on 29 December 2011
Dolphin in the Mirror is the best book I've read in ages. It is a nice blend of science (with a thorough reference section) and true stories. There were many times while reading this book where I laid it down in my lap and thought about the significance of the stories and research she describes. We now know that great apes, elephants, dolphins and magpies can recognize themselves in mirrors and pass the "mark test." I wonder how many more species have self awareness, a quality of mind that humans thought only humans had? This is a very important read not only to educate humans on the penile of dolphins in Japan - which is only a small but very important section at the end of the book - but to also to broaden our understanding of other sentient beings on earth besides humans.
on 13 October 2011
This book starts off with a prologue that has nothing too do with dolphins but is an interesting read. Dr. Reiss has shared what she recalls as her part in the rescue of the humpback whale Humphrey back in 1985. Though a compelling read it seems she has given herself a more prominent role than I have read about from other accounts of the rescue. Regardless of what transpired with those involved in the rescue it shows that she was considered an expert in her field and it must not have hurt that she was available and in the vicinity.
The body of the book then starts in earnest and she take us back another ten years too relate how she left her original field of study and work too become involved in the study of dolphins. She shares some of the pioneer work of the scientist that came before her that were working on trying too show dolphins cognitive abilities. As well as the work with primates that had been done using the mirror test she used. It is obvious that she made up her mind about dolphins without the quantitative proof and corroboration of other scientist. I too wish too believe as she does in the dolphin species and that of whales.
Dr. Reiss is the director of dolphin research at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. When I went to read this book I was expecting Dr. Reiss too give us an introduction to her work with dolphins and go into depth on how her work has shown that the dolphin is an intelligent creature with self awareness. The title basically tells you all you need too know for the basis for her theory. Basically using an old mirror test, that some scientist had agreed for convenience, that if a creature could recognize itself in the mirror and not look at the reflection as another creature it was then self-aware. This self-awareness equates too a superior type of intelligence above that of most creatures in the animal kingdom.
With a lack of sharing scientific analysis or objectivity she relates her life over the years working with a few captive dolphin. Dr. Reiss also covers some of the ancient myths and history associated with the dolphin and ties them into some more recent activity. This memoir does an excellent job of showing how a behavioral scientist works who has become emotionally attached to her subjects. She has shown us that she has a perceived empathetic link with the dolphins she works with. And she thinks they return this. If this is the case is it because they have no choice; if they wish too stay healthy and eat. For some serious research work would need too be done with dolphins in their own realm. She has taken some theories and have referred too them as fact a few times. But as this is not a scientific work it will not detract any from the memoir.
This memoir seem too be written with the purpose to get people to know she exits, too become emotionally involved with the dolphin species through her shared experiences and the main reason I feel for the book; her activist work too stop the annual slaughter of dolphins in Japan.
On the good doctors drive too stop this wholesale slaughter I completely agree. These villages are not destroying this wonderful creature for subsistence. They do it for money and in the most barbaric way as they call it a tradition. I have seen some film clips and can not imagine how bad the clips are that have not been released.
When I received the book its premise was that of a scientific work and it's subtitle 'Exploring Dolphin minds and Saving Dolphin Lives.' What we have here is a book with no time continuity and that should have been subtitled 'A Memoir and struggle to Save Dolphin Lives.' And in this endeavor I hope that Dr. Reiss is completely successfully in stopping the recorded annual slaughter. If it was touted as a memoir of an activist this would be a four star book but as the science is lacking I feel compelled too rate this as I have.