Sharks in Coach (Talking about my Novel with my LA Agent)

Hollywood Shark

My LA agent had been sitting on my book for a couple of months.  I’d gotten no feedback from him, only the studied silence of a poised insect.  I decided to breach the stillness and give him a call.

The Phone Call

David:  Happy New Year.  It’s David.

Agent:  Know how many Davids I know?

David:  I know my full name shows up on your phone.

Agent:  So kill me.  What’re you calling me for?

David:  Did you read my book yet? Continue reading

Who is that Dolphin in the Mirror? (Dolphin Consciousness)

Are dolphins conscious?

In my novel, The Last Island, an animal rights activist, Kerryn, thinks so and is willing to risk her life to prove it.

But is there evidence for this assertion?

Consciousness is notoriously difficult to define, and we can get bogged down in definitions until we ourselves start to lose it – first by falling asleep and then, ultimately, by dying.

I think most of us would agree that if we can’t define something satisfactorily for ourselves, we certainly have no right to deny to any other creature. That is, I can’t say that humans or animals don’t have ‘something’, if I don’t know what that ‘something’ is.

But for the purposes of this post, let’s define consciousness as what most of us intuit it to be: the state of being aware of the world around us. But that doesn’t seem to be enough, does it? Mere ‘awareness of the world.’ So let’s set the bar higher.

Let’s go beyond mere consciousness and ask ourselves if dolphins possess self-consciousness (or subjective consciousness), which can be defined as an awareness of one’s own self or an awareness of one’s own awareness — a sort of dual awareness, if you will.

Dolphin’s exhibit at least two distinct behaviors that demonstrate self-consciousness.

The first is their keen interest in mirrors. They know when they are looking at themselves and, like us, are fascinated. This could be either narcissism or because their inner sense of themselves doesn’t quite match their outward appearance. But both are demonstrations of consciousness of a self.

A second and more powerful demonstration of self-consciousness is that dolphins have been known to commit suicide. (There is some debate about this, but a preponderance of evidence indicates that they do.) For a creature to commit suicide, they need to have an awareness of their awareness (or consciousness) as something that can be extinguished — in the same way that you must know a candle is lit before you can put it out.

And there you have it: two demonstrations of dolphin self-consciousness.

Here’s the Cambridge Declaration On Consciousness in Non-Human Animals, which was signed by a number of prominent scientists on July 7, 2012. It was late in the day for such a declaration, but better late than never.

In my next post, I’ll raise the bar even higher — to a metaphysical level — and address whether dolphins have souls.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

Death Penalty for Killing Dolphins? (Dolphin Intelligence)

In my novel, The Last Island, an animal rights activist claims that dolphins possess intelligence, consciousness and even souls.

But is there any evidence for this?

Let’s start with dolphin intelligence.  Dolphin brains are at least as large and well-developed as our own, and they and their ancestors have been ‘brainier’ for a lot longer.  That said, we humans are proud of our technological society (despite the harm it may doing to the planet) and take it as a measure of own superiority or ‘dominion’ over the animals.

But if a technological society is proof of an intelligent species, why haven’t dolphins developed one?

An answer may be found in Isaac Asimov’s remarkably concise, Asimov’s Chronology of the World.  Asimov writes that “water is so viscous a medium that it tends to enforce streamlining on any organism that wishes to move quickly within it.  Fast-moving organisms are smoothly ‘fish-shaped’ in one way or another, and rarely have irregular shapes.”  But in air, a less-viscous medium, irregular shapes are not such a problem.  The result is that humans developed hands to manipulate the Universe about them, while dolphins did not.

In addition, the foundation of all technology, fire, can’t exist in water.  So without fire and hands, no technological society is conceivable in water, which is the reason dolphins haven’t developed one.

The truth is: there’s no good reason to believe that dolphin intelligence isn’t superior to ours.

It was a capital offense to kill a dolphin in Ancient Greece.  Maybe it’s something we should consider…

In a later post, I’ll address dolphin consciousness.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.