Author: Frans de Waal
Rating: 5 Stars
Review By: Shana
As usual, Frans de Waal does not disappoint. He brings his keen eye, open mind, and sense of wonder to this exploration of animal cognition, how we assess it, and how humans must overcome their own limited view of the world to craft tests and evaluate results if we are ever to truly appreciate our fellow animals.
In this excellent book, de Waal offers a brief history of the ways that humans have interpreted and tested animal intelligence. But de Waal goes further, highlight how, time and again, various assertions of human uniqueness (and thus pegging what it means to be human to certain specific traits) were later found to not be unique to humans at all. Akin to "god of the gaps" arguments (referring to traits that were once inexplicable but later explained by evolution), as we fill in "gaps" and the inexplicable diminishes, the more we are forced to see kinship and shared abilities with our animal brethren.
This all makes perfect sense in light of evolution - nothing came out of the ether, with no antecedents. This holds for our minds as much as the rest of our biological equipment. de Waal explains how like our fellow animals we are, what traits we share, and where we are less skilled. This book not only introduces readers to the very many ways animals surprise us, but also to the ways in which our limited intelligence sometimes hinders our research as we fail to find the right observations and tests to unlock the mystery of animal cognition.
âThis book is a wonderful overview and reminds us, yet again, that we are not the pinnacle of existence nor the end of the evolutionary road, but just fellow travelers.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...