seem to love to pretend there are all sorts of sweet and tender things going on with animals where there really are not such things at all. It's essential, I think, to learn the lesson that the only way to really say anything whatsoever about what an animal "thinks" or "feels" – or what its internal experience of life is like at all – is to be careful, clear, rational, and thoughtful about it, observing them as closely as possible.

But at the same time, it seems irrational – at least given the way we live our lives, and situation in which we find ourselves – to conclude that animals have no emotional or internal responses to things, or to conclude that those responses are in no way similar to the responses which human beings have. Note that this is something we do with other human beings every day: we observe their actions and reactions, and based on our own experience of life we relate those actions and reactions to ours. We assume that someone else who feels affection feels the same thing we feel when we feel affection. Now, it would be correct to say that we probably do this too often, and that if we were careful we would probably be more precise; but it simply makes no sense whatsoever to presume that our own heads are a walled garden, and that the rest of the world is entirely other and unlike us.

That assumption is actually the source of this sense common in modern, scientific humans that animals are unfathomably different from us, I think. That is: it was Descartes, whose very philosophy began from the point of being inside his own head, and only inside his own head, who first popularized the idea that animals are completely separate from humans, that they don't have minds or souls like us, that they are in essence automatons. Now, I know that's not precisely what you're saying, sandraregina, but it's worthwhile to keep in mind that over the last three hundred years or so this has been the dominant scientific perspective, though it's changed some of late: animals are not like us. Animals are other, and what's more animals are lower than us.

But I think we miss something essential about life, something very important, when we forbid ourselves from trying to understand the motivations and sensations of animals. For one thing, animals in many cases seem to be similar to us in the ways they experience the world; from a scientific perspective, the lives of gorillas and the lives of primitive humans are not that different. The only really essential thing they seem to lack is speech. What does this difference mean? What does it mean to be human, to live as a human animal? These are questions that a healthy inquisitiveness about the lives of animals can help us answer.

I know that a certain scientific skepticism can stop us from saying we recognize an act of affection from a gorilla. And it's good to stay rational, and to be careful about our assumptions. But that doesn't by any stretch of the imagination mean that it's impossible to know an animal's thoughts and motivations, or that it's impossible for animals to feel the same emotions and sensations that a human being might. At the very least, we make these sorts of inquiries every day with other human beings, guessing their motives and their desires. After having a good deal of experience with animals, I think it's safe to say that they certainly feel affection, for one another and sometimes even for other species such as humans. They would hardly survive if they didn't; it's a fine mechanism for staying alive, in fact, which makes them cleave closely to each other. But the fact that it's a survival mechanism doesn't make the feeling any less real: affection is very real for other animals, and it's very real for human beings, too.
posted by koeselitz at 9:06 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


That is: it was Descartes, whose very philosophy began from the point of being inside his own head, and only inside his own head, who first popularized the idea that animals are completely separate from humans, that they don't have minds or souls like us, that they are in essence automatons. Now, I know that's not precisely what you're saying, sandraregina, but it's worthwhile to keep in mind that over the last three hundred years or so this has been the dominant scientific perspective, though it's changed some of late: animals are not like us. Animals are other, and what's more animals are lower than us.

I think a lot of that notion, especially in Western thought, came from the book of Genesis, where Man is created separate from the animals and given dominion over them. That whole thing seems to have established the concept that humans are not animals, somehow, and therefore any leaps we may make about animal behavior being similar to ours automatically has a barrier of "they are other" in place. I encounter people regularly who challenge me when I say something about how homo sapiens are animals like any other mammal, and they never cite Decartes -- it's always the Judaic creation story they go back to.
posted by hippybear at 11:36 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


if this is "something else", then what is it?

Well, it might be something like this (start 1:50 after the 30 sec commercial).
posted by carping demon at 11:43 PM on May 13, 2010


Well, it might be something like this (start 1:50 after the 30 sec commercial).

The problem with that explanation is that many (if not most) useful social behaviors are tied in with emotion. A dog which a) seems affectionate and b) greets you by licking your face in a food-sharing ritual may simply want food... but it may also feel genuinely affectionate, because wolves which enjoyed food-sharing with their packmates were probably more successful than those that didn't. That behavior may not be "a kiss", but it's fair to call it affectionate just the same.
posted by vorfeed at 12:21 AM on May 14, 2010


Some of you might be interested in the previous RadioLab episode Animal Minds.
posted by wobh at 5:11 AM on May 14, 2010


Yes, humans are animals. But we can hardly be certain of the emotional responses of other human beings, which are of the same species and have the same emotional cues to relate. Those of other species just cannot be assumed to be the same as ours, nor can they be assumed to be the same as that of yet another species.

This is why I distrust emotion. Its messy and uncertain and people make too many assumptions about how others feel and project their own emotions onto other people. It just gets worse when we project onto another species.
posted by sandraregina at 7:00 AM on May 14, 2010


Thanks for this.

It's funny how empathy can work right through the computer screen. All the intellectual stuff aside, you can fell the social connection between the guy and the gorilla when they are sitting there, and somehow their bond includes, or seems to invite participation by the watcher. I don't know if it's just the exotic nature of the connection or whatever... but it's strange to me that I could be watch that and feel like the gorillas are humanized, but pass my fellow humans on the street and not feel like they are people at all.
posted by ServSci at 8:18 AM on May 14, 2010


sandraregina: “This is why I distrust emotion. Its messy and uncertain and people make too many assumptions about how others feel and project their own emotions onto other people. It just gets worse when we project onto another species.”

That's fair enough; and I agree that it's hasty to make assumptions and to project our emotions on other people. But all I'm really saying, I guess, is that it seems like it's necessary for us as rational creatures to try to understand what other people and animals might be experiencing. To write it off as simply impossible would be irrational, since we can't know that it's actually impossible; we only know that it seems to be very difficult.

Moreover, it's worth pointing out that this kind of sympathetic and empathetic thinking (which can be done rationally) turns out to be just about essential for human life. We're forced daily to try to gauge the emotions, feelings, motivations, and impulses of other human beings; even the simple act of walking down the street without colliding with other people involves all sorts of little cues about intention and motivation which we have to read carefully in order to navigate successfully.

It seems to me that it's possible to approach this situation rationally and do so without projecting or assuming too much. When a gorilla, for example, moves away from a loud, sudden, jolting noise, it seems reasonable to assume that they are motivated by some sort of fear. You're right that it pays to be cautious here – who knows what sort of fear different animals feel? Is the quality of fear changed by the difference in their lives, in their bodies? – but the fact remains that we understand this as fear because it's an emotion we have had a common experience of. We tend to move away from loud, jolting noises as well. Why ignore that common experience when it might tell us something vitally worthwhile about who we are?
posted by koeselitz at 8:28 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


hippybear: “I think a lot of that notion, especially in Western thought, came from the book of Genesis, where Man is created separate from the animals and given dominion over them. That whole thing seems to have established the concept that humans are not animals, somehow, and therefore any leaps we may make about animal behavior being similar to ours automatically has a barrier of "they are other" in place. I encounter people regularly who challenge me when I say something about how homo sapiens are animals like any other mammal, and they never cite Descartes -- it's always the Judaic creation story they go back to.”

People might not cite Descartes, but I think I can argue that that's where it stems from in its modern form. I know that people at large might (mis-) understand the Genesis story as saying something like that; but, first of all, even aside from the fact that I don't think that's an appropriate reading of the text of Genesis, it's worth pointing out that that interpretation itself is only about five hundred years old. Until four hundred years ago, people didn't at all accentuate the importance of man's "dominion" over nature.

Dominion over nature is a particularly modern concept, coeval with modern science. In its explicit form, it was instituted by Francis Bacon, whose thought hangs over much of the modern project. One of Bacon's hopes in proposing the systematic scientific exploration of the world was that humankind could dominate nature, thereby accomplishing two goals: first, humans could thus make their lives easier and less painful; second, Bacon claimed that increasingly sophisticated weaponry would make war impossible to wage without killing everyone, and therefore war would be abandoned entirely and there would be lasting peace. The theme of dominating nature, of wrestling it to the ground and controlling it, is a large one for him.

I mentioned Descartes, however, because I really think he's the beginning of the modern notion that we cannot at all understand what animals are thinking or feeling. At the heart of Descartes' philosophy is the mind alone, unlike everything else, and unsure that anything else even exists. It took a big leap in Descartes' philosophy even to conclude that other human beings might be thinking beings like himself; reaching this conclusion about animals made no sense to him at all. This central concern is what led to the mind-body problem, that particularly modern concern that the mind and the body are separable and therefore one can be sure only of one at any given time.

Cartesianism makes empathy wholly irrational, and makes it impossible for us to reasonably conclude anything about the inner life of another being, even another being of our own species. I don't think this is a necessary step. I think it can be very reasonable to draw conclusions about ourselves from what we observe in the lives of others, and vice versa. And I think this can make sense even when we draw those conclusions with animals.
posted by koeselitz at 8:41 AM on May 14, 2010


Yeah, that's why once I stop seeing any of my good friends regularly, I stop seeing them forever. Why put myself through them leaving again?

I'm going to guess that gorillas in general don't go off for a wander for 5 years and then come back to their parents. I assume that they pretty much stay with them the entire time, or move off forever. So this would be a dynamic that doesn't make sense in gorilla world and Kwibi is obviously not dealing with it in a natural way (following him back and staying on the shoreline away from his own family).
posted by qwip at 9:15 AM on May 14, 2010


otoh, if one were to look at Buddhism or particularly reincarnation theory in Hinduism, then that gorilla could just be your Great Aunt Ethel, so best invite her over for tea...
posted by infini at 9:17 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to guess that gorillas in general don't go off for a wander for 5 years and then come back to their parents. I assume that they pretty much stay with them the entire time, or move off forever. So this would be a dynamic that doesn't make sense in gorilla world and Kwibi is obviously not dealing with it in a natural way (following him back and staying on the shoreline away from his own family).

You can guess that, qwip, but that doesn't make it fact. The fact is that male gorillas must leave their nuclear families to find mates. And we have no way of knowing (currently, AFAIK) if those gorillas ever meet up again with their parents & siblings, or what happens when that does occur.

You're attacking someone on the basis of your guesswork about what's right for an animal you've never met, and presumably have studied far less than he (Damian Aspinall) has. If I had to make a guess, I'd go with the field expert's decision in this case.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:23 PM on May 14, 2010


If I had to make a guess, I'd go with the field expert's decision in this case.

Seems that we are both dealing with impression rather than fact. I'll stick with my interpretation, but I admit the validity of your point. It appears from the video that Aspinall is surprised by the reaction of Kwibi himself. That makes me think this was not anticipated, nor necessarily neutral for the gorilla in an objective sense. I make that assessment whilst being very aware that people tend to anthropomorphise events such as these, but I believe I am avoiding that bias.

I'm only reacting to what appears to my un-expert impression that the reaction Kwibi took was outside of what he'd eperience in his normal world. Exceptions could happen, of course, but one would assume that an expert like Aspinall would try to have as neutral an impact on the gorillas as possible. This really came across as an interaction that was important to Aspinall for his own self-centred reasons, not one that was know to be good (or neutral) for Kwibi.

But ultimately, you're right. I wasn't there, I'm not a gorilla expert, and I've seen this interaction out of context.
posted by qwip at 5:04 AM on May 15, 2010


qwip, let's agree that neither of us, nor Mr. Aspinwall, can determine what's best for the gorilla. We're only human primate.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:41 PM on May 16, 2010


qwip, let's agree that neither of us, nor Mr. Aspinwall, can determine what's best for the gorilla.

Agreed.
posted by qwip at 8:54 AM on May 17, 2010


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