The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow and Empathy--and Why They Matter.
The Emotional Lives of Animals by Marc Bekoff with a foreword by Jane Goodall is a thought-provoking collection of stories and anecdotes of animal behavior, cognition, and emotions. Bekoff seeks to foster a paradigm shift in how we think about animals, how we study animal emotions and sentience, and what we do with the information we have. Organized in six chapters, with short subtopics, quotes and questions, the author presents a vivid picture of animal emotions.
In Chapter 1, the author's main goal is to show that animal emotions exist, that they are important to humans, and that this knowledge should influence how we treat our fellow animals. He focuses on behavioral data, anecdotal stories, and recent discoveries in social neuroscience to make a strong case for animal emotions. In addition, he notes that increased participation in conferences on animal welfare by scientists and articles published in scientific journals indicate renewed interest in the study of animal emotions.
In Chapter 2, cognitive ethology is defined, and focuses on how animals think and what they feel, and includes their emotions, consciousness, and self-awareness. Contributions by pioneers such as Charles Darwin, Donald Griffin, and Niko Tinbergen are explored. Darwin's ideas about evolutionary continuity allow the "evolutionary dots" to be connected among different animals to highlight similarities in evolved traits such as feelings and passions. Further, Bekoff states that all mammals (including humans) share neuroanatomical structures and neurochemical pathways in the limbic system that are important in feelings.
Seven emotions, mainly in mammals, are explored in Chapter 3: joy, anger, grief, love, embarrassment and awe, making jokes, and displaying a sense of humor. Bekoff states that emotions in different species are expressed in a variety of ways such as changes in muscle tone, posture, facial expression, eye size and gaze, and odors. Emotions displayed during a fox funeral and a male elephant in musth are two of the stories described by the author.
Another paradigm shift is proposed in Chapter 4. "Survival of the fittest" has always been used to refer to the most successful competitor, but he states that cooperation may be of equal or more importance. The author discusses signals and rules of play in domestic dogs and their wild relatives. For instance, a bow might mean, "I want to play with you." When the rules of play are violated, when fairness breaks down, so does play. He characterizes play with Five S's: Spirit, Symmetry, Synchrony, Sacredness, and Soulfulness. In addition, he describes the freedom and creativity of play with Six F's: Flexibility, Freedom, Friendship, Frolic, Fun, and Flow.
Bekoff addresses the hard questions posed by skeptics and uncertainty in science in Chapter 5. Some of these questions include: How much research must be done to prove something? How much does a scientist's belief influence how he or she interprets "objective" data without being aware of this bias? Do a researcher's intuitions and feelings, the personal self, ever have a place in science? The questions posed are relevant to cognitive ethologists who rely on observations, anecdotes, analogy, and anthropomorphism to reach conclusions.
In the last chapter, "Ethical Choices: What We Do with What We Know," Bekoff challenges us to turn our knowledge into action. The current state of affairs of animals in scientific labs, on farms, in zoos, and in the wild is discussed, including several horror stories such as chimpanzees in small cages and castration of piglets without anesthesia. One of the solutions suggested is to follow the professional guidelines that most scientists use-the Three R's-Refining procedures that harm animals, Reducing the number of animals used, and Replacing animals with other methods wherever possible. Noninvasive techniques such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans are recommended. Finally, Bekoff states that emotions are the gifts of our ancestors. We have them and so do other animals. We must never forget this.
A preface, acknowledgements, endnotes, a Web site, bibliography, and a brief biography of the author are included in the book. I think that the book would be an excellent resource for a seminar and for students researching bioethical problems.
Jean B. Worsley
Retired Biology Teacher
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Worsley, Jean B.|
|Publication:||The American Biology Teacher|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
|Previous Article:||The Elephant's Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa.|
|Next Article:||From the president.|