Monday, August 8, 2022

Justin Gregg's "If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal"

Justin Gregg is a Senior Research Associate with the Dolphin Communication Project and an Adjunct Professor at St. Francis Xavier University where he lectures on animal behavior and cognition. Originally from Vermont, Gregg studied the echolocation abilities of wild dolphins in Japan and The Bahamas. He currently lives in rural Nova Scotia where he writes about science and contemplates the inner lives of the crows that live near his home.

Gregg applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity, and reported the following:
Page 99 of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal provides background information on how all animals evolved to be sensitive to the 24-hour cycle of the sun. It has a fun explanation as to how the length of a day used to be 23 and a half hours 72 million years ago. I provide this info so the reader understands that all animals are sensitive to the passing of time, and evolved behavioral patterns in sync with the rising and the setting of the sun.

The background info on page 99 sets up a discussion as to the extent to which animals understand what time is, and whether or not they know that they are destined to die one day. Knowledge of one’s own mortality being a trait that might be unique to humans. The idea I am exploring later in the chapter is that humans have unique cognitive traits that give us this “death wisdom,” but this knowledge of our own deaths might not help us very much from an evolutionary perspective. So it’s maybe not the best page in the book to provide an overview of what the book’s about since I don’t discuss that overarching message on that particular page. It would be a bit like turning to page 10 of an IKEA manual for an IDANĂ„S storage cabinet and seeing a picture of a dowel being shoved into a hole. You’d have no idea that the finished product was a dining room cabinet. For each of the chapters in the book, I try to take the reader on a journey through a series of arguments and examples to lead them to a fun conclusion about the nature of the human mind. This page is just a small part of that argument – like a solitary dowel looking for a hole.
Visit Justin Gregg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue