To read the science journals, one would think animal life consists of nothing but predation and reproduction, both thoroughly competitive in nature. The absence of any capacity for pleasure, or at least for non-competitive pleasure, is frightening. Lining a nest with warm and soft material is not for comfort, but to “increase the survival rate of offspring” and arranging for others to watch the baby during long and deep dives is not from affection but to “maximize reproductive success”.
This is of concern for two reasons. First, to judge by my own life and that of the dog with whom I live, that view is, to say the least, narrow and thus incomplete.
Second, what does it reveal of the scientists? Do they really see nothing but predation and reproduction – nothing but competition for food and sex? If it’s true that we see what we want to see, well, why do these people want to see nothing but that? Is it a projection of their own view of life? How awful – how impoverished one must be – to see life – to live life – as nothing but a competition – and, worse, a competition for nothing but food and sex. Or does it provide some sort of vicarious satisfaction? Either way, there’s the possibility of an ever tightening and dangerous circle: if that’s all we think there is, that’s all we’ll see, and if that’s all we see, that’s all we’ll think there is. Socializing not as a reproductive strategy, but for companionship; playing not as practice for evading a predator or capturing prey, but for fun; lying in the sun not to regulate one’s body temperature, but simply because it feels good – why are these things so unthinkable?
Or perhaps these things are thinkable, are visible, but are considered unimportant, trivial. What a value system that reveals! Not only that food and sex are more important than beauty and laughter, but that competition is more important than cooperation.
These are our scientists. These are the people who are collecting information, amassing knowledge, constructing our view – or rather, imposing their view – of the world. Surely a little more responsibility, a little more maturity, is called for.