Two recent news stories provide further evidence of the intelligence and sentience of whales and dolphins, while the reaction of some to the stories confirms the ignorance and arrogance of man.
In the first case, which occurred recently off the coast of California, a humpback whale that had been entangled in fishing nets breached 40 times around the boat of the three men who had cut the nets and saved the whale from certain death. The men interpreted this behavior as an act of both joy and thanks. The second incident, this one in Australia, was sadder but no less revealing. In it, a pod of dolphins surrounded the body of a young man who had tragically fallen into a harbor and drowned. One of the dolphins was seen trying to push the man back to the surface, apparently in a vain attempt to try to save him. These are just two of the many examples of whales and dolphins displaying thoughtful behavior toward humans, several of which have been featured in this blog (e.g., May 10, 2010 & July 31, 2009 postings).
And yet, as touching and telling as these stories are to most of us, they always evoke vitriolic reactions on the part of others who seem threatened by the possibility that humans are not the only thinking and feeling beings on earth. That has proven to be true once again, judging by the angry comments posted on each of these news stories disavowing any anthropomorphic interpretation of the actions by this whale and dolphin. Thankfully, these unhappy few who see the world through the evil eye of envy, and who are afflicted by some deep psychological need for schadenfreude, are the exception not the rule. For those of us who are comfortable with our own place in the universe, and who rejoice in the magic and majesty of whales and dolphins, such stories stir the spirit and soothe the soul.