While Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina has been temporarily sidelined as I spend all my available time reading Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (two-thirds of the way through and it is sooooo good!), I am very much enjoying Safina’s book. Though he talks about animals in general, he focuses specifically on elephants, wolves and orcas.
This evening I thought I’d give you a little teaser so you can get an idea of what this book is like.
In the fifth century B.C.E., the Greek philosopher Protagoras pronounced, ‘Man is the measure of all things.’ In other words, we feel entitled to ask the world, ‘What good are you?’ We assume that we are the world’s standard, that all things should be compared to us. Such an assumption makes us overlook a lot. Abilities said to ‘make us human’ — empathy, communication, grief, toolmaking, and so on — all exist to varying degrees among other minds sharing the world with us. Animals with backbones (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) all share the same basic skeleton, organs, nervous systems, hormones, and behaviors. Just as different models of automobiles each have an engine, drive train, four wheels, doors, and seats, we differ mainly in terms of our outside contours and a few internal tweaks. But like naïve car buyers, most people only see animals’ varied exteriors.
He goes on to say we divide the world into humans and animals, us and them, which creates a huge misunderstanding of our place on the planet and denies our connection with the entire animal world.
It’s a really good book and I am looking forward to getting back to it in a day or two once I am done with Ancillary Mercy.