Human Exceptionalism

No, Dolphins Don’t “Talk” Like Humans

Science” is often really ideology these days, particularly in the attempt by some to convey onto animals characteristics that are distinctly human, in order to, in my view, destroy human exceptionalism.

Here’s a small example.  LiveScience has an article up headlined “Dolpins ‘Talk’ Like Humans, New Study Suggests.” Now what do you think that means?  The most obvious conclusion is that scientists have found that dolphins communicate with language, that is, that they talk to each other just like humans do.

Ah, but that is not what the study found.  Rather, scientists learned that certain tissues are used to make dolphin sounds that work similarly to vocal cords.  From the story:

Rather than vocal cords, the dolphins likely use tissue vibrations in their nasal cavities to produce their “whistles,” which aren’t true whistles after all. The researchers suggest structures in the nasal cavity, called phonic lips, are responsible for the sound.

Okay, that’s interesting.  But then, making my case even stronger, the story notes that, contrary to the headline, dolphins aren’t talking like us:

The dolphins aren’t actually talking, though. “It does not mean that they talk like humans, only that they communicate with sound made in the same way,” Madsen told LiveScience.

Big difference.

Okay, then why the headline that strongly implies the exact opposite?  The truthful head would be how dolphins “vocalize” like us, not “talk” like us.  And no, the quotes around the word “talk” doesn’t excuse what appears to be an attempt to give a significant anthropomorphic meaning to the story.  Indeed, that’s why it made the front page of The Drudge Report.

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