I know Dr. Peter Beamish personally, and it is not likely that he would ever say this about himself, but I think that he has discovered the complementary discipline to Darwin’s evolution. While Darwin has described a model for how living organisms adapt and adjust to changing environments to enhance their survival prospects, Beamish has discovered that when survival is not a present and pressing issue, the animal kingdom behaves and communicates across species in remarkably altruistic ways.

He has discovered this altruistic behavior in his ground-breaking work in cross-species communication. Beamish has studied how animals can communicate with each other in mutually helpful ways, using an unexpected temporal method of conveying intentions, in that the method employs a novel temporal form. (More on this later.) Beamish shows that animals (and possibly all non-humans) are intimately focused upon what is happening in the moment without imagining the future. He further shows that by using this new temporal form, based upon rhythmically patterned signals, their attention to the present tilts the agenda for communication to altruism; no axes to grind and no future expectations to lobby.

His amazing insight realizes that low-stress cross-species animal communication is based upon a completely different modality than that used by humans for communication. When humans talk to each other, we use symbols conveyed in some tangible form, that stand for something, and the form of the symbol is something that all humans can mimic, like words spoken orally, or printed on pages. In the animal world, it cannot be assumed that other species of animals will be able to replicate the symbol system of any given species. For example, an ape could use fingers to indicate a specific meaning but whales and birds would have trouble reciprocating.

How have animals solved this obstacle? They do it, Beamish says, by using patterned movements or sounds that are synchronized to a mutually agreed upon clock tempo. The specific movement or the specific quality of the sound is immaterial to the communication. A bird’s chirps or a dog’s barks can convey the identical meaning if uttered in the same temporal pattern. Imagine a clock face with the quarter positions of 12, 3, 6 and 9 marked, and a clock hand or dial moving clockwise at a fixed rate around the clock face. The patterned motions of the respective animals occur at predetermined quarter points of the clock’s hand motion; on-time (12), late (3), off-time (6) or early (9). The particular pattern of signals sent on-time, off-time, early or late indicates what is being communicated. It works like this:

1. Two animals meet. 2. They greet each other with a standard greeting, which when done successfully establishes the tempo of the clock that will be used in their current communication. 3. By using high-rise sounds or motions of any available body part the animals are able to communicate intentions to each other. For example, a dog might wag its tail or bark in rhythmically-patterned bursts; a squirrel might move its head or tail; a deer might flick its ear.

An important aspect of this type of communication, and this is the crux of Beamish’s work in relationship to Darwin’s work, is that this rhythmic system induces low-stress. An animal responding to an environmental change that threatens survival, like food scarcity, is operating under high-stress. Lack of food will produce hunger, which in turn drives the animal to seek alternative sources or fight off competitors to the available food; both options are stressful to the animal.

When these stressful circumstances are not present, the animal is free to engage in stress-free interactions with other animals. The method that Beamish has discovered, uniquely reinforces this stress-free state. The use of rhythmic signals works to synchronize the physical actions of the interacting animals. The synchronization of the interacting animals further reduces stress levels in them.

An analogy in human terms would be that when we are physically synchronized with a friend we experience a lessening of stress. When we are in the company of a competitor, one who is not synchronized with us, we feel heightened stress. The nature of the method of animal communication described by Beamish requires synchronization for messages to be sent. Because the default communication mode between animals is synchronized, the low-stress that results is similar to humans associating with a close friend.

Looking under the hood of Beamish’s animal communication model, we find that living organisms have the capacity to express high-stress or low-stress. High-stress manifests itself in focused communications intended to produce desired outcomes, like humans convincing others to follow one’s suggestions or animals trying to feed themselves when food is scarce. Low-stress manifests itself when the specific outcome is not critical and the participating organisms, human and non-human, are synchronized in their interactions.

So, simply by communicating in the rhythmic communication mode, altruistic attitudes are allowed to manifest themselves. Further, when the form of the outcome is open, altruistic modes become primary in the interaction and the communication that results tends to produce honest, non-deceitful messaging.

Here’s one of the stories I have heard Dr. Beamish tell about how an altruistic interaction might work between animals. A whale signals to a flock of birds that it is seeking food. The birds then fly out over the ocean searching for schools of fish. When the birds find the fish they fly in a circle over the location of the school. The whale then, seeing the circling birds, approaches the school and sends out a piercing sound-blast that stuns the fish, causing them to float to the water’s surface while the whale feeds. When the fish arrive at the water’s surface, the birds then help themselves to their meal. After the whale and birds are finished with their meals, the fish that were not eaten, recover from their stunned state and continue on their way. Only as many fish as needed for feeding are killed and the rest are unharmed. The birds and the whales have helped each other altruistically, both benefiting from their cooperation, while preserving the fish that were not needed for the bird’s and whale’s survival; an intriguing metaphor of ecological balance.

Humans are animals, too. We use this rhythmic method of communication as well; it is largely unconscious, but does not need to be so. When we find ourselves connecting with someone, if we notice what is happening, we will likely discover that our mutual body motions are in synchronization with each other. Those to whom we don’t connect are out of synchronization with us. Our habitual focus upon symbolic language has blinded us to this more fundamental, empathetic, rhythm-based way of communicating. It is my opinion that Beamish’s work represents a completion of Darwin’s work by providing an explanation for low-stress interactions between animals as a foil or complement to Darwin’s high-stress scenarios.

Dr. Beamish is calling our attention to what we humans can learn from the animal world. If we learn to reconnect with our altruistic animal heritage, we may actually be able to make progress toward creating peace on earth, and get tangible models from the animal world on how to live cooperatively on our common planet. Ultimately, if we also learn to communicate with the animals according to their natural method, we may find that we have global monitors present and willing to inform us of conditions in the remotest regions of our environment.

To learn more about this insightful work get, and read, Dr. Peter Beamish’s new book:

Dancing With Nature ——- by Peter Beamish
Amazon-Trafford, — ISBN 978-1-4269-6305-6