Second Nature

Second Nature

The Inner Lives of Animals

Book - 2010 | First edition.
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For centuries we believed that humans were the only ones that mattered. The idea that animals had feelings was either dismissed or considered heresy. Today, that's all changing. New scientific studies of animal behavior reveal perceptions, intelligences, awareness and social skills that would have been deemed fantasy a generation ago. The implications make our troubled relationship to animals one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.

Jonathan Balcombe, animal behaviorist and author of the critically acclaimed Pleasurable Kingdom , draws on the latest research, observational studies and personal anecdotes to reveal the full gamut of animal experience--from emotions, to problem solving, to moral judgment. Balcombe challenges the widely held idea that nature is red in tooth and claw, highlighting animal traits we have disregarded until now: their nuanced understanding of social dynamics, their consideration for others, and their strong tendency to avoid violent conflict. Did you know that dogs recognize unfairness and that rats practice random acts of kindness? Did you know that chimpanzees can trounce humans in short-term memory games? Or that fishes distinguish good guys from cheaters, and that birds are susceptible to mood swings such as depression and optimism?

With vivid stories and entertaining anecdotes, Balcombe gives the human pedestal a strong shake while opening the door into the inner lives of the animals themselves.

Publisher: New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780230613621
Branch Call Number: 591.5 BAL
Characteristics: xiv, 242 pages ;,25 cm

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forbesrachel Apr 28, 2013

An extremely thoughtful look at not only the lives of animals, but of our moral and ethical thoughts about them. At first the focus is on animals, their behaviour, sentience, how their senses differ depending on physiology, and finally on their emotions. Although scientific research is always used as evidence, this author never starts with an "they don't have this until it is proven otherwise" attitude, instead he is most willing to give the benefit of the doubt. One particular point is emphasized, animals in the group setting are not as violent as many of us believe. They share, work together, and on the rare occasion that they do fight, the submission of the loser is accepted. It rarely ends with death.This is contrary to what most nature programs say, and reflects more on our fascination with violence, than how much actually occurs. In reality more deaths are caused by humans than any other species, but we never include ourselves in statistics comparing animals. Having looked at the emotions in animals, a new focus is presented, since animals have emotions what does that mean about how we treat them. Do we have the right to cause them suffering? Should we use them for our benefits knowing that we do? Finally, at the end a hopeful note is left for us, we are learning.

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