Beavers and Moths

[From Gary Cziko 930811.2200 UTC]

Rick Marken (930817.0930) said:

Boy, what a quiet net. Guess everything's solved, eh?

I can't believe that no one picked up on this wonderful post from
Avery Andrews (930815.2100) --

A beaver will cast about quite frantically for something--anything--to
stop the sound of running water, and in one experiment a beaver found

>its relief by plastering mud all over the loudspeaker from which the

recorded gurglings emerged!

cited from Wilsson, 1974, Observations and Experiments on the Ethology
of the European Beaver, Viltrevy, Swedish Wildlife 8, pp. 115-266.

I remember mentioning just this beaver fact about a year of so ago on the
net. What a short memory some CSGnetters have! I didn't get it from
Dennett, though--I can't remember where I ran into it.

What I like about the example is that is shows how evolution selects for
reference levels which facilitate survival although evolution cannot know
and the organism may not know why the reference level "works." It also
makes me think of Lloyd Morgan's canon which warned against ascribing
advanced mental abilities to explain the behavior of animals (some
observers of beavers thought they were the most intelligent of all
non-human mammals since their canals and other waterworks showed quite
advanced knowledge of engineering).

The moth repeatedly flying into the light bulb is another good example.
But supposedly not all of them them do (natural variation). And those
which are able to tell the moon from a light bulb may be the only ones
around in another couple of thousand years.--Gary


Gary Cziko Telephone: 217-333-8527
Educational Psychology FAX: 217-244-7620
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