Jan 18, 2008

Thorny Devil

This thorny devil (Moloch horridus) seems quite impressed with himself. But then, if I were covered with thorns and could endure the blistering desert sun and could change my coloring at will, I wouldn't have much of a lack of self confidence either.

Though these Australian reptiles are endangered, I'm going to try to get some for my house. They eat ants and termites. They are also very mild tempered. Could you ask for a better pet?

Thanks for the photo, Jade.

21 comments:

Danielle Lea said...

I think it's pretty cute.

Jade said...

No linky? Okay. I'll advertise myself ;) hehe

http://uniquevids.blogspot.com
http://glitchgames.blogspot.com
http://aspergersautism.blogspot.com

Yay!

And yes, these guys are VERY cute. They seem very confident in their spikiness.

k said...

If you could get some moloch for your house you would be the envy of every reptile keeper in the US...

Aubrey said...

Are these guys related to Beardies?

Anonymous said...

[From RW's text:] "... could change my coloring at will ..."

This gives an opening to reflect on something that many people nowadays don't know about. RW, being human, indeed has free will, and could (if RW's genes permitted) change color "at will."

However, being non-human (like every other interesting beast whose photo is shown on this blog), a "thorny devil" does not have free will, and cannot "change [its] coloring at will". Instead, it changes coloring (1) because of instincts that are built into its genes and (2) perhaps because of reinforcement through past positive outcomes.

Although many people think that non-human animals have will power, ability to reason, and other humanlike capabilities, they actually do not.

Humans learn and understand that they have learned, but non-human animals "learn" without realizing it. Some of their experiences are stored in their limited memory banks, and these help them to react reflexively in the future (like Pavlov's dogs). Animals do not sit around weighing various options and choosing the one that seems the best.

Non-human animals are "programmed" by God and thus cannot make mistakes or commit sins. They never deliberately choose to do evil when they could do good instead. They just do what comes naturally, and they keep doing it until their physical/mental health fails.

Finally, when they die, their bodies and their ("natural") souls disintegrate and they completely (and forever) cease to exist. By contrast, human bodies decay, but their human souls are spiritual and "supernatural," created by God to exist forever.

John

Anonymous said...

Umm, exactly what evidence do you have to support your claim? Humans can be conditioned just like animals. Animals - especially the "higher" ones - have been shown to have limited reasoning ability. How do you know animals don't think about things?

And let's not get started on free will - there's no proof any of us have it. We can't even scientifically define it.

Anonymous said...

John, you are completely and utterly wrong. Science proves time and again that no human behavior or thought process is unique. Apes even understand concepts of art and music. They can even be prejudiced against one another for reasons that don't scientifically benefit them. We, too, are just as much "programmed" creatures.

e-mail me at bogleech@hotmail.com and I can easily dispute any and all religious, unscientific claims you may have.

Anonymous said...

"Though these Australian reptiles are endangered, I'm going to try to get some for my house. They eat ants and termites. They are also very mild tempered. Could you ask for a better pet?"

Just a couple of comments:

1) Thorny devils aren't endangered, they're quite common in central Australia. Check the wikipedia entry - it lists the conservation status as "secure".

2) Unfortunately, they're incredibly difficult to keep as pets because they're extremely fussy about the type of ants they eat.

Raging Wombat said...

Sorry, Jade. I've added a link.

Regarding the endangered status, check out the link I used. That is what I was going on. Who knows if it was right, but I wasn't going off half-cocked.

John--but I still can't change my color at will! I've spent the last 10 minutes trying, and have only succeeded in changing my face from pasty white to angry red. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Non-Christians, you are free to ignore this part.

okaaay John. I'm a Christian too, but I don't really agree with you on the free will thing. Animals can reason, to an extent. To back it up with Scripture, Eve didn't really seem surprised that a serpent was talking to her in the garden. I could be wrong, but if talking animals were the norm then, that means they had/have reasoning, right?

Anyway, you can't tell me animals don't have reasoning. I know them too well.

Anonymous said...

Hi, "Anonymous" (#1).
You wrote to me, "Umm, exactly what evidence do you have to support your claim?"

I'm not sure why you started your question hesitantly ("Umm"). Was that a part of meditation (like "Ommm")? Jest kidding!
You asked me for "evidence ... to support" a "claim." I didn't make a "claim." I stated several separate things, a mixture of fact and opinion. If you disagree with everything I wrote, you reject the general conclusions made by scientists, philosophers, etc., that have been reached over the course of millennia of factual observations and consideration of probabilities.

That's why I said I wanted to "reflect on something that many people nowadays don't know about. I'm old enough (nearly 60) to know that, for several decades now, educators have been avoiding speaking about a lot of things that used to be widely taught. Your comments and the others I received, above, confirmed my knowledge that "political correctness" and a tendency to anthoropomorphize animals are widespread. I don't look down on you or anyone else for this, because you and they are just reflecting what you have been taught (and not taught, but should have been taught).

You also wrote, "Humans can be conditioned just like animals."
If you would re-read my first message, you'd see that I never denied that humans can be conditioned. However, two huge differences -- about which I hinted -- are
(1) that humans KNOW and think about the fact that they are partly conditioned, while animals have no clue about this, and
(2) that humans can and do fight and overcome bad conditioning, while animals cannot and do not.
These things are parts of the reasoning and free will that non-humans lack.

You wrote, "Animals - especially the 'higher' ones - have been shown to have limited reasoning ability."
I disagree. What they do is not "reasoning" as humans reason. Humans can think about, and act on, things that they've never seen or experienced. Humans can plan the future, thinking about the coming life on Earth and even an afterlife. Even "higher" non-human animals cannot use their brains to consider things they've never experienced, because they cannot think abstractly. The "future" has no meaning to them. They are basically "living machines," able to react to stimuli and able to move without external power sources, but they are of a completely different order of existence from human beings. They are not "persons."

You wrote, "How do you know animals don't think about things? And let's not get started on free will - there's no proof any of us have it. We can't even scientifically define it."

Why did it occur to you to assume that everyone is required to do everything "scientifically"? This is part of what I meant when I said that people have not been taught, for many years, that there is more to reality than has been taught in schools in recent decades. There is far more to reality than empirical, scientifically measurable, material facts. Actually, the more important things in life and reality are the other stuff! I'd be willing to bet that at least 95% of all people who have ever lived would agree that humans have "free will." They've concluded this from observed experience, of themselves and others.

Hello, "Anonymous" (#2).

You wrote, "... you are completely and utterly wrong."
Sorry, but you're woefully mistaken! In fact, everything I stated was correct. You may have misunderstood some of it, but that doesn't make it "wrong."

You wrote, "Science proves time and again that no human behavior or thought process is unique."
This is simply false. In response to "Anonymous" (#1), I mentioned just a couple of the things that humans can do uniquely. My personal belief is that this is because they have special gifts (genuine understanding and free will) from God, who desires to have a personal relationship with them. No such relationship is possible between God and animals or even between man and animals, since the latter are not persons and do not have genuine understanding and free will.

You wrote, "Apes even understand concepts of art and music."
No, they do not truly "understand" those things, according to the human definition of that word. Some people so much want animals to be able to "understand" that these people talk themselves into believing in such unrealities. Ironically, animals lack the ability to deceive themselves in ways that you have deceived yourself. In that one area, they are a "superior" to you, sir or madam!

You wrote, "They can even be prejudiced against one another for reasons that don't scientifically benefit them."
This is not correct, because the word, "prejudiced," contains the root, "jud," related to "judgment." The ability to "judge" (after weighing evidence or prematurely [prejudice]) exists only in human persons. Animals are not "prejudiced," but can act only according to their genes and conditioning, because they are not persons.

You wrote, "We, too, are just as much 'programmed' creatures."
No, not "just as much," but far, far less, because we are persons. We are not machines, not "programmed" computers -- as I know so well, having been a computer programmer for over thirty years! Thanks for the invitation to discuss things by e-mail, but I lack the free time to indulge.

Hi, "Anonymous" (#3).

You started by writing, "Non-Christians, you are free to ignore this part. okaaay John. I'm a Christian too ..."
Hold on there, my friend! I never said that I was a "Christian." (Re-read my messages to verify!) I only showed that I believe in God. I'd be very happy for all people, whether Christian or not, to read what you and I are writing.

You wrote, "Animals can reason, to an extent. To back it up with Scripture, Eve didn't really seem surprised that a serpent was talking to her in the garden. I could be wrong, but if talking animals were the norm then, that means they had/have reasoning, right?"

Well, in response to "Anonymous" (#1) and (#2), I think that I've already replied as to the "reasoning/understanding" that only seem to be evinced by animals. But you raise another subject -- the "serpent." You seem to be unaware of the fact that other scriptural passages (and Judaeo-Christian theology) agree that our "first parents" were not tempted by an animall. Rather, they were tempted by a fallen angel -- a created, normally invisible, purely spiritual person -- who had taken on a visible form that was familiar to the human beings. It was the bad angel who reasoned and talked, not an animal.

Nice talking to all of you. Sorry, but I won't be able to come back to this thread again (to read or write). Thanks for the opportunity to chat with everyone, Raging Wombat. Don't let your face get red again! I've been visiting your blog daily for a long time.

John

Anonymous said...

In mentioning that I come to this blog every day, I meant to add something that might be apparent anyway, and that is this:
Despite my seeing only humans as persons (i.e., as members of an infinitely higher and different "order of being" from the order of animals), I still love and enjoy the animal world tremendously. It is fun to look at still and moving pictures of them, for they are very "beautiful," even when they are "ugly." They are gifts of God to us, to beautify the world and to be useful to mankind.

John

KimberlyDi said...

The horney toad, which used to be common in Texas, is either extinct or close to being extinct. The infestation of fireants into Texas is believed to be the cause. The thorny devil looks similar to the horney toad.

Neither one is ugly. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi again, John.
I'm Anon #1 (by your count). I do enjoy good debates, but this blog isn't so well suited to it. Oh well, let me try. Quotes from your post and my responses follow:

"I'm old enough (nearly 60) to know that, for several decades now, educators have been avoiding speaking about a lot of things that used to be widely taught."

Many things used to be widely taught and now are not because they were wrong. I agree with you that education standards are often determined as much by politics as by facts, but this isn't evidence of anything.

"that humans KNOW and think about the fact that they are partly conditioned, while animals have no clue about this"

Most children don't. I expect most people not exposed to the academic concept of conditioning don't know it's happening to them. This is not a valid criterion.

"that humans can and do fight and overcome bad conditioning, while animals cannot and do not."
How do you figure?

"ven "higher" non-human animals cannot use their brains to consider things they've never experienced, because they cannot think abstractly."
How do you know this?

"Why did it occur to you to assume that everyone is required to do everything "scientifically"?" I never said such a thing. But general statements that are claimed to be facts should be supported by evidence. You provide no evidence.

"at least 95% of all people who have ever lived would agree that humans have "free will." They've concluded this from observed experience, of themselves and others."
Yes, but unfortunately facts are not determined by vote. :-)

I see no clear dividing line between humans and other animals. All the differences between these groups are differences of degree, not of kind.

Shay said...

oh for fk's sake, anonymous 2, this is not the time nor the place to air your religious bs. can we please just let this go? they're cool little animals. can we please keep the conversation to the animals in question? pretty please? this blog is not created for PROSELYTIZING!!

Aubrey said...

I still want to know if they are related to bearded dragons....lol

Anonymous said...

I've always wanted a mini dino!

Not ugly - freakin AWESOME!

---

And for goodness sake anony b4 me, what is the point of overextending your dribble when no one in their right mind would sit and read through it?

Anonymous said...

For Aubrey...

aren't all lizards related anyways? I mean, in a reptile sort of way.

I hate how suburbia have driven lizards away. We used to get so many blue-tongues, frill necks and water dragons in the garden but we haven't had any at least the past 10 years.

k said...

Holy crap.

What's up with this lack of free will stuff? Must it permeate every aspect of ... Well ... The Internet? (OK, I guess that's the nature of the Internet) ... I'm with Shay; let's just look at the pretty pictures of dubiously pretty animals. Jeez, save the controversy for Cute Overload ;)

As far as I can recall from Herpetology class, Moloch in Australia and Bearded Dragons are both classified as Agamids. However, Agamidae is a pretty lame family, basically just a catchall for lizards that nobody has gotten around to classifying yet...

On the other hand, Horned Lizards in the southwestern US, which show convergent evolution with the Moloch, are of the family Phrynosomatidae. I've thought about getting one of those as a pet but I don't know if I want to have to deal with Harvester Ants...

angrycupcake said...

Please, keep religious debate out of this blog. I come here for ugly animals, not ugly attitudes.
I do love that reptile! The orange color is loveleh, and the world could always use another lizard.

Raging Wombat said...

Ya'll (I'm talking to you k) know more about Molochs than I ever will. I admit to being jealous.