Off the Dolphin Deep End
“A Mind in the Water” by D. Graham Burnett, in Orion, May–June 2010.
With less than five miles between them, San Diego’s SeaWorld and the Bayside campus of the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) present sharply contrasting pictures of Tursiops truncatus, better known as the bottle-nosed dolphin. At SeaWorld, visitors can feed little fish to this “mainstay of aquatic ecotourism, beloved water-park performer, smiling incarnation of soulful holism . . . a cetacean version of our better selves.” Just down the road at SPAWAR, the Navy manages a pod of about 75 dolphins trained to perform military functions. But as different as these two dolphin personas may seem, they both trace their roots back to one man, John Cunningham Lilly, “the spiritual grandfather of both the new age dolphin and its military alter ego,” writes D. Graham Burnett, a historian at Princeton University.
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