I spent most of today thinking about talking with animals. This is this week’s topic for my ethics/critical thinking class with the younger students. I spent time this morning writing the lesson plan and questions, and then had the first three classes tonight.
I introduce the topic by talking about Doctor Dolittle, and the fanciful way in which he learns to speak with animals. Then I go into discussing the experiments we have done with chimps like Washoe and subsequent research that has cast doubt on the initial optimistic early findings about ape intelligence and communication skills. I ask questions about the importance, relevance, and humaneness of such experiments.
And then I go into speculative mode and ask the kids questions about how our attitude to animals might change if we could communicate with them, and what we should do in various hypothetical scenarios in which we talk with animals. Should we continue eating cows and pigs and chickens if they could talk to us? If pet dogs and cats tell us they want their freedom, should we let them run free, or treat them more like children and confine them to keep them safe? If cockroaches could talk to us, should we still treat them as vermin to be exterminated? What would the world actually be like if suddenly we could communicate with animals?
In other items, I did a 2.5k run this morning. And baked the sourdough loaf I made last night and let rise overnight. It’s a special loaf with dried apricots, dates, and walnuts in it, by special request of my wife who likes a fruit and nut loaf now and then.
The weather has been glorious the past few days. Beautiful autumn weather, with cool mornings and evenings, and a pleasantly warm day in the middle – great weather to be out in, without being too hot. The deciduous trees are turning colours. We don’t have a lot – 99% of the trees around here are evergreen eucalyptus, ficus, bottlebrushes, wattles, banksias, and other native species. But there are dots of imported deciduous trees in places, and some are going lovely shades of red or yellow. I like the liquidambars the most, because of the vivid red leaves. The ginkgos are starting to go their beautiful butter yellow. Unfortunately there are also a lot of plane trees, which just go a dull brown colour and drop tons of leaves.
Oh, today is ANZAC Day too, so a public holiday here in Australia. It ends what I think of as the “public holiday season” – the four months from 25 December to 25 April contain 8 public holidays: Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Australia Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, and ANZAC Day. The remaining 8 months of the year only have two holidays: The Queen’s Birthday (I guess the King’s Birthday this year for the first time in over 70 years) in June and Labour Day in October.
New content today: