Yesterday I was out watering plants, head down, intent, when I heard an unusual sound and looked up and was privileged to see a swarm of bees. Bzzzzz. I was both hoping and not hoping that they would choose my yard as a place to stay but after five minutes of quite a whirl of what felt like thousands of bees, off they went. We have a great deal of shade here. Perhaps they are looking for more flowers bursting with pollen.
I am enchanted with Temple Grandin. Her books are jam-packed with new information. Last night I finished Animals in Translation. She points out how we need emotions to stay alive. Nothing is neutral for us. We lead from our gut and yet that mind, that neocortex. Hmmm! There is an experiment where rats outperform us because they figure out they should just push the lever all the time. There is no punishment for not pushing it and that way they get a treat-reward 70% of the time. We, clever souls however, try to figure out the pattern, and so, we're out-performed by rats. Perhaps sometimes we outsmart ourselves.
Autistic, Temple Grandin sees in pictures. She takes in sensory data unfiltered, whereas again, we with our linguistic skills do a great deal of maneuvering, and organizing with what comes. We also filter what doesn't fit or we don't expect. NASA did a study with commercial airline pilots. They were put in a flight simulator and asked to do routine landings. "But on some of the landing approaches the experimenters added the image of a large commercial airplane parked on the runway, something a pilot would not see in real life (at least, let's hope not.) One quarter of the pilots landed right on top of the airplane. They never saw it."
It is possible that wolves and people were together when homo sapiens had just barely evolved from homo erectus. Wolves and people began keeping company and were probably on a more equal footing than dogs and people today. Evidence now shows that when "early humans were associating with wolves they learned to act and think like wolves."
Now there's a new thought. "Wolves hunted in groups; humans didn't. Wolves had loyal same-sex and nonkin friendships; humans probably didn't, judging by the lack of same-sex and nonkin friendships in every other primate species today. (The main relationship for chimpanzees is parent-child.) Wolves were highly territorial; humans probably weren't - again, judging by how nonterritorial all other primates are today."
She goes on to suggest that the things we do are more doglike than what other primates do, so we domesticated wolves to dogs and dogs were probably a "big reason why early man survived and Neanderthals didn't. Neanderthals didn't have dogs."
We learned friendship from dogs and according to Paul Tacon, "the development of human friendship "was a tremendous survival advantage because that speeds up the exchange of ideas between groups of people."
But here's the kicker. "Fossil records show that whenever a species becomes domesticated its brain gets smaller."
"Now archaeologists have discovered that 10,000 years ago, just at the point when humans began to give their dogs formal burials, the human brain began to shrink too. It shrank by 10 percent, just like the dog's brain. In all the animals the forebrain, which holds the frontal lobes, and the corpus callosum, which is the connecting tissue between the two sides of the brain, shrank. But in humans it was the midbrain, which handles emotions and sensory data, and the olfactory bulbs, which handle smell, that got smaller while the corpus callosum and the forebrain stayed pretty much the same. Dog brains and human brains specialized; humans took over the planning and organizing tasks, and dogs took over the sensory tasks. Dogs and people coevolved and became even better partners, allies, and friends."
Dogs used to work and they still enjoy tasks and feeling useful. A dog can taste for low blood sugar and give a warning, can sense a seizure coming 30 minutes before and again give warning. We have been training dogs to guide the blind for years. Some dogs are trained to sniff out cancer. We are again giving dogs a chance to work.
"The Aborigines have a saying: "Dogs make us human." Now we know that's probably literally true."
My cats are nearby as I type this. I'm sure they, too, teach us to know ourselves and purr.
May your today be filled with sensory detail, pollen, and bees on the move. I'm visualizing a tapping in my midbrain, hoping to recover some lost size. New smells, here I come. Inhale! Yum! The air is sweet.