[ExI] reasoning in beasts

spike spike66 at att.net
Mon Jun 16 13:40:59 UTC 2014

-----Original Message-----
From: extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org
[mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of BillK
>>... According to my niece's 90 yr old great grandma, who was a firsthand 
> witness and tells the truth, mules are the choice for work beasts: 
> they have most of the horse's strength and most of the asses stupid; ideal

>...You've got it the wrong way round, spike!

>...Mules are more intelligent than horses.
Try getting a 20 horse team to turn a waggon around and chaos ensues.
But mules can be trained and called to by name so that those near the waggon
pull in the opposite direction to get round the corner...

Excellent thanks BillK.  As I heard the explanation yesterday, I realized
there is an alternate way to interpret the observation that horses are
difficult to turn but mules will pull back and forth all day.  If we could
hear a horse and a mule discussing the act of plowing a field, the horse
might say "You silly ass!  Why would we turn around?  We just came from that
direction!"  The mule might say "No, you dumb horse's ass!  Of course we
just came from that direction, but notice we are one row over from last
time.  We will go back and forth across this field until we cover all of

The notion of going back and forth is a more complicated task than going in
a straight line.

So I agree: for that task, the mule is smarter.  The horse has that
take-us-on-home-Charlie talent which is impressive.  This observation in
itself is educational in trying to understand how beasts think.  We see
differences in the way two closely related species reason.  Even within
species such as dogs, we see some which make excellent guard dogs without
any training: they just seem to know what they are supposed to do, while
other species completely fail to grasp the notion of bad guys.  Irish
setters are everyone's friend.  We see dogs which can catch a Frisbee out of
the air, completely without training: they just know how to do it.  Other
breeds wouldn't fetch a stick for T-bone.  I don't know why that is.

Lesson: the brain of the ass, donkey and horse are similar, but behaviors
vary widely.  Likewise with dog behaviors: similar brains, large variation
in abilities and instinct.  In all these cases, I see evidence of some form
of reasoning.  It is an example of human reasoning to recognize the parallel
process in non-human beasts.


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