Years ago, I helped to “start” a baby goat. A new goat plops into the world as a slippery pile of long legs. Soon, it will be tottering around, prodding and nuzzling its mother’s sides, finding a teat almost as if it knew what it were looking for. My friend told me that she had a kid goat that was dying because the doe had such a low droopy udder that the kid had not been able to get hold of a teat. By the time she had discovered the problem, the baby had given up, and it wouldn’t even try to suck on a teat that was placed in its mouth. I said that I had some experience with that, and four hands could be useful; I offered to help. The kid’s flanks were flat‐stuck‐together as a newborn’s—obviously it hadn’t fed—and it was droopylimp and its eyes were dull. It would not suck, so we kept giving it drops on a fingertip… only a little interest. Abruptly something clicked and the kid began to suck. We thrust a teat in its mouth, and it suckled with a fury that can hardly be described. Energy flowed as if a dam had broken. We watched the little animal’s flanks fill out until it had a nice round belly. Then, it went peacefully to sleep.
One might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that baby animals arrive somewhat‐knowing what to do, as if they kind‐of‐remember. Little goats play jump–and‐butt, and I did notnotice them being shown how. When kid goats play with piglets, they take turns, kid butts the piggy’s round pink side, piglet runs around to slip its baby snout under the kid’s belly, tosses the little goat in the air. Puppies have a natural competence for tug‐and‐rrrr. Frogs and fish know how to carryout their frog or fish responsibilities.
How? This sort of behavior is labelled instinct. A label is not an explanation. An explanation does not necessarily fit all cases.
Some creatures, birds, for instance, show complicated instinctive behaviors, that people sometimes refer to as “hard‐wired.” Related species may have DIFFERENT complicated instinctive behavior, so in these cases the hard‐wiring would have had to evolve quite late their development.
So, learning? I wonder if, perhaps, some critters carry out complicated teaching behavior that would explain some of what appears to be instinctive behavior. That call does not cut it for the brand new goat kid.
Note that I do not believe something just because I am not satisfied with other explanations.
Here is an explanation I don’t necessarily believe, that I have no reason to assume is true just because I like it―
The idea occurred to me quite some time ago:
If any psychic phenomena were to exist1, if there really were some fundamental connection from consciousness to consciousness, in that case something resembling reincarnation might be a reasonable explanation for instinct. (I say “something resembling reincarnation” because I would guess that whatever people interpret as reincarnation, if not simply imagination, would be a larger and stranger whatever, a manifestation of some putative connection between consciousnesses.
1. It is my understanding that experiments that purport to reveal the existence of so‐called paranormal phenomena have been claimed but not replicated, that the pattern has been that somebody announces strong positive results, and then someone else tries and fails to reproduce the results. Science requires that experimental results be not only impressive but also reproducible. Whaddif, a real phenomenon exists— somehow involving consciousness, and therefore complex, sneaky, and unpredictable—that evades the methods of science. Experiments on such a damn thing might well fail to replicate.
From Molten Wood and Feral Ideas chasens.ca/book