Quotation of the day

Why are dogs more successful as a species than wolves?

The wolf is somehow more impressive to us than the dog. Yet there are fifty million dogs in America today, only ten thousand wolves. So what does the dog know about getting along in the world that its wild ancestor doesn’t? The big thing the dog knows about &#8212 the subject it has mastered in the ten thousand years it has been evolving at our side &#8212 is us.

&#8212 from Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Quotation of the day”

  1. It's a provocative book, and the quotation is too, but when there are more wolves in zoos than there are in nature, would you say that those living wolves have somehow gotten along better in the world than the one's who have left? I would rather be a gratefully dead wolf than a living lap dog. Live free or die.

  2. That's certainly true. As I write this, one of my two Basset Hounds is rolling around on the floor and looking at me appealingly. I'm now feeling an uncontrollable desire to rub his belly….

  3. Dr. Allen: Maybe I need to reconsider… How would you feel if a wild wolf looked at you like that?

  4. Michael Pollan is obvioulsly a cat-lover. Most dog owners do not find wolves "more impressive" than their companion animals. What does "more impressive" actually mean in this passage? I found Pollan's book nearly unreadable because of its whispy romanticism pretending to be unsentimental tough talk about nature. An even worse offender in this genre is Diane Ackerman.

  5. If Darwin taught us anything, it's that the only rule of nature is this: Adapt, or die.
    Dogs are just one example of a commensal species that makes its living off humans. There are others. Rye started out as a weed in wheatfields. It didn't become a crop in its own right until agriculture moved too far north for wheat. Other weeds mimic the wheat kernels flight characteristics in threshing, so that they are saved and replanted along with next year's wheat.
    Genetics have made it extremely clear that dogs are neotonic wolves. When you compare the numbers, it's pretty clear that moving in with humans worked out well for the species.

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