More Than Instinct
BY DAVID S. LEWIS
A man who chases mountain lions for sport (see Montana Pio-neer February issue), and then captures them on video, recently told me that he happened to chase the same lion a few times, twice for several miles up a mountainside, and the lion returned to the exact same tree where it had taken refuge months earlier on a previous chase—the exact same tree, in a sea of trees, a fact confirmed by comparing video from each episode.
Imagine the highly specific intelligence required to do such a thing. Could you, after all, find a single specific tree in a forest? Maybe so, but not easily, and you would have to have an excellent memory for detail.
Similarly, accounts have been documented of dogs having been inadvertently transported hundreds of miles and then finding their way home on foot.
I once owned a farmhouse. Built in 1810, that great old house had several outbuildings, including a summer kitchen, in which lived a cat that came with the house, though not a house cat, because we never fed it and hardly ever touched it. She lived and hunted outside, and then had kittens in the summer kitchen—cute, but in reality not such a great thing, as most were flattened by cars on a nearby busy road.
The next time the cat got pregnant (see Pet Advice, page 23), I picked her up (she didn’t like that), took her in my car to a working farm about 5 miles away where I thought she and her kittens would serve some purpose, and left her there (sorry). This was not a pet, mind you, but a feral cat.
Two days later she was back at my summer kitchen.
I also recall that the first time my Ukrainian grandmother visited our house when I was a kid, our highly intelligent and frighteningly aggressive German Shepherd, Greta, barked at her as she came up the walk. Having no car (which she called the machine) and unable to drive, Grandmom visited with relatives perhaps 3 more times in 20 years. Yet after that first encounter, Greta recognized Grandmom. She knew who she was (the real deal, by the way) and accepted her forever as a family member.
Non thinking people who ironic-ally are often aca-demics attribute everything animals do to instinct, the Darwinian fundamentalist model, as if animals are biological machines driven by genetic adaptation alone with behaviors produced mechanically by stimulus and response. Of course, these things are real, as is natural selection, which in effect breeds highly adapted creatures (the abilities of mountain lions to survive in the wild, for example, are phenomenally keen). But there is more to animals (humans too) than biological mechanisms.
Consider documented cases that reveal how certain dogs repeatedly went to a door or windowsill at varying times of day when their master’s car approached from afar. Professional skeptics say the dog must hear the car coming, hardly a believable explanation, given distances involved, even for a dog, and one that attributes to the animal the ability to distinguish between the sounds produced by hundreds of vehicles in a particular area.
While considering this matter, I found experiments had been conduc-ted demonstrating that animals not only have keen intelligence, but paranormal intelligence, as revealed by the Harvard and Cambridge educated biochemist and parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake in his recent book The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry. Sheldrake faces the reality that orthodox Western science forbids extrasensory possibilities, owing to dogmas of scientific materialism as entrenched as those of the most fundamentalist religious belief systems, and due to the way funding for scientific research is allocated—only to those who defend the faith.
It’s sad, though, if we need experts to prove or disprove what we observe on our own throughout the course of our lives (as Bob Dylan wrote—You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows). We do need though the courage of our convictions and experience to countermand the dogma experts try to impose on our minds.
And let’s not forget the story of local author Ben Mikaelsen’s bear (Planet of the Bears, Montana Pioneer, Dec. 2010). After Ben left his best friend Buffy the bear for a period of weeks, and then returned, the bear showed its depth of feeling and emotional intelligence by physically compelling Ben to stay close to him in the den Ben had built for the bear, clearing a space and holding Ben there until the bear fell asleep.
The bear was a deeply feeling and caring animal. But didn’t we know such things all along, until experts tried to drill them out of our heads because that’s what they were taught? Don’t our natural instincts tell us that creatures have a native intelligence and sensitivity, even intuition, that animates their lives?
Those who have had a dog, as a family member and friend, and then lost that dog, know. We mourn their passing and celebrate their lives. We see their uniqueness and sense their “humanity.” We admire their instincts and their natural abilities, but we know there is much more to them than biology alone.