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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Do Panda bears commit suicide?

According to an article in Slate they just might. Consider the case of Yaya:

A sleep-deprived panda inadvertently crushed her newborn cub to death at a zoo in China last week. "Pandas who lose their young tend to be depressed for a month or so," said a
zoo official
. "Yaya appeared to be so sad when she couldn't find her baby. …Tears could be seen in her eyes."

In the past I used to think a great deal about what, exactly differentiates human people from the animals. I used to think it was the fact that animals didn’t commit suicide. Human beings seem to desire to reach out for more than what the material world can offer; that we are spiritual and thereby have a yearning for something deeper from life.

Subsequently, I have found that there are plenty of people content to submerge themselves in the material world and carry about their life as though they were animals – even worse than animals sometimes…and now I find out that animals have a psychological side!

Well, I guess I’ll have to rethink this one a bit…What separates the person from the animal???

Find the slate article cited above here:


ktismatics said...

My daughter and I just watched this video about feral children and the difficulties they face in using language. They can learn vocabulary but not grammar. It's impossible to disconnect abstract thought from language, so these kids never advance very far cognitively even though they aren't technically retarded. They do, surprisingly, develop the ability to empathize with other humans.

Jonathan Erdman said...

That is a fascinating video!

Definition of feral children:
Feral children, also known as wild children or wolf children, are children who've grown up with minimal human contact, or even none at all. They may have been raised by animals (often wolves) or somehow survived on their own. In some cases, children are confined and denied normal social interaction with other people.
from www.feralchildren.com

It is truly amazing how much our conditioning impacts us. Even our ability to "be human" and do things like speak or to show feelings for others is tied very closely with the environment in which we were raised.

There is also information about feral children at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child

Here is another interesting article related to the topic at hand:
A man in Suva, Fiji, is being taught to act human after being raised as a chicken. Sunjit Kumar was locked in a chicken coop for several years as a young boy, after his parents died and he was handed over to his grandfather. He had little contact with humans during that time and picked up the habits of the birds.

Kumar escaped from the chicken coop and was taken to a local hospital. But the staff did not know how to treat him, so they confined him. He spent 20 years there, often tied to his bed.

Kumar, who is now 32, finally got a second chance at life when he was discovered by Elizabeth Clayton, a native New Zealander and president of the Suva Rotary Club.

Clayton said doctors examined Sunjit and found no mental defects. Professionals agreed that his condition was the result of years of neglect and abuse.

"He had imitated or imprinted with the chicken," Clayton said. "He was perching, he was picking at his food, he was hopping around like a chicken. He'd keep his hands in a chickenlike fashion, and he'd make a noise, which was like the calling of a chicken, which he still has."

Clayton took over Kumar's care and he has reportedly made "remarkable progress," learning to walk and speak like a human.
Copyright 2004 by nbc4columbus.com. All rights reserved.

from http://www.nbc4i.com/news/3511085/detail.html

Jonathan Erdman said...

This discussion also reminds me of one of my former theology teacher (Dr. Plaster) who used to pose a teaser question to the class: "Does my dog 'Cookie' have a soul?"

The class would then typically respond by pointing out the various things that reveal that we have souls: Emotions/feelings, remorse/guilt, concern for others, etc.

Dr. Plaster would shoot down each of these with examples of how his dog, Cookie, showed emotions or guilt, etc.

The exercise always left me curious as to whether there are any definable characteristics that indicate our "soulness." It's really hard to pinpoint them!

Anonymous said...