Sunday, July 12, 2009

Read this and marvel

The cover story of today's issue of The New York Times Magazine is a fabulous article by Charles Siebert describing what scientists have learned about the apparent efforts of gray whales to communicate with the human beings who study them in the Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California, Mexico. In the article, Siebert describes asking noted behavioral/wildlife biologist Toni Frohoff whether the actions of these whales might indicate that they've forgiven human beings for having slaughtered gray whales in the past. Her response:

"Those are the kinds of things that for the longest time a scientist wouldn't dare consider. But thank goodness we've gone through a kind of cognitive revolution when it comes to studying the intelligence and emotion of other species. In fact, I'd say now that it is my obligation as a scientist not to discount that possibility. We do have compelling evidence of the experience of grief in cetaceans; and of joy, anger, frustration and distress and self-awareness and tool use; and of protecting not just their young but also their companions from humans and other predators. So thee are reasons why something like forgiveness is a possibility ... I'd put my career on the line and challenge anybody to say that these whales are not actively soliciting and engaging in a form of communication with humans, both through eye contact and tactile interaction and perhaps acoustically in ways that we have not yet determined."

Here's the rest. Allow yourself to be awestruck.

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