Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals

Nathan H. Lents. Columbia Univ., $35 (352p) ISBN 978-0-231-17832-7
In a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible style, Lents, professor of molecular biology at the City University of New York, compares the behavior of humans with many other animals. His overarching goal is to demonstrate that “the suite of programs that underlies animal behavior is remarkably similar to that which underlies human behavior.” He succeeds by examining a broad array of behaviors, with separate chapters focusing on such topics as play, morality, justice, and sex. Lents provides ample documentation of fascinating behaviors and builds his arguments convincingly using two tactics. First, he differentiates between anecdotes and data arising from controlled experiments, setting his work apart from some non-scientific texts claiming to ascribe various, occasionally fantastic, powers to animals. Second, he situates his analysis within an evolutionary framework. For example, after demonstrating the distress of many mammals, including monkeys and dogs, when they observe unfair treatment, Lents concludes that “intolerance of inequity is being observed in a diverse and growing list of mammals, which would push its origins back... to well more than one hundred million years ago.” He also makes it clear that, beyond behavior, animals also share many emotions with humans. Whether Lents is discussing love, grief, greed, or envy, he provides ample evidence that animals have a rich inner life. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/11/2016
Release date: 05/17/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-231-54175-6
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-231-17833-4
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