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Do Animals Think?

Do Animals Think?

Clive D. L. Wynne
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Do Animals Think?
    Book Description:

    Does your dog know when you've had a bad day? Can your cat tell that the coffee pot you left on might start a fire? Could a chimpanzee be trained to program your computer? In this provocative book, noted animal expert Clive Wynne debunks some commonly held notions about our furry friends. It may be romantic to ascribe human qualities to critters, he argues, but it's not very realistic. While animals are by no means dumb, they don't think the same way we do. Contrary to what many popular television shows would have us believe, animals have neither the "theory-of-mind" capabilities that humans have (that is, they are not conscious of what others are thinking) nor the capacity for higher-level reasoning. So, in Wynne's view, when Fido greets your arrival by nudging your leg, he's more apt to be asking for dinner than commiserating with your job stress.

    That's not to say that animals don't possess remarkable abilities--and Do Animals Think? explores countless examples: there's the honeybee, which not only remembers where it found food but communicates this information to its hivemates through an elaborate dance. And how about the sonar-guided bat, which locates flying insects in the dark of night and devours lunch on the wing?

    Engagingly written, Do Animals Think? takes aim at the work of such renowned animal rights advocates as Peter Singer and Jane Goodall for falsely humanizing animals. Far from impoverishing our view of the animal kingdom, however, it underscores how the world is richer for having such a diversity of minds--be they of the animal or human variety.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4955-0
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. 1 What Are Animals?
    (pp. 1-12)

    I grew up on the Isle of Wight. “That southern island / Where the wild Tennyson became a fossil,” W. H. Auden called it. A century ago it was very popular with poets. Today it is just a quaint English seaside resort: silent in the winter, bustling with tourists in the summer.

    In 1994, long after I’d left on my travels, one Barry Horne woke up the sleepy Isle of Wight. He planted a succession of bombs. One in a pharmacy, another in a car parts store, a third in a fishing tackle supplier, and a fourth in a Cancer...

  4. 2 The Secrets of the Honeybee Machine
    (pp. 13-45)

    My earliest recollection of bees—indeed, one of my earliest memories of any kind—is of being stung by one. I was putting on my shoes on the stone floor of the changing room at Shanklin C of E Primary school. (“C of E” stands for Church of England. They asked me where my family went to church. I said we didn’t. They said, “Well then, you’re C of E.”) I put out my hand to steady myself and felt a sharp pain in my palm.

    There is so much more to know about honeybees than just that they sting....

  5. 3 How Noble in Reason
    (pp. 46-83)

    Tenerife is one of the Canary Islands, an island group in the Atlantic about two hundred miles off the west coast of Africa. The Canaries today are as popular with northern Europeans seeking winter sun as is Florida, which is at about the same latitude, with tourists from the northern American States and Canada.

    Back in 1913, long before passenger jets, when a young German scientist, Wolfgang Köhler, set out with his family for the Prussian Anthropoid Research Station on Tenerife, the island was considerably more remote than it is today. Their isolation was to get worse. Soon after their...

  6. 4 What Is It Like to Be a Bat?
    (pp. 84-105)

    When I decided to borrow the title for this chapter from a famous paper by New York University philosopher Thomas Nagel, I didn’t know that British novelist David Lodge, in his novel Thinks . . . had already asked what other writers might compose under the title “What is it like to be a bat?” One M*rt*n Am*s, presumably the author of Money and Success, finds a bat’s life to be obsessed with sex and crap. For Irv*ne W*lsh (author of Trainspotting), a vampire bat’s incessant search for fresh blood is like a Scots junkie’s search for heroin—complete with...

  7. 5 Talk to Me
    (pp. 106-138)

    Language is the crux of the matter. Beings like us talk to each other. The others don’t. For centuries people have recognized a sharp distinction between themselves and all other species when it comes to language. We do it; they don’t.

    In the last few decades, however, bolder claims have been made for the language abilities of some of our closest relatives, such as chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas, as well as for such diverse beasts as dolphins, parrots, and honeybees. In this chapter I want to take a careful look at these claims. Has modern science uncovered what the ancients...

  8. 6 The Pigeon That Saved a Battalion
    (pp. 139-161)

    On October 27, 1918, the situation of the New York Battalion of the U.S. 77th Division, soon to be known as the “Lost Battalion,” was desperate. Major Charles S. Whittlesey realized he had led his men too far into enemy territory around Grand Pré on the Western Front. Nonetheless, he dismissed with derision an invitation from the enemy to surrender: “Come and get us!” he said. For three days his men had repulsed enemy attacks. They were out of food and water, low on ammunition. All attempts to communicate by soldier courier back to their base camp were unsuccessful. Their...

  9. 7 Monkey See, Monkey Do?
    (pp. 162-194)

    I’m no classical scholar, but it seems to me that the ancients never hit on a major potential difference between humans and other species: the capability to comprehend the implications of what others do.

    If I see you stick your finger into an electric socket and recoil in pain, I may choose to refrain from sticking my own finger into electric sockets. I see, I learn. But suppose I see you hiding a stash of cash under the mattress. What I choose to do with that knowledge may depend on whether I think you saw me watching you stash your...

  10. 8 Dolphins Divine
    (pp. 195-221)

    Seeing a dolphin in the wild is like bumping into a celebrity in the street. There’s a sense of excited recognition, and of one’s own unworthiness in comparison to these exceptional individuals. One of the things that made living in Perth, Western Australia (where I started this book) very special was the presence of dolphins in the Swan River. Perth, population 1.4 million, is one of the few major cities in the world that can boast dolphins right in the center of town. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate how often they might be spotted, but I couldn’t overstate what a...

  11. 9 Sandwiches to Go
    (pp. 222-244)

    Back on the Isle of Wight last summer, everything had returned to the tranquility I remember. Boots The Chemist has been renovated back to its original bland splendor. The farmers on the hills tend their animals: the town-dwellers get their meat at the supermarket or butcher’s shop. Fishing on the piers or out in boats is still a popular hobby. I didn’t notice much excitement about animal rights issues: people there have their own concerns. Barry Horne’s passing in November 2001 went largely unremarked on the island. Even on the mainland, the revenge attacks threatened by Horne’s supporters against scientists...

  12. References
    (pp. 245-260)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 261-262)
  14. Index
    (pp. 263-268)