Archive | Evolve

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Consolation, Trust and Empathy in Animals

Posted on 23 April 2016 by Jerry

Recent research points to shared capabilities among all mammals for consolation, trust, and empathy. It appears from the various studies that animals from prairie voles, highly monogamous zebra finches that mimic the stress state of their partner, and chimps all make friends, trust, and empathize with others.

A research study reviewed in the Science magazine, January 22, 2016 issue showed that prairie voles (rodents) exhibit a consoling response when other voles (cage-mates) in their environment are showing stress. An abstract of the study said “Consolation behavior toward distressed others is common in humans and great apes, yet our ability to explore the biological mechanisms underlying this behavior is limited by its apparent absence in laboratory animals.” This study was conducted using laboratory animals.

The study goes on to observe that the prairie vole, “greatly increases partner-directed grooming toward familiar conspecifics (but not strangers) that have experienced an unobserved stressor, provide social buffering. Prairie voles also match the fear response, anxiety-related behaviors, and corticosterone increase of the stressed cage-mate, suggesting an empathy mechanism.”

Frans De Waal, PhD was a co-author of this study that was conducted at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He said, “Scientists have been reluctant to attribute empathy to animals, often assuming selfish motives. These explanations have never worked well for consolation behavior, however, which is why this study is so important.” Consolation behavior in the voles is when one animal experiences a calming contact with a distressed colleague.

Chimpanzees base their friendships on trust of a familiar animal. The Max Planck Institute conducted this study at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. It found that opposed to common wisdom, the Chimpanzee environment is not filled with aggression, conflict, competition and dominance.

Chimpanzees are given a choice of using a friendship or “trust rope” or a “no-trust rope” to access food. An article appearing in the January 15, 2016 Christian Science Monitor described the research by stating “The no-trust rope yields immediate access to food that the chimp doesn’t particularly like. But if the chimp pulls the trust rope, a box of high quality food – chimpanzee favorites like apple and bananas – moves to its partner. The partner eats half, but is then faced with a decision.

The article continues by stating “A ‘trustworthy’ chimp will send the other half of the food back to its partner, while an ‘untrustworthy’ chimp will keep the food for itself.” Chimps “were significantly more likely to share with friends. So friendship, like many supposedly human concepts, may be deeply rooted in evolutionary history. Individuals with friends live longer, have more children and [have] lower stress-levels.”

Yet another research effort looked at Zebra finches who mate for life and consequently have a very close partnership with with their mate. Research shows they enjoy a great sympathy between each other. For example, the research as reported in the December 11, 2015 issue of Science magazine showed that a female, only exposed to stress in the birdcall of her mate, would shift her physiological state to match her partner’s level of stress.

At the same time research into the human brain shows consistency in the physical reaction to a highly altruistic act. Research shows that empathy-based altruism is characterized by a connection from the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to the anterior insula (AI) that also invokes connectivity to the ventral striatum. This format in the brain always represents altruistic behavior.

The innate quality of caring for one another appears to cross all higher organisms from mammals to rodents to birds. Empathy and sympathy appear to be universal and something ingrained or genetic within everything. We need to realize this is an aspect of human beings that we need to accentuate. We should use these higher impulses as the standard to endorse a human being as having value. These are the impulses we should look for and reward in our leaders and ourselves.

Use the following links to gain additional information or access the original research that was used to write this article.


Comments (0)

Tags: , , ,

The Value of Racial Labels is Gone

Posted on 26 February 2016 by Jerry

Scientists say that the value of racial designations is gone in genetics and biology. They have been arguing this point for the last two decades. The facts are that genetically it can be demonstrated that our forebears all came from Africa. In addition, every single human being shares the same DNA. We share 99.9% of the genes that compose every single human being.

There are no medical conditions that human beings suffer that are reserved for a single ‘race’ of people.   For example, sickle-cell anemia has been often referred to as a disease that affects black people and so it has been considered an African American or African disease. In fact although it occurs in these groups in somewhat higher frequency it is a matter of ancestry, geography and evolution. It occurs in populations of the world where malaria is or once was common. Sickle-cell anemia is a disease that is an evolutionary adaptation to exposure to malaria.

An article appearing in The Guardian on March 1, 2015 written by Adam Rutherford states, “Sickle-cell anemia affects people of all skin colours [sic] because it has evolved where malaria is common. Tibetans are genetically adapted to high altitude, rendering Chinese residents of Beijing more similar to Europeans than their superficially similar neighbors. Tay-Sachs disease, once thought to be a “Jewish disease”, is as common in French Canadians and Cajuns.”

An article published in the HuffPost Science on February 9, 2016 said, “In 2004, for example, Francis Collins, then head of the National Human Genome Research Institute and now director of the National Institutes of Health, called race a “flawed” and “weak” concept and argued that science needed to move beyond race.”

Where racial divisions were once thought to be of significance they are today fading into irrelevance. Racial distinctions in the face of genetic information are only ‘skin deep’. “Race is a social concept, not a scientific one,” said Craig Venter, head of Celera Genomics Corporation and pioneer in interpreting the human genome. He continued, “We all evolved in the last 100,000 years from the same small number of tribes that migrated out of Africa and colonized the world.”

The writer of the book, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea, Robert Wald Sussman wrote an editorial article published in NEWSWEEK magazine on 11/8/14. In the article he said, “In 1950, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a statement asserting that all humans belong to the same species and that “race” is not a biological reality but a myth. This was a summary of the findings of an international panel of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists….Since that time similar statements have been published by the American Anthropological Association and the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and an enormous amount of modern scientific data has been gathered to justify this conclusion.”

A recent paper was authored by scientists from Drexel University, led by Michell Yudell, titled Taking race out of human genetics and published by Science magazine in the February 2016 issue. It stated, “In the wake of the sequencing of the human genome in the early 2000s, genome pioneers and social scientists alike called for an end to the use of race as a variable in genetic research….We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research – so disputed and so mired in confusion – is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way.”

All elements of present society need to stop using the concept of race as if it matters. It doesn’t matter and we need to change our habits. This is not an issue that will be resolved overnight for the concept of race has worked its way into every bit of data the government and industry collect and store. We need to stop using race to sort our data and report the results of everything.

We are all guilty of being too lazy to update our reality. It has become too easy for all too many human beings to believe that skin color or facial characteristics, etc. are valid descriptions of divisions of humankind. We need to recognize and act consistent with the reality that the difference between humans is only “skin deep”.

Use the following links to access additional information or the original source material for this article.


Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It is Time for Animals to Have Rights

Posted on 03 September 2015 by Jerry

Charles Darwin said, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties…The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.” (see Beyond Animal, Ego and Time page 63) With those words Darwin foreshadowed the knowledge we would gain from the many experiments with animals we’ve conducted over the years. Calls for further experiments to end are justified by what we now know. In fact, it is time we granted additional rights to proven sentient animals.

“As of 14 September, no U.S. labs will be conducting invasive studies on chimps”, so reads the subtitle of an article appearing in the August 21, 2015 issue of Science magazine. This article announced there have been no permits filed anywhere in the U.S. to conduct invasive research on chimpanzees. This represents a new rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Animals who have passed the mirror and mark tests and consequently have self-recognition, have been gaining rights in various countries over the years.   Great Britain was the first government to ban experimentation on chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. In 1999, New Zealand’s parliament gave apes legal protection from animal experimentation.

But the first country to bestow full freedom for these animals was the Spanish parliament that passed a resolution in 2008 that gave great apes the right to life and freedom. This was a result of work by the Great Apes Project that was founded by Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri.

In 2013 India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests forbade the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment anywhere in the country. The Ministry is quoted as stating, “Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and its morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose.”

In late 2014 an orangutan in an Argentine zoo was transferred to a sanctuary after an Argentine court gave the ape a “non-human person” status. This was in response to a habeas corpus petition that was filed by the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) that took the position the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object. The orangutan that had been in captivity since it was born in a German zoo was sent to live out its days in a wildlife sanctuary in Brazil.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Great Apes Project, Peter Singer, Paola Cavalieri, and the Nonhuman Rights Project founded by Steven Wise, who recently brought a habeas corpus writ for two chimpanzees that was denied in the U.S., have long been battling for the rights of these animals. Films such as the award winning “The Cove” have documented outright animal cruelty perpetrated on these sentient animals.

It is time that U.S. granted “non-human personhood” rights to these animals that have innate self-recognition. This includes all great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos), all elephants, and all breeds of cetaceans (porpoises and dolphins). I would add a family of birds, the Corvids (crows, ravens, and jays) as self-aware and deserving of rights.

The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forest has provided us a good starting point. Their Declaration on cetaceans (porpoises and dolphins) should be applied to all sentient animals worldwide. They offer declarations that in an article in the July 30, 2013 issue of the Daily Kos are referred to as follows. They state, “Unlike…positive rights, such as the ‘right’ to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone. It does not call for government to tax us in order to provide animals with food, shelter, and veterinary care. It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer.”

Their Declarations are as follows and should be recognized by local and international laws:

  1. Every individual animal granted rights should have the right to life.
  2. No sentient animal should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
  3. All of these animals have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
  4. None of these animals is the property of any state, corporation, human group or individual.
  5. All of these animals have the right to the protection of a natural environment.
  6. All of these animals have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
  7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.

Of course there should be a reasonable amount of time for zoos, entertainment parks, and researchers to find substitutes in their operations for these animals. In many respects these animals have been prized for their very intellect and self-awareness. After all it is their trainability that has made them so highly valued.

We need to once and for all recognize their legal right to exist and be left alone.   Indeed we should protect them from the human beings that are barely their betters. If this happens within the big established countries, all others will follow. Write your congresspersons, senators and tell all others it is time we made these rights official.

Use the following articles to gain additional information or access the source documents used in this writing.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , ,

Monkeys/Mammals Are Smarter Than We Thought

Posted on 19 July 2015 by Jerry

It has been said for years that only great apes (but not gorillas) are self aware as proven by their passing the mirror and mark tests (read Beyond Animal, Ego and Time).  But now other monkeys, especially rhesus monkeys, are showing they can be taught to recognize themselves in a mirror.  This means they can be self aware if trained to be so.  While we don’t know if the capability in monkeys is age dependent, we do know the human being develops the ability to recognize itself at about two years of age.

It has also proven true that once these rhesus monkeys are taught self-recognition when they look in a mirror, they explore other parts of their bodies they don’t normally see.  For many years, mirror self-recognition has been a mark of higher intelligence in humans.  With this new knowledge about monkeys, we will have to change our views of our monkey brethren and ourselves.

In addition it has been shown that monkeys in the wild can teach themselves new skills by watching videotapes of other monkeys performing desired tasks.  While this appears to be another demonstration of copying behavior, “monkey see, monkey do”, researchers indicate this is the first time video tapes have been used for teaching purposes outside the laboratory.

An array of recent studies show that all mammals share a need to have close friends they can count on in difficult times.  These results generalize for humans that friendships are essential to ongoing health and are key to a helping hand when we really need it.

An April 7, 2012 article in Science News quotes Catherine Crockford of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who stated “Knowing this about mammals is sort of a reminder to us, that we can eat as much good food as we want or have as much money as we want, but if we don’t have at least one or two close relationships that we can depend on, life is going to be more difficult for us.”

This is true for all sorts of animals who have shown they will go outside familial relationships to build alliances with other animals.  While this is true for humans, it also includes chimps and all kinds of monkeys.  Beyond chimps, we can see this behavior from female rhesus macaques, baboons, and bonobos.  We see reciprocal grooming, help protecting young animals from pressure or threat from male animals, and the hormone oxytocin as common links that create this bonding.  This type of cooperation stretches to female horses, African elephants, dolphins, and hyenas.

These developments and new knowledge should cause us to reexamine our relationships with others.  We should reach out to others to create the unions described for our own betterment.  We also should realize that creating these types of alliances are ingrained and hereditary amongst all mammals.   These insights give us knowledge of the bonds that are possible with our own kind all over the world.

Use the following links to obtain additional information or access original documents used as background for this article.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Life Began in a Simple Environment & Process

Posted on 25 April 2015 by Jerry

With article titles like “Origin-of-life puzzle cracked” and “Origin of life: Primordial soup that cooks itself” this breakthrough is of major proportions. John Sutherland and his team at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have now shown that life began on Earth with a process that contained three simple ingredients: hydrogen cyanide (HCN), hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and ultraviolet light (UV).

Further, one common environment was sufficient to begin nucleic acid precursors as well as the starting materials for amino acids and lipids, the three main ingredients of life.  This breakthrough will replace all other, more cumbersome and circuitous explanations of how life began.

The original Miller and Urey experiments and those of Butlerow and Oró were all conducted in environments that were mutually exclusive.  These incompatible conditions make the explanations of how life began cumbersome and in many senses impossible.  A single environment producing all three of the key elements necessary to begin life offers a much simpler explanation of the beginning of life.

There has always been controversy about the beginning of life.  There have been those who believe that life began here as a direct result of conditions and ingredients that existed.  Others have held the beliefs that life began as a result of ingredients arriving on meteors from outer space or as a result of the actions of a supernatural agent.  This is mainly because past beginning-of-life experiments did not provide an understandable and simple enough environment and process to give a rational account of the development of life.

An article published in the March 24, 2015 issue of Nature Chemistry by Paul Bracher describes this dilemma very well.  The author states, “The system relies on the sequential delivery of reagents such as hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide instead of addition of all of the components at the start.  To address this limitation, the authors describe a model scenario in which rains hitting mineral deposits on early Earth may have sequestered reagents that are incompatible early in the synthesis in separate streams that merged later….The key advantage of the Sutherland system is that all of the soups for these families are prepared from the same broth, even if they must be minded by a cook or kept in separate pots.”

Again quoting from the Bracher article, “Taken together, these related studies from 2009 to 2015 demonstrate how the ultraviolet irradiation of an aqueous environment containing a limited set of simple feedstocks and catalysts can yield organic molecules easy to recognize as precursors to modern peptides, nucleic acids, and lipids.”

Scientists that believe RNA began the first life accomplished this breakthrough.  They hold that RNA led to the development of DNA.  This announced finding would seem to validate that assumption.  John Sutherland has been an advocate of RNA.

These results once again affirm the basic assumptions of modern day science that life developed on this planet without the interference or assistance of other worldly phenomena or a supernatural being.  It took roughly the first billion years of the planet’s existence for life to begin.  This research shows that life began as a result of the right ingredients at the right time.  If we assume this was one of millions of separate sets of circumstances that occurred in the first billion years, we should consider ourselves fortunate the circumstances eventually occurred.

Use the following links to get additional information or access the original studies that served as the basis of this article.


Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here
February 2018
« Feb