OXFORD. He has been in love with seagulls since he was a boy and made frequent visits to the. North Sea coast from his home at The Hague. Nikolaas Tinbergen, the ethologist and Nobel Prize winner, wrote, long after, that the white birds flying above the sands were as happy as the boy who watched them. He can't prove that animals have such subjective experiences and he isn't sentimental about them, but he is convinced that they “feel things”—that the gulls were, indeed, happy. As a student and then a teacher of zoology at. Leiden University, he would start out well before dawn on a bicycle to reach the nearest gullery, an hour away, by sunrise, when the birds were most active. Farmers asked him wonderingly if this was how he made a living, he and his students, watching birds with fieldglasses, catching them with nets and ringing them to aid identification. “We were tolerated because we were harmless fools,” he says.
Sitting on the dunes for hours on end, Tinbergen teased out an orderly pattern from the chaos of gullery. He learned that the gulls were both clever and stupid. They could identify individual faces and voices of other gulls, and they knew their chicks within a few days of hatching. But they couldn't distinguish their own eggs from their neighbors'. Normally, they would have no need to, since eggs remain in the nest, unlike chicks, which wander away and get lost. So the feat of egg‐recognition, in theory well within the gulls' capacity for learning, was not mastered.
They knew what they needed to know in order to survive. They were adapted to their surroundings—not perfectly but sufficiently. They' knew that hard food, such as shellfish, could be smashed by dropping‐‐it from the air. Yet, although their eyesight is sharp, probably better than ours, they never learned to make a distinction between dropping it on rock or firm sand (which broke the shell's) and mud or water (which didn't). This extra knowledge would have been useful, but it wasn't crucial. Thus, they never acquired it.
For many people who know little of ethology, Niko Tinbergen, who has taught at Oxford for nearly a quarter ea century, is simply “the gull man.” His work on herring gulls spans the first two decades of his career. He went on to study, and to encourage his students and colleagues to study, many other species of gull, so that today probably no other wild creature has been looked at so intensively in its habitat Over a lifetime Tinbergen also studied insects, fish and other animals. He and his fellow ethologists opened up a world in which animals are interlocked among themselves and with their habitat in systems of breathtaking complexity. In recent years, Tinbergen has moved on to humans. Believing that animals mirror man's deeply buried patterns of instinctive responses, he and his wife have tried to interpret the behavior of autistic children in the way he interprets the behavior of gulls, under conditions of conflict, and to use the results in treatment.
Last December, Tinbergen, together with Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch, shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in the medicine/physiology class. All three ethologists were cited for “discoveries concerning the organization and elicitation of individual and social behavior patterns.” They were the first behaviorists to receive a Nobel. Ethology—the hardto‐define science that views the behavior of all animals as interrelated and shaped by the environment —had arrived at last.
The essence of ethology is less the subject matter than the approach. It combines the study of animals in their natural state with experiments, both in the field and the laboratory. Von Frisch, a West German, is the man who decoded the dances of honey bees, demonstrating how the pattern and intensity of the dance signaled the loca tion of flowers containing nectar. The Austrian Lorenz caught the imagination of many nonsci entists with his studies of jackdaws and graylag geese, and his assertion that animals have various instinctual inhibitions against destruction of their own kind which seem lacking in man. Lorenz, a flamboyant figure, is the founding father of ethology. His books are full of sparkling analogies between animals and man. But, as he acknowledges, he is a poor experimenter. Tinbergen, who is far more cautious about applying ethology to humans, has devoted his life to painstaking experiments. No one else has married the field and laboratory approaches so thoroughly. Desmond Morris, author of “The Naked Ape” and one of Tinbergen's first pupils at Oxford, says that mast people interested in biology are either lab men or naturalists. “They wear a white coat or Wellington boots, one or the other,” Morris says, “Tinbergen does both. In my book, that makes him the most importan
person in his field this century.”
Tinbergen spells out the differences between him and his friend Lorenz like this: “I am more pedestrian.... Lorenz writes a big book about ag gression and comes up with very shrewd suppositions. But much of it is unproven. He shakes things up. I investigate. I worked on aggression in animals long before Konrad, but I was very cautious. I didn't write a big book about it.”
Before Tinbergen, Lorenz and their colleagues, zoologists were content to study animals mainly as still‐life. Long after Darwin, they found it easier to visualize evolution in terms of bones, organs, feathers, colors. Why did it take, so long for ethology to get started? Tinbergen believes that intellectual difficulties were not the only barrier to progress. He sees a more profound reason in an unconscious reluctance to accept that animals hold up a mirror to man: American behavorists like B. F. Skinner concentrate on our higher learning processes, and insist that man is molded wholly by his environment; Tinbergen and his European colleagues point to the innate, the instinctive element in all living things. “Our critics feel we degrade ourselves by the way we look at behavior,” he says. “Because this is one of the implications of ethology, that our free will is not as free as we think. We are determinists, and this is what they hate. It illustrates how far from being detached the scientist really is. It's a repetition, at a new level, of the tremendous emotional resistance that Darwin created. They feel that our ideas gnaw at the dignity of man.”
As his work developed, Tinbergen came to ask two basic questions: Why do animals behave as they do? What effect does their behavior have on their powers of survival? He saw that the herring gulls had no insight into the consequences of what they did. They achieved an intricate social structure — breeding, fighting, tolerating one an‐. other—but always in the grip of “forces beyond their con trot.” A gull chick, shown a crude dummy of a parent's bill with the characteristic red spot, had to keep pecking at it, because this was the way to make its parent regurgitate food. It would peck dozens of times, undeterred by failure.
At the same time, gulls were not feathered robots merely responding to complicated signals from their mates, chicks and neighbors. The bird's “mood” mattered —whether it was, say, hungry or frightened or broody. The concept of mood is important to Tinbergen, though the word is confusing to nonethologists because he is using it in a special sense. It is his translation from the German (the language in which his early papers were written) of the word Stimmung, meaning, in the sense be uses it, a readiness to do something. What interested Tinbergen was the effect that this “inward state” had on the animal's capacities at any given moment.
One of the many pieces of herring‐gull behavior he studied was “grass‐pulling,” which occurs typically when two male birds meet on the boundary of their territories, as new pairs of birds are settling in. One or both of the birds may tear lumps of grass or moss from the ground with their bills. Does this activity suggest that the gulls are warning off intruders by showing them where they intend to build their nests? No, said Tinbergen in his book, “The Herring Gull's World” (1953): “Birds do not look into the future to this extent. At least the longer we study their behavior, the more we become impressed by their dependence on the internal state and the external stimuli operating in the present or in the past, and not on situations to come.” Grass‐pulling, Tinbergen concluded, was the result of a conflict between the desire to fight and the desire to flee. Each bird's thwarted urges were “displaced” into a new activity: Each in collecting nest material, it is true, but each is really doing to the grass what he would do to his opponent if he dared to get hold of it.
The many conflicting pres. sures on the gulls were a rich field for study. Tinbergen pinpointed the complex signaling rituals involved when a male and female meet for the first time and struggle between hostility (as strangers) and attraction (as potential mates). It is usually the female who approaches the male, walking around him with a curious flattened posture and giving a subdued, melodious call. Now and then she stops and faces away, hiding her beak and so appeasing the male still more. A series of ritualized head and neck movements may then be followed by a warm welcome from the male, in the form of a regurgitated piece of food which she pecks.
Both of the original responses—hostility and attraction—are a necessary part of the birds' armory for survival. But if the birds were unable to compromise and so overcome the hostility, they could never mate. Tinbergen, indeed, moved toward a view of nature as one vast compromise. To ask why natural selection had not produced “better” results was to miss the point—that a given action was always the end‐product of many different pressures.
To Tinbergen, no single aspect of an animal could be seen in isolation. Everything connected. On an English island, he and his col leagues studied kittiwakes, a gull specialized for living on cliffs whose tameness and tendency to quarrel were both related to the secure, cramped habitat. Chicks were not camouflaged, because there was no need; predators couldn't get at them. Parents remained longer on the nests after the eggs had hatched and thus encouraged chicks to stay at home and not fall over the edge. The chicks themselves were proved to have an inborn fear of the abyss. (One of Tinbergen's students hatched some of them in a dark incubator in the laboratory and they showed an unfailing “abyssavoiding” response when put on a simulated cliff.) They were equipped for survival‐a “living testimonial of what natural selection is able to create,” Tinberger wrote enthusiastically. In a new introduction to his book “Curious Naturalists,” he described the premises from which he.
“We [he and his coworkers] began by simply wanting to know a little more about how. animals really live, but we soon came face to face with the fact that different species of animals live in very different worlds, and that their survival depends on their ability to cope with the many obstacles that these worlds put in their way. And so we began to define our aims a little more sharply: We wanted to find out more about the nature of these different worlds or ‘niches,’ and also about how the different species meet the demands these niches impose upon them. Step by step, we found that the behavior of each species is indeed adapted, often in surprising detail, to achieve just those things that are required for survival and successful reproduction.”
Though natural selection is an accepted fact, Tinbergen insists on the need to investigate it in detail. The problem of survival is more devious than it seems. In “Animal Behavior” (1965), Tinbergen wrote:
“A crow does occasionally break through the defenses of a gull colony and grab an egg; a male gannet often pecks a female so furiously that she leaves him. This suggests that the gulls' defenses could be better and that the gannet“s mating behavior is ill‐adapted. But a closer study of such examples often shows that an improvement in one respect would be harmful in another context. Crows are dangerous to adult gulls as well as to their eggs, and adult gulls therefore must avoid being overaggressive. The male gannet has to be aggressive to secure a breeding site, for without one it just cannot hope to raise offspring. Our first impression of inefficiency was therefore due to the narrow scope of our study. It is over‐all efficiency that is promoted by selection.”
Tinbergen always returns to the theme that the result of natural selection is not perfection but compromise. When he came to study black‐headed gulls on the Cumberland coast of England, he noted how the birds meticulously removed broken eggshells from their nests after the chicks had hatched; it enhanced their chances of survival by making nests less conspicuous to predatory crows and herring gulls. He wasn't content, though, until he had understood apparent anomalies: On average, the shell was not removed until one or two hours after hatching; this seemed less than perfect. To explain it, he indicated at least two counterpressures: (1) The chick had to have time to free itself completely, lest the adult take it away with the shell by mistake, and (2) slippery, newly hatched chicks are preyed upon by neighboring gulls, but as soon as they become fluffy they are difficult to swallow —so the parent stays Close until the chick's feathers.
25—BLACK STAR/HARRY REDL
34–38‐ALAN E. COBER
68, 72–76‐VISUAL DEPARTURES/ ALLEN GREEN
92–93‐ROBERT PERRON; WILSON CLARK
DIAGRAM: ARTHUR D. LITTLE, INC.
99—PHOTOGRAPH BY TERRENCE SPENCER FOR “PSYCHOLOGY TODAY” MAGAZINE, MARCH, 1974, COPYRIGHT © ZIFF‐DAVIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
100–101‐“SIGNALS FOR SURVIVAL” BY NIKO TINBERGEN AND HUGH FALKUS (CLARENDON PRESS, OXFORD)
102—© ALFRED GESCHEIDT
Tinbergen will be 67 on April 15 and will retire this summer as Professor in Animal Behavior at Oxford. At home, a modest white house on the edge of the city, he answers questions patiently, as patiently no doubt as he used to wait in concealed “hides” on dunes or cliffs. He says the problem was never boredom, however many hours he spent in the hide, but rather the danger of being distracted because so much was happening. As a young scientist, though, he was sometimes tormented by a feeling that he was wasting his time. “I was brought up as a post‐Victorian,” he says, “in a climate where everyone was supposed to do his duty. Duty is by definition something unpleasant—and I felt all the time that by doing what I liked, which was bird ‐ watching.
He is a pale, wiry man with crisp white hair, whose brown shirt, jersey and jacket look as though he is camouflaged ready to visit the sand dunes. Looking out on his suburban garden, Tinbergen glances rather wistfully at some starlings hopping about the wintry grass and explains that he has a little project in progress. He is studying their food‐finding habits—how many birds will cluster to attack a piece of food, under what conditions of temperature and weather. His wife, Elizabeth, a rosy‐cheeked woman with a determined manner, feeds them a lump of cheese, and they cluster around it greedily.
He slid into animal work almost casually. A schoolmaster's son, he had thought seriously about becoming a photographer or a physicaleducation instructor, and even about emigrating to Canada to farm. He discovered in himself the itch to understand the nature of living things one day while wandering over sandy heathland in central Holland and watching digger wasps hunting honeybees. By the time he took his Ph.D. at 25, he was deep into studies of digger wasps, the species Phiianthus. Studying these cruel and ingenious wasps “helped me to gain some self‐respect,” he says —an odd but characteristic statement from a man with a streak of melancholy who, even after the Nobel award, could write, “I am torn between enthusiasm for my science and a feeling of despair about the value of it all.”
He married Elizabeth, a geologist's daughter in 1932, the day after he received his Ph.D., and they promptly left for a honeymoon in Greenland, where they spent more than a year with an Eskimo tribe, studying snow bunting, phalarope and Huskies. Much of his later work was foreshadowed here. Tinbergen observed, for example, how young dogs would continually trespass on strange territories. They didn't learn that it was an unwise thing to do—until their mating urge grew strong. Then, they stopped trespassing. “This opened my eyes to the possibility that learning, and perhaps other mental abilities, might be very much more dependent on ‘mood,’ or internal condition, than we realize.”
During the nineteen‐thirties, he developed his talent for combining observation with experiment. Elaborate tests in the open air with dummies and landmarks showed how wasps learn to orient themselves. If the surroundings of a nest were disturbed, he found, a wasp leaving it would first make an elaborate “locality study,” so that he could recognize home upon his return; he would loop through the air and, gaining height, would look for new landmarks. Objects that protruded above ground were the favorite neighborhood markers. The wasps also made extensive use of fallen pine cones, and over greater distances took sightings on trees.
In the laboratory, Tinbergen set up large‐scale studies of Gasterosteus aculeatus, the fish that small boys know as the stickleback. Natural conditions for Gasterosteus were simulated in tanks, where another small world of fighthig, courting and nest‐building was soon revealing itself. Tinbergen's account of sticklebacks preparing to mate uncovered a beautiful chain reaction of responses, each set off by one or the other partner: Dummies fixed to rods were presented to the fish, which respond to very crude models as long as these had the essential elements—a red belly and bright blue eye to entice the female, for instance. A female with an egg‐swollen abdomen provokes the male into a zig‐zag dance, showing off his ruby underside (which glows brightly once he has finished nest‐building). She swims head‐up, and he goes toward the nest. She follows, and he points his head at the entrance. She enters and he quivers his snout against her.
World War II disrupted his work. After joining protests against the dismissal of Jewish professors in occupied Holland, he was taken as a hostage from his wife and young family (three of their five children had been born by then). He spent two years in a prison camp. After the war he soon picked up the threads. By 1946 he was with his students on an island off the Dutch coast coaxing gull chicks to respond to more strange devices — cardboard beaks of shapes and colors not known in, nature. Then, in 1949, he accepted an invitation to work at Oxford. Although the university is some 60 to 70 miles from the nearest sea, Tinbergen set up camp on shores and islands and promoted more of his beloved gull studies.
This was his kittiwake and black‐headed period. The studies of these and other gull species that he made or supervised in the nineteen‐fifties marked the last phase of his major research. As a result of it, virtually all 35 or so known species of gull have now been been looked at in some detail, and when this body of research is compiled—Tinbergen says the necessary volumes would take years to write—it will give an unrivaled comparative picture of associated species. The comparative approach, first suggested by Lorenz, whom he met in 1937, became a hallmark of the new science of ethology. And the gull studies were his central achievement. His thank‐you note to wellwishers after receiving the Nobel award included a large photograph of a barren landscape containing one blackheaded gull caught in midsquawk and the caption: “Advance Ethologia!” (But he has not read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Nor does he sound as though be wants to.)
As Tinbergen's reputation spread, he had less time for field work. He traveled extensively, including a dozen visits to the United States to teach or lecture. He found a new outlet in filmmaking, notably with the prize‐winning film he made with Hugh Falkus, “Signals for Survival,” a remarkable account of a colony of blackbacked gulls. Bouts of illness in recent years have slowed him down. At the same time, his interests have turned to the study of man, with the conviction that ethology is beginning to give us the means to understand our own nature.
A large part of his Nobel Lecture at the award ceremony in Stockholm last December was devoted to the Tinbergens' work with autistic children. Their interest was first aroused by work on autism being done at Park Hospital, Oxford. They began to note similarities with normal children. Since many autistic children don't speak, the Tinbergens thought that they might obtain better insight into their condition by studying nonverbal behavior —just as Tinbergen had been studying it in animals all his life.
While traveling to the supermarket by bus; Mrs. Tinbergen had noticed that normal children sitting beside their mothers reacted with a wide range of behavior, friendly and negative, to her gaze. A child might close his eyes or avert his face, or his eyes might glaze over. Tinbergen, who took some time to get interested, saw the problem of autism as primarily emotional. Using the methods he had developed to study the behavior of gulls in conflict situations, he concluded that the children suffered from seriously overstimulated anxiety. They had withdrawn from social contact because they were caught between their fear of the unfamiliar and their desire to venture.
Tinbergen consider how the female seagull first approaches the male. She overcomes his fears at this advance of a stranger by her tentative behavior, approaching and withdrawing in turn. So, reasoned Tinbergen, treatment of autism should be based on the slow, tactful dispelling of anxiety, making use of our great range of facial and body attitudes. It may be important, for instance, to avoid looking the autistic child in the eyes. If a child approaches and tentatively places a hand on the adult's knee, it is wrong to respond by looking: Instead, the child's hand should be cautiously touched by the adults. In their one full‐length study so far, “Early Childhood Autism—an Ethological Approach” (1972), the “Tinbergens write:
“In one particularly striking case an autistic boy, who had been sitting on a nurse's lap, made his way through a room with some 12 mentally disturbed children (of whom two others had also been diagnosed as” autistic) and backed onto [Niko Tinbergen's] lap, soon joined him in mutual hand‐touching games and stopped the incessant teethgnashing which had literally hurt our ears while he was on the nurse's lap. He was used to her; she was well‐intentioned but could not stop herself from smiling at him in a motherly, loving way.” (Italics in original.)
Working on these lines with a few children, the Tinbergens claim remarkable results. “The indications are,” he says, “that once the emotional balance is restored, many—I would not say all‐‐autists can catch up with years of missed chances. The recovery of some autists, treated along these lines, has been truly amazing.” He stresses that the work is still experimental. It is also controversial, if only because so many medical authorities insist that autism is genetic in origin or caused by gross brain damage; according to the Tinbergen thesis, the behavior of a child's parents may have a lot to do with the condition. The 1972 study quoted above was rejected by Science magazine whose referees disagreed about its merit, before being published in Advances in Ethology in Berlin.
Work with autists, even if it should develop on a large scale, is only a tiny prelude to the much broader ethological studies of man that Tinbergen hopes to see. He concedes the difficulties. “It isn't easy to study your own species, even in something commonplace,” he says. “To take an example—what is a smile?. To see it clearly, one must imagine oneself a herring gull—a gull with a good brain, observing man. He would find a term for a smile — ‘teeth ‐ baring,’ perhaps. Speech he would recognize as an acoustic signal, but why smile? These are deep waters. A smilehas a quality of appeasement, and whenever you find appeasement ‐ gestures, they have been ritualized out of fear‐gestures‐‐‘Don't come any further or I'll fight!’ The gull would look at my smile, and come to much the same conclusion that we reach about gulls when we see them facing away from each other. In their language, facing‐away acts as appeasement. It means: ‘I want to stay but I'm a bit apprehensive.’ The gull would understand that what our smile reveals is a motivational.
He would like the next generation of ethologists to start investigating man's aggressive tendencies. Sexual rivalry and rivalry over rank or status should be explored. He views as less than promising the prospects of a human race that knows less about itself than it should, and at the root of that pessimism, perhaps, is the feeling that man is condemned to live with built‐in frailties.
Tinbergen concedes that we know next to nothing about the ultimate limits to our nature: We know only (he insists) that such limits exist. “Ethologists claim,” he wrote in a 1969 paper, “that it is by no means proved, and is in fact highly unlikely, that manipulation of the environment (education in the widest sense) can mold man's behavior beyond the boundaries of innately determined ranges, although the extent of these ranges is hardly known....” What do these boundaries consist of? Tinbergen cites hunger, and our response to it as one obvious example. A hungry man may let primitive impulses override his reason in his desire for food. Similarly with sex and aggression. But, he insists, at the moment we lack the evidence to make bold assertions about man's.
It is important to understand what Tinbergen means when he talks about “instinct” versus “environment” — the long‐running debate over nature and nurture. To begin with, he refuses to discuss it as an “either‐or” question. Animals have taught him that neither alone provides the answer. Broadly, he sees all creatures as programed for learning of a particular kind and degree, so that “what is learnt, and how it is learnt, are prescribed internally within relatively narrow limits.” A young chaffinch must learn its song from another chaffinch. Even if it hears a jumbled‐up tape‐recording, it can learn to reproduce it. But it learns less readily from another species. It is genetically biased toward chaffinch song.
To Tinbergen and most of his colleagues, it is the interaction of nature and nurture that matters. In his new introduction to “The Herring Gull's World,” he writes about a new study of the American laughing gull that examines the pecking response in newly hatched chicks. Originally, Tinbergen says, he thought that this response, “so seemingly simple,” was a good ex: ample of totally innate behavvior. But a recent study of the American laughing gull unravels “the incredibly complex interaction between genetic and experiential programing behavior.”
Tinbergen suggests that a similarly complex mix lies at the root of man's behavior, with the admitted difference that we are creatures of reason in whom “more is left to interaction with the environment than in the case of any other animal.” We cannot conduct the experiments to prove it, as he points out: “We are ethically prohibited from raising human babies in grossly distorted environments in order to see what happens. This, of course, is why the behavioral controversy rages.” It is not a controversy that interests him much. He thinks the attitudes toward it have something to do with national character. Americans, he suggests, have always been inclined to see man as infinitely moldable. So have the Communists, though for different reasons. Ethology, he argues, with its softer, Old World origins leans naturally toward the view that human behavior is a compkomise—that key word in Tinbergen's vocabulary—between what we are born with and what we acquire afterward.
He is also unwilling to enter the argument about intelligence and to what extent it is genetically determined. No intelligence test yet devised, he says, will separate the effects of nature from those of nurture. It is “common sense” that both are involved (“A great deal of ethology means returning to common sense,” he likes to say). As for the idea that differences between male and female behavior are due to social determinants, he brushes aside the question with the nearest thing to irritation that he has shown throughout a long interview. He calls it “Women's Lib nonsense.” Unconvinced feminists, he suggests, should study the evidence in a book, “Males and Females,” written by a woman, Corinne Hutt.
How much of our, behavior, Tinbergen asked in one lecture, is rational in the sense that it is based on a cool judgment of the probable future effects? He is not interested in the common‐sense answer of “Certainly not all.” He wants the authority and will to act that spring from specific evidence. What is the use of our “unique gift of foresight and reason,” he asks, if we employ it in the service of short‐term gain instead of long‐term survival?
Long ago, he and‐ his students in the laboratory at. Leiden observed how sticklebacks hurled themselves at the glass walls of their tank when a red mail van passed in the street outside. They saw red, the color of a rival male, and, instinctively attacked. Their behavior was a senseless response, no longer functional; it had “misfired.” In man, Tinbergen argues, the nonfunctional response can be disastrous. When our behavior misfires, he wrote in an introduction to a 1969 edition of his classic “Study of Instinct,” the results are pollution, depletion of our natural resources, population explosion, a stressful social environment. To this he has added other instances in which we let greed or aggression override reason: lead in gasoline, noise at airports, napalm in Vietnam, damage to children whose mothers are working or living under stress.
*A sample passage from the book: The male is physically stronger but less resilient, he is more independent, adventurous and aggressive, he is more ambitious and competitive, he has greater spatial, numerical and mechanical ability, he is more likely to construe the world in terms of objects, ideas and theories. The female at the outset possesses those sensory capacities which facilitate interpersonal communion; physically and psychologically she matures more rapidly, her verbal skills are precocious and proficient, she is more ourturant, affiliative, more consistent, and is likely to construe the world in personal, moral and esthetic terms.... For many of these characteristic features there are biological bases.”
“Opinions differ about the imminence of harmful stress phenomena,” he said in the Croonian Lecture to the Royal Society in London in 1972. “I have argued that the behavior student considers it very well possible, indeed likely, that we are reaching a point where the ‘viability gap’—the gap between what our new habitat requires us to do and what we are actually doing—is becoming so wide that our behavorial adjustability is already now being taxed to the limit. The conclusion seems inescapable that we shall soon be faced with task of ‘bio engineering’ for the purpose of re‐establishing our adaptedness at a new level.”
By bioengineering, Tinbergen means using detailed knowledge of human behavior mechanisms to organize society on less damaging lines. In crude terms, for instance, people might be persuaded to redirect their aggression against corruption or poverty. He acknowledges that we don't yet possess that knowledge. But the urgency is there. So are his persistent doubts about the value of his life's work. Caught between these private uncertainties, and a sense of time running short for mankind, he fell eagerly on autism and became, in his words, “a kind of missionary...leaving my birdies alone and applying my hard‐won expertise to solving a human problem.”
He admits that his heart is not entirely in the work, not in the same way. “I shy away from spending too much time with the children,” he says. “Sometimes I can't bear it.” People are all right, he says, but he is more interested in animals: “I could picture God, assuming I believed in God, laughing Himself silly if we destroyed ourselves. But if the animals went as well — He might rub His head.” ■