A Murder of Crows

Blue_Rock Creek_2012-08-17

2013-04-29  – Thomas  Hobbes had a dim view of nature, seeing life in nature as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The amazing thing about people who pontificate about nature is that they often know nothing about nature. Their pontifications are often just projections of their preconceived notions. Hobbes should have been with me yesterday on a walk I took with my wife through the Skokie Sculpture Park.

It was the crows.

We’d seen it before. This time it was a pair of crows attacking a significantly larger bird—what appeared to be a peregrine falcon. Last year we saw a group of crows attack an owl. The collective word for a group of crows is a “murder” of crows.

Of course the whole affair was nasty and brutish, but it was definitely not solitary. Crows are known for attacking larger birds when they are in a group. As solos, the larger bird could attack and beat the crow.

You might not think this is much of an improvement over the Hobbesian view of nature. But our political and economic experts are heavily influenced by Hobbes’ idea (whether he would really agree with it or not) that cooperation is somehow unnatural, that cutthroat competition is the norm, and that society exists to hold back the terrifying state of nature. I don’t doubt that competition is natural. But cooperation is natural, too.

Just like the crows.

Maybe the collective noun for a group of human beings should be a “murder” of human beings.

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