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,
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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