Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fido, Fed


Dogs have likely evolved to look cute to humans — the ugly breeds tending not to be treated as well — and there are certain objective (or at least biologically-rooted) criteria for “cute,” partly rooted in “neotony,” or possession of child-like qualities (sometimes recognized instinctively even between different mammal species) that evoke protective impulses, as explained in this article pointed out to me by Diana Fleischman, who is both an evolutionary psychology expert and a vegan.  By contrast, girlfriend Helen, a carnivore like me, has occasionally claimed to be “immune” to the appeal of cuteness and was, after all, a teenage taxidermist at a science museum, back when she was even more neotonous than she is now.

I also once read a rather plausible-sounding National Geographic article about the idea that the key to dogs branching off evolutionarily from proto-wolves may have been that the cuter (more neotonous and thus tamer) among them were more tolerated by humans as the self-serving creatures trailed human hunting parties, hoping to be thrown scraps.  Thus, doggie consciousness may have been born in a quintuple-whammy of begging, fetching, whining, cuteness, and friendliness with humans, which sounds about right (but is not necessarily therefore true, something we should always keep in mind to avoid fabricating just-so stories and myths).

If you prefer economic analyses of humans being manipulated, though — and if you had fun at a Tea Party protest last week but need more — today the nation will see a series of protests with a more specific (and likely far less popular and respected but undeniably timely) message: End the Fed.  Still a fringe issue, perhaps, but ultimately a good idea — and I have to admit it seems a lot more relevant now than I ever would have predicted a year ago when it was only a rallying cry at Ron Paul events.


Diana said...

No one is immune to cuteness. I will believe Helen if I watch her eat a live squirming infant at least as cute as the Gerber baby.

Todd Seavey said...

While watching Helen devour another neotonous being would undeniably be hot, I fear it is ethics rather than cuteness that would ultimately decide her course of action in this case. Likewise — and this may put me at odds with many human females — I genuinely do not think human babies are as cute as baby ducks but would happily eat the baby duck first. On the other hand, I think teddy bears are even cuter but would not eat one, due to the stuffing issue and lack of nutritive value.