Saturday, June 11, 2005

"Cool" bias causes media to flub dolphin sponge story?

The media are totally missing the story on this dolphins-who-wear-sponges-on-their-noses science finding. We knew already that animals have culture. What we didn't know is that within animal culture there exist animal nerds. Did you see photos of these dolphins? This is not some new genus "Dorkphinus" that's suddenly been discovered. These are individuals of the same dolphin genus and species we're all familiar with behaving like dorks. And yet the news is all about education and learning.

What's up with that? "Cool" journalists see nerds and all they can think of is school? Only nerds cared about classes? The media needs to grow up a little[1].

3 comments:

she falters to rise said...

The dolphins are apparently using the sponges to protect their noses. I'm not sure what measure you are using to distinguish between these particular dolphins being "nerds" versus them being "vain mean-girls" (the females seem to follow this social learning paradigm more often than the males). Please elaborate on your classification system.

Murky Thoughts said...

The scientists are calling this learning but I think it's more reversion to type. Note that mean girls don't go out with curlers in their hair, and if by accident they do, no one to capture the episode on film would escape alive (hence the statistically significant lower survival-to-adulthood of mean girl's little brothers). I suppose as a control we could continue to track the career of the AP photographer who shot that image that appeared on the CNN site. If it takes a nose dive and suddenly nobody is eating lunch with her then I suppose the mean-girl sponge hypothesis will require reexamination. This scenario appears extremely unlikely.

she falters to rise said...

Interesting interpretation of the data. There is definitely a need for better controls in this study in order to draw the appropriate conclusions.
Maybe I will have to change my thesis...