Recipe for answering questions and enjoy life

Recipe Answering Questions


Today, my friends, I would like to give you the recipe I use to answer your questions. Feel free to use it as you please.

When you ask about a topic that is well researched, it’s easy. I check the relevant literature, weight arguments, come up with a conclusion and answer you.

On the other hand, when your question is about a subject-matter not so extensively studied, I have to think more carefully. Your question may be difficult to answer for different reasons. Maybe it depends too much on definitions that are unclear. Perhaps, a plausible answer builds upon how we measure evidence. Sometimes, your question is too broad.

Whenever I face questions like those, I stick to my home-made recipe, the one I give you here, one inspired to me by the great masters.

Composing my answer, I have to be overly prudent, for disagreement and controversy befall so readily—the nemesis of the writer sitting on my shoulder—no matter which words one chooses, someone can and will misinterpret them.

Finally, allow me to remind you, we do not always have bullet-proof explanations to everything, in which case suspending judgement seems to me the wisest approach.

Then again, we don’t need to have all answers in order to be able to contemplate life with wonder and to enjoy it fully.



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Do We Understand What Behavior Is?


Behavior is like the spectrum of light.

Behavior is like the spectrum of light. It is a continuum of quantity, perceptible throughout its duration, describable only when quantity turns into quality (© Illustration by Roger Abrantes with drawings from Alice Rasmussen).


The conundrum of the behavioral sciences is that they are not exact sciences in the same sense as physics or mathematics. Behavior is like the spectrum of light: it is as difficult to say when yellow turns into orange as when one behavior turns into another. It is a continuum of quantity, perceptible throughout its duration, describable only when quantity turns into quality.

Friendly, insecure, pacifying, submissive and fearful behaviors are a continuum of quantity, as are content, self-confident, assertive, dominant and aggressive behaviors. The distinction between any two behaviors is a matter of function; the borderline separating one category from the other is a matter of observational skill, contextual parameters and convention; the way we understand it all is a matter of definition.

Our brain likes to tidy up its stored information in small boxes, but once in a while, I like to turn them upside down. It’s good mental exercise, I find, and helps me keeping a good sense of perspectives.


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Facts and Morality: Tail Docking and Ear Cropping—is it Right?

Whether something is morally right or wrong depends on what you and I or anyone thinks, and it is not imposed on us by any scientific discovery. We need to distinguish between science and morality, between descriptive and normative statements.

Science is a collection of coherent, useful and educated predictions. All science is reductionist and visionary in a sense, but that does not mean that all reductionism is equally useful or that all visions are equally valuable or that one far-out idea is as acceptable as any other. Greedy reductionism is bound to fail because it attempts to explain too much with too little, classifying processes too crudely, overlooking relevant detail and missing pertinent evidence. Science sets up rational, reasonable, credible, useful and helpful explanations based on empirical evidence, which is not connected per se. The connections happen via our scientific models, ultimately allowing us to make reliable and educated predictions. A scientist needs to have an imaginative mind to think the unthinkable, discover the unknown and formulate initially far-fetched, but testable, hypotheses that may provide new and unique insights. As Kierkegaard writes, “This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think.”

People Saving Animals

Whether something is morally right or wrong depends on what you and I or anyone thinks, and it is not imposed on us by any scientific discovery.

Morality and science are two separate disciplines. I may not like the conclusions and implications of some scientific studies, I may even find their application immoral; yet, my job as a scientist is to report my findings objectively. Stating a fact does not oblige me to adopt any particular moral stance. The way I feel about a fact is not constrained by what science tells me. It may influence me but, ultimately, my moral decision is independent of the scientific fact. Science tells me men and women are biologically different in some aspects, but it does not say whether or not they should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. Science tells me that evolution is a consequence of the algorithm “the survival of the fittest,” not whether or not I should help those that find it difficult to fit into their environment. Science informs me of the pros and cons of eating animal products, but it does not tell me whether it is right or wrong to be a vegetarian.

If you think that the safest is to base your moral stances on factual events, you are walking on moving sands (and, probably, committing a fallacious appeal to nature).

Say, someone asks you, “Why do you believe tail docking to be wrong?” If you answer, “Because it inhibits the dog to communicate adequately since dogs use their tails to communicate,” you are getting into trouble. Say again, the same person now asks you,  “Why do you believe ear cropping to be wrong?” You cannot answer, ‘‘Because it inhibits the dog to communicate adequately since dogs use their ears to communicate,” for upright ears allow the dogs to display more and easier detectable expressions than drop ears. That is the hidden danger we run when using matters of fact to validate our moral statements: we may easily run into inconsistent argumentation. Even though seemingly that does not bother some, it certainly bothers other fellow thinkers and me with a certain degree of intellectual integrity.

You could avoid this problem by answering, ”Because I don’t like to cut off parts of an animal.” That would do it because nobody can argue with what you like or don’t like. Even if you neuter your male dog (which means cutting off the testicles of the animal), you are still off the hook because you can say, “I did it, and I don’t like it.” There is no logical contradiction in doing something without liking it. It is only logically contradictory if you infer the premise “we only do what we like.” “I don’t like diets and I’m on a diet” is perfectly all right. You may have a goal, which requires you to do things you don’t like.

Another aspect of this hidden danger of basing your morality on facts is that if science uncovers some new fact relevant to your morality, you’ll be compelled to change it. One moment right, the nest wrong applies to scientific theory, but not necessarily to morality. For me, it is wrong to inflict any kind of unnecessary pain and distress to any living creature, independently of species, and I don’t care whether science discovers how much pain any particular animal’s nervous system can or cannot register. For me, it is, and it will be wrong to inflict unnecessary pain and distress to others. Period.


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How Difficult Can It Be to Be a Dog Owner?

Just do whatever you and your dog enjoy, however you like, so that both of you are happy. It’s as simple as that!

Just do whatever you and your dog enjoy, however you like, so that both of you are happy. It’s as simple as that!

You don’t have to excuse yourself or your dog for the way you are. As long as you’re both happy and you don’t bother anyone, you are entitled to do what you like and be the way you are.

You don’t need to be good at anything, whether it be Obedience, Agility, Musical Free Style, Heel Work to Music, Flyball, Frisbee Dog, Earth Dog, Ski-Joring, Bike-Joring, Earthdog, Rally-O, Weight Pulling, Carting, Schutzhund, Herding, Nose Work, Therapy, Field Trials, Dock Dogs, Dog Diving, Disc Dogs, Ultimate Air Dogs, Super Retriever, Splash Dogs, Hang Time, Lure Course Racing, Sled Dog Racing or Treibball; and you don’t need excuses as to why not. You don’t even need to apologize the fact that your dog can’t sit properly.

We are over swamped by labels because labels sell, but they only sell if you buy them. Should you be a positive, ultra-positive, R+, R+P-, balanced, naturalistic, moralistic, conservative, realistic, progressive, clickerian or authoritarian dog owner? Stop caring about what label you should bear. When you enjoy a great moment with your dog, the label you bear is irrelevant. A label is a burden; it restricts you and takes away your freedom. Labels are for insecure people that need to hide behind an image. Believe in yourself, be yourself, be the dog owner you want to be and you won’t need labels.

Do you want to make changes? Change what you want to change and can change—and don’t waste time and energy thinking about what you don’t want to, don’t need to or can’t change. Just do whatever you and your dog enjoy, however you like, so that both of you are happy. It’s as simple as that!

Life is great—enjoy it!


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Life is a rainbow


We tend to classify everything promptly as ‘like,’ ‘don’t like.’ Peculiar habit this one for it limits us tremendously. We consort with the ‘like,’ inebriating us with its shallow compliment; and repudiate the ‘don’t,’ rejecting its challenge, missing the boat that for once might have taken us to undiscovered shores.

In our times, I’d call it the Facebook fallacy. Facebook makes us believe that everything must either be liked or not liked (or rather ignored). This is an informal fallacy, an error in reasoning that does not originate in improper logical form. Arguments committing informal fallacies may be formally valid, yet fallacious.

The real name for my Facebook fallacy is the false dichotomy, but it is also known as the false dilemma, black-and/or-white thinking, the either-or fallacy, the fallacy of false choice, the fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses, the fallacy of the false alternative or the fallacy of the excluded middle. It is an informal fallacy in which we only consider limited alternatives when there is at least one additional option.

The options we consider, or give as a choice to our opponent, may be two extremes or completely different alternatives. We can also have a false trilemma (if we reduce the options to three, instead of two).

A false dilemma can be constructed intentionally when we attempt to force a choice. The fallacy can also happen by accidental omission of alternatives or by ignorance. In situations where we are emotionally involved, it is not rare that we only see two (or a few) options to solve a problem when there are several.

As it is, life is not black and white, neither are your options in the vast majority of the situations when you feel cornered.

Life is a rainbow!


"Think Out Of The Box by Roger Abrantes

Think Out Of The Box—A Guide To An Open And Critical Mind by Roger Abrantes
Sound and logical reasoning—you learn to analyze arguments rationally, to distinguish valid from invalid, and sound from unsound, to conduct rational discussions, to become a clearer and more persuasive debater.