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Humans Know a Lot, This Author Concedes, and Most of It Is Useless

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IF NIETZSCHE WERE A NARWHAL: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity
By Justin Gregg
320 pages. Little, Brown & Company. $29.


“Human, all too human”: It’s a thought that occurred to me a few times while reading Justin Gregg’s “If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal,” and not just because the phrase also happens to be the title of a work by Nietzsche himself. Gregg’s clever and provocative book is full of irreverent notions and funny anecdotes — the creative upside to being a human animal. But our ability to abstract from our immediate experience means we can take that creativity too far.

“If Nietzsche had been born a narwhal,” Gregg writes, “the world might never have had to endure the horrors of the Second World War or the Holocaust.” Say what? This seems to be a sterling example of what Gregg calls our species-specific penchant for “unexpected ludicrousness.”

Such rhetorical contortions are probably the consequence of what he derides as our obsession with causal inference. Nonhuman animals get by just fine on “learned associations.” They link actions with results, without having to understand why something is happening. Humans, though, are “why specialists.” We need to look for causal connections — leading to some incredible achievements but also to some bizarre practices. Gregg points to the old medieval remedy of rubbing a rooster’s keister on a snakebite wound.

Gregg studies animal behavior and is an expert in dolphin communication. He shows how human cognition is extraordinarily complex, allowing us to paint pictures and write symphonies. We can share ideas with one another so that we don’t have to rely only on gut instinct or direct experience in order to learn.

But this compulsion to learn can be superfluous, he says. We accumulate what the philosopher Ruth Garrett Millikan calls “dead facts” — knowledge about the world that is useless for daily living, like the distance to the moon, or what happened in the latest episode of “Succession.” Our collections of dead facts, Gregg writes, “help us to imagine an infinite number of solutions to whatever problems we encounter — for good or ill.”

“If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal” is mostly fixated on the ill, or the way that humans insist they are improving things when they are ultimately mucking them up. There is already a stuffed shelf of books about how we aren’t as smart as we like to think we are, or how our smartness can lead us astray: David Robson’s “The Intelligence Trap,” Leonard Mlodinow’s “Emotional,” books in behavioral economics by Daniel Kahneman or Dan Ariely. But Gregg makes a bigger case about how human intelligence has deformed the planet as well. He explicitly ventures into the conflict between optimists like Steven Pinker and pessimists like the British philosopher John Gray.

Complex thought often turns out to be a long-term liability, Gregg says. The big brains that have allowed us to proliferate as a species, domesticating the natural world, have also empowered us to wreak so much ecological havoc that we’ve unwittingly created the conditions for our own extinction. Fossil fuels have generated prosperity while hastening an apocalypse. Human ingenuity has been used to discover penicillin and to commit atrocities. Surveying the chickens in his yard, Gregg correctly predicts that they’re highly unlikely to “unite en masse to rain death down upon the world in pursuit of glory for the Great Chicken Nation.” Humans, though, are another matter. “Narwhals,” he points out, “do not build gas chambers.”

True enough, and it’s worth thinking about how much trouble humans can create when our ambitions extend beyond our immediate needs. But Gregg, in his very human desire to dramatize the stakes, can be prone to overstatement — occasionally glossing over the animal experience while demonizing the human one. We might not be in any danger of chickens creating the Great Chicken Nation, but they do have a literal pecking order. Gregg notes that his chicken Shadow is always the first to grab any food that he tosses into the coop. Dr. Becky eats last. Gregg marvels at how stable their social structure is. Stable, yes; but is it just?

Leave it to a human to ask a question about justice, which has nothing to say about natural selection, or what Gregg calls “the great arbiter of usefulness.” Humans can agitate for change and even revolution because they can imagine a reality that doesn’t exist. It’s not as if Gregg rejects this truth, but he’s mostly writing in a more polemical vein than an exploratory one. He extols how much “happier” and “healthier” we would be if we followed the lead of nonhuman animals but he doesn’t touch on how, well, ableist nature can be: The sick, the weak and the old rarely stand much of a chance in the wild.

Humans can also be surprisingly cooperative. The primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy has noted that humans will regularly spend hours together on a crowded airplane without (usually) resorting to violence, whereas when she envisions a planeload of chimpanzees, “bloody earlobes and other appendages would litter the aisles.” Gregg warns us against being too impressed with ourselves, since unlike human animals, chimps have never been observed killing “every” member of a rival group. While chimps can be murderous, they’re not genocidal. Humans cooperate, which sounds nice, but too often we cooperate with some people in order to destroy others.

On the other hand, we can sometimes go to decidedly “unnatural” lengths in order to extend compassion to strangers, or even to other species. Human existence isn’t inherently good or evil; despite Gregg’s comic distortions — which are undeniably entertaining — the more subtle suggestion that courses through his book is that, compared with nonhuman animals, our existence is more extreme. In addition to chickens, Gregg keeps honeybees. The male honeybees, or drones, are equipped only to mate: Their tongues are too short to allow them to extract nectar, and they don’t have stingers that would enable them to protect the hive. So after the drones have done their work of mating with new queens from other colonies, the female bees will push them out.

These helpless drones will starve or freeze to death, in what Gregg calls “a tragic — but utterly natural — state of affairs.” He takes pity on them, placing them in a box on his deck with some honey, providing them with a respite before their impending doom. “I want to give them one final moment of happiness,” he writes. I’d like to see a narwhal try to do that.

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This Soft Turtleneck Sweater Dress Will Keep You Warm All Winter — Only $40!

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Us Weekly has affiliate partnerships so we may receive compensation for some links to products and services.

Sweater dresses are delightful in theory but difficult in execution. They’re usually either too long or too short, too thin or too thick, too tight or too loose. We can never seem to strike the perfect balance — so, then we end up wearing pants and tops all season instead. Boring! Time to switch up our winter wardrobe with a sweater dress that keeps Us warm without concealing our shape. We deserve to look hot and feel hot at the same time!

After many failed attempts in the past, we finally tracked down a sweater dress that delivers. This fashion-forward turtleneck frock toes the line between a mini and a midi — it’s the optimal length to rock with knee-high boots! You can style the sweater dress as is if you prefer a relaxed fit or add a belt if you want to accentuate your waist. Even the turtleneck itself is a happy medium, a drapey fold-over style that will shield you from the cold but won’t constrict you. Keep scrolling to shop this versatile sweater dress from Amazon!

Get the Miessial Women’s Oversized Loose Sweater Dress for just $40 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, December 5, 2022, but are subject to change.

The Miessial Women’s Oversized Loose Sweater Dress is a closet staple for sweater weather! Now that it’s December, we’ll only don knit dresses. Shoppers say that this style is both warm and flattering — and the knit blend is so soft!

The intricate detailing makes this sweater dress seem like a piece you might find in a boutique — no one will believe you got this frock from Amazon! Available in six solid shades, this turtleneck really is an everyday essential. Take this dress from daytime to date night!

Get the Miessial Women’s Oversized Loose Sweater Dress for just $40 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, December 5, 2022, but are subject to change.

We always rely on reviews before settling any shopping debates! And the overall consensus from customers is that this sweater dress slays.

  • “Great winter dress. Good sturdy material. Not too heavy or thin.”
  • “The fabric is SO soft. For the price, this is an amazing sweater dress! It’s very warm and flattering. Also, the turtleneck part is loose for those of you who get claustrophobic with tight things.”
  • “I would recommend this thick sweater dress. Its fabric is very soft and comfortable. And it’s a good thick material, but not heavy. Can make you feel warm in cold weather. This will be the perfect choice for winter wear. I love it so much.”

As Ramona Singer would say, “It’s turtle time!” Warm up your neck and spice up your style with the softest sweater dress from Amazon!

See it! Get the Miessial Women’s Oversized Loose Sweater Dress for just $40 at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, December 5, 2022, but are subject to change. 

Not your style? Shop more from Miessial here and explore more sweater dresses here! Don’t forget to check out all of Amazon’s Daily Deals for more great finds!

Looking for additional ways to elevate your closet? Check out more picks below:

This post is brought to you by Us Weekly’s Shop With Us team. The Shop With Us team aims to highlight products and services our readers might find interesting and useful, such as wedding-guest outfits, purses, plus-size swimsuits, women’s sneakers, bridal shapewear, and perfect gift ideas for everyone in your life. Product and service selection, however, is in no way intended to constitute an endorsement by either Us Weekly or of any celebrity mentioned in the post.

The Shop With Us team may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. In addition, Us Weekly receives compensation from the manufacturer of the products we write about when you click on a link and then purchase the product featured in an article. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product or service is featured or recommended. Shop With Us operates independently from the advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback at ShopWithUs@usmagazine.com. Happy shopping!

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Khloe Kardashian – who weighs only 123lbs – claims to pull ‘over 100lbs’ of weights

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‘An hour of torture’: Khloe Kardashian – who weighs 123lbs – claims to ‘pull over 100lbs’ of weights in a gym… as she appears thinner than ever

Khloe Kardashian took to Instagram on Monday morning to share videos of herself working out.

During one of the Insta Stories clips the 38-year-old beauty – who is 5ft10in – claimed that she was exerting herself more than usual as she pulled 100lbs worth of weights. The TV icon said the gym workout was ‘torture.’

The Keeping Up With The Kardashians vet was having difficulty with the workout as she weighs only about 123lbs, it has been claimed, after a recent weight loss.

Ouch: Khloe Kardashian took to Instagram on Monday morning to share videos of herself working out. During one of the Insta Stories clips the 38-year-old beauty – who is 5ft10in – claimed that she was exerting herself more than usual as she pulled 100lbs worth of weights

Thinner than ever: The Keeping Up With The Kardashians vet was having difficulty with the workout as he weighs only 123lbs, it has been claimed, after recent weight loss; seen last week

Thinner than ever: The Keeping Up With The Kardashians vet was having difficulty with the workout as he weighs only 123lbs, it has been claimed, after recent weight loss; seen last week

‘Bear crawls with pulling over 100 pounds,’ she wrote over a photo as she linked to Don-A-Matrix Training.

Over a video the TV siren wrote, ‘I do not care about my form here. I am dying. An hour of torture from this monster Don-A-Matrix.’

She is referring to Don-A-Matrix, a workout center on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

Khloe wore a light brown crop top and leggings with her honey blonde hair pulled up into a ponytail as she stopped to take selfies in the mirror.

The mother of two is seen in a gym as she works up a sweat.

Committed: Over a video the TV siren wrote, 'I do not care about my form here. I am dying. An hour of torture from this monster Don-A-Matrix'

Committed: Over a video the TV siren wrote, ‘I do not care about my form here. I am dying. An hour of torture from this monster Don-A-Matrix’

In one image she can be seen pulling a very heavy weight structure and in another Khloe is pulled on two straps connected to a weight bundle.

The Revenge Body star was also on the treadmill, she shared.

In February, Khloe confirmed she has lost weight. She did not say how much but it looked to be over 10lbs.

‘About 3 months apart,’ began the designer in her caption for her followers. ‘Let’s go @coachjoe.paris we are sculpting my back and arms.’

Gym lover: Khloe wore a light brown crop top and leggings with her honey blonde hair pulled up into a ponytail as she stopped to take selfies in the mirror

Gym lover: Khloe wore a light brown crop top and leggings with her honey blonde hair pulled up into a ponytail as she stopped to take selfies in the mirror

Run it out: The Revenge Body star was also on the treadmill, she shared

Run it out: The Revenge Body star was also on the treadmill, she shared

Her back looked very different as in the ‘after’ photo her muscles and bones can be seen thanks to her workouts and weight loss. 

The siren linked to her French-born personal trainer Joël Bouraïma who now lives in Los Angeles.

He has often appeared on KUWTK as he trains Khloe as well as Kourtney on the grounds of their mansions.

Speaking to USA Today, Khloe recently admitted that ‘it was hard’ to learn the news of Tristan’s latest infidelity while cameras were capturing her every move.

DailyMail.com exclusively revealed details of the paternity battle in December after Maralee Nichols filed a lawsuit against the NBA player.

In February, Khloe confirmed she has lost weight. She did not say how much but it looked to be over 10lbs (pictured in

Out of this world: In February, Khloe confirmed she has lost weight. She did not say how much but it looked to be over 10lbs (pictured in 2021) 

Koko before and after: Khloe seen left, in December 2021, and right, in February 2022. She has admitted to losing weight

Betrayal: Tristan was caught cheating on Khloe in 2018  just days before she welcomed their first child together, and a paternity test revealed that he had fathered a child last year

Betrayal: Tristan was caught cheating on Khloe in 2018  just days before she welcomed their first child together, and a paternity test revealed that he had fathered a child last year 

In 2018, just days before Khloé gave birth to her and Tristan’s daughter True, DailyMail.com published video and photos of Tristan kissing a strip club worker and also taking her up to his hotel room in New York City.

The couple managed to weather the storm, but they split in 2019 after Tristan kissed Kylie Jenner’s then-BFF Jordyn Woods.

The couple patched up their issues to reunite in the summer of 2020 while spending time together in the early days of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but they split again in June of last year.

Baby mama: DailyMail.com exclusively revealed details of the paternity battle in December after Maralee Nichols filed a lawsuit against the NBA player 

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Hawks Announcer Bob Rathbun Suffers Scary Medical Emergency On Air, Hospitalized

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