Monday, February 18, 2013

ARC ReView of ANIMAL WISE: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures by Virginia Morell

NonFiction / Science - 304 pages
Crown (first published in 2013)

I want to start out by stating the following: "Surely, the most important part of an animal is its anima, its vital spirit on which is based its character and all the peculiarities by which it most concerns us.  Yet, most scientific books which treat of animals leave this out altogether, and what they describe are as it were phenomena of dead matter."  Virgina Morell, correspondent to National Geographic and Science has written this beautiful collection of animal character, personalities, and inner spirits.

This is a precious account of all the animals around us and how we are more linked to another another than we can imagine.  It immediately dispells the prejudices that we've held against the spirit of Animals.  Darwin was the first to really take animal intelligence and emotions to a new level.  Virgina Morell is carrying this mission further.

Darwin said in Desccent of Man that "animals use their sense to acquire knowledge about the world, just as humans do, and they act on that knowledge, which gives them a measure of intelligence."  After Darwin, there was John Romanes, who "argued that scientists could study the mental states of animals by using a kind of 'inverted anthropomorpism' - that is turning to our human emotions and mental abilities as guides.

In this fascinating book, we can see animals in a very new and broad window of opportunity.  The opportunity to rethink our moral actions towards animals, as scientists or as people of a beautiful Earth in general.  Too often, we've elimitated species of animals and habits because we lacked the understanding of how those animals need just as much as we do OUR MORAL IMPERATIVES.

With this book you can see that Fish are intelligent.Elephants grieve and mourn for their fellow members.  Dolphins have always been associated with a sort of kinship to us.  "What cannot be denied or evaded is that this science has a MORAL DIMUNITION.  How we study animals and what we assert about their minds and behavior greatly affects how they are treated," says Dale Jamieson.  This is exactly what I feel this book is about.  It is about seeing and understanding that animals are above and beyond what we normally think of them.  And maybe after seeing all this, we can reevaluate our MORAL notions of how we treat them....

Virgina Morell concludes the book with the statement below, and we should all think about how we can contribute in even the smallest of ways to establishing a voice for the animals that don't have one.

"One of the more heart-wrenching parts of my job as a correspondent for Science is receiving a message from a scientist about a species that is on the verge of extinction - a beetle, a bird, a rare fish, some seldom see rodent, a dolphin.  'Can you please find some way to write about this animal?' the scientist asks.  'Any attention you can give may help.  We need to let the world know."
Virginia Morell

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