Historical Perspective and Paleofantasies

I enjoyed our discussion of canine-human evolution yesterday, and wanted to circle back to our fascination with the paleolithic past.  Chris gave us excellent context on the appeal of the “edenic / authentic paleo” in current health and fitness trends, and I think we all appreciated the nuances of his post and questions. What I wanted to come back to here are the connections between historical thinking and how we invoke an imagined past to help us move forward in an increasingly fraught present.  I appreciated how Marlene Zuk’s recent article reminded us that efforts to get back to a more “pure,” “healthy,” or “natural” lifestyle invoke a static ideal that never existed. Evolution isn’t over.  Like domestication, it is an ongoing process. Paleolithic people may have had less heart disease and lower cholesterol, but they weren’t necessarily more “healthy,” or “better adapted” to their environment than we are. Like other organisms they were making their way the best they could. Some of them eventually domesticated grains and abandoned hunting and gathering for a settled lifestyle that we see both as the beginning of “civilization” and the end of a naturally healthy lifestyle. At the same time, though, many other people became and remained nomadic pastoralists, with all of the dietary and cultural baggage that entailed. As historians, we need to remember that utopias are just that — imagined, idyllic, impossible communities.  We invoke them into being to validate our analyses of the present and legitimize our agendas for the future. I’m quite sure that many of us would benefit from exercising more and eating less processed food. But to imagine that paleolithic people had a more “natural” lifestyle than their contemporary descendents is to take them out of history and deny the continuity of evolution.

Questions for 2/26/13

1) How do you think paleofantasies stem from a general nostalgia for the past, and how are they their own specific phenomena?

2) Bulliet spends a great deal of time talking about the rise of vegetarianism due to a post-domestic society. Why hasn’t a paleo lifestyle, almost acting as the antithesis of vegetarianism, arisen as well?

3) Does a malleable rate of change in evolution alter how we view Diamond’s geography theory? Could the rate of how animals were domesticated determine which societies achieved technological dominance first?

4) Do reindeer possibly demonstrate a ‘slower’ domestication process, explaining the various potential stages of domestication found within their species, or is such domestic potential static?

5) Can we envision a future where paleofantasies are more prevalent, especially in media, food culture, etc.?

6) Robb Wolf, a proponent of the paleo diet, suggests that early hominid activity does not dictate a healthy lifestyle. He says that ‘normal is rarely healthy,’ and that humans are evolved to operate in a constant state of disease. Does this inherently invalidate the arguments of any paleofantasy?

7) Has our process of artificial selection on domesticates sped up the rate of evolution within those species? Can we or have we ‘domesticated’ them quicker? Have we sped up the rate of evolution on ourselves through this relationship?

8) Proponents of the paleo diet specifically point to the dawn of the agriculture revolution as the decline of human nutrition. However, the ability for societies to achieve western ‘progress’ was originally built entirely upon the adoption of agriculture. Does this suggest a definite clash between how we live and how evolution intended us to live? Is the agricultural revolution the point where we ‘broke’ from other species and evolution (suggesting evolution had an intent)? Note: this is the thesis presented in the novel Ishmael by Dan Quinn):
“There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will act as the lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.”

Questions on the Readings to Discuss

1.  How was the domestication of the dog similar and different than that of the reindeer?

2.  Do you agree that our ancestors would not have interacted with a scavenging wolf because of disgust?

3.  When would you consider the dog to be the dog, by genotype or by phenotype and do you believe that genotype superseded phenotype?

4.   If the dog and wolf are genetically closer than some races of humans, why do we consider them different species?

5.  Do you believe humans were eager to join forces with animals even though they were our competitors?

6.  Dog origins at 40,000 – 50,000 years ago or 12,000 – 16,000 years ago?

7.  Do you believe the domestication of wolves was as consensual as the reading suggest (no cages or will forced upon them)

8.  Are floppy ears an inevitable result of domestication or merely a result of the of mutations being breed within a certain group?  Can a domesticated animal not exhibit the traits commonly associated with it (smaller brain, size, shorter snout) and still be domesticated?

9.  Why are dogs so quick to be feral?  Does this mean they are not completely domesticated?

10.  Why for the first time in history will children not out live their parents and could this have been avoided?

11.  Where we never in sync with our environment?  Since we are changing as well as the environment is it impossible for these to be in sync?

12.  Do you believe that different groups of people could evolve at different rates, if so why?

Dogs Rule

As with last week, I really enjoyed this reading and how earlier ideals of domestication are being applied to a specific species.  When looking at domestication as a whole and trying to define it as a whole it seems that nothing is definite so everything is up in the air.  Many theories can be created but perhaps one cannot put limits on something as boundless and lengthy as domestication.  This is to be expected especially when we see that the domestication of one species is hard enough to define as is the case with the dog.

In the beginning of this reading Derr discounts the theory that dogs came from self-taming scavenging wolves.  Later on he claims that it would not make sense for humans to take in a scavenging animal that they would undoubtedly have a negative attitude towards.  This claim really sparked my interest because it goes against many of the previous theories of self-domestication involving species like the cat and reindeer.  I think it is unfair to dismiss this theory because I gave a lot of credibility to the reading in “Animals as Domesticates” that discussed the compassion of humans and motherly tendencies as a cause for domestication.  Who is to say that a human could not feel pity or a connection with a wolf scavenging amongst scraps to make a living?  To me it seems completely probable that a human would start feeding such an animal better food and thus start a relationship with it.

In proposing this theory I show my support for the idea that humans have always had a connection with wolves and dogs.  But I worry that this is just a product of modern society which clearly holds dogs amongst the most revered of animals.  It is easy to accept the fact that this bond is what started our relationship with these four legged animals, but what if I were to question this ideal, not because I really do, but just out of caution and my curiosity of exploring the other side of an argument.  Why do we give wolves so much more credit in their role in domestication than other animals?  Is it because, as discussed in the reading, that the reasoning behind their domestication was not for meat but rather teamwork?  In Buliet’s book however, he makes the case that domesticated animals today that are used for meat were not originally domesticated for that, yet there is a clear difference in the domestication of wolves and these livestock.  Derr states too much effort would be needed to maintain dominance over a wolf and that humans were eager to join forces with animals.  Why would our ancestors be eager to join forces with their competitors and possibly even the predators that haunt their livestock?  These assumptions of the mutually beneficial relationship between wolves and humans almost seem to assume that they occurred before wolves had a chance to prey on herds of domesticated animals.  I am not saying that I do not support the idea that humans have and always will have many similarities and bonds with wolves and dogs but I just question how our current relationship with dogs may cloud our judgment on past relationships.

I was very curious about the discussion of the dog existing genetically before phenotypically.  Based on the assumption that wolves and humans shared many social characteristics it makes sense that the domestication genetically of the dog superseded the physical characteristics we come to expect.  I do not understand much about the relationship between phenotype and genotype but this reading made me wonder if one is possible without the other.  Specifically, could we have a tame dog today that looks like a wolf or is that not possible?  I guess what I’m wondering is can we specifically target tameness and have no side effects or is a tame, domesticated dog meant to have floppy ears?  This would make sense because as discussed in the reading these traits come from humans interfering in nature and causing animals that would normally not reproduce to reproduce.  So a tame wolf with floppy ears would survive under human control but can a tame wolf with perky ears exist?  It is hard for me to put my thoughts into a question but my query comes from personal experience.  I have two dogs, one has straight ears and one has floppy ear, one has short hair not obscuring vision while the other has long hair in her eyes.  My dog with perky ears and short hair is noticeably smarter than my other one and I guess I never considered their difference in intelligence as a result of these physical characteristics.

I have many more questions and topics regarding these two readings but as I am one of the leaders for this week I wanted to post them up later so we can discuss them as a class instead of me just discussing them on my blog.

A Paleo Lifestyle – Relatively Useful

I’ll start with my disclaimer: I am a half-hearted supporter and former follower of the paleo diet. Even so, I found myself agreeing with a good bit of what Marlene Zuk has to say regarding the rise of ‘paleofantasies,’ a term she seems to define as the

“idea that our modern lives are out of touch with the way human beings evolved and that we need to redress the imbalance…it would be more natural, and healthier, to live more like our ancestors. A corollary to this notion is that we are good at things we had to do back in the Pleistocene, like keeping an eye out for cheaters in our small groups, and bad at things we didn’t, like negotiating with people we can’t see and have never met.”

For some insight on just how far the paleo lifestyle can go, check out:


Now back to our article. My first contention goes against Zuk’s general definition of what the paleo movement is really focused on. I was introduced to the paleo diet through a general interest in fitness (every single CrossFit gym advocates paleo). The general argument isn’t that we should radically alter our lives to better replicate a romanticized notion of early hominid life, it’s rather the idea that we are healthier when engaging in certain activities that elicit better gene expression. For example, unless you belong to the very small section of the population adapted to grains or dairy, it’s best to avoid those foods and eat plants and animals instead (although we evolved to handle a broad diet, so you can still eat them if you desire). Paleo lifestyles also advocate exercise in the form of ‘functional movement,’ which can be considered walking, sprinting, gymnastics, sport, and basic weight lifting. We essentially don’t want to see someone going to the gym to burn 300 calories on the treadmill, then hopping on the bicep curl machine, and calling that fitness.

That’s how my paleofantasy goes, and it has decent support from prominent strength and conditioning coaches such as Charles Poliquin, Mark Rippetoe, and Greg Glassman. However, there are plenty of points Zuk makes that should be considered, particularly with an eye for the vapid money-whoring buzzwords that the monstrosity of modern marketing will soon be touting out to millions of gullible shoppers. Zuk only briefly touches on this, “Newspaper articles, morning TV, dozens of books, and self-help advocates promoting slow-food or no-cook diets, barefoot running, sleeping with our infants, and other measures large and small claim that it would be more natural, and healthier, to live more like our ancestors.” But I think it’s a trend worth examining further. Can’t we all imagine a not-so-distant future where grocery foods contain labels such as ‘paleo’ and ‘primal’ are touted alongside the vegan, vegetarian, and ten different variations of ‘organic’ labels? Where Dr. Oz (who, by the way, is a huge promoter of pseudoscience and general idiocy) supports the latest paleo-endorsing author whose core message (like every other diet writer) is ‘it’s not your fault for being fat,’ in front of hordes of unhealthy housewives? Where the ideas of avoiding processed grains and sticking to basic exercise are co-opted by some ridiculous hippie-colon-cleansing-in-tune-with-your-inner-energy movement and companies start selling a bunch of silly weight loss supplements incorrectly branded as paleo. The whole thing terrifies me. The hipster in me doesn’t want to see something that holds a soft spot in my heart get bastardized by this country’s health trend sensationalism.

And for the most part, Zuk’s main thesis isn’t anything I’ve written about so far. The idea of evolution having different rates of effect brings a new level of examination to this subject (and for a math major, makes evolution much more interesting). So if evolution does happen faster than we thought, what does that mean for our adaption and our domesticates? Can animals be domesticated faster than we previously believed? Does this add another factor to consider when examining and comparing the quality of various domesticates? Would such a factor be enough to either support or dent Diamond’s theory of domesticate geography influencing societal dominance?

And how quickly and to what degree can humans as a species change? Maintaining a tolerance to dairy (especially cow milk) throughout adulthood is one thing, but I seriously doubt we will ever evolve a metabolic system that can utilize refined carbohydrates well.Tolerate seems like a possibility, but beneficial use? Here’s the thing, man-made refined carbs are terrible for you. They’re garbage. Milk is natural, with growth hormone and a decent macro nutrient ratio. Fun fact – cow’s milk contains the same kind of growth hormone as human milk, essentially putting it just a step below anabolic steroids for facilitating muscle growth.

Zuk makes a convincing argument against our growing paleofantasies, particularly with the research she references throughout her piece. The discovery that evolution has it’s own rate seems completely obvious and intuitive, yet so many public authorities regard it as an ancient and minor force in today’s world. Despite Zuk’s argument, I still contend there are some very good aspects of examining the science behind ‘paleo’ habits for a healthier life. If you’d like to learn more about the fitness side of the paleo movement, I’d recommend you check out Robb Wolf, a former competitive weightlifter, gym owner, evolutionary biologist, and author of The Paleo Solution. Beyond that, the early articles found in the CrossFit Journal are useful as well. I still fall slightly on the paleo side, because I’ve seen the science used by those who argue against Zuk, but paleofantasies certainly seem to be a very real phenomena.


Caging Wolves

I really enjoyed the article about our collective Paleofantasies.  I think it is a rather common idea that at one point in our evolutionary history, humans were perfectly adapted to our environment.  I have probably thought that myself.  The article does a good job of pointing out the obvious flaws in that line of thinking.

I found the reading about dogs and wolves to be more interesting.  The story of wolves becoming dogs was very interesting and, as the author showed, very relevant in our dog centered world.  I found two points to be most interesting.  The first was the author’s discussion of early interactions between wolves and dogs.  At that point, humans did not have the means to restrain wolves in any way.  Their ability to physically control what wolves did was very limited.  Humans did not have metal for cages or strong collars or anything like that and wolves could easily chew through any restraining device that humans could create.

This lack of control meant wolves could come and go from groups of humans as they pleased.  The author put it in terms of wolves knowing when humans were beneficial and when they were not.  If associating with humans stopped being mutually beneficial, the wolves could leave and return to hunting by themselves.  As long as the humans kept being beneficial, the wolves would stay.  The fact that wolves stayed with humans long enough to become dogs is interesting to me because it ascribes a great deal of agency to wolves.  Wolves chose to remain with humans long enough to become dogs because it was beneficial to them.

We have mentioned this idea of animals deciding to become domesticates because it is beneficial for them, but I think this is the first time an author has so explicitly put so much emphasis on the animal making a conscious choice.  I am so interested in this idea because it ascribes so much agency to animals, which is something very new to me.  As a historian, I am so used to reading about humans doing this or that, reading about an animal made such a momentous choice is very interesting.

The second point I found interesting was something Derr only briefly mentioned.  During his discussion of feral animals and stray dogs, Derr mentioned wolf “culture.”  This piqued my curiosity because, for me, culture has always been the sole domain of humans.  Animals don’t have culture because they are animals.  This notion is becoming increasingly problematic as I consider it more.  Culture as a shared legacy of practices and behaviors is obviously not limited to humans.  What does everyone else think?  Is culture limited to humans, or do animals have culture too?  As of now, I’m leaning towards animals do have culture, but I’m curious as to what everyone else thinks.

A little bit about dogs and us, but mostly us.

A little bit about dogs and us, but mostly us.

As my blog background suggests, I like wolves. Simply from a visual standpoint, there’s something very noble about them that gives them this almost magical quality. It’s not something I could put into words besides those. Unfortunately, for most of my childhood I had terrible allergies and could thus never have pets, so I can’t say I understand when people tell me how much they love theirs. I think it’s because of this I found the genes reading much more interesting than the dog excerpt.

In regards to dogs, though, I couldn’t help but think back to Dr. Nelson’s example of the Russian strays that had only in a few short generations undergone devolution, or a process that resembles it, from dog to wolf. Until now I had considered evolution in the Pokemon sense – once it happens, there’s no going back. But now I see that it’s a little more complicated than pressing B.

The article we read brought up the idea that no species is ever perfectly equipped to deal with its environment. I believe this is true and the evidence is right here. My personal theory is that we would never “evolve” into diseases like diabetes and cancer. That goes against the idea that we adapt to survive.

This is tangentially relevant to our reading, but I thought this would be a good place to discuss it. The idea has been brought up in class that cancer is our response to overpopulation. With some level of firmness, I reject that idea. To me, that implies that there is a sort of collective consciousness that governs which traits do and do not develop. As we learned in last week’s reading and as many of us are likely aware, a species can diverge into multiple species. In that sense, the history of our evolution, I believe, is more tied to our families in much the same way that my Ukrainian roommate can handle his vodka better than I can and has a high metabolism that forces him to eat three meals a day or starve (Keeping ones energy up in those harsh Russian winters). In other words, no matter how closely related my roommate and I are, one could say that my family and his represent different paths of the same species and that therefore we have different traits. He comes from his environment and I come from mine. We both, however, could get cancer at some point in our lives. What I mean to say is this—I don’t think our genes could be aware of overpopulation. That seems like a learned trait, not a genetic one. And if it isn’t a mechanical culling of sorts, what is it? I think that’s where our reading comes in.

What I would instead say is that these diseases (Cancer, diabetes) are the product of scientific progress that has outpaced evolution—we introduce poisons into our systems that our bodies are not yet equipped to handle. I believe that over time, and I certainly think this to be true of diabetes, we will evolve to process artificial sugars and carcinogens such as those in soda better than we do today. By then, of course, we will have new problems to adapt to.

There’s my rambling for this week. Hoping it made at least a little sense.


The Mysteries of Evolution: From Dogs to Us

This weeks readings provided interesting insights on the many mysteries that surround the evolution of dogs as well as on our feelings in regards to our own evolution. I really enjoyed both articles and felt that each presented some very valid arguments in addition to posing some thought provoking questions.  I felt like How the Dog Became the Dog by Derr and Zuk’s article Misguided Nostalgia for Our Paleo Past tied together well in many aspects in relation to the complexities of evolution.

In How the Dog Became the Dog, Derr did a great job of presenting the evolution of the wolf to the dog using a variety of evidence from a multitude of different fields of study. He was able to combine the many archaeological findings with all the information on modern species to disprove some of the less fact based theories on how dogs came to be, and in doing so created a lose timeline of how and where the dog originated. Central to his theory is the idea that there are significant overlaps, both in genotype and phenotype, between the stages from the wolf to the dog. I thought this was a very logical way to look at evolution, and it stuck me as strange that this idea wasn’t really a significant part of any of the other readings we have done. Evolution is a very gradual process (in many cases but not all as we saw in Misguided Nostalgia) and it doesn’t make any sense to think of things as black and white, or in this case wolf and dog. There is always a gray, or dogwolf, area in between that is so often overlooked, and Derr picked up on this and used it as the backbone for developing his opinion of the origins of the dog.

In addition, in How the Dog Became the Dog, there was a reference to Buffon’s opinion that species tend to degenerate, not improve, from the parent form. I can see how the argument could be made because in many cases animals in captivity do lose some of the skills that made their ancestors more capable of survival in the wild. For example, the more wolf-like dogs are arguably more capable of survival than the little hairball lap dogs that are common today. But when I began to think about it, the only other examples of degeneracy that came to mind were of domesticated species. In the wild all species seem  to improve, likely due to the pressures of natural selection and survival of the fittest, which, to some extent deflates Buffon’s argument. However, in Misguided Nostalgia, Zuk talked about how we long for the past because we feel like times were better, but in you assume that this feeling was common in people throughout history, you eventually end up back as a single-celled organism. This idea would support Buffon as it suggests that we have slowly degenerated from that first single-celled organism that leads to what we are today. I guess where I am going with this topic is, is there some validity to Buffon’s theory that animals degenerate from the parent form or is there enough evidence in the study of wild animals evolution to disprove him?

Finally, in Misguided Nostalgia, Zuk brings up another interesting question when she mentions that there is an idea floating around that the relative isolation of countries like those in Africa from other places like North America may be leading to evolutionary developments in two separate directions. If this truly is occurring, which is very much up for debate, then we could potentially develop subspecies of humans, just like when a species of animal gets separated from its kin and develops differently as a result. What would be the result of a series of subspecies of humans? Would it result in the development of more capable humans, and if so would this result in the inferiority, or collapse, of the other species? Is speciation even possible in humans with all of the global connection that exists? Let me know what you think!


Dogs, Early Humans, and Destiny

The two readings for this week, the beginning of How The Dog Became the Dog by Mark Derr and “Misguided Nostalgia for our Paleo Past” by Marlene Zuk, are peripherally related to each other, in that they address the history of the dog and the history of the human species, respectively. However, as we learn in the first reading, the history of our species and the history of the dog are inextricably linked. I address the history of the dog directly and the history of the human race indirectly in the first section of this post. Then I directly address human history and ideas related to destiny in the second section.

Dogs were always dogs

Logically, it makes sense that the dog was always in the wolf, and emerged very easily to befriend us. Wolves are highly sociable animals and live in packs with complicated hierarchy-based social structure. Or, alternately, you could just as easily say: humans are highly sociable animals and live in groups with complicated hierarchy-based social structure.

Social structure. What exactly do I mean? Wolves have a single alpha in a pack. Primitive humans often looked up to a single leader. Wolves in a pack all help to raise the pups belonging to the alpha and his mate. Humans look after others’ young. The lowest ranking wolf in the pack often retains some puppy-like characteristics for its whole life. This returns to the idea discussed in an earlier post–the idea of humans domesticating animals successful in part because they are such good nurturers. They nurture their own young and the young of others of their species, so nurturing animals of other species was not a particularly large change. I believe that modern humans view their pets almost in the same way that they view their own young.

My point is that wolves were naturally compatible with us before they became dogs. I am planning to read the rest of How the Dog Became the Dog (probably after school is over), because I like the author’s tone, but also because I am curious as to whether he agrees with my theory–that wolf social structure produced animals predisposed to incorporate into human social structure.

 Paleolithic man (Or: Are Our Genes Our Destiny?)

Is there truly anything that we are “meant to be”? Is that even a thing? If we are meant to eat diets and live lives like our paleolithic ancestors, then aren’t dogs meant to be wolves? Aren’t all livestock animals meant to run free and feed upon wild plant materials? Maybe we are all meant to return to the primordial soup.

I jest, but I am also quite serious.

I do not believe in destiny. I do not believe that I am meant to be anything, least of all a paleolithic human. Zuk’s points are valid, and I agree with him that humans are evolving more rapidly than they are often given credit for. Evolution can happen quite rapidly, particularly in response to environmental stresses. However, at the root of the argument that Zuk makes is the idea that our genes are our destiny and that we must do what our genes require us to do. I am a scientist, but I cannot believe that. We all are more than the sum total of our parts, more than our genes. An Olympic champion will not necessarily produce an Olympic champion. a genius will not necessarily produce a genius. There are countless stories of people rising to fame from completely unremarkable backgrounds (and equally unremarkable genetic material).

I do not think that our genes bind us to any certain fates. I think that it is silly, in this day and age, to make life decisions based upon what we are “meant” to do. I would argue that the human race is meant to do anything that it can innovate. If we are meant to do anything, we are meant to make choices.


“What a long, strange trip it’s been.” Wolf to Dogwolf to Dog

I appreciate the arguments and assumptions presented by Derr as logical with some genetic and scientific knowledge. The Russell article calling for an integration of science and history as the study of “evolutionary history” was right; they allow for a more informed understanding.

History is about studying relationships and their influence in why things are, but understanding how and why domesticated animals emerged in evolutionary history is not so simple. We do not know what or how varied the relationship characteristics were like between humans and dogs or dogwolves. Genetics could aid our understanding of relationships since the study of relationships and genetics are measured on the same time scale of years and decades, as long as the proper geological time – measured in tens of thousands to billions of years – can be determined.

I have embraced genetics to help understand how the dog became the dog.

To learn the origins of the dog one must, “consider the animals involved – human and wolf – highly social, tactically minded, pack-hunting global wanderers.”

Wolf and human were drawn to each other by their great sociability and curiosity, and they stayed together because of their mutual utility.

The origin of the dog has been complicated to pinpoint through the mixing of dogwolves and the relationship of wolves and early humans.

Dogwolves: n. the off-spring of socialized wolves; “wolves that genetically and behaviorally are dogs; genetic profile more closely aligns with dog than wolf and because they live and reproduce in human society.” They do not have the physical characteristics of the modern dog breeds.

The area of focus shifts from understanding how wolf became dog W2D to how the dog became the dog D2D to determine what genetic mutations caused physical changes to arise in particular dogwolf lines, how did they become highly desired and how they helped determine dogs of today.

Genetic mutations of distinct physical effects can be linked with physiological characteristics and, arguably perhaps behavioral variations. One interesting physiological difference between wolf and dog is the delayed fear-response in dog puppies that allows them to be social and curious for 6 weeks longer before entering the “fear-period” of development.

Humans use selective breeding to make dogs more obedient and give them a more human or “civilized” appearance to match a more “civilized” behavior. How much do the physical genetic variations of selective breeding determine behavior? Could civilized behavior exist in previous generations prior to physical mutations? How much would these answers allow us to understand differences between early human relationships with wolves, dogwolves, and dogs?

There are many variations of human, social, and cultural relationships associated with D2D across the globe and to know how behavioral and physical traits and genetics influenced each other in D2D is quite the complex task.

The domestic evolution of any animal must be considered with their relationships with humans. The process of D2D (and all domesticated animals) is influenced by human society. Derr explains our social influence as a tendency to strip all wild from the dog. This extension from individual human-dog relationships to human society-dog relationships is evidence that our culture is not one that deals well with ambiguity, ambivalence, paradox, and border zones. Domesticating removes the contradiction.

Domestication is a continuing process aimed at bringing up an animal or plant to the point where humans control all important aspects of its life, including reproduction and freedom of movement from birth to death.

Yet, we value dogs because they connect us to a simpler world outside ourselves and our categories.

As Derr wrote in the beginning, “our obligation today, when we and our dogs grow increasingly distant from the world of our forebears…is to think about whether on this journey, we are doing right by our companion every step of the way.” What are our moral duties to our best evolutionary friend? Dogs and Humans have each benefitted in their long relationship in many ways. So far, the logical conclusion I have reached for determining our obligations to our dog companions begins by somehow balancing our social civilized needs and our personal needs for a wild connection.

Is it possible to violate our moral duties by domesticating too much wild out of the dog for society? Does human value for that wild connection to a previous world make any difference to our responsibility?  This question of too much domestication, of course, does not take into account the paradoxical nature of the animal – “people succeeded to a remarkable degree in creating the dog of their desire, even if it is not the one they want.”

Perhaps the details of our relationships just “are” and irrelevant since the future may be predetermined anyway, deliberates this blog post from last week.

Or as Derr so eloquently put all that has happened since W2D and D2D (or W2D2D for short), “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”