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Birth of Consciousness

The basic need for the survival of a creature is food. Time devoted to the quest for food affects the time remaining for other activities. The more primitive the animal, the more time feeding activity occupies its life and consequently the more affected are all other types of the animal's behavior. Eating is a basic necessity. In addition the quest for food influences the development of the brain. Superior animals develop ingenious tricks to fool or surprise their victims, thus increasing their hunting efficiency and leaving an increased amount of available time. They then develop all those behavioral activities not necessarily connected with survival: singing, playing or inventing complicated social rules.

To find food, some animals learn how to use tools, while others hide. The means of obtaining food becomes characteristic of the animal. How an animal recognizes what is nourishing or poisoning is inborn in some and learned in others. Many depend on a combination of inherited and learned traits for their food-catching ability. How an animal gathers food is based on behavior that depends on its physical equipment, and conversely, on physical equipment which has developed as a result of its behavior. Some animals show a greater capacity to learn new behavior, while others depend more heavily on instinct. Those that learn have the capacity to adapt quickly to new situations but must undergo a vulnerable period while learning. The animals that are 'preprogramed' emerge competent to face life, but unforeseen factors can he disastrous to any that cannot learn to change.

Defense, survival, the will to live, sell-preservation, whatever it he called, is another of the basic motivations of life. Lacking the will to live, an animal might not employ any defense mechanism and would quickly become part of some other animal's drive for food. Thus behavior and defense are inseparable. The instinctive reactions involved in defensive behavior are passed genetically from one generation to the next. The 'will to live' displayed by individual creatures integrates into the 'need to live' for the species they belong to. The individuality of a species' defense, then, is a reflection of its unique genetic characteristics. Other animals may acquire behavioral defense through learning by example from their parents or as a result of individual experience. The defense mechanisms take a wide range of forms; some may scare off an attacker or serve notice that taking a bite is unwise by means of a complicated bright coloration; others may he a more complicated series of maneuvers, some of which may he inborn and some of which may be learned. No prey has a perfect defense against all predators.

As the defense improves, so must the efficiency of the attacker. Each is able to employ tricks to achieve the goal of survival, and the result is a delicate balance of nature.

Animals know instinctively what defensive equipment they have and what abilities are at their disposal. These abilities may he inherited, or they may he developed through trial and error. Upon recognizing a threat, the animal must he able to know when and if to flee, whether to advance and challenge, or perhaps to stop and remain motionless until the threat passes. Somewhere between the inherited automatic reactions of certain animals to the stimuli of their environment, and the learned behavior of other animals, lies the dim origin of judgment, discrimination, correlation... and maybe intelligence.

   
  Questions
   
  1.   Explain how time devoted to the search for food affects other development.
       
  2.   Compare the pressures of food-seeking and self-defense. Which seems to make the more important contribution tot he success of a species ?
       
  3.   Explain what the author means by 'delicate balance of nature' and how this is achieved.
       
  4. (a) Explain fully the meaning of the following words or phrases as they are used in the passage :
       
      (i)   ingenious   (iv)   defense mechanism
      (ii)   vulnerable   (v)   inseparable
      (iii)   motivations   (vi)   integrates
              (vii)   predators
       
    (b) Write seven short sentences, using each of the words or phrases to illustrate their meaning. Your sentences should not deal with the subject matter of the passage.
       
  5.   In about 150 words, explain how various experiences may lead to mental and social development. What does the author mean by 'origin of judgment'.
       
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  Answers
       
  1.   Development potential depends on food-finding efficiency. The quicker the creature finds food the more time is left for development. Creatures of higher intellect outwit their prey, and the process in itself sharpens the brain. Remaining time is spent on the development of social activities.
       
  2.   Food is the basic requirement for existence, and is he common objective of all living species, on the supposition that they share a 'need to live'. This need is filled by a combination of inherited and acquired abilities. Because the learning process exposes the creatures to danger, inherited abilities are safe. Creatures also share the 'will to live', and develop or inherit appropriate methods of defense against predators. While the two instincts are generally both present; the 'will to live' is more crucial, and the surviving species are those which have developed the means of staying alive to a fine art.
       
  3.   Every creature has its food-source, i.e. other creatures. There must always be enough of the latter to feed the former. To ensure this, the food-source must find its own food and to some extent protect itself. The result is enough food all round. This is Cousteau's idea of the 'delicate balance of nature.'
       
  4(a) (i) clever and original
    (ii) exposed to danger
    (iii) driving impulses or compelling reasons
    (iv) method of safeguarding itself
    (v) cannot be considered apart from each other
    (vi) combines with
    (vii) hunting attackers
       
  4(b) 1. The boy offered his teacher an ingenious excuse for his lateness.
    2. 'People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones'; they are too vulnerable.
    3. She failed to get the job because she showed the wrong motivations in her application.
    4. Listening to good music is my defense mechanism against over-anxiety.
    5. This couple have been inseparable for the whole for their married life.
    6. The tow metal fully integrate to become an alloy.
    7. Confidence tricksters are predators on unsophisticated people.
       
  5. The need to find food exercises and develops a creature's brain. Higher animals obtain prey quickly and efficiently by using tricks. They therefore have time for social activities. In food-finding, some use objects, others camouflage, and physique counts in all this. This physique may be inherited or developed. If creatures are to survive they must be adaptable.

The need to survive demands the development of defense mechanisms, and this again depends on both inheritance and learning capacity, the latter often being imitation of parents.

These requirements, eating and surviving, become two sides of the same coin; survival implies that the creature has developed a degree of intelligence and social rapport. 'Judgment' is basically a human characteristic, which has developed over countless millenia. The author may see in the upward striving of animals a direct link between the animal world and humanity. ( 142 words )

           
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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