DO ANIMALS THINK?
Release date: 04/01/2004
Animal expert Wynne (Animal Cognition: The Mental Life of Animals ), an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida, delivers a detailed yet enjoyably written exploration of recent discoveries of modern animal behavior. In answering the question whether animals "think" or have the consciousness of self that humans do, his main point is simple: "We don't have to pretend that some species have consciousness equivalent to ours. They don't and they don't need it to matter to us and deserve our attention." Wynne is clearly arguing against the view of animal rights advocates such as Peter Singer and Jane Goodall who ascribe human attributes to animals. But Wynne is no reactionary—he strongly sympathizes with those who wish to improve the treatment of animals. But he forcefully argues that what animals may "know"—for example, the honeybee recognizes time of day—is "coded in the connections of the neurons; they are not conscious ideas." However, in contending that "the psychological abilities that make human culture possible... are almost entirely lacking in any other species," he delightfully presents the many remarkable abilities of such animals as the bat, which "sees" using echolocation, "one of the most astonishing discoveries made about any animal's world in the last fifty years"; and dolphins, who use a form of sonar. It helps his arguments that Wynne is often as entertaining as he is erudite ("Like journalists listening in for excitement on police radio frequencies, dolphins channel-surf through the sound frequencies fish use"). (Apr.)