Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Puppies, Babies, and Other Organic Processes

It was a little distractoid, one of the great torrent that flow across the part of my media consciousness set to "science."

It had to do with puppies, which is why it was circulating so much over the interwebs.  Because, well, puppies.  Awww.  It involved research recently published in Science magazine, which assessed the connection between humans and our canine friends.  The underlying concept: when dogs and people look at one another, there's a measurable neurobiological response.  Pleasure hormones are released and can be measured, in much the same way that they come a-popping into our cortices when we look at babies.

Awww.  Babies.

The concept behind the research: that human beings and dogs "co-evolved" in such a way that their socially-mediated responses to one another were tricked into registering cross-species eye-contact in the same way homo sapiens sapiens registers human to human eye contact.  Both humans and dogs register the same response, meaning that when you get the warm fuzzies from your dog looking at you, it is getting the same warm fuzzies from looking at a human.

Awww.  Humans.

On the one hand, I do find this sort of thing interesting.  Observing the way that human beings have developed a sense of connection with another species, and how we seem to share the same measurable reaction to one another?  It's what science does, and that's cool on many levels.

But on other levels, something jars in me when I see the interaction between living beings reduced to chemical process and learned behaviors.  If I perceive you perceiving me, there's something more at play than millennia of random selection and neurochemical reinforcement.  If we allow ourselves to primarily conceptualize those connections in that way, as about the sub-processes underlying our awareness, then something is diminished.

I am not engaged in a moment of playful delight with a furry pal.  "I" am an array of organic reactions participating in a complex sequence of evolutionarily mediated interactions with another organic system that has co-evolved to be responsive to the same social inputs.

This is true, of course.  It is.

But "I" become less present in that understanding, less engaged.  The relationship can become deconstructed to the point of non-existence.

We lose the soul of it, the geist of it, and in that risk losing our way.