Saturday, February 18, 2006

Blakeman's tolerant view on names for hawks plus a final word about "mating"

A comment on Ben's reluctance to use assigned names for the hawks.
That's another controversial issue. On one end is the concern for inappropriate anthropomorphism. The assignment of a human name tends to connote human traits. Bad.

On the other end would be the assignment of a mere number or letter, "Hawk B," for example. This keeps out the emotion and is entirely "biological."

But hawks aren't numbers or letters, either. Each has a unique personality, location, and genotype. Consequently, I have no objection at all to the use of good names. "Pale Male" was an artful compromise between the anthropomorphic and the inanimate. Lola is just a nice human name. Personally, giving just numerical identities is inadequate if you are studying more than a few hawks. There must be some way to keep track of the birds you are studying, and because we are social creatures who use names, real names work best for hawks, too.

We only need to keep in mind that the hawks are not human or animal caricatures. They are unique wild animals unto themselves. That's the great story, and their assigned human names should facilitate our understandings of their "animalness."

--John Blakeman

Here's a postscript about the Mating/Copulation issue, sent in by JB as a response to my posting yesterday:

My original intent with the more strict use of "copulation" related mostly to biological pair bonding, not to the sex act. The public -- as I do -- will turn a sly smile when they hear of another "mating." But they need to understand that the greater event has been the pair's social bonding, the "marriage" if you will, of the two hawks. That's the really interesting story, how the two birds encounter, tolerate, and abide with each other when it's so otherwise against their nature. It's so counter to their normal, nonsocial behaviors. Hawks are nonsocial predators, but real mating (bonding) is so social.
--John Blakeman