24 September 2010

Letter from Lhasa, number 201. (Alcock 1993): Animal Behavior

Letter from Lhasa, number 201. (Alcock 1993): Animal Behavior
by Roberto Abraham Scaruffi

Alcock, J., Animal Behavior. An Evolutionary Approach, Sinauer Associates Inc. Publishers, Sunderland, MA, U.S.A., 1993.
(Alcock 1993).
John Alcock   

There have certainly been other editions of this book. Anyway, I casually found this edition in a place and in a period I was dealing with hordes of louses in para-lynching and para-torture activities with governments/States’ organisation and cover. A book on animal behaviour was a gift from the skies. In the place where I found it I could certainly find better works in well provided libraries. I found casually this one, not in a library and not in a bookstore.

It is the kind of book, very probably for academic purposes since its structure, may suggest good ideas about animal and human behaviour. There is no real difference, if not that being human behaviour perhaps a bit more elaborate it is inevitably more bestial. Animals follow relatively fixed routines and patterns. Human animals can adapt more rapidly, can rectify more rapidly their routines and patters, can complexify their behaviours, what inevitably leads to more bestial behaviours and even without any justification since all the brainwashing on civilisation, morality, honour and so on. ...Rubbish...   

This field, animal behaviour, is inevitably founded on observation and on some deduction or inference or induction or generalisation or something else or various logical and empirical mechanisms variously mixed, with inevitable subjectivism. Some aspects can be statistically or in other way tested. Other ones cannot be.

One may simply browse this book, page after page, looking for some ideas or stimulus for further reflection.  

“(...) many instincts are modifies by experience, whereas most learned behaviours are far from completely flexible responses to the environment.” (Alcock 1993, p. 35). The question certainly is that different subjects metabolise or may metabolise experience in different way. Different subjects have different experiences and they may be metabolised differently from different subjects.

There are biased learning, or perhaps it is a synonymous of conservatism and prudence for the author, which drive to avoid errors and dealing with wrong information, according the author. Or, perhaps, biased learning simply avoid dealing with complexity without the instruments for catching and using it. Tight limited entities remain limited because they cannot exploit chances, opportunities, challenges. What may be tautological: they remain dummy/stupid because they were dummy/stupid.       
More challenging is to deal with the part of the book on genetic differences and they effects on behaviour. However, there always is an inevitable interaction with the environment which produces actual behaviours. Determinism combines with probability and produces some, eventually limited or very limited, evolution.  

Even genetic marks may mutate.

“Many new behavioral abilities probably originate as a result of genetic mutations, although there are other possibilities.”
(Alcock 1993, p. 215)
Communication is essential for whatever living entity need to interact with other ones. A also the interaction with the environment is a form of communication. Migration is a form of translated adaptation because it is the looking for places where to adapt better, with which to create a better interaction. Changing environment, the same species have some change. From a communication point of view, it is perhaps looking for condition of better or more fruitful communication with environment.   

Survival techniques are techniques for finding food and for avoiding becoming themselves food for other species. In the positive phase, a species need to receive the right signals. In the negative phase, a species needs to send deceptive signals. Sociality and cooperation inside a species, eventually also with other non-antagonist species, are functional to survival behaviours.   

In the last chapter, the seventeenth, there is some approach to human behaviour:
“Human behavior is full of fascinating puzzles for evolutionary biologists.”
(Alcock 1993, p. 541).

The author poses a series of questions about specific behaviours, forgetting that human being are animal easily conditionable, in their behaviour, from others in some power position. What is a form of adaptive behaviour but also a form of stupid animality, since subjects in power position then to push, for miserable and selfish reasons, others to suicidal behaviours.

...Anyway, there are about 600 pages in this book, with abundance, although not oppressive, of illustrations!

Alcock, J., Animal Behavior. An Evolutionary Approach, Sinauer Associates Inc. Publishers, Sunderland, MA, U.S.A., 1993.