Tuesday 24 July 2012

The limits of science...(Boffin admits defeat)

Finally, we come to the results of my 'Science of Human Behaviour' project (for background, see 1st July post).

I have to tell you that when I first embarked on this study, Gail was a bit uneasy, saying "I hope you realise that you have chosen a very complicated subject Bertie, I fear you might have bitten off more than you can chew".

Well I reminded her that I have, I believe, an infinite capacity for chewing, so that really shouldn't be a problem. 

One month later, I have come to the conclusion that Gail was right and I am having to eat my own words....

Oh you have no idea how hard it has been, trying to make sense of all the fascinating reports you kindly sent me about the behaviour of the humans in your household. 

My starting point, naturally, was a sociobiological perspective. Surely, I thought, all human actions can be interpreted in Darwinian terms as evolutionary aids to survival.

To render the data more manageable, my first step was to divide it into broad categories. By and large this worked, and most of the reported behaviours fell into one of the following four groups.

Group A: Human exhibiting meanness to dog (e.g. withholding the tastiest food) 
Group B: Human ignoring dog (e.g. by going to work or to the gym)
Group C: Poor logic shown by human (e.g. shaving off their own furs then complaining of the cold)
Group D: Extreme excitement or distress of human when sport is on TV (you should have seen Gail watching the Tour de France last weekend...)

So far so good.

But then I tried to work out the adaptive rationale behind all these behaviours, and started to lose confidence.

Can one explain the human urge to spend time dressing up their pup in cute frocks in terms of the survival of the fittest? What has refusing to share a cheeseburger with your dog to do with altruism? Can there really be a 'selfish gene' for not allowing a pet enough computer time? 

Feeling quite overwhelmed, I confided in my neighbour Jake. It seems I asked the right dog. 
Jake tells me he knows all about human behaviour 'cos he shares a household with a nearly qualified Jungian psychotherapist! 

So, I learn it was a big mistake ever to imagine that the reductive, mechanistic methods of scientific analysis would be the right approach. Apparently what most of the respondents to my survey will need, for their behaviour to be understood, is years of (expensive) individual therapy in which their subconscious can be thoroughly scrutinised and their dream world subject to in depth exploration. 

Oh and Jake tells me he'll accept gravy bones as commission for every new client he brings to his human.

As for me, I have decided in future to stick to the natural sciences.

PS Remember it's my Olympic Bouncing Event on Sunday. You will absolutely love all the entries, I promise!


  1. You are quite correct, Bertie...humans make no sense at all. It's best to study scent trails on the base of tree trunks.
    BTW. You are soooo funny...I nearly lost my breakfast!
    Sending lotsalicks

  2. Oh blimey Bertie I'm going to have to have a lie down after all that...I can feel one of my "heads" coming on.....hehe! Deccy

  3. Holy Guacamole Bertie! All of those big technical terms!! I'm going to need therapy after reading all of your scientific data.

    We can't wait for your Event on Sunday :)

    Lily Belle

  4. Oh Bertie! You did take on a rather BIG task! These humans are in a class all by themselves. Some things are beyond science.

    Tell your friend Jake that I have a couple of very interesting peeps in need of some serious psychological help. I will be happy to ship them to him with a fresh supply of meaty bones for payment.

    Your pal, Pip

  5. Oh Bertie , alas we will never know who, why and where and when. Anyway looking forward to Sunday.
    Best wishes Molly

  6. I was afraid this is how it would turn out. I think Peeps are more difficult to understand than Tree Rats.

  7. Bewtie
    at fiwst, I cooldn't believe that thewe was any skience that you could not completely undewstand, but aftew weading youw postie, I'm afwaid, I undewstand that hoomans awe too illogical fow skientifik minds to undewstand..yoow fwiend woold be a gweat help to mommi, but since she can't go thewe, she'll just have to talk the eaws off hew fwiends fow help
    smoochie kisses

  8. There is no understanding what goes on in those little heads of thiers...

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. I told my mom that I would give her snuggle therapy for treats ... think it will work??

  11. Oh my you and Jake have your work cut out for you trying to understand those nutty humans

    urban hounds

  12. Good try, Bertie. We thought it might be an impossible task....but if anydog could do it...you'd be the one!

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  13. Oh too bad. i was looking forward to hearing you explain my bizarre behaviour to my critters. Well, I must say nonetheless you are a very good writer. I love reading your blog and we are fellow scientists too.

    I'll be back,

  14. If the hu-apes were completely logical, they wouldn't be as easy to manipulate with soulful hound or kitteh eyes and a wagging tail. We're better off as is, we think.

    Jed & Abby

  15. Ah Bertie what to do with the humans? They can't help it, they aren't like us, they don't have our logic and well, they can't help that. I liked your categories and will use those for future categorising of Their behaviour.



  16. Bertie, humans are a very strange species. We have come to realise that all we can do is to gently guide them through life.

    Molly, Taffy, Monty and Winnie

  17. Lucky there's someone like Jake for ya! My Jake is my best furiend, Beagle Buddy :)

  18. Bewtie
    I just saw youw qualifyiews in Pawlympic pool and I think I have vewy stiff competition
    those cold watews of Scotland have twained you to be a vewy sewioos contendew
    smoochie good luck kisses

  19. So many bouncing poets and authors. The Mango is amazed and filled with bouncy thoughts.


  20. Bewtie
    I'm still miffed at mommi fow not letting me entew youw event i so enjoyed all the entwies.
    I take it as a gweat compliment that youw Gail mistook me fow you, since I think you awe the epitomy of a pawfect wiwy kid
    smoochie kisses