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A Feeling of Weirdness

A Feeling of Weirdness

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Published by Freeman_ffe

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Freeman_ffe on Apr 20, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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A Feeling of Weirdness
A Feeling of Weirdness
by Dr. John C. Lilly, M.D.
In this paper I would like to discuss a very peculiar effect which we havenoticed in the laboratory while working with the bottlenose dolphin (
Tursiops truncalus
This effect is an example of the peculiarities of a creative process whichoccurs in this particular kind of scientific research but which may also occur morewidely than just here. To state it tersely: if one works with a bottlenose dolphin dayin and day out for many hours, days, and weeks, one is struck with the fact that one'scurrent basic assumptions and even one's current expectations determine, withincertain limits, the results attained with a particular animal at that particular time.
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A Feeling of Weirdness
John C. Lilly with JANUS Instruments
John Lilly, M.D., Ph.D.,
first delivered this paper at theFifth Annual Lasker Lecture at the Michael Reese Hospitalin April of 1962. At that time, Dr. Lilly was involved in hisearly pioneering studies of dolphin behavior andcommunication which he conducted from 1955 through1963. He then left dolphin research to investigate his ownmind, on the theory that the study of the self and theuniverse are one. His decision to concentrate on himself wasprompted by the dolphins who, he feels, taught him a lotabout being a human. Dr. Lilly is the author of a number of books, including
 Man and Dolphin, The Mind of the Dolphin, Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer,
The Center of the Cyclone.
This effect was firstnoticed in our work in1955, 1957, and 1958.As I became moreconvinced of theneuroanatomical sizeand complexity of thedolphin brain, I noticeda subtle change in myown attitude in regardto possibleperformances on theparts of these animals.To one like myself,trained in neurology,neurophysiology, andpsychoanalysis, a largecomplex brain implieslarge complexcapabilities and greatmental sensitivity.Such capabilities andsensitivities can existof course in forms wehave not yetrecognized.The working hypothesis of an advanced capability raised our index of suspicionand in turn sensitized us to new sources of information. It was this subtlepreparation of the mental climate which allowed us to listen to some rather queernoises that the dolphin was producing in the laboratory and to review them verycarefully on the tapes. Because of the possibility of a very large brain capacity andbecause of musings about the possible areas of achievement already realized in thisspecies but as yet undiscovered by us, our minds began to open.This opening of our minds was a subtle and yet a painful process. We began tohave feelings which I believe are best described by the word "weirdness." Thefeeling was that we were up against the edge of a vast uncharted region in which wewere about to embark with a good deal of mistrust concerning the appropriateness of our own equipment. The feeling of weirdness came on us as the sounds of this smallwhale seemed more and more to be forming words in our own language. We felt wewere in the presence of Something, or Someone, who was on the other side of a
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A Feeling of Weirdness
transparent barrier which up to this point we hadn't even seen. The dim outlines of aSomeone began to appear. We began to look at this small whale's body with newlyopened eyes and began to think in terms of its possible "mental processes," ratherthan in terms of the classical view of a conditionable, instinctually functioning"animal." We began to apologize to one another for slips of the tongue in which wewould call dolphins "persons" and in which we began to use their names as if theywere persons. This seemed to be as much a way of grasping at straws of security ina rough sea of the unknown as of committing the sin of Science of anthropomorphizing. Also, if these "animals" had "higher mental processes," thenthey in turn must have been thinking of us as very peculiar (even stupid) beingsindeed.
We are very superstitiousabout killer whales up here.We know from our ancestorsfrom way back that theyonce tried to kill a whale likethat, a killer whale, and theyhardly wounded it. It isknown that the whalecapsized the boat andchewed up both humanbeings who were in the boat.It is said that these whaleshave a good memory andeven after many numbers of years pass, they alwaysknow which human beinghad been shooting at them.
 Raymond T. Aguvlak,
 American Scientist,
About this time we began to be exposed towhat I would call the dedicated, opposedskepticism of some scientific workers. Thesepeople were for several years in close contactwith dolphins in the oceanaria and did not and donot share our views of the possibilities resident inthis huge and complex brain. Their view is notincomprehensible to those of us who are in thenew area we have opened up. This group of scientists has denied publicly that mimicry of human speech was possible for these animals("No vocal cords," is typical). When wedemonstrated that mimicry existed, they changedtheir tack, and now say, "Mimicry, so what?Parrots do it, mynah birds do it." If anyone hadsaid to me in 1947 that a whale could mimichuman words, I would not have believed him.But in 1957 I was forced to believe--through theexperience of hearing a whale do it. The"mimicry, so what" group may have lost theirsense of wonder and surprise; we have not.However, I do not wish to discuss opposing points of view, nor to dwell too longon the effect of such vociferous opposition on one's thinking. As to the latter, all Ican say is that at one time it slowed us down a bit, but the dolphins continue torenew our confidence and make us eager to push on.We first obtained the mimicry effect in 1957 by the use of electrodes implanteddeep within the rewarding sites in the brain structures in these animals. Theseresults, therefore, may have been caused by the peculiar way that the brain wasbeing stimulated. We considered that possibly the animals did not have this ability
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