Wednesday, February 11, 2009
The Devolution of Dog and the Training of Man
Man's intervention has actually devolved the wolf from a self-sustaining animal that can take care of itself, to a dependent infantalized parasite that can barely function without human assistance.
Something to think about as we approach Darwin's birthday on February 12th.
It turns out that being a parasite to humans (and eating a lot of vegetative matter as a consequence) is actually more adaptive than living a free and independent life.
Which, perhaps, is not that surprising.
There are more bacteria in your stomach than there are lions in all the world.
Big fierce animals are always rare, while grazers that live down the food chain are always more common, and parasites are the most common of all.
The dog has evolved with humans, same as corn, apples, potatoes, insects, cows, and chickens.
Have we domesticated the dog, or has it domesticated us?.
If our friends pissed and crapped in the house, yelled at us early in the morning, stole our food, humped our leg, ate their own vomit and crap, and then tried to kiss us on the mouth, we would brick them in the head in short order.
But when it's the dogs we pay good money, take good care of them, and chose our houses to suit their needs.
And is it any different in the field? We plant apple trees, potatoes and corn with care, protect them from insects, fungus and predation by deer. We fertilize them, water them, and trim them as needed.
We build houses for our cows and horses, feed them, water them and supply them with antibiotics.
Ditto for sheep, chickens, and pigs.
And as a consequence there are more of these animals under domestication than there are in the wild.
Survival of the fittest. That was Darwin's Deus ex machina. But is "the fittest" animal or plant the one that can train man to do its bidding the best?
Who, exactly, is training whom here?
And is this the most subtle trick the dog has to offer -- the fact that we are the animal being trained?
Darwin, where are you now that I need you? I have questions.