Monday, 21 July 2008

“Silly Subhuman Caricatures”

I leave you this fine evening with a column by Steve Ross.


Ouch. If (1) Miguel Cabrera gets hot and (2) the Tigers’ pitching comes around, it’s all over for the other American League teams.

Yankee Watch

Both the Rays and the Yankees won tonight, so Tampa Bay’s magic number to eliminate New York is down to 60. Do the Yankee fans out there think the Rays are for real?

R. G. Frey on Anthropomorphism

Yet, in the case of domesticated animals especially, many people, particularly lonely people, regard (and often want to regard) their pet as a kind of lesser human being, with a less rich but still plentiful mental life which explains why their cat or dog behaves as it does. Their pet loves them, they often say, and tries to be faithful to them, and they in turn try not to hurt its feelings (for example, by leaving it alone or ignoring it) and to return this deep affection. For understandable reasons, such people have nevertheless not been so rigorous as Tinbergen in divesting themselves of all traces of anthropomorphism in their attempts to understand and explain animal behaviour. It is as if the only way they can bring themselves to approach an understanding of their pet’s behaviour is by first investing the animal with a human endowment and then finding as the explanation for why it behaves as it does precisely some feature of this endowment with which they have invested it. By describing the cat or dog and its behaviour in anthropomorphic terms and thereby ‘putting’ into the animal what one is going to cite as the explanation of its behaviour, there is no limit to the complexity and extent of the mental goings-on of cats and dogs, or rather the only limit is the range of mental life one is prepared to endow these creatures with in the first place, on some anthropomorphic paradigm. Indeed, the endowment now allegedly extends even to communication with animals by telepathy. The animal psychologist Beatrice Lydecker claims in her book What the Animals Tell Me that one can, even though cats and dogs lack language, nevertheless communicate with and in this sense ‘talk’ to one’s pet by means of something akin to ESP. One simply commands one’s dog to sit and simultaneously forms a mental image of him in that position; and as this image is communicated to and received by him by telepathy, he will soon come to adopt the appropriate position. Doubtless to many the dog will be thought to be like us in being able to send and receive such images and to communicate in this way.

(R. G. Frey, Interests and Rights: The Case Against Animals [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980], 84-5 [italics in original; footnote omitted])

Note from KBJ: There are two mistakes one can make in thinking about animals. The first—anthropomorphism—consists in attributing distinctively human qualities to animals. The second—mechanism—consists in denying animal qualities to animals. Frey comes perilously close to making the second mistake, if indeed he does not make it.

Guess the Movie

Attorney: Is it possible that the two yutes . . .

Judge: . . . Ah, the two what? Uh . . . uh, what was that word?

Attorney: Uh . . . what word?

Judge: Two what?

Attorney: What?

Judge: Uh . . . did you say ‘yutes’?

Attorney: Yeah, two yutes.

Judge: What is a yute?

Attorney [exaggerated]: Oh, excuse me, your honor. Two YOUTHS.

Note from KBJ: Don’t click here until you’ve guessed.


Today is a rest day in the Tour de France. The next two days will determine the winner. Tomorrow’s stage is mountainous, but there is a long descent to the finish, which will allow stragglers to catch up. Wednesday’s stage is also mountainous, but this time there’s no catching up. Either you stay with the big boys (little boys?) on the climb of L’Alpe d’Huez or you lose time. Here is a New York Times story. Look for Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde to assert himself the next two days.

A Year Ago



Here is your entertainment for this Monday evening. I’m accepting nominations for the greatest female rock band.


It won’t be long now
Before the messiah comes
Barack Obama

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

What’s Next in the Law? The Unalienable Rights of Chimps,” by Adam Cohen (Editorial Observer, July 14), unfairly characterized PETA’s efforts.

Few people know the depth of our work, as it is mostly our stunts that make the news. While cruelty to animals is a serious matter that should elicit widespread public outrage, efforts to reach the public through more serious means often fall on deaf ears in a world in which sex sells and there are both a war and an economic downturn.

By comparing the common mind-set that has produced both the past injustices against humans and the current abuses of animals, we can and do inspire debate and convince many people that it is a human obligation to speak out against injustice to all beings.

Animal suffering and human suffering are undeniably interconnected. In 2004, for example, The New York Times broke the story about a PETA undercover investigation that found routine animal abuse at AgriProcessors kosher slaughterhouse. Since then, the paper has repeatedly reported on the abuse of migrant workers at AgriProcessors. It should come as no surprise that a facility that profits from tormenting and killing animals would also oppress and abuse humans.

Those of us who have worked in the field as social service staff members or humane law enforcement officers know that child abuse and animal abuse as well as battered women and battered companion animals are often found under the same roof.

Forgive us our bikinis and our shock tactics, but our message that all beings—both human and nonhuman—deserve compassion and respect is one that we must work hard to make heard.

Ingrid E. Newkirk
President, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Norfolk, Va., July 15, 2008

Curro Ergo Sum

When I left the house for my 3.1-mile run this afternoon, it was 108.1º Fahrenheit. When I returned, it was 107.6º. I love challenges. The harder something is, the more I want to do it.

Addendum: I recently had some trees cut down on the side of my house. This allows the sun to shine on the thermometer’s sensor, even though it’s covered by a piece of plastic. (The cover is not dense enough, evidently, to keep the sun’s rays out.) According to my newspaper, the official temperature at 1:00 yesterday, when I finished my run, was 97º Fahrenheit, so the “107.6” I saw was inflated. I have replaced the cover, so from now on I should get accurate readings. By the way, the official high temperature for the day (a few hours after my run) was 102º.


My friend Jeff sent a link to this Drudge report.

Addendum: See here.