Dolphins are People too!

Do dolphins and whales deserve the same rights as humans?

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has proposed a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans. They believe that many years of research into dolphins and whales has shown that they have sufficient intelligence to justify them receiving the same ethical considerations as human beings. In other words, we should treat them as “non-human persons.”

I find this idea fascinating! We have learned a great deal about the intelligence of whales and dolphins:

  • they appear to understand how things work, and how to manipulate objects
  • they recognise other members of their species, and recognise individual behaviour
  • they recognise themselves, and parts of their own bodies, in a mirror – an ability we thought was limited to apes, elephants and humans
  • they have good auditory, visual and spatial memory
  • they learn easily, often without explicit instructions, but through gestures and body language
  • they can imitate sounds and behaviours – one of the highest forms of social learning

Whales, dolphins, orcas (Killer Whales) and other cetaceans are highly social mammals. They live in complex groups, with long-term relationships, and co-operative networks that rely on learning and memory.

Orcas live in very stable family groups, whose basis is a matriline – mothers and their offspring. Male orcas never leave their mothers, but female orcas may leave to form their own matrilines if they have many offspring of their own.

They have a culture, in that they have regular breeding sites, feeding strategies, as well as a complex language with vocal, visual, tactile and chemical communication. Orca families can be identified for generations by the calls they use. They use these calls to prevent in-breeding in the pod.

There are many observed cases of cetaceans behaving in ways we would consider decidedly human:

  • in Patagonia, an elderly orca with a damaged jaw was fed and kept alive by members of its group
  • in Iceland, fishermen and orcas have been known to work together – the orcas guiding the fishermen to the best catches, and receiving part of the catch as a reward
  • in captivity, dolphins who were rewarded with fish for keeping their tank tidy deliberately ripped up a paper bag, and used the pieces one at a time to make a mess, tidy it away and get a reward!

I’m sure you can add to the list of things you’ve heard about dolphins and whales that make you go “Huh?! That’s amazing!”

Here are a few more facts that you should know before you make up your mind whether cetaceans really are worthy of the title of “non-human persons”:

Cetaceans have large, complex brains – comparable in mass, relative to body mass,  to those of humans, elephants and apes. A greater brain to body mass ratio may mean there is more brain available for functions other than running the body..

Dolphins are voluntary breathers, even when asleep – as a result, they sleep with one half of their brain at a time – the other half stays at least partially awake to breathe and look out for predators. That seems to me to be a very highly evolved feature that we humans could use!

At birth, a human brain is 28% of its eventual weight as an adult brain – elephants are 35%, bottle-nose dolphins are 42.5% and chimpanzees are 54% of their adult brain weight. This is an indication of how much learning the animal accumulates while young.

The discovery of spindle cells (neurons which play a central role in the development of intelligent behaviour) in some cetaceans (humpback, fin, beluga, sperm and killer whales, and  bottle-nose and Risso’s dolphins) suggests convergent evolution between them and the only other species known to have spindle neurons – humans, elephants and the great apes.

Doctor Lori Marino, of Emory University, says:

“The discovery of spindle neurons in cetaceans is a stunning example of neuro-anatomical convergence between cetaceans and primates. The common ancestor of cetaceans and primates lived over 95 million years ago, and such a highly specific morphological similarity as the finding of spindle cells is clearly due to evolutionary convergence, not shared ancestry,”

“This is consistent with a growing body of evidence for parallels between cetaceans and primates in cognitive abilities, behaviour and social ecology.”

If we do recognise the “personhood” of cetacean mammals, a few things will have to change:

  • Whale hunting will have to be outlawed, because it will be considered an act of murder
  • Dolphins and orcas will no longer be kept in captivity and made to perform tricks for our amusement – Dolphinaria around the world will have to be closed and the inmates released back into the ocean
  • The ocean environment of cetaceans will have to be protected
  • The Japanese practice of herding dolphins and pilot whales into bays and slaughtering them en masse to sell their meat will have to cease
  • Likewise, this Danish slaughter will have to stop

Personally, I think this Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans deserves support. There is a wealth of good, scientific evidence to back it up, and I would love to see these obviously intelligent mammals treated with more compassion and respect.


The full text of the Declaration issued by the AAAS:

Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins

Based on the principle of the equal treatment of all persons;
Recognizing that scientific research gives us deeper insights into the complexities of cetacean minds, societies and cultures;
Noting that the progressive development of international law manifests an entitlement to life by cetaceans;
We affirm that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and wellbeing.
We conclude that:

  1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
  2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
  3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
  4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
  5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
  6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
  7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
  8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
  9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
  10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.

Auras – another way to heal?

I have a young friend (who shall remain nameless), who is firmly convinced he can see people’s Auras –  a colourful glow, like a halo, emanating mainly from the head but sometimes from the entire body. My friend has to concentrate really hard, staring at someone intently for a minute or two, until the Aura appears.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds exactly like a simple after-image to me – like when you stare at a green dot on a piece of white paper for about a minute, then look away and see a red or pink after-image which gradually fades away. It’s a very common optical illusion caused by retinal fatigue and other natural processes related to the visual system and the brain.

Stare at the green dot for 30 seconds, and then look at a blank white wall.

When I mentioned this possibility, my young friend gave me a “Look” and told me he had once seen a man at an ice-rink who was surrounded by a huge, multicoloured, pulsating aura – and that was no after-image!

So, what exactly are Auras, why do some people claim to be able to see them, and what significance do they have – if any?

Auras are yet another New Age phenomenon – an “electromagnetically-generated” colourful series of outlines that emanate from all living creatures, from bugs to bears and everything in-between, and reflect the metaphysical life force / energy /chi / soul or whatever you decide to call it.

Human auras are said to be generated by the chakras – 7  flower-shaped or wheel-like “energy structures” within the human body. These are strategically located – outside the head, between the eyes (the “third eye”), in the throat, the heart, the navel, the last bone of the spine, and the “tip of the sexual organ.” (Here we go again – it’s so MALE-centered! What happens if my sexual organ doesn’t have a tip? I’m a woman – we aren’t built like that!)

You will notice that they are illustrated in order exactly corresponding to the colours of the rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet – with the Indigo corresponding to the third eye. I wonder if this has anything to do with “Indigo Children”? An interesting question I will leave for another post!

Apparently you need Special Psychic Powers to be able to see Auras (I bet Norah has it down to a fine art!)

Robert Bruce, an Aura Expert, says:

The human aura is both an energy field and a reflection of the subtle life energies within the body. These energies make us what we are and in turn are affected by our surroundings and life style. The aura reflects our health, character, mental activity and emotional state. It also shows disease – often long before the onset of symptoms.

And exactly HOW do we read an Aura? By the pretty colours! Bright Yellow is Sunny and Exhilarating, Green is for Healing and Teaching, Blue is Peaceful and Contemplative, and so on. Actually, that’s a bit too specific – there is rough agreement on what the primary colours mean, but the more subtle colours are largely left up to the psychic’s imagination.

Assuming you think you may be clairvoyant, how do you conduct an Aura Healing Session?

  • It is best to work in daylight, and to remove your crystals from the room because they may interfere with the electromagnetic field of the aura. (Good idea to turn off the Telly too.)
  • Stand your subject in front of a white background, and look at their side – left or right side, it doesn’t matter
  • After a while you will start to see their electromagnetic energies as “wavy lines of energy”
  • You may notice two or three colours in the aura. You can use your own intuition to decide what those colours mean – there are no hard and fast rules, so you can gaily make it up as you go along. You will undoubtedly still get paid.
  • If you notice any holes in the aura, these may indicate illness, or “imbalance” in the subject’s body
  • Feel free to take a wild guess as to what that illness might be, and inform your subject that they have an emotional problem that is causing this illness
  • Ask them if they are willing to be healed – at the soul level first – if not, the problem with the aura will revert back to a different part of their body
  • Assuming you have laid it on thick, and they acknowledge that their soul is indeed sick, you can start moving your hands around slowly in their aura field, mingling your aura with theirs
  • This will balance their chi / life force / energy field / soul and heal whatever was ailing them
  • Or not.
  • Be careful not to give any guarantees that this “healing” will actually heal anything – a clever disclaimer in fine print at the bottom of your advertising is normally sufficient.

So, the question is – are these people simply deranged, or is there evidence that auras exist and can tell us what the psychics say they can?

I have a few problems with the whole concept:

  • The aura-generating chakra structures have never been found or demonstrated to exist is any way. Yes, I know people have believed in them in one form or another for centuries – but that doesn’t make them actually, physically REAL. Attempts to link the chakras to the human endocrine system (as suggested by the famous psychic Edgar Cayce) have never been verified.
  • Chi / life force / body energy fields have likewise never been shown to be anything other than imaginary. Remember, widespread belief is no guarantee that it’s actually THERE. (The same applies to the myriad gods people have ardently believed in and fought wars over for millennia.)
  • The electromagnetic fields in the human body are tiny, they don’t protrude beyond the body, and there is no evidence they can be interpreted as indicating anything about one’s personality or state of health. They are simply the result of natural biological processes: nerve impulses and your beating heart.
  • If there was an internally-generated electromagnetic field around your body, you couldn’t use a hand-held compass – and yet clearly you can!
  •  Visual phenomena such as auras can be explained without resorting to the  supernatural or metaphysical.
  • Photos of auras can be faked, or generated using galvonometers or Kirlian photography (which both react to moisture on the skin.) Here is an excellent explanation, by Joe Nickell of CSI.

In all my reading and exploration of subjects such as auras, labyrinths, astrology, psychics, religion  and so on, it has become very clear to me that many people are searching for control of their lives.

We live in a rapidly changing world, with so much happening that affects us, but that we cannot control. Climate change, economic recessions, poverty, pollution, natural disasters, viral pandemics…

Are these irrational belief systems not just a way of coping? Trying to bury one’s head in the sand and hoping it will all just go away? It seems to me that people are trying so hard to divorce themselves from reality because the hard truth about our existence is too much for them:

  • the fact that medical care and hospitalisation is expensive and sometimes unsuccessful, and that there are some diseases we don’t yet have a cure for – so they reject scientific medicine and instead pray for divine intervention, or turn to reiki, aura healing, chakra therapy, reflexology, magnetic therapy and the like. (Isn’t it hilarious that when they’re in a car accident, or have a heart attack or a stroke they are 100% in favour of scientific medicine!)
  • the fact that their parent, partner or child is dead – so they go to a psychic to try to contact them, or get comfort from the idea that they will see that person again in Heaven. (They never consider that their Loved One may have ended up in that other religious invention – Hell)  (Hell must be a very empty place – all those demons sitting around playing cards, picking their teeth with their pointy sticks… )
  • the fact that they have no control over what could happen in the future – so they turn to astrology, reading their horoscope every day for “guidance” pulled out of someone’s backside
  • the fact that they will inevitably die – so they turn to religion in the hope of an afterlife (in Heaven of course, never in Hell)

All of the above will cost you time and money, and will not make a jot of difference. You may feel better, but nothing will have really changed….

I have a suggestion:

Try living each day as though it might be your last and ENJOY IT!  Love deeply and strongly; appreciate the kindness you receive, and give as much as you can in return; learn about the real world so you can understand why things happen and tackle your problems head-on, instead of cowering behind irrationality;  be compassionate towards your fellow Earthlings – human and animal. Most of all – LOVE YOURSELF! Appreciate yourself, you are actually a Good Person 🙂

You can do all of these things without help from any gods, or psychics, or quacks. You can do them because you WANT to – not to score points towards an eternal reward, or to avoid an eternal punishment.

And when you are on your last legs you will be able to look back at your life and smile – free from worry over those non-existent demons, and happy in the knowledge that you won’t have to spend eternity worshipping a megalomaniac egotist with a seriously sadistic streak!

Norah, the Word Class Psychic – Revisited

In the weeks since I wrote my blog on Norah, the World Class Psychic, I have had many readers tell me they received exactly the same “reading” from Norah, and that my blog post prompted them to NOT take up her offer for further “readings.”

Up till then, they were actually considering it….

OK guys and gals, here’s the thing – these people are FRAUDS! You need to realise that simple fact.

ALL astrologers, clairvoyants, psychics and the like are frauds! Please don’t allow yourself to be duped by these people…

Let’s apply a little rational thinking to Astrology:

First of all, what exactly ARE the stars and planets that astrologers claim dictate your future, health, wealth and sex life?

Stars are huge balls of hydrogen and helium gas that burn by thermonuclear fusion, producing light and heat that radiates away into outer space, warming any nearby planets and their inhabitants. At the end of a star’s natural life, after it has exhausted all its nuclear fuel and converted its light elements into heavier elements, it may explode as a mighty supernova, blasting its contents into the interstellar medium, and leaving behind a dim white dwarf star or neutron star.


Some time later, those very elements may be drawn into the gravitational influence of a newly coalescing baby star, and form a family of rocky or gaseous bodies in orbits around the new star – planets.

There is nothing mystical or supernatural about stars or planets. They are composed of 100% natural, easily verified substances. If you doubt this, step outside and pick up a handful of soil. What is it made of? Small stones and sand and the composted remains of plants and animals. Those stones and sand may be made up of quartz, silica, bits of volcanic rock and sedimentary deposits…. There will be dead bugs, earthworm poop, dead leaves and twigs and any number of other organic substances. So far, nothing mysterious or supernatural, right?

The ground beneath your feet, all the way through to the ground beneath the feet on the other side of the Earth, is made of absolutely bog standard soil, rocks, magma, iron, and so on (consult the Periodic Table of the Elements for the rest.)

The same applies to the other planets in our Solar Family. They have those same substances in different proportions, depending on how they formed about 4.5 billion years ago. Those closer to the Sun are rockier, because the heavier elements were drawn closer in by the gravity of the newly formed star, and those further out are gassier, because they are made mostly of lighter elements.

Carl Sagan famously pointed out that we are ALL made of star-stuff… I think that is one of the most amazing, thought-provoking things I have ever heard!

As far as we can tell, most of the stars and planets in the universe are made of roughly the same elements. There is nothing mysterious or odd about them – they are just simple physical objects in 3-dimensional space and time. (We won’t discuss back holes, string theory and the multi-verse today! Let’s keep it nice and simple…)

So why do some of you think that these common physical objects, made of gasses and rocks and ice, have some magical or supernatural influence on your lives?

Is it their gravitational influence due to their relative position at the moment of your birth? Stop and ask yourself one simple question: How can that possibly influence the decisions you make today, and every day?

It’s not gravity that makes you decide whether to start smoking, whether to take drugs because your buddies are taking them, whether to marry this man or that woman, whether to enrol at university or go out and get a job – you make those decisions for yourself, or on the advice of the people you trust.

Every decision YOU make determines, to some extent, the future course of your life.

And, you have to define what you mean by “moment of birth.” Is it when your mother starts going into labour, when you are in the birth canal, when your head first crowns, when you emerge, or when the doctor slaps your bottom and you take your first breath? Those events can span 24 hours or more, during which time the sun, moon and planets’ relative positions will have changed quite a bit.

Why is your time of birth more auspicious than your time of conception? Surely when you first form as a human entity is just as important as when you emerge to start breathing air? What about when your heart takes its first little beat?

Which moment do you imagine the lump of rock  hundreds of millions of kilometres away thinks is the most important?

Again, you need to question the assumption that a star or planet’s relative position to another star or planet at any time in the past can make any difference to the decisions you take every day. The Earth itself has the greatest gravitational influence on all of us – if it didn’t we would all fly away into outer space. The distant planets’ gravitational pull is minute, almost non-existent, by comparison, and yet the Earth plays almost no part in Astrology! Have they just not thought to include the most important planet of all?

What about recently discovered planets outside our Solar System? They should also have some astrological significance, shouldn’t they? There are literally HUNDREDS of them, and more being discovered every week – the astrological charts are going to get a wee bit more complicated, methinks!

Artist's conception of one of the new exo-planets (Kepler)

Are you starting to think it’s all a bit implausible? I hope so, because the next step is to ask yourself why only certain people, such as Norah, have a hot-line to what that rocky or gaseous body thinks is in your future? How do they receive that information, and from whom? Can stars and planets speak? In English? In all the languages of all the astrologers on Earth? That’s pretty smart for a heap of iron or a ball of gas!

Or, do they receive the information internally, telepathically, without words? Really? Again, how and from whom? Is a star or a planet really a supernatural being? Is there any evidence of such an outlandish idea? Absolutely none! We know precisely what stars and planets are, how they form, how they evolve and how they die. No supernatural beings involved – sorry!

Astrology does not make any testable hypothesis and offers no suggestions as to how it is supposed to operate. As such, it cannot be falsified, and is considered to be a pseudo-science. It describes natural events in terms of supernatural causes, so like religion it relies on the faith of believers in the face of all directly contradictory evidence.


Isn’t it FAR more likely that astrologers are fooling you so they can make money out of you? They count on the average person’s ignorance of astronomy, fear of the future, desire for control over their lives, and I’m sorry to have to say it, gullibility.

People like Norah know that even if only 5% of the “free readings” they send out result in a $79 sale of books and magical nonsense, they will still make enough to live on. They know full well that they are lying to you, and yet they callously continue to prey on your hopes and fears – all to make a quick and easy Buck!

I truly hope that if you believe in astrology, I have given you some food for thought.

I hope you will not send any of your hard-earned money to an astrologer or to any other charlatan. If you get tempted, drop me an e-mail and I will do my best to talk you out of it!

Feng Shoo-‘way

My husband, a Landscape Architect, suggested I should write about Feng Shui. Many large companies use Feng Shui when designing their office blocks and landscapes, so he thinks there might be something in it.

The “Feng Shui” we are most familiar with is a modern decorating style based on an ancient Chinese belief that all objects are alive and filled with Qi (life force). Balancing the Qi energy in any given space will ensure “health, wealth, good fortune, productivity” and great sex for those who live and work in it.

Qi is composed of Yin and Yang, the two opposing but interrelated Feng Shui forces that make up every thing in the universe. These forces support and nourish one another and create the essence of life around us.

Yin is supposed to be the female force – soft, slow, quiet, passive and moist – while Yang is the masculine – strong, colourful, active, bright, (and presumably dry…)

(Funny how the guys always get the interesting part in these ancient philosophies, isn’t it?)

A Feng-Shui-corrected home is meant to balance the Yin and Yang, harmonise the universal life forces, align the Qi – and look pretty, all at the same time.

(It is actually really easy to make this stuff up as you go along. Try it. Just use the words “Energy”, “Life Force”. “Harmony”, “Qi” and any other New Agey buzz-words you can think of, in any old order – people will believe you, I promise!)

Let us continue:

There are 5 elements of Feng Shui: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, and these interact in “productive and destructive cycles.” (I couldn’t find out what this actually means…unless it’s like “Rock, Paper, Scissors?” Metal and Fire beat Wood, Earth and Water beat Fire?)

You will also need a Bagua (“8 Areas”) diagram, which combines the magnetic direction with a range of colours, the 5 Elements and the Nine Major Areas of Life into a Magical Map of Feng Shui that will help you to evaluate and adjust your home and work spaces to maximise your health, wealth and so on.

The key is to make sure you check very carefully which direction is magnetic north, because the Qi is aligned with the Earth’s magnetic field, and if you get it wrong you will be poor, unhappy and celibate for ever!

There is some correlation between these two diagrams – but, as we have come to expect, diagrams of this nature tend to show a bit of “creativity” with the rules. Anyway, you get the point, I’m sure. North (at the bottom) is watery and blue/black and is related to your career and business – etcetera.

Important to note: If you are in the Southern Hemisphere you should NOT turn the diagram upside down – North is North, regardless of where you are on the face of the Planet…… Or is it????

It is well documented that the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening and appears to be in the beginning phases of a reversal that happens on average every 300 000 years and takes about 1 000 years to complete itself. In the interim, the field will weaken and become chaotic, with as many as two or three North and South poles simultaneously.

These reversals have happened many times in the past, but the change is gradual and the planet is still protected from solar radiation because the magnetic field does not disappear altogether while the shift is happening. (No, the North and South geographic poles are NOT going to suddenly flip over in 2012, despite what the crackpots are claiming. Watch this blog for some ideas on that silly notion soon!)

Feng Shui adherents don’t seem to be too concerned about the fact that the north magnetic pole is constantly on the move at the rate of about 40km a year. From my African perspective, magnetic north shifts by about 1 degree annually. It is currently in the far north of Canada, and will most likely be in northern Siberia within 50 years.

Now, imagine this: you’ve just paid some nice lady with a kaftan and beads good money to align your furniture and ornaments with the Qi energy and the North pole’s magnetic field – and then the damn thing goes and moves!

Do you have to move everything fractionally every year? What happens if your bed ends up IN FRONT of your door and you can’t get out? What about your garden? Do you have to dig it all up – the patiently aligned paths, the cute little 3-legged money toads, the carefully raked Japanese Garden – and move it around to make sure it’s where your Bagua says it needs to be?







Feng Shui is a type of Geomancy or divination by geographical features. It assumes that by placing physical objects in an environment in specific ways, you can influence your life and future for the better. This is purely magical thinking.

Creating a pleasant and peaceful environment is great, but claiming that it can influence the course of your life, prevent illnesses, bring you money and good fortune, help you find love and happiness?…. No, it won’t. It’s just bricks and mortar, sand and stone, wood, metal and water. The magic is in your head.

Qi, the so-called life force is part of a metaphysical, not empirical, belief system. This type of energy belief is popular in many cultures and religions. (It must be stressed that the energy referred to is not the energy we refer to in physical science – the potential for a system to perform work on another system.)

There is no scientific evidence for the existence of Qi energy. Many alternative health practitioners claim to be tapping into this magical life force (acupuncture, reflexology, chiropractic etc), but it has been shown that their limited effectiveness is really due to the placebo affect, and in some cases to the benefits of relaxation and massage.

Feng Shui is a seductive and complex system. When I was researching this blog, I found myself thinking it’s no wonder people are taken in by Feng Shui – it SEEMS so plausible! All the carefully specified rules, complicated diagrams, special ornaments… the consultant who comes around and measures directions, gives advice on how to build, how to hang doors, where to place mirrors, what colours to use, where to place furniture… and the end result is so gorgeous – so Japanese – so mystical.

Sorry people, it’s STILL just a style of interior decoration. You may feel good working and living in such a space but it will not influence anything other than your state of mind.

If you really want to change the course of your life, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol, get off your butt and into the gym, work hard but smart, love your family and friends and use your common sense!