The article doesn’t say what types of dogs were tested. We had a guide dog puppy, a Lab, who was dumb as a post. Our border collie/cocker mix, however, is a genius.
We have a treat dispenser that dogs use by hitting a lever with a paw. The border collie figured it out in under a second, the Lab never, even with the border collie showing him.
Um, wolves *are *dogs. Or, vice versa at least. Wolf is the “species” form–the wild form–of Canis lupus. Dogs are the domesticated (i.e., inbred) form, Canis lupus familiaris; these are almost always weaker than the species form, in all plant and animal husbandry. Evolution perfected the wolf; man’s fiddling with that perfection created the dog. It shouldn’t surprise you that this was a step backward, not forward.
Again, this is almost universally true: man-made variations arrived at through breeding are almost always going to be “lesser”–whether that means weaker, or dumber, or whatever. Fancy goldfish, variegated plants, etc. None of these would survive in the wild. The same goes for many dog breeds.
I have minor quibble with the bolded statement. Evolution does not "perfect’ anything as evolution is (a) not telelological and (b) ongoing. It quibble. Evolution is not telelogical, and it is ongoing. Evolution only stops working on a population when that population becomes extinct.
I have more than a minor quibble. There’s no reason to hold “natural” as superior. Canis Lupus in its “wild” form is what has, to this point, best exploited the niche it fills in its environment. There is no reason humans can’t selectively breed to maximize one or more traits in comparison to the original, since doing so is precisely what selective breeding is for. If we can breed a goldfish larger or fancier than the original form, why not a dog that’s faster (greyhound?), or one that’s hairier (take your pick), or one that’s “smarter”?
Yeah, if you’ve read my participation in evolution threads, you’d know that I know this. I meant only that the perfection that is WOLF was achieved by evolution.
You can’t add, you can only subtract. THis is done by inbreeding. In other words, to oversimplify, you can only emphasize existing traits by weakening others; you can’t create new talents, or skills, etc. Selective breeding, especially of dogs, is explicitly inbreeding: creating artificial twins by breeding closely related animals. This is why most pure-bred dogs have a “trademark” disease, or weakness.
Again, this is oversimplified, but it’s basic math: you can’t add new traits, you can only allow them to come to fore by inbreeding.
From your argument, I don’t see how the natural, evolutionary process by which wolves arose happened by anything other than “inbreeding.”
And anyway, “bringing to the fore” is quite sufficient if our goal is to create a breed of dog with higher average “intelligence” than wolves. Actually, for arguing the general case, I dislike intelligence as an example since it’s so poorly defined. The OP article was laughably bad and made the studies sound equally laughable, but that’s neither here nor there.
It’s true that our inbreeding often results in defects or diseases, but that’s largely because we do a poor job of it. The multitude of traits in domestic dogs that you may consider “inferior” to the traits of wolves are indeed inferior for doing what a wolf does - but at the same time, wolves make poor pets. We didn’t breed most of our dogs to be uberwolves.
This is really my only point: evolution is the process of millions of years of, well, market testing. A few centuries of inbreeding for the ephemeral whims of man is just not going to be as successful.
Sure, if you focus on one feature at a time, in one breed at a time, in that totally decontextualized sense you might be able to argue that this or that trait has been improved. But it’s almost never a zero sum equation; other weaknesses, often hidden, are almost always the price.
I have no problem with the claim that most domesticated dogs are probably dumb as rocks when compared to wolves. But to claim the reason for this is that we created those dogs via selective breeding misses the mark. For the various breeds that people like to hold as examples of the pinnacle of canine intelligence, I don’t see that it’s obvious on the face of it that wolves are even more intelligent. Your original post in this thread smacked of the implication that our breeding cannot improve on the design that nature has arrived at, and to assert that is to assert a qualitative difference between natural evolution and “artificial” evolution. The weaknesses in our dogs are simply because our breeding processes mostly have sucked, not that they necessarily must suck.
The following is more directly addressing your last post:
I agree completely that our rushed, haphazard, and ham-handed efforts on Canis lupus were astronomically unlikely to produce anything that could out-wolf a wolf, but you still seem to be operating under the assumption that that is the bar we must use. “Successful” has no real comparative value except to drop a dog into a wolf’s life and watch it fail to be a wolf, and I’m saying that’s a useless test.
I understand what you’re saying, but I think we still disagree on my main point: that the baseline of quote-unquote “perfection” in Canis lupus is the wild gray wolf; and that any inbreeding, starting from that baseline, can only subtract from that point; the bar cannot be raised. Again, I’m talking about the whole animal: any trait that you emphasize, that you “improve” on, you can only do so by weakening another. With very small variations, of course. But it’s hard for me not to see the genetic information in an animal as having a constant “total,” and any addition must have an equal and opposite subtraction. VAST oversimplification, of course, but perhaps you take my point. I mean, yeah, through inbreeding, you can increase the size and strength of the base wolf into a Great Dane. But the Great Dane has a lifespan of like 8 or 9 years; it’s too big for its own good, it’s out of balance. Etc.
I’m sure it’s not possible to identify the specific weakness in ever single breed of dog, but I firmly believe the weakness is still there, even if it’s hidden from obvious view. The wild gray wolf is the most “balanced” form of Canis lupus, in other words, in the way I understand these things.
I have two points to make about your position as you just outlined it. Granting it true, then it is in no way cause for the dismissal of the possibility that dogs can be or are smarter than wolves, which was the impetus for your original post.
And also, as I understand you, evolution is impossible. I refer once again to something I asked earlier. How is the natural evolutionary process not “inbreeding”?
Most of my dogs are idiots, so I have no quibble with this statement.
It’s just, um, not. It’s the antithesis of inbreeding. I simply cannot figure out where you get that from. Evolution doesn’t exclude the possibility of inbreeding, and of course in island situations, etc., it’s been known to happen. But it’s just one of many different possibilities.
Seriously, I can’t see how you conflate the two. Evolution–I spose I should really be saying “natural selection”–is change brought about in an organism from environmental pressures and influences. Purebreeding of dogs, for example, is finding two dogs who share a particular trait–and more often than not these two animals will have overlapping ancestors in their pedigree–and breeding them together with a specific, artificial goal in mind; the only environmental pressure is the whim of the breeder.
And how is that not an environmental pressure? How is that not a purely arbitrary distinction? That is what I was getting at when I said you seemed to be implying a qualitative difference between natural and artificial evolution, and unless you can describe it to me I won’t believe one exists.
As for inbreeding, let’s imagine a totally isolated island with a population of wolves living there according to their natural whims. All breeding they do henceforth will be with each other and their offspring and etc. Is that not inbreeding?
Um, what’s your main point? Why do you think that the concept of an island population is something unknown to me? Why do you seem to suggest that I’ve said that isolated incidents of inbreeding are impossible? Where have I said that natural selection specifically excludes isolated incidents of inbreeding? You’re saying they’re the same thing, at the same time arguing that I have somehow insisted they’re mutually exclusive. If you have to create a false dichotomy, and jam it into my mouth, in order to have a windmill to tilt at, have at it; I’m bored.
(Sorry for the pissy tone; not feeling well and you keep shifting the goalposts, putting words in my mouth, and insulting my intelligence. Maybe I’ll try again later after the Robitussin wears off.)
I apologize if you got that impression. I personally thought that up till now we were having a remarkably civil discussion.
I find it difficult to summarize my main point because from my point of view, your argument in this thread seems logically unsound. The tricky part is that I don’t really disagree with most of the pieces of your position, but think that a few of your assumptions are invalid and some of the logical connections are shaky. I realize that’s not very illuminating. In short I think your arguments rely on an assumption that natural evolution is a qualitatively different process from artificial evolution, and a sort of sub-assumption that the inbreeding we do with dogs is qualitatively different from breeding in nature that is the sole mechanism by which natural evolution occurs.
My point about the island was poorly made in haste, I left out the stipulation (though it’s not strictly necessary) that those are the only wolves. They comprise wolfdom. Any evolving they do from now on must occur through “inbreeding.” It seems to me you have some kind of mental cutoff for population below which you consider mating to be inbreeding, but above which it isn’t. I make no such distinction and see no reason to.
Actually, now that we’ve hijacked astro’s thread completely, maybe it would be better if we take this to PM’s. I’m done for tonight, in any case.
As I understand it, domesticated animals do indeed tend to be stupid in many ways compared to the wild versions. The reason for that is pretty simple; they don’t NEED to be smart, when we are there to be smart for them. Unless they are purposely bred for cleverness of some sort, they will tend to become less intelligent due to genetic drift; up to a point, there’s no penalty for them becoming stupider, so genes that make them stupider aren’t selected against.
Although there is one area that dogs do appear to be smarter than wolves : the ability to read humans. Dogs do appear to be better at reading subtle cues about a human’s intentions/emotions than other animals, probably because there ARE selection pressures for making humans happy with them, and because they’ve been domesticated longer than other animals.
They used shelter dogs with minimum socialization. Does anyone see the problem here with that? Dogs and wolves are pack animals, and social in nature.
Further, the range of intelligence in dog breeds is at least as vast as their physical differences. The Afghan Hound is somewhat smarter than a rock. Possibly. The Border Collie or Standard Poodle can reach near-human child levels of intelligence.
(The Border Collie is a bit more of a specialist or monomaniac, though, while the Poodle is a bit more of a generalist.)