A Week of Silly Polls #1: Animals and Opposable Thumbs
Posted on July 18, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 114 Comments
I’ve got a project with a hard deadline of Friday, which means I don’t have a lot of time to play here this week. But I hate leaving you with nothing to do, so all this week, while I’m slaving away in the word mines, I’ll post up a couple of silly polls during the day to keep you busy. And here’s your first one:
Feel free to expound upon your answer in the comments.
Dolphins, clearly! As evidenced by the completely dead-on Onion headline, “Dolphins Develop Opposable Thumbs – ‘OH SHIT!’ Says Humanity”
Seriously, they’re as smart, if not smarter than pigs, and if you’re a woman and you’re swimming with them, they can tell you’re pregnant before you can. What will they DO with that knowledge?!
I don’t want to find out.
I went with Polar Bears. I mean, you’ve read Dan Simmons’ The Terror, right?
This seems like a no-brainer to me. Dolphins have it in for us. They seem friendly now, but once they get thumbs, it’s payback for the tuna thing. The Onion will back me up on that one. Just pray that sharks will be on our side.
Holy cross-post Teresa!
The crows. Definitely the crows. They not only recognize the faces of those who have displeased them, but they pass that information on to other crows. And they can use tools already, so with thumbs they’d be unstoppable!!
Chickens. I mean, have you ever watched those feathery little bastards? They fight over who gets to eat a dead mouse. They’re scary, carnivorous little creatures. If they were bigger, humans would no longer be the dominant species on the planet. We’d be forced to worship our chicken overlords — while they peck the flesh from our bones.
As soon as polar bears get thumbs, they start making armor. Are we ready for panserbjorn, displaced from their homes by anthropogenic cataclysms? No? Yeah.
Well not cats, they’re on to too good a thing keeping us enslaved to their every whim as it is. Opposable thumbs would be a disadvantage to them in that pursuit, they’d have to start doing things for themselves.
Now, squirrels on the other hand, those furry little blighters, they’ve got it in for us. I bet they are actively trying to evolve themselves proper thumbs. And they are always scampering around, checking us out, casing the joint. Then they all congregate in groups to share intel. And they’re in our cities already, blending in, keeping their heads down, playing the waiting game. All this attention we’ve paid to radical religious groups, and we’ve taken our eye off the real enemy, those squirrel sleeper agents! Beware, BEWARE!!!!!
I have to go with conventional wisdom on this and say cats. I mean, I love the litte furry psychopathic bastards but they have already infiltrated our homes…
Opposable thumbs aint nothing…Appositional thumbs are where it is at!
Squirrels. or Cows. I don’t like the way wither of them look like they are planning a world wide takeover, even without thumbs.
You don’t get it. Cats have been training us for thousands of years, breeding the resistance out of us. We know that they are our masters. When they develop opposable thumbs, we won’t question their dominion of the world.
Why else would they have that smug little smile?
Squids for me. Stephen Baxter has a pretty nasty intelligent squid in “Manifold: Time.”
Cats, definately cats. You can tell just by looking at most of them, that they would rise up to slaughter or enslave us all if they could.
Polar bears, surely. If they’d have opposable thumbs, they’d pop your head off like the lid from a zippo lighter.
I’m sorry, it’s gotta be bees. I mean, with their built-in socialism, it would be another Cold War from the get go.
To all of you voting cats: You obviously don’t have one. The cats already rule us, and when they don’t they pretend to not care. Why would they need anything else?
So I voted octopus.
Crows. Cats have us perfectly trained; squids don’t need opposable thumbs; pigs are smart enough but all they’d do with thumbs is break out and make their getaway.
Rats. First, rule out anything that’s a K strategist, because even with opposable thumbs, they won’t be able to keep up with humanity’s psychotic aggression. Then rule out any r strategist that doesn’t have two spare neurons to rub together. With the exception of cephalopods, that rules out pretty much everything except dinosaurs (bird variety) and mammals. Rats are smart, eat almost anything, and breed fast. cf. that old book called “After Man” which detailed the Rise of the Predator Rats.
I got to go with the squirrels. If ever there were a manifestation of chaotic evil, it’s those little bastards. Two summers in a row they kamikaze’d into the substation that ran my computer center. I am NOT kidding. BOOM! fur everywhere.
Cats, on the other hand, already know they have it good. Maybe Bast isn’t revered as much as she once was, but Her popularity is coming back… besides, being all tyrannical and stuff is Too Much Work for cats. Oooh, sunbeam! Nap time. Solar powered kitty, don’tchaknow.
Pigs for sure. Social, capable of working in large groups, omnivorous, large enough to be dangerous individually and pretty fast to reproduce.
I, for one, welcome our new polinating, honey making overlords.
My first thought was squirrels. They’re everywhere, they’re fearless, and, unlike cats, they’ve got ambition. When the revolution comes, it’ll be squirrel-driven.
Cats will not doom us ALL because cats wouldn’t ruin their own environment. Enslave us all and keep us in small tiled rooms with litter pans? Sure! But not doom us all. Dogs will doom us ALL because they just can’t think ahead of the next exciting thing. RUN! BIRD! POOP! FOOD! ROTTING GARBAGE! ROLL ROLL ROLL! RUN! CAT! POOP! FOOD! Etc. We’re doomed.
Badgers can tunnel, they’re omnivorous, and they have established themselves across Europe, Asia, and North America. If they had opposable thumbs, they would be unstoppable! On the other hand, all it takes is rotten fruit (the alcohol component of that) to get them woozy. Hmmm…
Lactobacillus acidophilus. Surely, you’ve heard about our new Yogurt Overlords? (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/02/when-the-yogurt-took-over-a-short-story/)
I wish I had opposable thumbs. Then I really could rule the world. As long as it didn’t take too long. I need a nap.
I voted for bees, because OH SHIT BEES.
Or dolphins, as Teresa so aptly pointed out (stealing my idea! *shakes tiny fist*).
Raccoons, obviously. They eat everything, can already open doors and such even without opposable thumbs, and according to a previous comment thread, have incredibly lethal poop.
#5 Chris is right on. Crows gang up on bigger birds. Crows are tool-users. Crows remember. Crows are two oppositional thumbs away from owning the air.
Cats don’t need thumbs; they’ve got humans to do their bidding, why queer a good thing?
Dogs, on the other hand, depend on us for everything. They’d gut us like fishes first chance they got if they could open doors for themselves and get their paws working the can openers.
I’m with Kizz, but for different reasons. Dogs with opposable thumbs will doom us all because… well, the final headlines will all read, “THEY WERE ONLY TRYING TO HELP.”
I chose cats because…well, I am not allowed to explain my reasoning’s as one is staring at me with malicious intent right at this moment. ‘Yes Washburn, I’ll let you outside’….(In a whisper voice) ‘God help us all!’
Cats, since while they DO already have us under their demonic sway, they’ve simply been awaiting the next evolutionary step, i.e., opposable thumbs, to be able to open doors and wield can openers at will. Can axes and chainsaws be far behind?
The answer, obviously, is the deadly North American misterfixit. This creature appears to have opposable thumbs already, an illusion that persists until it attempts tool use of any kind, at which point inevitably it shows a propensity for destructiveness seldom heard of outside the wild places of the world. Should the average misterfixit ever evolve true opposable thumbs, its abilities would be amplified even further.
Odd side note: The species appears to be almost entirely male, leaving some to wonder how it continues to propagate down through the generations. This is compounded by the fact that its destructiveness is often self-directed. In these cases it gives a distinctive cry, usually rendered as “imeanttodothat”.
I agree with teresa #1. Dolphins.
But, Crows are eeeevil! I mean they are known collectively as “a MURDER of crows”!
The answer, of course, is onions. I’ll take “Condiments” for $800, thank you.
I had to go with pigs. In all seriousness, most of the animals listed aren’t really held back by lack of thumbs, but by lack of brains behind the thumbs. Some of them, like the squids and octopuses, or a colony of bees, arguably already have better manipulators than our hands as it is.
And dolphins need more than thumbs to really get at us; they also need legs (or something equivalent).
Pigs, on the other hand: (1) are probably smarter than dogs, smart enough to work out what to do with thumbs; (2) breed and grow fast enough that they could get to terrifying numbers quickly; (3) are big and strong enough to really mess a person up with the things that they build with their new thumbs; and (4) have good and sufficient reason to really have it in for us. We *eat* them, for crying out loud!
Pigs. Animal Farm was non-fiction, right? With opposable thumbs, they wouldn’t have to betray their glorious revolution.
but you cant win a war with air power alone, so crows probably arent the worst case scenario. you need boots, or claws, on the ground. amphibious assault capability would be ideal, plus leathality. I would say Polar Bears are our greatest concern. doomsday scnario would be they take over the north pole and start raiding cargo ships as the northwest passage opens up. the supplies and ransom from pirating operations could allow them to fund research into warm weather gear that would allow them to expand their war front south. Their next target would likely be fishing factory ships working the northern pacific, because, well the supply capability that an unlimited amount of fish would feed their armies as they expand their contol trough Canada, Washington, Oregon, and then California. Once they have control of California, their hot-weather research.will have developed desert gear that will allow them to move east into Texas, Florida, and up the Eastern coast. New York and Washingon DC will likely be caught in the middle of a two-bear-front war as bears come through Onario heading south, and General Rommelulous, the Desert Bear, wheels his army north from the Carolinas.
Dc will fall first. New York will hold out and manage to push back the short haired, low fat bears, and establish a line of defense from Maryland to Long Island. Hope in the human race will rekindle for several months as the defenses are strengthened. But then…
Cats of New York City, tired of living off the discarded refuse of humans make a clandestine deal with the bears. In exchange for a dozen freighter full of north pacific salmon, the cats show the bears through the deep abandoned tunnels under the city, and the bears overrun the defenses from within.
Honey badger don’t care. Honey badger don’t give a shit.
OMG! The raccoons are coming.
I’m voting for a relative of the badger: the Ferret. Inquisitive fighters with no sense of self-preservation, they already know how to work cooperatively and plan attacks. With the ability to open doors they’d bring modern society to a standstill by stashing all of our car keys and unmentionables. No one would ever make it to work on time ever again.
Hm, now that I think of it, they’re kind of like Nac Mac Feegles…
Definitely badgers. They’re already intelligent, and pretty much hate everything else. Give them opposable thumbs, and they’ll be using guns in no time. And not caring what they shoot at.
Cats are too lazy to do anything with thumbs; dogs are too submissive. The cephalopods already have superior manipulators. Crows already have opposable toes.
>Another species I will detail in the comments thread
It’s been that kind of week already, and it’s Monday morning.
It’s totally dogs. It’s only because they DON’T have opposable thumbs that they mostly keep from killing themselves and others with their innocent, stupidly-sweet nature. Give them that, and there’ll be no stopping them. Rampant tail-wagging destruction.
Cats get a bad rap, I think. Sure, they might be plotting evil, but even with the opposable thumbs to achieve said evil, I think they’d still prefer basking lazily in the sunlight, allowing their servants to wait on them.
In short, cats have already taken over. The question is, who will take over next?
Definitely squids/octopodes. They already have so many limbs, it would be an underwater terror of opposable thumb wars. Plus, can’t you just see an octopus with a joystick in hand, ready to nuke the shit out of us land dwellers?
Crows are highly evolved reptiles and like all birds, hate humans.
I’d worry about some non-mammals . . . like say. . .trees.
Sharks: the Klingons of the ocean!
Don’t squirrels already have opposable thumbs?
Cats have already developed opposable thumbs. They weren’t very willing to start testing on themselves.. and are quite satisfied with the outcome. Quite satisfied indeed.
Upstate New York drivers. If I see another slack-jawed slab of pork steering a random path back and forth across the left lane of the freeway at 40 mph one more time, I’m going for the nuclear option.
I’m surprised that cats are polling so high. I’m certain that, oposable thumbs or not, cats would still expect us to wait on them hand and foot. They’re too smart to give up a good thing like that.
I had a cat with opposable thumbs. She used them to pick things up, to WHAP the other cats, and to knead her sharp, sharp claws more deeply than the others could.
She did not try to take over the world. None of my cats have ever felt the urge to take over; they were happy with perfect luxury.
Octopi don’t NEED opposable thumbs. They can already open screw-top jars. They’re freaking SMART.
If they lived longer than 5 years, and could survive out of water, we would be octo-food. If they figured out social structures, we might be able to survive as octo-slaves.
I chose Crows. They’re malevolent, long-lived, they love messing with things, and an improved manipulator would make them much more dangerous – they’re already quite a menace with their existing claws.
I thought about bees, but bees with thumbs would have even more trouble flying.
Dolphins, for sure.
It’s the squirrels, man. You gotta watch out for the squirrels. I know I’m not the first to mention those little tree rats, but come on! They want our nuts after all!
Side note to NickP in #20: r/K selection as a theory has been discarded. It doesn’t fit the data, numerous populations have been shown to work contrary to its definition, and to quote Reznick, “The distinguishing feature of the r- and K-selection paradigm was the focus on density-dependent selection as the important agent of selection on organisms’ life histories. This paradigm was challenged as it became clear that other factors, such as age-specific mortality, could provide a more mechanistic causative link between an environment and an optimal life history (Wilbur et al. 1974, Stearns 1976, 1977). The r- and K-selection paradigm was replaced by new paradigm that focused on age-specific mortality (Stearns 1976, Charlesworth 1980). This new life-history paradigm has matured into one that uses age-structured models as a framework to incorporate many of the themes important to the r–K paradigm.”
JEC @ #55:
I think squirrels are hacking the vote to direct suspicion away from themselves.
In fact, just the other
Anybody who didn’t vote cats, is plain WRONG.
Like many others I have to go with cats, though I don’t think it will be our doom. They are already onto a pretty good thing with us waiting on them hand and foot. No, most likely they will just announce that they are taking over and we really won’t be able to do anything about it. Life won’t change much except the fields now being used to produce corn ethanol will be replanted to grow catnip. That and the manufacture, distribution and sale of cat clothing will cease immediately.
Ever since I read the UW study on crows, I have been positive that they are planning to take over the world. They can remember your face – and they can hold a grudge. So seriously, don’t piss off the crows, they’ll come for you.
Cats. They already consider us staff, food servers and are quite willing to eat us (instead of each other) if we fall over dead. Too many stories where eccentric cat ladies die and their beloved pets start munching.
I voted cats. Though the pigs have a vendetta against us for finding them so dam tasty!
I thought about polar bears for a moment, before I voted for cats. However, the collective noun for crows, ‘murder’, does give one pause.
Crows are smart, social, tool-using bastards that are already practically ubiquitous and have air superiority. Nothing else on the list is even close — crows are already there, and we know what they do to creatures they don’t like, so giving them thumbs would be waving a quick good-bye.
Here’s Tim Curry to explain, with video, why we should fear our new kitty overlords:
Darn it. I voted for cats. But after reading the comments, I think Nickp at #20 makes a very good point about rats. They’re smart, aggressive, adaptable and work well together. And I don’t think they have any reason to be particularly well-disposed toward us. Sorry for the vote, kitties – I meant it as a compliment, really.
You fools owned by cats really haven’t thought it through: What advantage could be added to their situation?
three meters? thats inside the room. you must be reading it wrong.
It has to be the pigs. We have been eating them for millenia. They soooo owe us.
Pigs for sure. If we find them delicious, I am sure the reverse is true. Having come nose (i.e. bumper) to nose with a wild boar (no damage to etiher party) I can attest that big and scary is a true thing..
I was going to say minivans, since they are the bane of my driving existence here in St. Cloud, but minivans are not an animal species. So my answer is:
The microbe – bacteria and viruses are dangerous enough already.
Do microbes count as animals? If not, then I would go with the squid/octopus thingies.
While tool-using rats would be fearsome opponents, I think they would be even better allies (see the documentary by Terry Pratchett, /The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents/). They’re kinda awesome. So are Panserbjorn so they get a pass too.
I’d have to go with raccoons (those evil little bastards are up to something already and you know it) except, like cats, they can be defeated by laser pointers. Victory goes to the humans there.
So I guess at the end of the day it’s dolphins, the adorable-looking evil rapists of the sea.
If Cats had opposable thumbs, wouldn’t that make them Fuzzies?
I figure cats need us to be servants, dogs need us to be playmates; but polar bears are going to be teed off at us melting their habitat. We’re goners!
Huh. Shoulda read the comment thread first–despite it being SO vanilla an answer, I thought cats just made more sense. But people have a lot of good reasons why it would be against their vested interests to doom us all…
Bah! Cats can’t work together. They’re kinda like Democrats that way. Crows on the other hand are smart and work in groups to achieve common goals. Think Hitchcocks’s “The Birds” on steroids…with thumbs.
Octopuses have 9 brains… One in the head + one in each tentacles. We are probably all doom even without the Opposable thumb.
Ants. I do not want to see ants with opposable thumbs. Especially the giant ones.
Octopi of course. Two thumbs good. Four thumbs better. Eight thumbs best!
@#79 – you are, I’m afraid, quite wrong about cats being unable to work together. My two tabbys team up to open the back screen door when they want outside – Desi hooks her claw in the screen and opens it a crack, then Homer uses his arms and nose to open it the rest of the way. They are outside in less than 5 seconds. (it’s annoying). You are quite right about the Democrats, unfortunately.
I think if my cats had thumbs and could get into the food container without me, their attitude toward me would go from benign neglect to neglect neglect. Whoever said they would be too busy laying in the sun to conquer was right.
Hummingbirds however…………those are some pugnatious little bastards and would kill us all for the sugar in our cabinets.
Squirrels are a good possibility (I mean look what they did to Dr. Doom, right?), but I have to go with Wombats. You’re all saying “thats ridiculous!”, but think for a moment.. do you have ANY reason to suspect wombats? They’re sneaky and patient.
Ants. Definitely ants.
It’s the crows. Every morning I walk out of my house and there they are, sitting on the power line and staring at me. They’re just biding their time. They know I know, and they know I can’t do anything about it.
Chimpanzees. Dear Jared Diamond’s ‘The Third Chimpanzee’ – us – and think about it ;-)
I worry not about dolphins obtaining opposable thumbs, for I proudly eat only tuna-free dolphin. SAVE THE ALBACORE!
You may all be laughing at comment #84, but when wombats go bad, they don’t mess around:
Man in hospital after wombat attack
I was going to note that the octopus already has extremely well-developed limbs and is pretty capable already. And yet….we stand free from the shadow of the cephalopod. So as much as I like octopuses, I think the cat is the larger threat.
cats… DEFINITELY the cats… ya really gotta watch out when upper management gets an upgrade on the order of opposable thumbs so, it’s gotta be the cats. Definitely…
Raccoons. and they are vindictive and stubborn almost beyond belief.
Two words: DROP BEARS
We’re already hanging onto dominance by our own opposable thumbs thanks to one fortuitous bit of biology:
Hummingbirds are not carnivorous.
Because if they were… if they were… oh, lord, it doesn’t even bear thinking about… brrrrrr….
Dolphins. Seriously, they’re pissed.
Cats. Definitely. Anyone else seen the UK Cravendale milk advert? Spooky!
Sheep. They’re everywhere. Just waiting for the chance to strangle you with your own knitted garments
John, cephalopods don’t NEED no thumbs. They’re so scary smart right now that I won’t eat them.
And for those of you who are skeptical of comment #95, it would be too obnoxious to post another link to my blog, so I’ll paste in this quote from a book where writer Richard Conniff quotes a wildlife guide on the subject of hummingbirds:
“They’re fighter pilots in small bodies. We’ve seen a bird knock another hummingbird out of the air and stab it with its bill. People still don’t believe it. They think they’re little fairies.” He shrugged. “We’re probably lucky these things aren’t the size of ravens, or it would not be safe to walk in the woods.”
Really, all of you who are worried about cats – that’s just the animal you know the most about. If you knew more about other species, you’d REALLY be scared.
Bit late to expound, but what the hell. I was gonna pick sharks, because, really . . . SHARKS!!! But with sharks, all I really have to do is get out of the water. Or fly over it, avoid boats. Until they figure out how to build an amphibious land vehicle so they can chase my ass around.
Also, I own cats.
Seriously, #101 – I put a feeder in my backyard expecting little fairies. What I got was THUNDERDOME!!!!
“We don’t need another herrrroooooooooooooooo!”
Squid and crows already have effective tool manipulation abilities, and what have they done to us? Nuffin. Dogs, I say. Sure, they’re not evil, but they have Access, and they are Incompetent. Nothing is more dangerous.
Thank you to Teresa for getting dolphins in as the very first comment. Because, obviously: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/dolphin_punch
@89 Wow, my daughter had a wombat in her lap 2 weeks ago. Apparently, it didn’t have mange. Who know mange could lead to violence.
Wombatarama, I have, with my own eyes, seen a single hummingbird kick the ass of a full-grown Red-tailed Hawk. They are NOT to be trifled with.
Give them thumbs and a taste for blood and it’s game over, man.
The first rule of hummingbird club…
If you’re not scared enough of birds yet, let me add that crows are not the only birds that remember you when you have messed with them.
And for the love of God keep your children away from those wombats.
Damn straight. Especially THESE wombats.
Seriously people, cats? Cats already rule and get what they want – they would be too lazy to put thumbs to productive use. The OBVIOUS logic is that the smartest, most oppressed animal will be the most dangerous. So CLEARLY IT HAS TO BE PIGS. No animal is eaten by humans in greater numbers than pigs. They have some serious revenge motive. And they are very smart creatures – as proven by famous pigs such as Arnold Ziffel, Babe and Wilbur.
I thought this answer was so obvious that pigs would win hands down – so to speak. (Plus, cats should not be the answer to every poll.)
Stoats. Observe: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7875271.stm
On the hummingbird issue and no joke: I watched 2 of em in my parents yard mug a large hawk hell if I know what kind… it was bigger than my cat) . The Hawk was desperatly trying to get away while these almost invisible blurs went zooming around it doing something that caused it to flinch and lose feathers. Never saw the hawk again when it finally escaped and my mothers statement was “I hope the hummingbirds didn’t get hurt” ?!? You want fairies, you see fairies….. even if they are psychopathic little feather dusters.
Simple and not open to argument…attorneys! Can you imagine the horror if they had opposable thumbs, now that is a scary thought.