Animals & Humans: A New View
Do We Think and Feel the Same?
[Cover Photo by Karen Robinson]
By: J. Marlando
Not long ago there was a news report by Diane Sawyer, the most beloved newscaster since Walter Cronkite, about the shared emotions between humans and dogs. In 2007 Professor Marc Bekoff wrote in The Bark, that "one of the hottest questions in the study of animal behavior is, 'Do animals have emotions.'" His answer is...of course they do. Why is it that science is so slow in concluding the obvious? Most humans have known this since probably before so-called civilization emerged. Nevertheless there remains a few scientist who reject the idea that animals think or feel about anything. And there are always those self-anointed intellectuals like Richard Dawkins who even doubt the validity of human emotional experiences as being very valid. Dawkins is that rather egocentric biologists who wrote in his book The Selfish Gene, we [people] are survival machines--robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve selfish molecules known to us as genes." Talk about a person who can't see beyond his text books and the whims of his own college professors...Anyway, there are quite a few clock-work mechanics who call themselves scientists who are the reductionists of the world and such block-headed individuals have been around at least since Rene Descartes (1596-1650) who is known as the Father of "modern" philosophy. And sure enough he is that since he was the first to deem that animals have absolutely no feelings and can be likened to a machine.
This Descartes view led to scores of future scientists and other pseudo, class-room scholars also known as professors to believe that all things, including ourselves (much less animals) are merely the sum total of our parts, the cornerstone of all atheism and college campus intellectualism. In fact, what Descartes is best known for, beyond his short-sighted declaration, "cogito, ergo sum," is taking God out of nature and placing "him" somewhere beyond human experience. Indeed, as a result a great many farmers began beating and/or working their animals to death. Well, why not, if they were just mechanical "things" they had no feelings anyway.
A great many scientists have held on to this view in many guises until just recently when at least some scientists began to outgrow their text books and actually think about phenomena that extend the numbers. There is a great report from BBC News/Science & Environment by Rebecca Morelle that we'll be diving into in the next section of this report.
Sparkling science reporter for BBC
In any case, it is now being grasped by the scientific community that the reductionists are more filled with themselves than most anything else. Thomas Nagel, who wrote the paper, "What is it like to be a Bat" tried to convince the intellectual world that considering the mind as being a mere epiphenomenon of the brain is to disregard the essential component of consciousness. In fact, way back in the 1970s, Nagel was teaching that conscious experience was experienced even in most animal life.
The purpose of this article is to explore the information found in the above and yet to expand the journey into mind and feelings of all living things. We hope that you enjoy and have a good time along your way.
Science versus Speculation
Rebecca Morelle reported for BBC News that, "By placing dogs in an MRIK, resear4chers from Hungry found that the canine brain reacts to voices in the same way that the human brain does." They found that, "Emotionally charged sounds, such as crying or laughter, also promoted similar responses, perhaps explaining why dogs are attuned to human emotions."
Eleven dogs took part in the study and their brains were compared to 22 human volunteers in the same study. The study revealed a rather fascinating discovery: The temporal pole, in the most interior part of the temporal lobe, was activated when both people and humans heard human voices. Indeed, Dr. Attila Andics, from the HungarianAcademy of Science's Eotvos Lerand University in Budapest told the press that they think that dogs and humans have a very similar mechanism to process emotional information. (The temporal lobe incidentally is involved in a number of functions including:
- Auditory perception
- Emotional responses
- Visual perception
What is assumed by some researchers is that since dogs and humans have been together since prehistoric times, they have developed certain capacities to observe and grasp one another's basic emotions like sadness, joy and anger. In other words it's a Darwinistic construct. Dr. Andics also said, "We know well that dogs are very good at tuning into feelings of their owners, and we know that a good dog owner can detect changes in his dog...but we now begin to understand why this can be."
I have a different viewpoint: I assume, most (real) scientists have, when it comes to how humans and other living things communicate. In this case, dogs seem to be more in tune with humans than other species. What I see wrong with the current study, however, is that science now seems to be basing dog's amazing ability to assume human emotions and demonstrate emotions of their own that this is all due to the mechanics of the advanced temporal lobe. Recall, we are thought of as the sum total of our parts by most scientists and other so-called scholars). But might this apparent communication between human and animals be attributed to consciousness or, in other words, mind? (The reader's assumption is correct here--I do not believe that mind is a function of the brain but rather that the brain serves as a receiver and transmitter of interior and exterior data...I dare not go into this any further or we'll end up too far from the subject at hand. The point however is that there may well be another explanation to our connectedness with other living things than accepting the mechanic's view that we exist in a clock-work world).
We'll get back to the above subjects on a later page. Right now let's explore deeper into the emotional life of animals.
According to Marc Bekoff who wrote in The Bark, "One of the hottest questions of animal behavior is, Do animals have emotions?" A I mentioned earlier the intellectual and scientific snobs have, since Descartes, been advocating a mechanical universe seeing animals as more machine than anything actually conscious. Indeed, Bekoff reminds us all that, "Researchers were almost all skeptics who spent their time wondering if dogs ,cats, chimpanzees and other animals felt anything." Well, I have been fortunate enough to work with many animals, domestic and exotic, in my life including a study of elephants in Asia and sharks of the coast of Australia. And, I once worked directly for Ralph Helfer, the world renowned animal behaviorist who, for a number of years, supplied animals to the movie and TV industries. Ralph's was the first animal behaviorist in the business and what this means is that he NEVER used the whip or other cruel tricks to entice his animals to perform. He talked with them, gave them love and patiently gave them new behaviors. He was tremendously successful! In fact, I once wrote and directed a big show for him that had around a dozen human performers; singers and dancers along with fifty exotic animals, each learning brand new routines through Ralph's method. It was Ralph's philosophy that every living thing in the world responds to love.
Think about it folks while just about all of us dream about nicer homes, fancier cars and other stuff money can buy, if it came down to push and shove we'd all admit that what we want more than anything else is to love and be lovable.
Do animals feel? Up until the last few years I nearly always had horses in my life. As just about any horse owner will tell you, their horses not only respond to love but they have other emotions such as temper, jealousy, stubbornness and so forth. Some horses are patient while others are anxiety filled. This applies to all animals. When I was a very young man I worked at the wonderful Cheyenne Mountain Zoo just outside Colorado Springs where I observed all kinds of animals every single day and was able to observe their moods as well as their habits. And, incidentally, there were straight animals and homosexual animals, moody animals and content animals, animals who liked being center of attention and those who wanted to be left alone; there we animals that were people animals and animals that didn't want anything to do with our kind.
We just see so much feeling and emotions in animals and even birds and fish. I will share a story about our dog Tonto with you: Tonto was the families dog but Tonto was Sean's our son's dog. Those two had a wonderful relationship ever since my wife brought him home from the Las Vegas Dog Pound where he had been "doing time" for being on the street without a collar or apparent home. He was so happy when my wife took him home. He entertained us by running and jumping about the house and telling us, in his way, how grateful and happy he was.
Tonto always was a happy but sensitive pooch and when our son Sean died, at age twenty-one he grieved with the rest of us. It took my wife, Rhoda, a very...very long time to get over the tragedy and so quite often she would talk to Tonto sharing her feelings with him and Tonto would sit for very long times not only listening to her but listening intently to her. And when she cried, he cried too.
When I was observing elephants in the Asian jungles where the sawyers use working elephants in their daily work, I saw what could only be called empathy and remorse demonstrated by some elephants that I was very close too. Elephants have their stubborn streaks too. For example, they flatly refuse to work if they don't get their morning baths. That's right, elephants start their day washing in the streams or rivers they will refuse to work if they don't get their morning baths.
A working elephant getting his morning bath
Another big question these days is, do animals understand words?
Stop and think about it, let's say that you're from Colorado and have never been out of that state until you get a job in Thailand, let's say. (I've done been there and done that). Well, I even say that the majority of Thais speak English in Bangkok but once in the villages Thai is spoken and it is an entirely different than what we Americans speak. We simply cannot understand a word but we learn to communicate through tone, facial expression and hand signals. at least until we pick up a few words.
A ThaiVillage like the one I stayed at and
no one in the village spoke English
Because our language was made up of different symbols we never thought for a moment that the other one didn't have a language of his own, only that we couldn't understand each other in words but we could interpret each others feelings and so grasp meaning. We don't really know how animals communicate with each other but we do know that they do. We can all read sign, however, when it comes to our pets. I have a dear friend of mine Sue Christ, who is a wonderful horse whisperer. That is she communicates with horses through her genuine love for them.
I have worked closely with tigers and lions and, at least as a younger man, had a way of communicating with them. Here's a shot of me playing with a African lion way back in the very late 1950s.
The only way a human being, scientist or not, can even entertain the notions that animals don't have emotions is that they themselves are too unfeeling to have empathy much less understanding.
In regard to the above, it is now thought that even mice have feelings; they respond to sadness as if it were pain but when in good humors they love to romp and play and have fun. When we think of what happens to animals in laboratories and slaughter houses, we who love them are repulsed and saddened by such human action.
Even ducks have feelings! I recently heard a story of two ducks who had been mistreated by humans but rescued and taken to an animal sanctuary. When they arrived at the sanctuary they were extremely afraid of human beings and both had health problems because of their mistreatment. One of the ducks was so ill that it had to be euthanized. Her friend was there when this occurred and quickly crossed to his euthanized mate and laid down beside draping his head across her body. After that he spent his time alone near a small pond but two months later he also died. (Probably of grief).
I have heard many stories like this one but also of wonderful adoptions; even snakes befriending hamsters. Here are some pictures to enjoy and ponder.
It seems that only we humans find it difficult to love our fellow man. Instead most people are filled with racism and prejudices; what happens to empathy in such human beings? Indeed, we humans lynch and stone our own kind often in the name of morality. We humans declare war on others murdering and destroying for material gains while they look at animals as being mindless and without sensitivity. It is, however, as Marc Bekoff reports: "Scientific research in evolutionary biology, cognitive ethnology (the study of animals minds) and social neuroscience support the view that numerous and diverse animals have rich, deep emotional lives."
I was truly shocked to discover on the news that deciding that dogs felt human-like emotions was considered a scientific discovery in our day and age. Anyone that has ever owned a dog has witnessed that dogs fidelity, love and devotion. Unless the owner lacked these same qualities; and anyone who has worked closely with exotic animals, as I have, also experiences an emotional connectedness often with the wildest of animals. And the operative word is..."connectedness."
Remember, we have an extremely long history of hunting and killing wild animals not only for food but for trophy. Indeed, while every living animal, fish, bird, snake and our kind "hunts" for its food, we are among the few creatures that kill strictly for the fun of it. Recall the magnificent herds of American Bison (popularly called buffalo) killed merely for sport until their numbers dwindled to almost nothing. So animals know by instinct, if not always by experience, that people, in general, are not to be trusted. But stop and think about it, we've also caged them, beat them into conforming, chased them off their territories and made them our property at least since the advent of civilization itself. We people, in general, have not been kind masters. And I have already talked about witnessing elephants enduring grief. Jessika Toothman says this: "Elephants...along with sea lions, geese, bear, monkeys, moose all appear to be hit hard by death of a loved one. (When my dad died, his dog circled the room and howled. It was impossible not to recognize his grief). Yet, many humans continue to be cruel and heartless in the quest for land or riches. See below for an extremely short album of what I am speaking of here:
Bulldozing the rainforest that
gives us a great deal of our planet's
The mighty Rhinoceros downed
for his Ivory and left to rot
The animal cruelty in slaughter
houses occurs daily. This was the
least offensive photo I could find. A
live, sick cow, too weak to stand,
being callously fork lifted.
Most or us can only imagine what happens to lab
Regardless of how much cruelty there is and has been, there has been emotional ties between people and all kinds of other creatures and critters throughout history. This is a reason why it strikes me so odd that science is just now agreeing that yep, animals have feelings too.
What doesn't strike me as odd is that right away scientists, in numbers, are quickly attributing this tremendous discovery that animals feel to what else...to the physical components of the their brains of course. For example, they are saying that all mammals, including ourselves, share certain neuroanatomical structures and so neurochemical pathways in our limbic systems and so forth; even mirror neurons that give us our talent for empathy. These mechanics, called scientists and scholars, leave out a vital part of the process of emotionalizing...consciousness.
I suggest that instead of seeking those parts of the brain that create emotion, we should be looking at the brain as a processing plant for emotion. It is conscious-awareness that is given ALL living things to one degree or another. It is like the Chinese sage told us, The universe is all mind and all matter. We are all in connectedness with everything else through consciousness or, in other words, Mind. (And speaking of mind see video at end of this article. You will njever doubt the intelligence of animals again if you do).
All the world's indigenous people have always understood what is being said here. This is why our own Native Americans not only called the animals, birds, fish and reptiles their "brothers and sisters" but also the trees, rivers, moon, stars and even the stones. When we can grasp this, we can grasp also how All can be in One and One in All; everything that lives, lives in a web of relationships. All that fundamentally changes between species are the symbols of emotions, not the feelings themselves.
with this in mind, remember always there is a common thread that connects people with other people and people with other living things...it is simply called kindness. Where there is kindness all the cruelty simply goes away.
References and Additional Reading
Dougal-Roney, Serena * Where science and Magic meet *Element Books
Hayward, Jeremy SW. * Letters to Vanessa * Shambhala
(Sawyer, Diane, Evening News).
The Bark (http://thebark.com
If you enjoyed the article, you'll probably enjoy
If you enjoyed this article you ought to like:
Amazon Price: $14.95 $6.65 Buy Now
(price as of May 10, 2015)
Amazon Price: $23.00 $17.48 Buy Now
(price as of May 10, 2015)