Dawnwatch: NY Times on dolphin intelligence and our similarity to other animals — 10/9/06

October 9th, 2006 8:55 pm by Kelly Garbato

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From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Oct 9, 2006 3:16 PM
Subject: Dawnwatch: NY Times on dolphin intelligence and our similarity to other animals 10/9/06

Yesterday I shared an op-ed from the Los Angeles Times that discussed the likelihood that fish feel pain. Though pleased with the piece, I noted, with some annoyance, that it expressed any possible doubt as to whether nonhuman animals feel emotion, while millions of people who live with animals have no doubt that they do. It seems serendipitous that today’s (Monday, October 8 ) New York Times includes an op-ed by Professor Frans de Waal headed, “Looking at Flipper, Seeing Ourselves.” (Pg A17)

De Waal refers to a South African scientist who says that the intelligence of dolphins is vastly overrated. Then De Waal describes various dolphin feats, including “One female dolphin that was rewarded with a fish for every piece of debris she managed to collect from her tank managed to con her trainers into a bounty of snacks. They discovered she had been hiding large items like newspapers underwater, only to rip small pieces from them, bringing these to her trainer one by one.”

He writes:

“What is so upsetting to some people about the closeness between animal and human intelligence, or between animal and human emotions, for that matter? Just saying that animals can learn from each other, and hence have rudimentary cultures, or that they can be jealous or empathic is taken by some as a personal affront. Accusations of anthropomorphism will fly, and we’ll be urged to be parsimonious in our explanations. The message is that animals are no humans.

“That much is obvious. But it is equally true that humans are animals. Is it so outlandish, from an evolutionary standpoint, to assume that if a large-brained mammal acts similarly to us under similar circumstances, the psychology behind its behavior is probably similar, too? This is true parsimony in the scientific sense, the idea that the simplest explanation is often the best. Those who resist this framework are in ‘anthropodenial’ — they cling to unproven differences.”

You can read the full piece on line here.

It presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor about the similarities between humans and other animals, and about our society’s treatment of other species. The New York Times takes letters at letters [at] nytimes.com.

Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published.

Yours and the animals’,
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. To unsubscribe, go to http://www.dawnwatch.com/cgi-bin/dada/dawnwatch_unsubscribe.cgi
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