Do we mean that trees can relay information to each other, as well to other species? Sure, that makes sense.
For example, you could make a case that a large tree communicates with the saplings in the underbrush. By shading them, it is letting them know that it is the alpha individual in this area, convincing them not to grow.
We can also say that trees release chemicals that have an effect on surrounding life. This could also be called communication.
Finally, we could say that a loudly creaking tree is communicating to people around it that it is growing old, getting stress fractures, and could break off a branch that could pose a danger.
Any of the above could be considered communications.
To counter this, I could make a case that a truck tire can communicate just as effectively. It can cast a shadow which would prevent vegetation from growing. It could leach chemicals over time which would have an effect on the surrounding life. Finally, it could convey a threat by making loud bumping noises while it is bouncing towards you on a freeway.
Nature is interesting and complex. We continue to discover new and exciting things about how it works. I think anthropomorphising these effects makes them exciting, but does not necessarily add to how we understand them.
Another aspect to look at (or possibly this is two, tangled up together) is whether the behavior directly induces changes in the target in a generic fashion, rather than via a reception channel that receives the information and transmutes it into an effect. Allelopathic chemical release that kills off competitors is not communication. Tightly interconnected symbiotic associations of bacteria "communicate" chemically, but it's so optimized down and the feedback loops are so tight that it's more like they're a single organism. (Are hormone releases inside your own body communication?) Jumping at someone and waving your arms is communication, but it's similarly borderline, because you're probably invoking an instinctual reaction to move away from sudden large movements.
Communication should also involve some sort of feedback loop. What does the tree "expect" the results of the sound of a creaking branch to be, either consciously, or in that anthropomorphizing way we discuss fitness and evolution? Without an answer to that, I think we can file it away as "not communication".
All that said, many trees absolutely do communicate with chemical signals. Famously, they may release warning chemicals during herbivore activity, and surrounding trees (conspecifics, but IIRC this can cross species boundaries) will ramp up production of defense chemicals.
Other plants use chemical signaling to attract predators of the herbivores that are munching on them.
And I believe I recall some process by which trees advertise themselves to mycorrhizal fungi that they would like to establish partnerships with, but I could be mistaken.
Your progression of thought makes a lot of sense. The question of whether any of this is deliberate, or a behavior encoded into genes and/or physical and chemical processes that can not be avoided. That being said, some people make an argument that our consciousness is also a chain chemical reaction with lots of feedback loops, and that our consciousness is just an illusionary byproduct.
I know that I presented multiple examples and all or not on the same level, no matter along which axis you evaluate them. The point is that deciding whether anyone/anything communicates is not an easy question to answer.
Another thing to chew on: Does communication involve a level of indirection? What if your chemical signal directly modifies a behavior pathway in the target, rather than starting a cascade that dispatches to that mechanism?
If it’s easier to study the language as a what you term “direct,” it seems less languagey, or whatever.
I personally think this distinction is distracting because you can always create a (large) bijection between encodings and their output when interpreted and then it looks “direct”, without actually writing the VM (just a huge lookup table).
I feel like smart languages just look nicer to use because they compress better (length to output blowup is exponential), and we think that seems more like human communication.
It could be that as humans we do not have enough intellectual power to understand the second example in terms of these laws. But then it could be argued that this is exactly what makes these two examples fundamentally different, since all human knowledge is limited by our intellectual capabilities.
Like a tree bearing bright red, juicy-looking fruits filled with sugar and vitamins?
Also disagree about the last statement, and not specifically in this case, but generally. It isn't necessarily about anthropomorphizing, but about using abstract and compact representation of what you're talking about. Humans emit sound waves, but we abstract that to segments, time-frequency descriptions, then phonemes, morphemes, ..., and finally language. You get the point. It's easier to reason about that way.
A tire bouncing along at 65 mph seems to have a lot of free energy (kinetic), as does one stuck on an icy slanted roof (potential) :). I may be unaware of the concept of "free energy" you are using here though. Can you point me to where I can find out more?
I absolutely agree that abstractions are necessary to efficiently convey concepts in a discussion. I also understand that abstractions are never perfect. What I wanted to really say is that I would be much more inclined to agree with the first and less with the second of these two statements:
Trees can transfer information to each other, and we have the ability to understand these mechanisms.
Trees speak to each other in a language, and we can listen in.
It's a matter of phrasing, nuance, and insinuation. Different listeners may form different ideas when they read the above two statements.
The truck example is weird, cause it isn't trying to communicate. The person who made it may be trying to communicate something, but the truck would be a use of language, not using a language itself.
This is just an example off the top of my head.
This is a really interesting conversation and I think we will find that the true definition will elude a simple answer with solid boundaries.
You're distinguishing conscious intent and latent or subconscious intent.
Your body and instinct are very much intending to communicate that you are upset.
Having a temper is useful, but it wasn't designed in by any conscious entity, it's just that people who get angry tend to do better than people who don't.
You can argue that if you want. I'll argue the opposite: If a dog growls at me when I reach for his steak - but doesn't bite - I take that as him intending to inform me that he doesn't want me to take his steak.
It may be instinct, it may be adaptive, but it sure as hell was intended to get a message across to me.
Communication is about sending and receiving messages. A car tire cannot send or receive - it cannot communicate.
I think being clear that we are using a narrative where we empathize with something by imagining its features in terms that seem familiar to our own features (somewhat overlapping with “anthropomorphising”) is ok if done mindfully.
If you want a somewhat more solid take on the subject, The Songs of Trees is a lovely book. (Mentioned in the article.) It has digressions into geology and anthropology and politics but ties it all together, using specific trees as focal points. I don't know exactly how much of the chemical signaling stuff it goes into -- I'm still in chapter 2 -- but I found the chapter on ceibo to be fascinating. I particularly liked the section this quote is from, talking about how the natives of the area think about the forest network:
« The Western mind can perceive and understand abstractions such as ideas, rules, processes, connections, and patterns. These are all invisible, yet we believe them to be as real as any object. Amazonian rainforest spirits are analogous, perhaps, to Western reality dreams such as money, time, and nation-states. »
(I wish I had a quote with more context, but that's the best I could do on short notice.)
>Simard argues that this exchange is communication
That's pretty much the gist of the article without the fluff. I think the term "language" is an extreme hyperbole here, but it's interesting that rudimentary information can be passed between different trees.
I think language, like consciousness, is one of those things that a lot of people have a chauvinistic definition for...
Trees emitting various molecules in reaction to environmental conditions? Sure, completely believable. Other trees picking up on those molecules, and reacting to them? Very interesting, and I can see why it makes sense from an evolutionary point of view. But to use terms like "speaking" and "language" is to conjure up ideas of consciousness, intelligence, and mental states that obviously don't apply.
The actual phenomenon of intra- and interspecies communications in the plant kingdom is absolutely fascinating - unfortunately, not much actual science shines through in this writeup.
I've had dogs communicate with me by angrily running towards me and barking. This conveyed danger and told me to get out of the way.
I've once had a small avalanche do the same as well.
People would call me looney though if I told them that the mountains communicate with me, and I listen.
The mountain communicated nothing to you.
If you were hunted and killed by a mountain lion, it would be akin to the avalanche. It did not intend to send you any message, even if you managed to spot it before it attacked you.
The dog fully intended for you to know.
You define it as requiring intent. Fair.
I can formulate just as valid of a definition of communication without intent. The way you dress communicates certain things about you, whether you intend to do so or not. My pheromones communicate a lot of things about me, even though I don't intend them to do so.
Again, it's not so simple unless you use a single narrow definition and forcefully ignore all other ones (some of which are easier to accept than others).
Do you know of Alex the grey parrot? It seems to be the only animal that we have recorded actually asking questions:
Language and speaking not so much and it does seem s little far-fetched.
Coincidentally enough, there was a comic about this yesterday: https://existentialcomics.com/comic/245
“We can’t even understand other people when we speak the same language - what hope do we have of communicating with an alien life?”
By which I mean we wouldn’t even recognise the nature of the intelligence presented to us, never mind work out how to exchange information.
It's a bit sad we can't yet fully communicate with other life here effectively. I wonder what ethical implications it would have if we ever got there. An analogy to the current state may be that of a man from another language trying to ask for directions to an autistic kid.
What does it mean to understand?
Not to mention that Waorani just evidently lack abstraction in their language, which is at the root of understanding the world, not missing some obviously networked nature of trees.
I'm disappointed that such nonscientific articles are published in hacker news.
> Haskell points out that throughout literary and musical history there are references to the songs of trees, and the way they speak: whispering pines, falling branches, crackling leaves, the steady hum buzzing through the forest. Human artists have always known on a fundamental level that trees talk, even if they don’t quite say they have a “language.”
All of these "songs of trees" are purely physical phenomena, which don't have any connection even to the biological communication of trees, let alone any mystic "language". This kind of argumentation is incredibly unscientific. ("Proving" biology from poetry? As in seriously?!)
While glancing through, I didn't come across any mention of "intent to communicate". Not sure if any of the links have. It seems like too much is made out of the act of "dropping off things", and perceived as communication. While it is something that we all have done in high school (or at work, sheesh) while analysing the actions of our crush to check for signals, I am pretty sure it has no place in science.
I don't understand fully what this comment means.
If alien life has DNA (chemistry) like ours, we learn that life as we know it either started
somewhere and spread or was re-invented.
If it doesn't, but is obviously alive (move on its own will, hunts, i dont know) we learn that
life can exist with different chemistries.
If it's not obviously alive but we determine anyway, whichever way we do that,
we've learned of a new aspect of life.
what does "what that means" mean ? ? ?
Are there many varieties of self-replicating molecules? (which I understand is needed to start life) Maaaaybe there's only so many ways that this can get started and RNA is the "only" way to do it. In a similar way that we have a hard time imagining non-carbon life since no other element behaves in the ways that carbon does
For anyone that is fascinated by nature studies and would like to be exposed to more of them rather than the article about the article I can't recommend PNAS enough. Part of what motivated me to continue graduate studies.
Since it was conceived by an ad agency to promote anti-bullying (and furniture giant IKEA) there's a fair chance it wasn't the most scientifically valid experiment ever conducted.
Mythbusters ran their own test in the past and found that both insulting and being kind to plants stimulated them more than allowing them to grow in silence, but they liked death metal even more (their conclusion was that the basic theory of sound vibrations mildly stimulating growth was plausible). There's more serious research going on into plant bioacoustics: the theory some plants have evolved to respond to specific sound stimuli
when i listened to that (or similar) show i was wondering - whether it is trees communicating through fungus or whether it is the fungus managing and herding the trees like say we do with cattle.
One should perhaps ask if there is something akin to grammatical structures in this system of roots and fungi.
If you ever had a cat and really observed it and communicated with it, you know it has feelings and emotions. Birds have it also, so does pigs, horses... But we just ignore all that when it's convenient for us to eat them.
I'm not a big fan of humanity. We are pretty awful.
This "harmony" is really just interlocking loops of unconstrained growth, followed by running out of resources, and starvation while the food supply regenerates. It only looks pretty if you ain't looking very carefully.
In fact, human beings seem to be the only ones observed with a capability for restraint. We're not very good at practicing it, but we are at least capable of it. Have you seen a pack of animals or plants jointly deciding to voluntarily forgo extra food, so that they don't exceed carrying capacity of the place they live in?
What about when my cat restrains from eating all of its treats at once? Or the restraint any animal takes through a farming process like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphid#Ant_mutualism?
I made a pretty generalized argument, but the point is, what we observe as harmony in nature - the balance between predator and prey, the various species of animals and plants (and bacteria and viruses) living next to each other - is a dynamic process that involves lots of blood, death and starvation. The order in nature isn't negotiated - it's an aggregate of countless number of conflicts.
Related, recently on HN, "Trillions of Viruses Fall from the Sky Each Day": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16839636. The money quote from the article is mentioned here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16840575.
"One study estimated that viruses in the ocean cause a trillion trillion infections every second, destroying some 20 percent of all bacterial cells in the sea daily."
That's nature's harmony at work.
We had a cat once who, we found out, liked to sit in the berry bushes in the garden, wait for a bird to land, and then kill them. She didn't didn't eat them - she much preferred the cat food she got. She just murdered bird after bird and left them to rot.
Cats certainly are not the best examples of harmony.
If not, why you think it's okay to condemn another living creature to such a life sentence? After all, its well-being is just as important as yours, is it not so?
Cats seem pretty alright with "lifetime seclusion", anyways. As with other domesticated pets, the only reason they exist is because they are, on the whole, happy being domesticated; if they all hated their lives (in a way that we were aware of), we wouldn't breed them to begin with.
(Apart from the scum that are some humans...)
Obviously not. All kinds of animals kill. Also it's not "for fun" in the way we're having fun. They don't plan on entertaining themselves that way, weighing and ignoring the moral impact, etc.
It's an instinct they have. It's training to hone their hunting skills -- which they need evolutionary to survive -- even if they we take there of them for the last 5-10.000 years (which is very little in evolutionary terms)
Since it seems to me that "fun" or "malice" or other motivations cannot be measured that precisely in animal kingdom, i think it is fair to say that surplus killing covers your question.
It's not, it's just their nature, which in other words is what they evolved to do.
I'm no expert but I vaguely recall hearing from non-trivial sources that this is a common but inaccurate misrepresentation as regards their "intent".
They are not "toying" with their hunting target so much as obeying a powerful instinct to be careful to kill it with the minimum risk of infection from getting even a small scratch in return from a target that is "playing dead" as a defense/evade tactic.
What about it? Other animals don't restrain, and even a cat can eat too many of its treats at once, and end up obese.
Here's some info on cats:
Most individuals grow up to a genetically predetermined size. Colonies adapt their size to the amount of resources they have available, optimizing for long term perenniality.
The human economy behaves like a primitive life form, at the moment.
Ecosystems are usually resilient to such threats, but the fact we've been able to tap into fossil fuel gives us too large an advantage for them to strike back.
These are both instances of restraint hard-coded in DNA. Not growing/reproducing in some circumstances is part of the program.
Contrast it with cancer, or breakthrough, overaggressive infectious agents that kill their host quickly (but gradually give way to milder versions of themselves).
Some cancers grow so fast that part of the tumors die of necrosis (and off course most often the host ultimately dies).
On a macro level, sure, it was unconstrained growth and the resulting hardship that caused these patterns to evolve, but that evolution has happened many times.
For nature? There's reports of predators in wild ignoring humans, possibly because they ate already. One obvious example are snakes.
Actually, the only animals I know to become obese are humans, and animals that are attached to humans.
You may say it's because they don't have an unlimited supply of food, but actually, many animals do, or used to have before we destroyed it.
Of course, they don't really forgo extra food, they use it to multiply their number instead of providing more to an individual. So it's not real restrain.
Obesity simply comes from consuming more calories than you need. You can (and people have) loose weight by eating McDonalds if you wanted—you just have to make sure the amount of calories you get from it is less than what you actually need.
As the other commentator mentions, the only thing processed foods might bring, is trying to break our self-restraint by being delicious in certain ways.
So yes, quantity matters but you will have incredible difficulty not putting on weight from high fructose foodstuffs because your body will tell you "eat more food" to feed your muscles well before it decides to give up any fat reserves.
You'd find very little actual scientific backing for your statement, from papers that haven't been debunked. That sugar itself is bad is an age old meme that needs to die. Similarly, that kids get hyperactive with sugar is also a myth.
Now, your other argument that you might "feel" hungrier, is something else. You have still gotten the energy you needed, it just doesn't feel as filling, perhaps.
 http://www.mortenelsoe.com/blog/sukkeroghyperaktivitet great write up if you can read Danish or translate it, or just check the sources in the bottom
you can find abundance of examples of both restraint and greed/cruelty in animal kingdom, although it seems to me restraint is far more prevalent. Just like among humans
Self loathing of the human race needs to stop, there are an incredible number of hard working people making the world a better place one step at a time. Our impact on the world barely registers to past extinction level events. Humanity has just as much right to exist and be as any other species. If you don't like what we are doing, work to improve things.
Are you aware how many countless people have and do work to improve your quality of life, protect you, make sure you are fed and watered and provided with distractions like HN to complain about how awful we are.
I completely agree.
"Humanity has just as much right to exist and be as any other species"
"Are you aware how many countless people have and do work to improve your quality of life, protect you, make sure you are fed and watered and provided with distractions like HN to complain about how awful we are."
It is a symbiosis. You make it sound like a parasitic relationship.
> "Are you aware how many countless people have and do work to improve your quality of life"
Aren't most people do it for selfish reasons? (Money, feel good about yourself, ...)
Police protects us, for the money they get.
Agriculture delivers us food, for the money they get.
Water stations deliver us water, for the money they get.
Touristic attractions give us joy, for the money.
PETA, "saves animals", for the money.
Youtube provides fun and education, for the money.
If these organisations didn't receive our money, will they still provide us with those things?
The only noble profession these days is a fireman, which don't get as much money as they are worth to the society!
Of course there are people that are genuine "good", that will help others just because they want it to, but most of the people do something, wanting something in return.
I don't agree with the parent poster that we should hate ourselves, but we aren't angels too ;)
What if money didn't exist, where would we be right now as a civilization?
As an example see the great oxygenation event. Where bunch of selfish green algea pumped waste product into the atmosphere killing almost all anaerobic life.
Then there is the carboniferous period where trees grew so much that due to lack of lignin breaking fungi they basically sucked out all CO2 from atmosphere causing global glaciation and killing themselves in the process.
Life has been crapping itself since the very start. We are no worse than others, however we have the chance to be better.
This platitude is actually interesting in this context. It connects multiple threads:
* One of the previous major extinctions was the Oxygen Holocaust , caused by photosynthesizing cyanobacteria. It killed pretty much everything alive back then. And turned our Earth into a snowball to boot.
* This oxygen is a major contributor to CANCER, via free radicals etc. It leads to a faster (and more ruthless, more side effects) metabolism, enabling evolution of highly reactive creatures such as us.
* And trees, the "speaking organisms" under discussion, are one of the major producers of this highly volatile, carcinogenic O2 substance.
Tongue in cheek? Maybe. But hopefully no worse than the naive "humans are a cancer to the planet".
Oh boy, this is a very naive and emotionally involved perception of things. A tendency to restore ecological equilibria is not the same as harmony. There is no trend for stability or perfection, that's only an illusion based on the short lifespan of humans. That's not what science and archaeology tells us.
For most species there is no resting in appreciation of creation, no moment of weakness, no mercy. Most everything wants you dead. Wants your air, your food, your space, your niche. You fall, you stumble and there is already mold growing between your toes. In the eyes of a human there might be a fiction, a notion of meaning and beauty. For everything else there is just thermodynamics.
I am not a fan of the mass farming, but there are thousands of variables that lead to our current treatment of cattle and so on.
The difference is that before, we hunted enough to eat, but not so much that the species died, whereas now we are willing to exterminate a species if it means we can get rid of other versions of us ('Every buffalo dead, is a dead indian').
Seems like we've got more callous and stupid the more this 'intelligence' was displayed.
> we hunted enough to eat, but not so much that the species died
Yep, the myth of the good savage. Mammooth, Moas, European Wolly Rhino, Megalania giant varanus, Meiolania turtle, Sabre tooth tiger, Cave bear or Australian Diprotodon could tell us a different hystory.
Yes, but all that proves is that some subset of humanity is capable of doing it. Not humanity as a whole.
> Yep, the myth of the good savage.
Actually a lot of the verbal culture of many tribes show that they understand how they are dependent on the animals for their food source, and you can find active efforts not to overhunt in many cultures. It seems to me the main thing that has increased isn't necessarily intelligence, but greed.
What's the point of this argument? Yes, humanity as a whole has become very specialised. With the consensus of the community and enough will power a subset of humanity can achieve almost anything we can conceive. Is this any different than toting dolphin pods that pass on their hunting tricks? Or captive gorillas that can communicate? Potential is not limited to the lowest common denominator.
Infinitely times as many as there are lions which can do these things – namely, more than zero people vs. zero lions.
Not yet but she's planning[?] to leave "soon"
If they could, they would.
A smart lion wouldn't want to risk itself like that just for a meal.
We're cutting down forests like there's no tomorrow and they literally make our oxygen. And worse, sometimes this destruction is totally gratuitous and avoidable. Save for those who really need a couple more millions of $ to "survive".
Probably a few, then they'd figure out the concept of saving something for later, just as human farmers did countless of centuries ago :).
> We're over-exploiting basically every limited resource we have. Ironically we kind of ignore the unlimited ones, like wind, solar, etc.
A nit, but the reason we're "kind of ignoring" renewables is because fossil fuels are better. They're much more energy dense. They're easier to handle (just burn to release energy; meanwhile, photovoltaics is a very advanced piece of technology, and we most likely wouldn't have it if we didn't start with fossil fuels). They can be processed for other things - e.g. lubricants, plastics. Fossil fuels are absurdly useful. That's why they're so popular. But we're slowly getting there with renewables, not that both the tech and the will to use it seems to be here.
> We're cutting down forests like there's no tomorrow and they literally make our oxygen. And worse, sometimes this destruction is totally gratuitous and avoidable. Save for those who really need a couple more millions of $ to "survive".
Here's the thing - it's a social problem at this point. Something I believe smart lions would face too. We've spawned an economy that makes us do these things to survive, even though at least some of us individually realize they're monumentally stupid. Those are hard problems, because they involve getting a lot of people to agree to something that isn't in their immediate short-term interest.
We are in fact, (we can't know for sure but I think it's very reasonable to assume) the only species
capable of seeing this and MAYBE,hopefully control ourselves before we do the same thing.
We are pieces of shit, but at the same time we're the only animal with potential to escape the bad parts of our nature
Humans can't perceive a lot of things
we are the only ones on the planet who can't live in harmony with other species.
We are pretty awful.
Harmony is just the result of a struggle + emerging balances.
Left to their own devices, even cats could eradicate entire species of birds, diseases could exterminate whole populations of animals, and so on. And of course a big rock from space could end life on earth in its entirety.
>If you ever had a cat and really observed it and communicated with it, you know it has feelings and emotions. Birds have it also, so does pigs, horses... But we just ignore all that when it's convenient for us to eat them.
Well, there's no rule that something with feelings shouldn't be eaten.
In fact animals (who you said "live in balance") eat other animals all the time.
Besides, we hurt people's feelings all the time. An employee might not want to flip burgers for 10 hours every day and little pay , but we don't care about their feelings, we take advantage of their life's circumstances and need to pay the rent and have them do it.
With animals, we go a step beyond, and also eat them.
Besides, isn't the main story of the article that trees have a sort of language and a sort of feelings too? Which means that the "has feelings, we shouldn't eat" theory would leave us with nothing to it, since plants now have feelings too.
It's not the behaviour that is unique to humans; it is the ability to act counter to instinct, counter to appetite, to choose and be aware of the consequences. We alone can be held accountable for our actions.
I'm not implying that needless killing is the only, or the main thing that sets us apart from animals, except in the context of the comment I was replying to (about lions feeding on an impala). But it's taking this kind of actions despite having the ability to be aware consequences that makes us special. You would expect the threshold for some of these actions to increase with these newfound abilities but it went the other way around. A person is willing to kill a last member of a species not for survival but for little more than a trophy on a wall.
There are probably far more things that set us apart from animals than instinct or awareness of consequence. Most children actually lack these abilities because they are partly taught, they have to be groomed. So the main difference might be that we are able to learn up to a point that no animal can rival us.
This is the perfect example of what a human can be without "learning": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxana_Malaya
Anyway, if you are out of luck I hope it is not because you are lucky.
Regardless, I hope the idea stands.
If necessity was a generator, a vector or force for movements or actions, then I could understand that use of "out of". Out of indicates the result produced by a force, algorithm or oracle. But I consider necessity not as a generator or force but as a passive state. Hence I wonder what is the mechanism for this use. If we collapse the concepts of passive and active then I think language get corrupted and poissoned. Analogies are not fruitful because they go far beyong the logical ground. I believe that if you are going to get something out of a state then that state should be a generator. I don't know if what I am trying to say is sound but I sharply feel the unsoundness of linguistic non logically generated derivations
> You should use "because of" in cases like this when the thing in question is the catalyst for something to happen, and use "out of" when the thing in question metaphorically "gives rise" to something else.
For the purpose of the comment "out of need" felt a lot more appropriate for an animal that kills.
Perhaps that kind of mental state could be used for sentiment analysis. The probability of that use of "out of" increases when you are in a mental state that promotes flipping active and passive states. For example, when you not any longer want to cope with your actual state, going to extremes: you put yourself in a fight for survival state that promotes a revolution by beating the slavery chains.
Edited many times.
The grammatical nuance between out of need and out of luck (nice find btw) would be doing (out of need) vs being (out of luck): you might win out of luck, and later lose because you are out of luck. Wastefully spend out of wealth, then be out of wealth, and so on.
(Also, fwiw, you could also say “they kill because of need” or “they kill because they need to”, so because works in English as well)
"Out of luck" is weirder. German has ausgehen to mean "run out" (as in "our supplies are running out"), but it's not quite the same...
Where are you from? / Where are you out of?
Although there were possible health factors that drove these lions to preying on humans, I find it an interesting aside to this conversation.
I have a couple of dogs and I know what you mean. With the level of intelligence we possess, we should have achieved more. Technological achievements mean nothing when 70+% human population of the world struggles to survive. I think we use too much of our left brain and too little of the right. A balance is what is needed. Understanding this needs intelligence.
I don't necessarily agree with your misanthropy (I don't see the broader point of it - "my plan for humanity: let's self-annihilate, we suck"?).
But I'm interested in psychology. And there are studies that show that people perceive cows as dumb while eating them. When they get asked before and after eating meat, the same people said that cows are intelligent beings.
So there are cognitive processes in place to make it possible that we eat meat despite the fact that we normally know about the human-like qualities of the animals we eat.
I think we can learn a lot about the difference between humans and other animals when we focus our efforts on understanding the excuses and biases that we develop using our cerebral parts of our brains and the prefrontal neocortex.
> I'm not a big fan of humanity. We are pretty awful.
Bear with us and have a little bit of compassion. I'm glad every time a human being is able to be positive despite the fact that every human has the potential to destroy other lives.
> despite the fact that we normally know about the human-like qualities of the animals we eat.
Didn't there used to be whole cultures (like the Aztec, I think) where cannibalism was a mostly normal part of life? That seems like a pretty extreme version of this cognitive dissonance.
"You're human but you're tasty and I'm hungry soooo ..."
...and then the cat goes out and catches a mouse. Not because it is hungry, only because it saw the mouse and just had to catch it. After discarding the mouse - it wasn't hungry, you see, just having stuffed itself with KittyPro (tm) (with Bull Elk, Nearly Extinct Herbivore and Baby Seal) - and goes on to catch a few birds which were happily hopping around, unaware of the presence of a killer in their midst.
Can you blame the cat? No, not really. Cats are hunters, being hunters they are playful - play being a way to keep their hunting skills sharpened - and they just have to strike when the opportunity arises.
Can you blame the human? No, not really. If the human would not water and feed the cat and provide it with a modicum of social interaction the cat would walk, simple as that.
Does this mean the cat 'lives in harmony with other species'? Of course is doesn't, that cat acts like a trophy hunter in a safari park.
Ever seen a chicken coop raided by a weasel? We lost 16 chickens in one night once, all of them killed by some nasty critter which had managed to wriggle its way into the chicken's safe space. All of them bitten in the neck and left to bleed out.
Can you blame the weasel who clearly killed far more than it could ever hope to eat, let alone the fact that it even could not get any of the chickens through the keyhole it used to enter the coop in the first place? Can you blame the human who thought to protect the chickens against just such mayhem but failed?
Does that mean the weasel 'lives in harmony with other species'? Of course is doesn't, that weasel acted like one of Stalin's henchmen, killing everything in sight.
Humans are intelligent primates and as such are capable of bigger feats. Bigger in both ways, from the human equivalent of what those cats and weasels are doing to, say, a group of humans cooperating to get a beached whale back into the sea.
That's not true. Every species can't live in harmony with other species. Go read about what happened to native species on pacific islands when rats, cats, snakes, etc were introduced. They wiped out entire ecosystems of islands.
Go read about ants.
They won't live in harmony with each other. A single ant colony has wiped out much of the world's ant population.
Even fish like the european carp in a span of a few hundred years wiped out much of other fish in the US and now dominate pretty much every lake and river in a continent.
> If you ever had a cat and really observed it and communicated with it, you know it has feelings and emotions. Birds have it also, so does pigs, horses... But we just ignore all that when it's convenient for us to eat them.
Cats, birds, pigs and even horses eat other animals. As a matter of facts, cats are devastating ecosystems around the world and causing many birds and mammals to go extincts.
You are the one putting humans on a pedestal. Humans are animals just like cats, horses, etc. We are no more awful than any other animals.
Actually, you could argue humans are less awful than other animals because we actually consciously decided to save some species. A cat or a wolf or a pig would never do that. They will consume/kill until there isn't an animal left.
People often seem to assume non-human species partake of some universal wisdom that humans have left behind. This is a pretty shallow narrative of "lost innocence", that ignores what other species are and how they relate to each other.
If there is an animal that does care, that is Homo sapiens.
But isn't nature so metal?
Through all its self-judgment, I view mankind as a way out of local maxima. A complete death might happen with or without humans, but I put my chips in humanity.
We have some oppossums ND raccoons that constantly try to break in to our chicken coop. If successful, they will, without fail, kill every single chicken they can get their hands on. They'll only be able to eat one or so. But they will kill all of them. Either out of greed or just for the fun of it.
I have an alternative perspective on the question of how harmonious we are with our surroundings. I'm not peddling a wordview here, but I think this is an interesting thought exercise. What if we are in harmony with nature? Yes, taking into account all our seemingly disharmonious traits, greed, self-obsesssion, social and environmental irresponsibility.
Conceptually, it's simpler (or more elegant?) to consider that we are in harmony with nature, like every other of its elements, but our definition of harmony, in other words it's our perception that is lacking.
If nature, as in life on earth, is a fractal of ecosystems, when we perceive that one fails, we change our focus by one level to the containing or a contained ecosystem and repeat the process of perceiving whether or not it is failing. The most basic example is a sickly animal that is then fed upon by predators, or medium-height plantlife withering due to expanding tree canopy. If it's failing, we again step to the next ecosystem; if we perceive that it's ok, then we consider the previous ecosystems to be ok too. As an extreme case, we could keep going this way, if we thought that everything on earth is failing, until we got to the "top-level" ecosystem of life on earth -- the earth itself. We could then just generalize the definition of nature to the cosmos as well, and the process would continue.
To come back to humans, while it's true that we are killing life on earth, we don't have to step far in terms of the cosmos to find harmony in it. In this view, the deeper point is that harmony is a property of perception, not the universe. Or in other words, the universe is universally harmonious.
I think humans today are, by far, the most harmonious creature on this planet. We have the ability to hunt absolutely anything to the point of extinction if we so desired. And while on occasion we do end up doing just that, for the most part we manage to create an artificial balance by restraining ourselves, diversifying our diet, and artificially multiplying the numbers of the species that we prefer to eat the most to ensure their sustainability.
And as another aside here, even in modern times with extinctions related to human activity you'll often find that while we did play a role, it's often also driven by other animals. For instance it's often said that the Dodo was hunted to extinction. That's entirely true, but it wasn't just by humans. The other animals introduced to the Mauritius also had a taste for the Dodo and its eggs in particular. A human might begin to take note of a population becoming more and more scarce. Another animal isn't going to think twice of it until they start starving for lack of their prey.
And also I do not think people just ignore the personalities of animals when choosing to eat them. If you've ever known anybody who's raised goats or even pigs. They're incredible critters that are friendly, cute, playful and in the case of pigs - even quite intelligent. Nobody, for the most part, enjoys slaughtering these guys, but meat is something our bodies have evolved to consume and is still the most straight forward means of living a healthy life. Hunting is a different story, but in many ways that's even more humane. An animal killed on a hunt undoubtedly lived a life magnitudes more free and pleasant than the conditions of many in the farms that produce the food you buy at the grocer or restaurant. In any case you'll find a strong overlap both in modern times, and premodern times, of hunters and animal conservationists. The circle of life is something those closest to it tend to understand all too well.
Which species introduced the other animals to the Mauritius?
That sounds like textbook anthropomorphizing, and the article seems to follow down that path as well...
Finally, anthropormophizing is a useful metaphorical aid to help people understand. I don't think it's a big deal as long as you avoid making absolute teleological claims.
Absolutely. So does simplification. Simplifying things to make them understandable to non-experts is an incredibly important skill - ask any teacher (or their students, for that matter). The problem comes with oversimplification, simplifying explanations to a degree when they are just dead wrong. At that point, the simplification doesn't only not help with the understanding, it can actively hinder future understanding by suggesting that you have already understood (when in fact you haven't).
This article over-anthropomorphizes.
Of course, trees do communicate - but obsessively trying to frame mindless chemical ecological processes in such extreme anthropomorphic terms is dangerously close to the border between extreme oversimplification and rank pseudoscience.
Just stating facts based on eye witness accounts from 900 years ago.
I'm gonna need a better source than what you sent to consider this "facts".
If we learned how to speak to trees, it could be terrifying.
"the Waorani aren’t alarmed by the notion that a tree might scream when cut"
It was a whimsical comment, and you are being overly critical. And I was considering the way man affects our environment. And yes, it is mentioned in the article.
Your hair trigger response says far more about you than me. I literally have made one whimsical comment in literally hundreds of comments, and you decide to threaten me.
"The most important principle on HN, though, is to make thoughtful comments. Thoughtful in both senses: civil and substantial.
The test for substance is a lot like it is for links. Does your comment teach us anything? There are two ways to do that: by pointing out some consideration that hadn't previously been mentioned, and by giving more information about the topic, perhaps from personal experience. Whereas comments like "LOL!" or worse still, "That's retarded!" teach us nothing."
If that doesn't sit right with you then maybe you'll be more comfortable using Reddit or something similar.