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#126715 04/09/04 09:29 PM
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A) I see no reason to assume that altruistic actions cannot be instinctive, so saying that something is instinctive is not, to me, a defeater of the notion that it is altruistic.

2) Altruistic actions can be beneficial to the gene pool. If one's actions contribute to the survival of one's children or even of one's siblings or one's siblings' children they can contribute to the survival of one's genome.


Faldage, altruism can be instinctive and contribute to the survival of siblings and their children. This version of it is called, "Reciprocal Altruism". Worker honey bees are a classic case in point. Since they themselves are sterile, by looking after the inhabitants of the hive, they increase the chances of propagating their gene copies (75% true) which they share with siblings.

As for parents protecting their young and thus increasing survival. It is a question of interpretation again. I think I wrote about individual(species)/gene perspectives in the thread on memes. The same thing applies here. It depends on whether you look at it from the point of view of the bird or from that of the bird's gene.

Behaviour: Bird protecting young from predator
Effect: Offspring survive
Bird: Altruism
Bird's Gene: Selfish

Observable altruistic behaviour in an individual, is just selfishness on the part of the gene. Where observable altruistic behaviour is *known to be inherited, as in bird alarm calls, the genes are clearly in charge there and so, it is interpreted as innate selfishness. Where a genetic link is not ascribable to behaviour and the trait seems more cultural, there is a great deal of restraint exercised before theories are floated. In fact, the science of animal behaviour, intelligence and cognition is deeply bogged down by this caution. Morgan's Canon is one such tenet that restricts a scientist from acribing a higher mental ability to an animal's behaviour wherever a simpler explanation can be utilised. Critics (and I veer towards their point of view) view this approach as reductionist.


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Psychological Altruism:
- Is dependant on intent and motive
- The end result is not so important.
- In this variety, Altruism - good; Selfishness - Bad

Behavioural Altruism:
- Is dependant on the end result
- Motives and Intent play NO part.
- No moral connotations are tagged on here.
- Here, Altruism - Individual; Selfish - Gene


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Capfka, that is a poignant tale you tell of Lizzy and Demmy. One way to explain Lizzy's behaviour (you might not agree) is, 'Empathy'. She would certainly have known Demmy was ill, you mentioned they were close, and this was probably how she was trying to help. Empathy need not be at cross purposes with survival and propagation. I use empathy, fully aware that it requires a certain consciousness of self; that it takes a certain awareness to be empathetic and I believe most animals have the capacity. We like to limit their behaviour into clearly defined slots, the better for our understanding. Empathy has been studied and documented in chimps and elephants by those that believe.

....another thought...It seems, we associate, (in humans) altruism with money - acts of charity, almsgiving, the like. Rescue operations, like firefighters trying to save people are considered heroic, not altruistic. The same thing in an animal we would not consider heroic, would we?


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Sometimes bird alarm calls don't work as intended. My father
had friend who recorded a crow when having tailfeathers
pulled. Recording was played near open field where a stuffed
owl was displayed. When crows attracted by recording replay
saw the stuffed owl, they gave special alarm call that brought in many more crows. The attacked the owl so excitedly that many ignored shotgun blasts, making mob attack on the owl. But that was long ago.


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Ha, I like that story Bill. A completely unexpected result I'm sure.


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Maahey, thanks for at least attempting to come up with some explanation.

Dogs have empathy - it's one of their finest traits and is clearly another outcome of their predisposition to pack living. Empathy under those circumstances seems to be a survival trait in all pack animals. Even hyenas have been shown to have it within the pack environment, otherwise unloveable though they are.

Cats, on the other hand, only exhibit it where they, too, are historically group living and (don't shoot me here!) that would just about be covered off by mentioning lions and cheetahs, although cheetahs are a bit conditional, because they tend to form temporary family groups rather than packs with a wider community.

Cats which are not siblings can "learn" to live together, it's true. We have had cats who got on okay, but the limits tended to be well-defined. Food is one item which has always been outside those limits in my now reasonably extensive experience. Cats will compete for food even where there is plenty for all. What's more, cats who live in a group within a human family are always living in a certain amount of tension. It's rare that cats who weren't brought up together from kittens will choose to sleep together, for instance. There is also no natural approach to social hierarchy among cats, and they will fight - not always physically, of course - to be top cat. Toms don't always win over tabs in this situation, either. Cat group hierarchy is a fluid thing and can change overnight because it's NOT instinctive at any level. Cats usually walk alone, and that difference between them and dogs can pretty much be summed up by Wow's throwaway remark "Dogs have owners; cats have staff".

Cats and dogs can form "alliances" when they live together within a human grouping. I'll never forget our English pointer (Smelly Ella from Portobello) and Red, my siamese red-point tom, chumming up to hunt lizards in the long grass on the next door section. Ella would "point" the lizards. Red would pounce and eat. Since Ella didn't eat lizards and Red didn't need to, I can only guess that it was "play". My chocolate-point siamese queen, Sirikit, would stand on the driveway above the road and yowl at passing dogs - this was sheer bloodymindedness, you understand - but ONLY when Demmy the keeshond was around to object to strange dogs coming into her territory. The cat door was only about ten feet away, too, and Skritters miscalculated from time to time - the cat flap would bang and then there would be a thump as some outraged canine smacked into the door in pursuit! There would be a siamese with an arched back and toilet-brush tail yowling at the world on the inside of the door ...

I guess what this all boils down to is that I would like to agree with your theory about why Lizzy left the rabbit. But I can't!


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"hard to swallow", too, although I believe you. Tomcats are not carers in any sense of the word, except when a tab happens to be in season,
-----------------------------------------
It really is true, Cap, and I appreciate your faith in me. Being a responsible pet-owner, Betty did have Precious neutered. And the young female was not in season. Betty still lives nearby. Precious lived to a ripe old age and died in his sleep. Good cat.


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Cats usually walk alone.

Cap, I saw a documentary on cats about a year ago that said that, when left to their own devices, female cats live in groups (like lions) and it's the male cats that roam solitary. Aparently, it is to protect the kittens since male cats will kill off any kitten so that they can mate with the female an produce their own offspring.

The female cats protected the kittens whether they were their's or not.

The documentary also mentioned something about cat killing loads of birds and mice in a year. I don't remember the exact figure. What they did is, they went to a village and asked all the cat owners to count all the birds and mice that their cats brought home in a year. I remember that the numbers were staggering. I wish I remembered the exact amount.

What I found the most surprising though was that, apparently, it is only cats that are raised around humans that meow. They also found that the cats had many different sounds to communicate different things to their humans. Whereas in the wild, their vocal range is limited.


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Bel, I looked, but I've only found a reference to cats grouping where they had been previously domesticated, and even then the reference implied that it was pretty rare. It appears that true feral cats will not do it at all. This pretty much conclusively shows (but doesn't prove) that nuture, in the form of domestication, somehow rewires cats' brains differently, perhaps to allow them to access instinctive behaviour which is never triggered in truly feral cats.

As for cats "talking", yes, your source is quite right. A study I read (in hard copy) a number of years ago suggested that the only times that a feral female will "talk" is when she is in season and when she has kittens. Or, obviously I guess, when fighting, and screaming is hardly dinnertable conversation is it? Our current moggy, Matilda, tries voices out on us and has us in fits. When she wants food she starts with the "come to me" trilling call that all cats seem to employ under those circumstances. It's the same one that mother cats use to round up their kittens. If that doesn't appear to be working fast enough, she uses a variety of calls in turn, making the call then sitting back with her head cocked to see if it has worked. she doesn't have the vocal repertoire of siamese cats, but she works hard with what she's got!


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vocal repertoire of siamese cats

Hmmm, it's funny, I remember the most vocally varied cat I have ever known was a siamese cat. She was also the most mischievious cat I've known.

cats grouping where they had been previously domesticated

Well, I think you may be right there. I recall the whole pack living in a barn. The kittens were hidden in back of some sort of machinery. They weren't chased away because they kept the population of mice down (which segued into the whole bird/mouse, killed amount, part of the documentary.)





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