Biology Culture Arts Animals Symbiosis – No

Man alone has culture?   In the Helium debate, presumably taken only by humans, (despite the fondness your cat may have for the keyboard); the idea that many animals have culture is far and away in the lead.   Looking deep into nature, as Albert Einstein suggested we do, in order to gain better understanding, we see plenty of evidence that culture is shared not only among species, but back and forth between species.

 Humans have painting, music, dance and more.  These are called the arts.  The “arts” is a word a meaning “human made” or artificial, which is of course derived from “art.”  In other words all art is a mere copy of nature.  We learned dancing and song from birds and their amazing displays of courtship, we learned use of color and light also from birds as well as other animals.  Watch a Bollywood spectacle finale and tell me those movements are not derived from birds!

 Let’s look at other cultural developments.  Many animals engage in play, this helps them learn things like hunting skills, but they also do it for the sheer joy of play. Primates are especially adept at this.  Dolphins also leap and play, but their serious business of using waves, bubbles, and whatever is at fin for tools is also well documented.  They excel in communication with echolocation and clicking, other cetaceans, and mammals, do so as well. 

 You may think your keyboard walking cat is not quite ready for tapping out “Taming of the Shrew”, but cats do have a very keen visual and audio sense.  Cats tell stories of their prey catching exploits very well, especially mother cats to their kittens. Cats also communicate very well about who, what, where, and when with the silent gossip of scent.  Your dog uses smell too, and not just to repulse you with his bad breathe.  Your dog may not be quite as sophisticated as your cat, but loyalty comes with its own cultural code.

 Even the art of war can be learned from ants.  There are only two known animals that wage real war, humans and ants.  Other animals conduct raids, but not all out battles waged in ongoing conflict.  Animals do strategize, although it’s unlikely you’ll find them bogarting your best video games, except to nest upon, or “mark” with their unique personal critique of scent.

 In mutually beneficial ways animals depend upon one another for grooming, warning calls, harvesting food, playing, using camouflage, decorating, nesting, and many other symbiotic endeavors.

 From song, dance, composition to the marital arts, animals have culture.  These are just a few of the animals which teach us so much from observation.  More importantly, what they can teach us about getting along with the natural world without plundering it may allow us to evolve our own culture, and perhaps even begin to protect their right to live, laugh, love, sing and dance as well.