Sunday, June 13, 2010

Doggy Dumbasses

Discovery News has some bad news about one of my favorite animals, Dogs. I've always loved them for being one of the first animals to be domesticated, and total suck-up kiss-asses who delight at your every thought, no matter how insipid or stupid. But it seems some of the many changes we've made to them since we started with their timber wolf ancestors have made them morons.
Dogs differ greatly mentally from their wild cousins, wolves, coyotes, and dingos. For one, dogs inherently see humans as top of the pack. For another, they understand pointing, which makes no physical sense to a wild canine. But the increase in social skills came with a loss of survival skills. Dogs have trouble finding food if abandoned. A test of spacial ability in which a dog must find its way through a maze with windows to find a food reward confuses the dog, as they get immensely confused by the way that the window can be seen through but not walked through, and paw at it and whine for help, while a wild canine would note that it was inaccessible and look for ways around it.
Of course, dog stupidity is likely not a problem for them, as they've paired up with the most intelligent species on the planet: humans. From the beginning, our relationship has been symbiotic. The first dogs lead humans to prey, which we killed from afar with weapons and then shared. Its like this one children's story I vaguely half-remember in which a very strong but very stupid child teams up with a very intelligent but very frail one, and together they completely dominate every problem they come across.
People may think of evolution as rewarding strength and punishing weakness, but symbiosis is the real trend. Cooperate with others for a synergistic, 1+1=3, type of effect.


Kat said...

I think the book you're thinking of is Freak the Mighty :)

themadengineer said...

Yeah, that's the one!
I hate it when I can only half-remember something like that.

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