Sunday, July 30, 2017

Testing Givelify

This post is just because I needed a place to test a link to Givelify for my church. Please click on the big green Givelify logo.
Givelify

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bat house

When a neighbor complained on social media about swarms of gnats in the neighborhood, my wife suggested if they'd install a bat house they'd have fewer bugs. We got to thinking about it seriously, and after finding plans on line, we decided to give it a try. I found two places on our house that are high enough, facing the right directions, and with suitable places for guano to not be a problem. I talked with a local bat conservation person and we agreed that our location just two blocks from the river should be conducive to bats. I'd seen them flying around years ago, but haven't been out much at that time of night lately.

I have a southeast exposure on a chimney, which should be good for spring-summer roosting. And I have a southwest high wall which I'm told should be attractive for fall-winter roosting because of the extra sun. The plans provide for making two houses out of half-sheets of plywood and other lumber. The chimney space is little smaller than the plans call for, so I'll have to customize it, so I decided to make the southwest house first because it will be right according to the plans. And by now it's a little late to expect spring roosting - they've probably already had their babies. I used a medium gray paint from our eaves, so it will blend in with our house. The local person said that for a southwest exposure in our area that should be perfect - too dark and it will attract too much heat. Bats like it pretty warm inside for raising their young, but not too hot. The bat societies publish color guidelines for different parts of the country. Here's the first finished product.

So what makes it a bat house different from a bird house? Lots!

It's open on the bottom, with a "landing pad" that extends below the opening. They can land there and climb up.

It's mounted high on a wall so they can fly right to it, away from trees so predators can't get to it.

Narrow space inside. Bats like to roost in the space between bark and tree trunks. This one has four chambers, each just 3/4" front to back. They like it cozy! I made the dividers removable, in case it needs to be cleaned out sometime in the future. See the little rotating clips in the picture above? I designed and 3D-printed them.


It's dark, except near the air vents low on the front and sides, darker than the pic above makes it appear.

It's caulked all around the top to keep drafts out.

Rough texture inside so they can climb and cling. Here's a picture of one of the dividers. I ground horizontal grooves and left the plywood rough like bark. It's finished with stain, not paint, so it won't be smoothed over.

There are holes in the top so the bats can move between rooms if they want. The rooms facing the sun get warmer than the ones in the back.

To protect the roof, I cut a leftover shingle from our house and stapled it on.




I knew the house would be rather heavy to try to mount directly on the wall, so I used a method called a French cleat. I sawed a 2x4 at a 45 degree angle down the middle. A wedge-shaped piece mounts on the wall, and the matching wedge mounts to the house. Then I just need to lift the house up and drop it into the slot. The finished house probably weighs 15 pounds, enough to hold itself in place. But just in case of earthquakes or high winds, I installed latches on each end.



A couple of 2x4 blocks on the bottom finish off the back part. Having the house a couple inches out should help keep guano and urine from falling on the wall - I hope. I didn't use a solid board on the bottom so leaves and debris could fall out. Also, I don't want the space between the bat house and the wall to be too dark - sometimes bats will roost in that space too if it's too attractive.


Mounting it 12 feet up on the wall was... interesting. I installed a hook above and used a rope and pulley to hoist it up. As you can see, the color blends right in with the house except for the dark landing pad. It's only visible from the street from a narrow angle.


The rest is up to the bats! The local conservation person said that bats in our area have learned to look for gray boxes because the county (or someone) has installed several. So chances are good we'll have some residents someday.

I mentioned that I hadn't seen bats in a long time. Well... tonight I took some trash out to the curb as it was getting dark and spotted a BIG bat that flew right in front of our house and around that side of the house. So keep your fingers crossed for us!


Friday, October 14, 2016

How and why our church paid for solar panels — and why yours should too

I’m hoping other churches will find some helpful insights from our recent experience.

The bottom line:

  • How: Rather than asking for donations, or borrowing from the outside, we borrowed from members.
  • Why: We’ll save $300,000 or more over 25 years, which can be redirected for other purposes.

How we did it:

We have a medium-sized Christian church in sunny southern California. We’re planning several building improvements which we will fund via a “capital campaign”, i.e. asking for donations above and beyond regular offerings. We decided that installing a solar energy system could be done independent of the other projects. Unlike the other projects, it will save money, so we decided to fast-track it. We had a small committee led by a retired electrical engineer, our Vice Moderator, Assistant Treasurer (me), Senior Pastor, and a couple of other interested members. Early on we decided we wanted to own the system outright, not enter into an energy agreement as some vendors offer.

We sized our solar energy system at 111% of our current energy usage, 150 panels, for two reasons:

  • We plan to add air conditioning to the largest building, so our needs will go up.
  • Solar panels’ output degrade by 10% to 20% over the 25-year warranted lifetime. At the end of life, we’d like to be at 100% of our anticipate needs, not 80% and paying the electric company again.

Electric companies don’t like customers to install systems larger than their current usage, but with written justification they allow it.

Knowing that we will be asking people for several hundred thousand dollars in the capital campaign next year, we didn’t want to overtax people’s generosity too soon with this one that would cost about $100,000. So we looked into borrowing the money from a development agency within our denomination. Their interest rate would be 4.25% to 6% depending on several factors.

Instead, we decided to ask some members to loan us the money at 2%. This seemed to be an attractive and balanced offer for several reasons:

  • The church would save half or more on interest vs. an outside loan.
  • Members would earn twice what they could get on a CD from a bank. Yes, there are higher rates on line, but traditional banks are offering 1% for the term we had in mind.
  • Savings accounts are paying essentially 0%, so if anyone had money they had not invested, 2% sounds pretty good.
  • The church is stable and has no other debt, so it’s a safe investment.

We set a minimum loan amount, and incremental amount, of $5,000. Why? Because we’d rather track 10 to 20 sizable loans rather than 100 tiny ones. (Would you like to sign and mail 100 checks every quarter?) 

We currently pay an average of $1,100 per month for electricity. We did not want that to go up, so we set that as the maximum amount we’d like to pay on the loans. We were not sure whether members would sign up for the full amount, so we planned to borrow any remaining amount from the denomination agency as a fallback. With some uncertainty about the mix of 2% and 4.5% loans, and the possibility that some people might donate outright for tax reasons, we did the math on several scenarios and settled on a loan term of 9 years.

A note about rebates: because churches don’t pay taxes, the 30% Federal tax credit on solar energy systems is useless to us. Our electric company offers a different rebate for nonprofit organizations. It varies but in our case worked out to about 27%. Some churches set up a separate legal entity (an LLC) to purchase the system, take the Federal tax credit, sell the power to the church, and eventually give or sell the system to the church. We decided that the complexity and some annual corporate fees negated the 3% difference. Plus, not all members who might be interested would qualify for the kind of tax benefit that the LLC would provide, which might limit our list of lenders. So we didn’t go that way. The downside is that the rebate will be paid to us over 5 years, which complicates the financing a bit.

So we needed to raise about $130,000, though the net cost after the rebate would be closer to $100,000. Would that work? Would enough people step up? We thought so, because a few years ago we did a loan program to quickly raise $100,000 for a different project (with no financial benefit). We paid that loan off early, so we should already have credibility in the minds of many members.

We knew that the $5,000 minimum and/or the 9-year term would exclude some people from participating. Some of those people chose to make outright donations instead - which was great, and those people said the will still donate to the larger capital campaign.

After getting Board approval, we announced the loan program in our weekly electronic newsletter that goes to all members, repeat visitors, and friends. We provided a 3-page PDF outlining the terms and including a bunch of questions and answers. The Vice Moderator and I approached a few members directly and gave them the brochure. We got a few commitments and several interested parties right away. Two weeks later, I explained the program and the progress so far during the stewardship moment during worship. That day we got several more commitments and interested people.

Several families chose to loan $5,000, a few $10,000, and one $15,000. Then I was approached by an “angel investor” (pun intended) who offered to loan whatever the balance turned out to be, so we would not need to invoke the outside loan at the higher rate. So about 2-3 weeks into the program, it was fully funded! We did not announce that big loan commitment, because we wanted as many families as possible to participate, and in fact several more did sign up. That fallback loan amount came down to  just about what the member was hoping for.

We provided each lender with a Promissory Note signed by officers of the church and a payment schedule. (We have a couple of attorneys on the finance committee who were happy to draft a simple note.)

In all, 13 families made loans, and several people made donations adding up to about 10% of the total. A couple of families had said to let them know if we needed more. A month after the first announcement went out, 100% of the amount was promised, and 95% of the money was already received, enough to make the initial payment for the system. I had to turn away one latecomer. 

So the whole process went very smoothly due to the great support of the members. They really wanted to see the solar energy system become a reality! The panels went up last week, and we hope to be generating power by early November. And we think we did it without impacting members’ ability to contribute to the major campaign, because they know they will be getting this money back.

Why we did it - and you should too

Until I looked into solar for my own home, I had not thought much about the financial side of it. Sure, maybe it would save on the electric bill, but is it really worth it? The part I was overlooking was how energy costs have historically increased over time. Residential rates (at least in our area) have been going up about 6% per year. Year after year. Installing a solar energy system that meets 100% of your energy needs is a one-time cost that locks in a $0 net monthly bill. When you compound the electric rate increases over the 25-year stated life of a solar energy system, the savings are staggering.

I’m oversimplifying, of course. The amount of electricity generated vs. the amount used will vary seasonally. You build up credit in months when the sun is high in the sky, and draw it down in the winter months or when you need more power such as for air conditioning. In the peak of the summer, although it’s plenty sunny, it’s probably not enough to run our A/C without some help from Edison. So it’s important to properly size the system. (Also, there is a minimal bill from the electric company for “delivery” charges, but they’re tiny.) But still, the savings are immense.

In the case of the church, several factors went into the potential payback calculation:

  • The initial cost of the system
  • The mix of donations and loans
  • The 27% rebate, paid to us over the first 5 years
  • The principal and interest on the loans for the first 9 years
  • I found records indicating our electric bill went up an average of 2.4% for the last 10 years. (But it varied widely, maybe based on when we had tenants, when we implemented energy-saving lighting, when we installed air conditioning, etc.)

Essentially we are locking in our current monthly energy payment for the first 9 years. So there’s really no net cost to the church, because all this money would have gone out in electric bills anyway. Assuming electric costs continue to rise, we start avoiding some costs nearly right away, in the second year. After the loan is paid off, we avoid 100%, and have essentially zero electric bill for years 10 through 25. In our case, depending on how conservatively we estimate those rising costs, the system should save us $300,000 to $350,000. Wow! Our kids and our successors in the church leadership will be grateful. Those funds can be used for so many other great purposes such as education and outreach.

Aside from the financial savings, there’s a growing realization that churches should be part of - indeed should be doing more to lead - conservation of resources, and stewardship of what we have all been given. In our case, this project coincided with a denomination-wide “green chalice” initiative, so there was tremendous support for the project. (Some of us thought about arranging the solar panels in the shape of a cross on the roof of the sanctuary. We opted to put them on the  south- and west-facing roofs of other buildings instead. But wouldn’t that have made an interesting statement…)

I hope your organization’s solar energy project goes as well as ours did!



Thursday, May 5, 2016

Speaking out against Donald Trump

I have never written anything original of a political nature. I have shared a number of anti-Trump posts before. Now it’s time to actually speak out. If you are a Trump supporter and this offends you, at least read through to the bottom. If you would like to discuss this, feel free to make constructive, rational comments, and state which of the nine points you would like to address. To keep this short, I have not loaded it up with references to news articles or Internet posts, but they are easy to find.
  1. He has no qualifications for high political office. He only has experience in business and entertainment. No one should be President who has not been a Senator, a Governor, a general, a judge, or some kind of government leader. Government is totally different from business. He’s not even that good at business - just look at his list of failed ventures. Many of the businesses where he has made money are not the kind that produce products, many are the kind that just take a commission from other people’s earnings, such as real estate and licensing. Mostly, he’s successful at leveraging some perceived value of his name… lots of people want to be associated with rich people.
  2. He is intentionally appealing to the emotions of those who want to get rid of incumbents and insiders. Of course, like many people I would like to see change in government. But just being different does not mean he would be any better, or even adequate at the job. Here’s an analogy: if you don’t like the job an electrician did at your house, next time you need electrical work you should hire a better electrician. Don’t go hire a garbage man just because you want someone different.
  3. He appears to sympathize with you. Everything he says and does is intended to appeal to your emotions and your unconscious mind, so you will vote for him even though your thinking mind knows better. Actually, he has nothing in common with you. He will leave you in the dust as soon as he gets what he wants.
  4. He lies. Sure, you can say all politicians lie… but he changes his story all the time and then denies he did it. That’s the lying pattern of a spoiled child.
  5. He appeals to your sense of outrage, blaming your (perceived) problems on others. That drastically oversimplifies the actual causes of problems. It’s a way to get elected, but it’s not a way to lead.
  6. He has been able to bully people to get what he wants. That is a terrible approach for someone who is supposed to be a role model. Is that what you want your children to emulate? That approach will only make leaders and citizens of other countries hate America more.
  7. He incites violence from his followers. That is totally unacceptable in a leader, and that alone should be enough to cause any civilized person to reject him as a candidate. He is systematically undoing 50 years of progress in civil rights, tolerance, and inclusion.
  8. He has been able to pay people to get what he wants for his entire life, so he thinks people will do what he says. That approach will not work with a legislative and judicial branch that do not report to him. He does not know how to work with people.
  9. He does not care about you. He does not care about America. He only cares about himself. Several people who have worked for him and for his political team have come forward to say this. His entire career shows this.

Nine big problems. There are more, but that’s enough. You might be able to argue with a few of these, but I don’t see how any rational person can come up with arguments to counter all of them.
No one should refrain from voting in this election. Anyone who fails to vote against him is passively voting for him.
Every thinking person should turn away from Trump and vote for someone else - anyone else is better. But I suggest you not waste your time voting for a minor party candidate who has no chance of winning (American Independent, Libertarian, Green party). It might make you feel better, but it will be a wasted vote. You would need to actually vote for a candidate who has a real chance of defeating Trump.
Anyone in the Republican party who dislikes Trump should not be afraid to listen to their conscience and vote for the other party's candidate. That would not mean you are no longer a Republican, it would just mean you don’t like the Republican candidate this time around. This is very difficult for people to do if they strongly identity themselves with the party! But it’s the decent and responsible thing to do. You do not owe allegiance to a party which violates your values. If the party turns itself around, go back to them next time.
I’m a “No Party Preference” voter. I make up my mind independently for each election. I vote for some Republicans, some Democrats, some others, depending on their qualifications for the job and what I can learn of their values. For President in this election, I support Bernie Sanders. If he does not get the nomination, I would support Hillary Clinton because I feel so strongly that Trump must be defeated.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Oil Pulling

Proponents of oil pulling claim that it can remove toxins from our “system” (beyond local effects in the mouth) which must mean that it is removing stuff from the blood through the mucous membranes of the mouth. 

Let’s review a few ideas from  high school biology to see if this could actually work. No liquid can “pull" a solute across a membrane, the solute must be pushed across the membrane by diffusion. Diffusion is the movement of a substance from a region of high concentration to a region of low concentration. Diffusion stops when the concentrations are equalized.

So a tablespoon of oil can’t absorb any more of the substance than exists in a tablespoon of blood on the other side of the membrane. Absorbing more than that amount would require some source of energy to force the substance into the oil in opposition to the concentration gradient.

The average adult contains 10 pints of blood, each of which contains 32 tablespoons. So adding a tablespoon of oil to the mix essentially increases the body’s fluid volume from 320 tablespoons to 321 tablespoons, or 0.3125 percent. Assuming perfect diffusion of each substance across the membrane, disposal of the oil can therefore remove no more than about a third of a percent of each chemical - toxic or beneficial - from the body. Remember that many vitamins and nutrients are oil-soluble, so oil pulling would remove about 0.3% of those, too.

It seems unlikely that removal of 0.3% of anything from the body is going to have any measurable effect.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?

A song by the Lovin' Spoonful asks "Did you ever have to make up your mind? Pick up on one and leave the other behind?" When a new idea comes along, how can we tell if it is right or wrong, especially in a complex field such as human medicine? How can we tell whether a voice in the wilderness is a Galileo or Einstein, correctly seeing things that others can't, or an L. Ron Hubbard promoting a Scientology that is baseless? Ultimately time will tell, but when the stakes are our own health, time is not on our side. How do we decide? We need to look at whether the idea seems to make sense, and look for corroboration from sources we trust or think we can believe.

Recently I read the book Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter. (You may still be able to find a TV segment featuring him on Dr Oz's web site.) He is a board-certified neurologist and nutritionist, apparently the only doctor in the U.S. who is both, so he should know what he's talking about. His theory is that the low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-carbohydrate diet containing wheat gluten currently recommended by most experts is harmful and is responsible for many brain problems, insulin resistance and diabetes, obesity, and heart problems. though the focus of the book is on the brain. The book is fairly easy to read, and he backs up his assertions with an average of 25 references per chapter. One has to ask whether this is for real, the beginning of a reversal of "conventional wisdom". Everyone is aware of the "epidemic" in diabetes and obesity, in spite of 40+ years of promotion of low-fat high-carb. Something is obviously wrong.

Many people have become aware of gluten in connection with celiac disease, but this is different. The theory is that gluten sensitivity is common in people who do not have celiac, that our human genome is not adapted to it, and that consumption of gluten has dramatically increased in a short time. 

Many people have become aware of inflammation as a proposed cause of coronary artery disease. Dr. Perlmutter extends this concern to brain disease, and not just vascular but neural disease. 

He also contends that rather than being harmful, dietary and serum cholesterol and LDL and certain fats are essential to neurological health. (This is consistent with recent Alzheimer's research I have seen.) He also contends that carbohydrate consumption, rather than fat consumption, causes obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. There are very convincing studies showing a direct, not inverse, relationship between cholesterol levels and brain function. They seem to show that high cholesterol levels significantly improve cognitive function.

I can't summarize the whole book here - you'll need to read it before it will make sense. He cites many studies to back up these conclusions, and points out studies which directly contradict the low-fat, low-cholesterol advice we have received for the last 40 years or so. His information does not seem to have the vague, unscientific, conspiracy-theory flavor of many of the "detox" and "cleansing" promoters.

Large studies are essential because they try to control for extraneous factors to zoom in on proving specific facts. We can consider anecdotal evidence but must be cautious and understand it does not conclusively prove anything. With that in mind, here's my own anecdotal evidence. My parents were both diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease within a year or two, and it progressed in both of them at a similar pace. My father died of AD and artery disease a year ago, and my mother will die of AD eventually. Why both of them? Did they have something environmental or dietary in common? Well, yes. In the 1970's, Dad was diagnosed with high cholesterol, and went on a low-cholesterol and fairly low-fat diet. Mom did all the cooking, so she ate the same diet (we all did). As far as I know, they tried to maintain that diet all their lives. Current research indicates that AD begins developing years or decades before symptoms appear, and progresses exponentially. So if Grain Brain is correct, it's quite possible that both were affected in the same way, beginning way back then.

Is there corroborating evidence from other experts? Some. The studies cited by Dr. Perlmutter sound convincing, but they are narrowly focused and have not received much public attention or comment. In a recent web article, heart surgeon Dr. Dwight Lundell proclaims the same reversal of theory concerning heart health that Dr. Perlmutter proposes for brain health: low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-carb is wrong. And the molecular mechanisms he explains are exactly or nearly the same. It will be interesting to see if this line of thought gains momentum. (On the other hand, it's hard to know whether to trust individual experts or not: although Lundell has terrific credentials and experience, he's been in trouble with medical authorities and has drawn his share of criticism.)

So if Grain Brain is correct, why has it taken so long to realize it? One possibility is "confirmation bias". We tend to notice evidence that which confirms our opinions, and it takes a lot of evidence to change our minds. (See this and other articles on the Less Wrong web site for more information.) Dr. Perlmutter also points to "publication bias" in which respected journals are reluctant to publish controversial papers. Maybe. Part of the problem is that the underlying biochemistry is complex and variable, and it is nearly impossible to do long-term, double-blind studies on thinking humans.

At this time, none of this fits in with the official positions of the American Medical Association, the Heart Association, the Alzheimer's Association, or any other large organization. In a lecture I attended last night, Maria C. Carillo, Ph. D., Vice President, Medical & Scientific Relations of the Alzheimer's Association talked about a "heart-head connection", meaning that what is good for the heart is good for the brain, but only in the sense that heart health promotes good oxygenation and nutrition of the brain. Her description of what is healthy for the heart was low fat, low cholesterol. As far as I know, the Association has not made any statement regarding the Grain Brain theory.

We hear constantly about the need to follow a "heart healthy" diet - probably everyone is in favor of that idea. Now the question seems to be about exactly what that means. The low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-carb diet is coming under attack, and it's only now getting publicized. Is this like the Paleo diet? Yes, in many ways, but it has different foundations. Is this like the Atkins diet? Yes, in many ways, but it is more specific about wheat gluten.

So what to do? Keep doing what we've been doing, and hope the advice of the last 40+ years is right? Or believe the recent studies that say it may be horribly backwards? Sometimes the heretic is right.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Dimensions of Intelligence and Personhood

I recently listened to this podcast interview with George Dvorsky. He made some excellent points about extending the definition of personhood, one of which involved the concept of intelligence or sentience as a "spectrum". He cited the recent PETA court case which attempted to extend the definition of "person" to orcas, to include them in the class of individuals which should not be subjected to slavery. (See PETA Sues SeaWorld for Violating Orcas' Constitutional Rights).


Dvorsky suggested that by assessing certain attributes of various species' intelligence and physiology, humans could assess the possible inclusion of those species in the class of "persons". He explained that the intelligence of a species can be viewed as a spectrum: a nearly brain-dead human is the low end, a developmentally impaired human is further along, and a normal human is in the middle. By extension, a human genius would be at the far end of the spectrum.

Dvorsky also compared the intelligence of certain animals to that of humans, specifically the idea that an African Gray parrot is considered about equal to a (presumably normal) 3- or 4-year old human. Over the years there have been many such comparisons: dogs and cats and horses and pigs have all been compared to humans of various ages. He opined that the first species to be granted personhood will be dolphins, of which orcas are a subspecies. 


While I agree with his Dvorsky's opinions, I think the use of a linear spectrum will be too limiting, and will cause humans to misjudge, overlook, deliberately ignore, or denigrate aspects of intelligence which are different from human intelligence, but are no less valid or important. A traditional IQ score, for example, ignores intelligence and skills in artistic and social areas. I suggest an approach to this assessment based on multiple dimensions of intelligence, while keeping it simple enough to be represented in two dimensions and visualizable by average humans. I hope that this approach can be used to help in the process of opening minds to different ways of perceiving intelligence, and lead to greater acceptance of the personhood of various species.  


Here is an example of what I mean. This is a modified version of a "radar chart" which presents hypothetical scores on a dozen aspects of intelligence. This is just an example - I'm sure we could argue for years over which attributes deserve to be included. I have deliberately included some that are stronger in certain non-human species. 


















I suggest that the total score is what's important, not the scores in certain sectors which favor humans. (This particular kind of graph distorts the scores by showing more area in the outer rings, but you get the idea.) If we were to present these scores in a double-blind fashion, not knowing which species they represent, humans just might have to agree to set an objective threshold which indicates sufficient intelligence to qualify for personhood. Obviously there is variation between individuals of a species, sometimes very significantly, but a lack in one area or another does not disqualify a human from being a person. For example, a blind person would score poorly in Visual Pattern Recognition, but because of compensation by other senses, might outscore sighted humans in Auditory Pattern Recognition.


If we were to plot the scores for a variety of species, we would find that some clearly beat out humans in some aspects. Dvorsky casually mention in the interview that humans are the most intelligent species on Earth, but all things considered, that may not be true. I have not undertaken such a detailed, quantitative, objective study, but over several years I have begun to consider that the race may be very close indeed if we take a broad view of the definition of intelligence.


I agree with Dvorsky that cetaceans will be the first to be granted personhood. I think it may be a toss-up between dolphins/orcas and rorquals, for two reasons: dolphins/orcas are better known to most humans, and the intelligence they show more closely matches the "sectors" that humans currently appreciate and value. I'm basing my impressions on two excellent and deeply moving books; admittedly these impressions are anecdotal and emotional. 


In Listening to Whales, Alexandra Morton presents years of study of dolphins and orcas. Some sectors which will resonate with humans:
  • Clearly they have a language. We do not understand it, but we can recognize different dialects.
  • Clearly they are highly social, with complex, long-lasting relationships.
  • Their auditory pattern recognition probably exceeds our visual pattern recognition. Read the stories of how orcas can use their sonar to not only "see" surfaces, but also see through us and each other like sonograms, and how they can detect heart rates and breathing rates.
  • They mourn and in some cases bury their dead.
  • They highly value synchronicity.
  • They have exhibited compassion for humans.
  • They are easily bored, and like to make up games for their own amusement, and to perplex their captors.
  • They apparently have treaties between different populations to respect each others' food sources.
(From some other source I cannot remember, I learned that dolphins have names for each other. In muddy water, they communicate frequently to keep in touch, and they identify themselves with unique names.)

In Among Whales, Roger Payne summarizes years of study of right whales, fin whales, blue whales and others. He expounds in great detail how the larger ones have developed extreme signal-processing capabilities which may explain why their brains are so huge. Lesser-known skills which, if proven, are clearly significant factors of intelligence, but are not well known among humans:
  • Fins and Blues can sort out signals (vocalizations) from noise even across the entire North Pacific basin.
  • Using this near-global communication, which predates humans' electronic communication networks by millions of years, they can coordinate their travels to arrange meetings at certain times and places.
  • They can use sound shadows to locate islands or land masses from hundreds of miles away.
  • They are creative - the complex music humpback whales produce is quite well known among many humans.
  • They also have complex and long-lasting social relationships.
  • It seems that they may think on a longer, more cyclical time scale than humans, which makes interpreting their behavior and intelligence difficult.
From other sources, it is clear that some gray whales now consider humans to be non-threatening, and actively encourage their young to approach us. I'm anthropomorphizing a bit here, but it may be that as a group they have forgiven humans for the genocide we perpetrated against them. For the same reasons we take our kids on field trips to the Holocaust Museum, gray whales now take their calves to meet humans, their former enemy, in their little rubber boats. If so, and if we add Compassion to our chart, whales clearly exceed humans in that aspect of intelligence.  

I'm sure I'm not the first to think of a multidimensional representation of comparative intelligence. I'm just now learning about this field; I'm sure the bioethecists and the Non-Human Rights Project people have thought of this approach. 


So why are transhumanists and singularitarians interested in the personhood of cetaceans? Because eventually humans are going to have to come to grips with the rights of "persons" which are extensions of humans, or former humans, or electronic clones of humans. Acknowledging the personhood of cetaceans, great apes, and elephants will come much sooner, and will provide humans some good practice in broadening their definition of "person".