Apr 20, 2008

Animal Minds

Beyond Cognition to Consciousness
by Donald R. Griffin

When I read this book two years ago I jotted the following note down in my book log: "rather dry and technical but very salient in its points and proofs." I would restate that now: this book is so particular in arguing its point that it gets extremely difficult to read. Animal Minds was written to refute the long-held notions that animals act solely on instinct, just responding to stimuli and not thinking for themselves. The author presents a multitude of examples from recent scientific studies into animal mentality, describing the research in detail. This is the part that is hard to read, especially when he goes into the similarities of brain function in animals and humans on the neurological level. I am almost surprised that I even finished the book. I can't deny that it is well-researched and thorough; the number of references listed in the back is really staggering.

Donal Griffin shows examples of animals displaying a wide array of behaviors that suggest thinking ability: making tools, solving problems, making and executing plans, practicing deception, responding to new situations in novel ways, showing evidence of having complex memories, a sense of time and awareness of future. He demonstrates that not only can animals think, but they have a sense of self and can perceive the mental state of others. Dolphins, bees, otters, a variety of apes, monkeys and other animals show their mental powers in the pages of this book, if you can wade through the technical language to find them. Then again, if you enjoy reading scientific works, this may be just the book for you.

Rating: 2/5                355 pages, 2001

No comments: