Friday, October 7, 2016

What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Other Animals: More Insights from Konrad Lorenz

I have a few more observations that I learned while reading Konrad Lorenz’s King Solomon’s Ring.

Some animal species are even more cruel than humans. A male roebuck, if confined in the same enclosure as females or young, will kill them and slit their bellies open. And doves, the paragons of peace, or so we think, will (if confined) kill one another; the victor will pluck the feathers off of the vanquished. In many cases, the animal that knows that it is about to be vanquished will engage in submission behavior, in order to keep from being killed. A turkey, for example, will lie down when it knows it is losing a fight. But peacocks do not recognize turkey behavior; so when turkeys and peacocks are confined together, the peacock kills the turkey.

That is, doves can be very cruel. At the same time, wolves are often submissive to one another and refrain from outright combat and cruelty. Lorenz then asks, at the end of one of his essays written early in the Cold War era, will we be submissive like wolves or murderous like doves? The entire future of the world may depend on the answer to this question.

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