Pigeons to judge beauty pageants; A critic on animal aesthetics
Darwin day lecture in NCRM heralds stem cell studies across phylogeny
Chennai 12 Feb 2011, Pigeons could be potential judges for beauty pageants was a suggestion on a lighter note following a commemorative lecture at NCRM during the 202nd birth anniversary of Charles Darwin, one of the most eminent naturalists in history, whose pioneering work is an eye-opener to the origin of species and evolution.
Prof. Shigeru Watanabe of Keio University, Japan who delivered the commemorative lecture said that Pigeons can be trained to discriminate between abstract and visual stimuli such as pictures and may also have the ability to learn the concept of “Beauty” as defined by humans. Birds and primates, though they share same type of three dimensional life and diurnal rhythm, significantly differ in their cognition and appreciation of beauty of the artistic work which is attributed to the differences in the configuration of the Telencephalon of brain. Evolution of the Telencephalon which is responsible for the visual cognition has further advanced in human beings as homosapiens can appreciate the art work even if its in gray scale or mosaic format, which animals cannot. Moreover only the higher animals get a sensory reinforcement upon seeing a good work of art as their cognitive systems are connected to the pleasure systems, which is lacking in lower animals due to phylogenic and ontogenic contingencies.
Describing in his pedantry style with wit and humour, the legendary voyage of Charles Darwin in the Beagle in the 19th century, Dr John Sudhakar, an ophthalmologist working on corneal stem cells, added that if pigeons could be trained to appreciate beauty, they could well deserve to be in the panel of judges for beauty pageants. In his prologue, he described the intricacies of the Nature given NICHE which was the cradle of the life of all primitive organisms and biological systems. He presented the philosophy and science of “METANICHE”, a revolutionary initiative by NCRM and added that a Metaniche study group will soon start analyzing the differences between the stem cell NICHE across the ladder of phylogeny.
Dr Abraham, Director NCRM, while interacting with the delegates said that a society, Chennai Cell Cluster, is to be formed shortly, incorporating scientists working in plant biology, animal and human stem cell biology to take the METANICHE study forward.