Thursday, January 21, 2016

Animal Friends

Have you read about Amur, the Siberian tiger who made friends with a goat offered to him as a meal?

Tiger and Goat Are Still Friends

The goat was introduced into Amur's pen in November, and instead of eating him, the tiger became friendly with him. As of early January, this relationship continues. (Amur still eats live prey, but not goats; the keepers give him rabbits instead.) They play hide-and-seek and butt heads together for fun. You can watch them frolicking in a video clip on the website. It sounds like the Old Testament prophecy of the kingdom of God, a future paradise in which the lion will lie down with the lamb and the leopard with the kid. As C. S. Lewis remarks, the prediction that the lion will eat straw like the ox would probably sound to the lion like hell, not heaven. So what explains this Siberian tiger's odd behavior? The theory is that Amur didn't eat his offered prey because the goat didn't show any fear. This mind-blowing reaction "freaked out" the tiger, who therefore didn't see the goat as a potential victim. Reminds you of Simes and Gens, doesn't it?

As a vampire fan and writer, I love this story because it shows that predators and prey can overcome their instincts and develop affection for each other. Now I have a rebuttal for critics who scoff at the idea that immortal blood-drinkers might feel friendship, even love, for inferior creatures the immortals should regard as mere food sources.

In other news, an experiment with chimpanzees suggests that they practice "trust" in their social contacts, and they trust their friends more than non-friends:

Chimpanzees Trust Their Friends

Scientists observed which chimps were best friends on the basis of time spent hanging out together, grooming, etc. An experiment with food-sharing demonstrated that the chimps were more likely to trust their friends to share special treats than just any random group member.

It seems more and more plausible that animals really do experience affection for each other. Concepts of "love" and "friendship" that would have been dismissed as mushy sentimentality in the past are now being substantiated by hard-headed science. Some philosophers would claim these phenomena demonstrate that human beings have no better claim to "souls" than "lower" animals do. I prefer to view it from the opposite angle—maybe some species of animals do have "souls" in a sense. Not that anyone has yet come up with a universally satisfactory definition of "soul"!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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