Interesting Stuff: 14/07/2017

Do elephants have souls. It seems obvios that some animals qualify as people.

“One of the major clues that elephants have something we would recognize as inner lives is their extraordinary memories. This is attested to by outward indicators ranging from the practical — a matriarch’s recollection of a locale, critical to leading her family to food and water — to the passionate — grudges that are held against specific people or types of people for decades or even generations, or fierce affection for a long-lost friend.

Carol Buckley, co-founder of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, a retirement ranch for maltreated veterans of circuses and zoos, describes the arrival of a newcomer to the facility. The fifty-one-year-old Shirley was first introduced to an especially warm resident of long standing named Tarra: “Everyone watched in joy and amazement as Tarra and Shirley intertwined trunks and made ‘purring’ noises at each other. Shirley very deliberately showed Tarra each injury she had sustained at the circus, and Tarra then gently moved her trunk over each injured part.” Later in the evening, an elephant named Jenny entered the barn — one who, as it turned out, had as a calf briefly been in the same circus as Shirley, twenty-two years before:

There was an immediate urgency in Jenny’s behavior. She wanted to get close to Shirley who was divided by two stalls. Once Shirley was allowed into the adjacent stall the interaction between her and Jenny became quite intense. Jenny wanted to get into the stall with Shirley desperately. She became agitated, banging on the gate and trying to climb through and over.

After several minutes of touching and exploring each other, Shirley started to ROAR and I mean ROAR — Jenny joined in immediately. The interaction was dramatic, to say the least, with both elephants trying to climb in with each other and frantically touching each other through the bars. I have never experienced anything even close to this depth of emotion.

We opened the gate and let them in together…. they are as one bonded physically together. One moves, and the other shows in unison. It is a miracle and joy to behold. All day … they moved side by side and when Jenny lay down, Shirley straddled her in the most obvious protective manner and shaded her body from the sun and harm.

They were inseparable until Jenny died a few years later.”

Mind the gap 2: A vision of regulatory failure: “Mandatory parking requirements, sidewalks, curb cuts, fire lanes, on site stormwater management, handicapped accessibility, draught tolerant native plantings… It’s a very long list that totaled $340,000 worth of work. They only paid $245,000 for the entire property. And that’s before they even started bringing the building itself up to code for their intended use. Guess what? They decided not to open the bakery or brewery. Big surprise.”


The Politics of Sex Abuse in Sacred Hierarchies: A Comparative Study of the Catholic
Church and the Military in the United States: “The paper attempts to assess whether the tolerance of sex abuse in each organization has been partly due to these institutions seeing themselves as sacred, as something apart from the secular state, beholden to alternative authorities. It explores the role that their hierarchical, male-dominant structures and independent legal systems have on outcomes, and particularly how those factors interact with their sacred or quasi-sacred status to compound difficulties in reforming the institutions. The paper also finds that both institutions have benefitted from the deference of public authorities, at the expense of victims. It highlights an issue often overlooked in the lawsuits and Congressional hearings about clergy child sex abuse and sexual assault in the military: the fact that child sex abuse by religious officials and sexual assault of soldiers by fellow soldiers and officers constitute profound challenges for democracy in the US, as the institutions claim and may be accorded separate and privileged status, beyond the reach of democratic laws and procedures, and is a warning about the costs of public deference to other institutions. The study utilizes extensive documentation of Church clergy child sex abuse cases in the US, and documentation of sex abuse cases in the US military, including documentation from Congressional hearings.”


Slate Star Codex on progress: “The first student has no master, and must discover everything himself. He researches for 70 years, then writes his wisdom into a book before he dies. The second student reads the book, and in 7 years, he has learned 70 years of research. Then he does his own original research for 63 years and writes a book containing 133 years of research. The third student reads for 13.3 years, then does his own research for 66.7 years, ending up with 200 years. Imagine going further and further. After many generations, 690 years of research have been done, and it takes a student 69 years to master them. The student only has one year left of life to research further, leaving the world with 691 years of research total. So the cycle creeps onward, always approaching but never quite reaching 700 years of architectural research.”

More Compass Rose on Honesty: “It’s not really possible to discharge a deontological duty to never lie, if by lying you include making promises that you might not keep. Instead, we have to talk about assigning a cost to breaking one’s word.

People who assign a high cost to breaking their word behave as though there were substantial punishments for wordbreaking. They will be motivated by this internal incentive to spend more effort before making a promise, figuring out whether it’s keepable – and to add qualifiers and caveats beforehand to make the literal exact promise one they can keep. Thus, they reduce the expected cost of oathbreaking by reducing the probability that they will be unable to discharge their obligation. Later, if unforeseen circumstances make it more difficult for them to discharge that obligation, they will honor the contract if the cost of doing so exceeds the moral cost of oathbreaking, and renege if the opposite is true.

People who assign a low cost to breaking their word will be free and easy with their pledges, as authenticexpressions of their current disposition:”

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