read: 29 September 2004
Some people think animals communicate and have higher-order thinking and some do not. The author does. This book is full of different anecdotes and explanations about why he thinks this is so. Regardless of your opinions, the book is well written and an interesting look into the lives of animals by people who work closely with them. However, as someone who is skeptical about animals' intellectual capacities, I found that I did just what the author said I might, I lumped a lot of the behaviors that he was showing as evidence of higher order thinking and said “well, that’s just coincidence, that’s not scientific, there are other explanations for that behavior...” It’s not that I don’t think that animals are as valid organisms as humans, or that they don’t have their own thoughts and ideas in their heads, it’s just that we have no way of knowing or even testing what those thoughts are.
Linden has a compelling assortment of stories of animal tool usage, animal problem solving, animal “sensing” of human feelings or motivations and plain old animal ingenuity. None of these stories tell us anything about the animals' inner thoughts. This is where Linden would like to believe that they think more like we do and I like to believe that I don’t know how they think, though I wouldn’t quibble that they use tools, solve problems and relate well to humans. I guess at the end of the day I’m not sure what the point is, or why it’s important to Linden that we see animals as language users or as rational thinkers. The book is interesting, there are a lot of funny stories and he might change your mind about how you look at the way animals think, though he didn’t change mine. z
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