Re: Morgan Tears 3.

Phillip Bigelow (
30 Oct 1995 13:08:21 -0800

Elaine Morgan <> writes:

>Question Three. Is it true that elephants weep?

>"The Indian elephant is known sometimes to weep. Sir E.
>Tennent, in describing these which he saw captured and bound
>in Ceylon, says some "lay motionlass on the ground, with no
>other indication of suffering than the tears which suffused
>their eyes and flowed incessantly". Speaking of another
>elephant he says "When overpowered and made fast, his grief
>was most affecting: his violence sank to utter prostration,
>and he lay on the ground, uttering chopking cries, with tears
>trickling down his cheeks" (Darwin, the Expression of the
>Emotions in man and animals, Univ of Chicago Press, 1965,

Other anecdotal examples were provided by Ms. Morgan.

and then Elaine provided us with some:
>Counter-claims: Darwin records in a footnote to the second
>edition of his book that A Rev Mr Glenie wrote to him that
>his native hunters had never seen a wild elephant weep. Darwin
>felt that the positive evidence outweighed this comment.

The anecdotal examples provided by Elaine clearly demonstrate why
anecdotal evidence should be ignored when making DEFINATIVE statements.
Elaine has provided us with examples of subjective (personal interpretatve) side noting that when tortured by humans, elephants will
"cry." The other (pro-hunting) side noting that their "burgers-on-the-hoof"
didn't express grief when the heroic hunters dispatched it. Who to believe?
My feelings in such subjective matters is to believe both sides, because
from their own visions of reality, each side sees the "truth". Consider the
hunter's point-of view: it would wreck their day (and their future elephant
burger mealtimes) to have to ponder the fact that their dinner "cried"
before it died. Similarly, consider the point-of-view from the "elephants
are our friends" side: They obviously want elephants to be more human-like
in their emotional helps their case to believe so.
However, in SCIENCE, I would believe neither side, because of the
preconceptions that each side has regarding the matter. I also hold both
sides suspect because of the rhetoric that they use to describe elephant
tear-duct secretions. Although the secretions are real, it is
non-scientific to call them such
anthropomorphic terms such as "crying" or "weeping" or "sobbing", because we
don't know that the true cause of the secretions is emotionally-based.
The DEFINATIVE statement would be to say that we don't KNOW if elephants
secrete emotionally-based tears.