Yesterday I listened to an audio magazine from the CBC Radio 1 program, Ideas. The MP3s are online only for 4 weeks, so get ’em while they’re hot. The latest is called, Ocean Mind. It’s about consciousness in the oceans. Some things I’ve learned from part 1:
Mammals become territorial when their survival is dependent largely on a specific habitat or geography. Mammals become social when their survival is dependent on each other. Whales are not territorial. They’re constantly moving from one area of the ocean to another. They depend on each other for survival. If danger is present, whales can’t hide behind a rock or a tree or some other geographical object. They need to communicate, co-operate and act together in a more highly developed manner than most land animals. Their social communication may be more complex than ours. They pass on information and survival skills from one generation to the next; it’s socially learned behaviour. Subsequently, some scientists argue that whales have a culture, and that culture isn’t unique to humanity.
Or somethin’. The producers do a much better job at describing it on their website:
Life on earth began in the ocean and then moved onto the land. But one precocious line of mammals returned to the sea. How has water shaped the minds, the bodies, the sensory worlds and the societies of whales? Our guide is Jeff Warren. He’s spent the past 2 years thinking about whales and dolphins, visiting researchers in their labs and in their boats around North America and the Caribbean to find out what they’re learning about mind, culture and society in the ocean.
I couldn’t stop once I started listening. It’s an interesting, thought-provoking show. At times it feels like science fiction.