SEPTEMBER 5, 2010 8:02PM

Animal Behavior?

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I have been toying with this idea for some time now. Thinking that if I do not come out with it now I will perhaps never, I am making this, half baked, effort. The idea is simple. It is well known, and documented in the history, that animals often sense an impending disaster. For example, though sort of folklore, rats are the first to leave a sinking ship. Then it is observed and well documented that some animals behave oddly before an earthquake. There are stories on the internet to “confirm” that.

There are a number of interesting stories about animals sensing disasters and escaping. Although it is quite relevant and I could make a few paragraphs of my own out of it, I would rather give an interested reader a reference to read:

Watching animal behavior to predict earthquakes and other disasters has become a passion with some scientists, while others argue that such studies cannot be scientific because they cannot be reproduced. Scientific or non-scientific, it is often agreed that there is some truth to the assertion that animals do have some idea of a violent natural event, prior to its occurrence. Some put it down to the unusual vibrations or sonar effects that alert the animals and some think that such claims are based on just a collection of wishful observations.

Personally I support using all that is available to be able to predict violent events. We often rely on predictions that are “gut-feelings” in the arena of trade/commerce etc and more often than that we rely on the weather predictions. The first of these has no experimental basis and the second does have some scientific basis but relies on scenarios that are often very hard to reproduce. So I would say that if some statements or observations predict some extraordinary events with a positive frequency we should pay attention to them.

Having sort of established the somewhat contested premise that animals may at times show some advanced knowledge of some violent events, I come right to my questions. My first question is, being basically animals, why can’t we sense it? I believe the answer is, “Simple, we humans have moved so far away from nature partly due to our evolution, and partly due to our comfort oriented lifestyle, that our instincts have been suppressed to the point of being muted”. I asked the first question so that I could ask the second question: Could it be that at the subconscious level we do get the stimuli that the animals get but we have lost the ability to interpret them?

Let us suppose for a bit that we do get those stimuli, prior to a big disaster, but the majority of us do not know how to decipher them. I would of course let the experts decide what effects a subconscious bother would have on a human. For my part, looking at myself as one who is getting those stimuli, I feel that I would be irritable and ready to do anything to let me be in the clear, to save my hide so to speak. If I had violent notion of a religion I would perhaps try to please “my violent God” by trying to force people to follow the “right path”. If on the other hand I am one of the meek ones, I would perhaps try to inherit the earth by preaching. I have a feeling that in both cases there would be a sense of urgency. Of course if I am the easy to flare up person, I would just take a gun and shoot a few people and, perhaps, end my life too, to escape the disaster.

You have every right to say, “Too many ifs and too many suppositions, where does he get his ideas?” While this madness of poking into our animal side is relatively new, the train of events that led to it is somewhat old. Recall that Banda Aceh was the hardest hit place by the 2004 tsunami. A Jewish friend of mine thought it was Divine Chastisement for the violent Islamist activities centered around Banda Aceh. We Muslims, like the Jews, believe that God Almighty can and does get angry at human misdeeds and cause all sorts of disasters to punish them. So, I did not quite disagree with him. Of course I did not like his insinuation that Islam had something to do with the behavior of the Banda Aceh terrorists or of any terrorists with Muslim names.

Then a year or so ago a friend of mine sent me a video of (Pakistani) Taliban slaughtering some folks for “crimes” as heinous as shaving their clients’ beards or selling music CDs. I consider myself strong but I could not watch more than two slayings. There was this thug with a sickle like instrument in hand. A victim would be brought, held down and this thug would not just slit his throat but cut the head off, and put it on the torso and then say “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is great). Yeah Allah is great for him because He has vested the power of life and death into the hands of this scoundrel and his cohorts. This, sort of reminded me of the accounts of human sacrifice to avert misfortune, in days gone by. Of course terrorizing the general public into conforming could be one purpose, but it seemed to me that they were trying to “please God” by showing that they were trying to produce what they thought was the best “Islamic” culture.

By the way, Islam does prescribe capital punishment; but for creating disorder in the society, by killing people unjustly. So, by Islamic law, the thugs who ordered the slayings and those who carried them out were the ones who should have been punished with death. When crimes like that go unpunished only then God decides to take it upon Himself to punish those who tolerated those excesses. So perhaps according to my Jewish friend the tsunami of 2004 and the 2010 floods in Pakistan were Divine Chastisements. But after these two big events neither the Indonesian nor the Pakistani terrorists have limited their frenzied efforts to impose their version of Islam. In Pakistan even during the floods target killings went on unabated.

At least as far as Pakistan is concerned, the situation is very disturbing. The Pakistanis that I have known, as a young man, were mild mannered people, leaning towards kindness. But looking at the situation now they seem to be in a killing frenzy. So, perhaps, there may be more to come. Perhaps they are getting some subconscious stimuli some sense of foreboding that is making them kill those who could be a problem after the impending disaster. God only knows.

For now all I have is the worry that some violent event is lying in store for Pakistanis, if they do not repent. From a slightly scientific angle, I suggest that someone look into violent crimes prior to similar disasters to see if a pattern of irrational behavior, before a violent natural event, emerges. You may not be inclined to go all that far but hey I have said my piece.


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