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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

watch it: “Original Elephant Painting”

Wow:

There seems to be some debate over whether or how much the elephant “artist” here may have been coached or trained, but I’d like to think it’s as real and authentic as can be, that this represents another sentient creature saying “I am.” (I just posted something about communicating with other sentient creatures here.) But of course, the very fact that I really want something to be true instantly sends up a warning flag in my head and switches my skepticism into overdrive.

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  • Jay Goodfader

    I saw this in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I was very much skeptical when they announced that the elephants would be painting but after watching them for a while I was quite impressed.

    The handlers must train the elephants for a long time to teach them to make one (or sometimes two) designs but other than getting the paint on the brush – they don’t help the elephant at all during the painting.

    It’s way more impressive than all the other tricks the elephants do (like kicking a soccer ball or posing for pictures) and while I didn’t get the idea that they were showing their creativity I did feel that they seemed to have way more awareness and intelligence than a dog for instance.

  • Robert

    It’s like a parrot vocalizing. It mimics something in a way that resembles the act of a human mind.

    Show me an elephant doing a painting of an object placed in front of them that they haven’t been trained to do.

  • MaryAnn
  • Robert

    Snopes was the first place I looked. I think something should be corrected, there’s no “debate” over whether the elephants have been trained to do this. They have been, extensively, which I was convinced of as soon as I saw this.

    It shows us that the elephant can be trained to repeat a visual pattern which is kinda cool & I’m sure is of interest to scientists, but is a long way from calling it “creation” in the human sense.

    It seems clear that it doesn’t grasp concepts such as when the brush needs more paint – it doesn’t reload the brush with paint itself. I’m going to assert that they don’t grasp that the brush and the paint are separate entities.

    I’m assuming a given animal draws essentially the exact same one or two patterns over & over. For example the same “elephant” picture, which is more evidence of the lack of higher cognitive awareness.

    MAJ believes that:

    (apes) use their limited vocabulary in a way that suggests that they understand the meaning of the words they’re using.

    Oh that’s just great, so now I suppose they’ll be chiming in on stem cell research too.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh that’s just great, so now I suppose they’ll be chiming in on stem cell research too.

    I understand if you want to mock what I said. But then please actually mock what I said, not something you pulled out of your ass that bears no resemblance whatsoever to what I said.

  • Robert

    I understand if you want to mock what I said.

    Umm…Mockery? To me that implies some kind of derision. This was just taking a concept – apes speaking/grasping human language – and putting it in a silly, exaggerated scenario in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. I actually thought you’d find it funny. Apologies if you perceived any malice behind it, none was intended.

    But then please actually mock what I said, not something you pulled out of your ass that bears no resemblance whatsoever to what I said.

    ??

    My non-mockery was copied and pasted directly from what you wrote, with a small paraphrase (apes) to shorten things. I don’t think it would have changed things significantly to add parrots. I don’t see what significant concept was left out that altered the meaning.

  • MaryAnn

    I in no way implied that I believe that just because non-human animals may grasp the meaning of abstract words that that means they must also be able to “chime in” on anything like “stem-cell research.”

    The tone of your prior statements in that comments post suggests that you’re suggesting that I had.

  • Robert

    I in no way implied that I believe that just because non-human animals may grasp the meaning of abstract words that that means they must also be able to “chime in” on anything like “stem-cell research.”

    I know you didn’t. Again:

    This was just taking a concept – apes speaking/grasping human language – and putting it in a silly, exaggerated scenario in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.

    You’re reading too much into it.

  • JoshB

    You’re reading too much into it.

    Erm…

    Maybe so, but the word choice did come off as insultingly sarcastic.

    Cool video in any case.

  • Hdj

    Yeah this stupid I bet you could pin this too the movie ” my kid could paint that” and this youtube video, and Recently, I saw a pig paint the other day on TV.
    I don’t buy any of this animal artist one bit, they’re training these animals with biscuits and other rewards, Thats not artistic, being artistic is done completely independent. If anyone deserves the credit its the guy making the elephant paint then feeding it because thats what it comes down too. The trainer not the trainee,
    I’m still interested in getting apes to do sign language though. The more we get animals to interact with humans the better, but using them as a spectacle, isn’t really a sign of animal intelligence.

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