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Do Animals Think? Hardcover – 21 Mar 2004
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"[An] enjoyably written exploration of recent discoveries of modern animal behavior. . . . Wynne is clearly arguing against the view of animal rights advocates such as Peter Singer and Jane Goodall who ascribe human attributes to animals. But Wynne is no reactionary--he strongly sympathizes with those who wish to improve the treatment of animals. . . . It helps his arguments that Wynne is often as entertaining as he is erudite."--Publishers Weekly
"In this critical account of selected research, Clive Wynne takes aim at over-sentimental anthropomorphism, particularly on the part of animal-rights advocates. He argues that the degree to which animals are like us cannot be the measure of how much they are worthy of our respect and protection. . . . All this material is presented in a clear informal and entertaining way, enlivened by historical asides."--Sara J. Shettleworth, Nature
"Wynne has a pleasant writing style and a knack for engaging the reader. . . . [H]is book offers many insightful descriptions of animal behavior. . . . He seems to take delight in animals, and possesses great knowledge about them, yet he prefers them at arm's length. The constant message is that animals are not people."--Frans B.M. de Waal, Natural History
"Wynne's new book provides a timely corrective to many myths about animal minds, without detracting from the wonders of the natural world."--Nicola S. Clayton, Science
"[Wynne] is a lively writer with a congenial sense of humor, an obvious passion for truly understanding the minds of animals, and a sincere desire to come to terms with what all this means for the larger philosophical and ethical questions about the place of man and animals in the world."--Stephen Budiansky, Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science
"A fun read . . . packed with clever experiments, intriguing anecdotes, and a delight in the diversity of animal behavior."--Sy Montgomery, Discover
"Readers will delight in this insightful, well-referenced book."--Choice
"Lucid and witty. . . . Mr. Wynne makes a compelling case against true rationality in animals, but he resists the temptation to reduce animals to mere 'machines,' as Descartes famously did; he is too seized with wonder at the marvels of animal behavior to adopt so barren a model. In the end, Mr. Wynne prefers to accept our fellow animals for what they are, as they are."--Eric Ormsby, New York Sun
"An intelligent and balanced discussion of our attitudes towards other species and what (if anything) animals think. . . . A refreshingly skeptical and pugnacious investigation."--P.D. Smith, The Guardian (UK)
From the Back Cover
"Wynne's expert, lucid, sharply argued (and even witty) study provides a wonderful account of what is understood about how animals think and the serious challenges that face scientific study of these fascinating questions. It also offers very reasonable and suggestive thoughts about the place of humans within the rich and complex world of mental achievements and limitations."--Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"I had more fun reading this book than I have had from any other book in a long time! It is clever, erudite, and accessible."--Jonathan Marks, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
"Clive Wynne has written a vitally important book. A fascinating and authoritative account of the latest research on animal minds, Do Animals Think? is also a much-needed corrective to the half-truths, exaggerations, and fairy tales that have become all too common in this field."--Stephen Budiansky, author of If a Lion Could Talk: Animal Intelligence and the Evolution of Consciousness
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Top customer reviews
He thinks animals don't think (at least not in the way we think with al the consciousnessstuff going on)
So, animals don't know if you should read this book, but now you don't have to read it anymore...
Don't thank me, thank the milkman who made you.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Chapter 9, the final chapter, may be the most disturbing part of the entire book. Here you see a scientist deliberating about whether animals experience pain, and you are left with the impression that he really does not think they do, or at least has his doubts. I would like to provide you with some very unfortunate quotes as a way of illustrating the author's attitude:
"Let me ask again, How do we know animals feel pain? Singer's answer, the standard answer, is because they act the way we do when we feel pain. Our dog Benji ... walked into the side of a parked car once ... Didn't seem to bother him at all." P.240
In other words an animal's physical reactions don't necessarily represent the experience of the animal. Here is another good one on the same point:
"When organs are removed from the brain dead ... doctors commonly give anesthetics. Why bother with anesthetics if there is no chance that the individual is conscious? Because without them the body reacts violently ... So this adds a further complication to the calculus of pain that Singer wants us to engage in: outward signs may correlate little with inner agonies." P.240
Please see my review of Dr. Wynne's Animal Cognition.
I would like to recommend some better books (all very readable) on this subject:
Animal Learning & Cognition 3rd Ed by John Pearce
Animal Intelligence by Zhanna Reznikova
The Cognitive Animal (multiple authors)
The Smartest Animals On The Planet (written for non-science students) by Sally Boysen
Cognition, Evolution & Behavior by Sara Shettleworth
Also worth reading:
The Ethology of Domestic Animals 2nd Ed by P. Jensen
Bekoff writes that "Many observations show that members of some species imitate other animals, empathize with them, are able to take another's perspective in certain situations (there is neurobiological evidence to support the conclusion that some animals have a theory of mind), and have culture and rather sophisticated patterns of communication."
But by using words like "empathize," and, I would argue, even "think," Bekoff implies that when nonhumans do something that we describe as "empathizing" (or "thinking"), it is the same as when we use the word to describe human behavior. But that is a mistake. Without operationally defining such words each time we use them, we run the risk of confusing behaviors that most likely have different functions, even if they appear to have similar forms. And nonhumans cannot have a "theory of mind" because all the evidence for theory of mind is linguistic.
Bekoff is also wrong that, "The behaviorist view is little concerned with evolution. It also fails to recognize that the behavior of many animals is far too flexible and situationspecific to be explained in terms of simplified stimulusresponse contingencies. Marked withinspecies variability is quite common, and this adaptive variability often (although not always) lends itself readily to "cognitive" explanations invoking consciousness, intentions and beliefs."
All behaviorists that I know (and I know quite a few), including me, are all thoroughgoing Darwinians. We recognize the contribution of natural selction to the behavior of organisms, but, as Bekoff notes, we also recognize the flexibility or adaptiveness of behavior. Bekoff is correct that such flexibility cannot be explained by "simplified stimulus-response contingencies," but who, since John Watson, has tried to do that? That doesn't mean that the principles of operant learning (the science of adaptive behavior within the lifetime of an organism) aren't sufficient to explain the behavior. In fact, "explanations invoking consciousness, intentions and beliefs" are not only not sufficient, they are not parsimonious, invoking as they do unobservable, undefinable, and unmeasurable processes. Such concepts are simply not necessary to explain the behavior of human beings much less other animals.
Bekoff critizes Wynn for not providing any scientific support for his reductionistic explanations, but the scientific support is in the almost one hundred years of accumulated empirical research on animal (and human) learning. From there, any interpretation based on the principles derived from that research is more parsimonious that the made-up explanations involving cognitive structures and processes.
Bekoff implies that all one has to do is to watch free ranging animals to appreciate the flexibility and complexity of animal behavior and to realize that only cognitive exlanations will suffice to understand such behavior. But cognitive explanations, born as thay are from age-old philosophical speculation about unseen and unseeable events, have never sufficed as scientific explanations and they never will.
Wynne is right on target when he claims, according to Bekoff, that "we should be very cautious about ascribing consciousness to animals and that anthropomorphic explanations have no place in the study of animal behavior." To do so in no way diminishes the complexity of the behavior of any species. As another reviewer said, we don't need to compare nonhumans (we're animals too) to humans to appreciate or respect them.
Letter to the Bookshelf
Do Animals Think? by Clive D. L. Wynne
September 21, 2004
The question in the title of Clive D. L. Wynne's book, Do Animals Think? is the wrong question to ask. In his review (September-October 2004), Mark Bekoff continues and expands this line of questioning by asking, do "animals consciously process information about their social and nonsocial environments?" "What is going on in the minds of animals? Do they have desires and beliefs?"
These are not scientific, but rather philosophical, questions that have been debated without resolution for centuries. It is not a contest (between behaviorists and cognitivists or anyone else) that can be settled by appealing to any sort of data either. There is no experimentum crucis. Nevertheless, Bekoff doesn't hesitate to throw his hat into the ring by concluding that the answers lie somewhere in the middle; between the "firm behaviorist stance," presumably taken by Wynne, that "animals are merely thoughtless robotic automatons to those who argue that all are thinking creatures with rich cognitive lives." According to Bekoff ("a rich cognitivist"), "a number of animals have the capacity for thinking about certain situations and showing flexible, adaptable behavior, whereas others may behave reflexively, with little or no thought at all."
The real scientific question about nonhumans, however, is not whether or what they think or whether they "consciously process information," but what they do in what contexts and what causes them to do it. These are the only questions that can be addressed by an objective science without resorting to irresolvable speculation about vague and muddy philosophical concepts.
Do many nonhumans show flexible, adaptive behavior? Definitely. Does that indicate consciousness (whatever that is)? Who knows? It depends on how one uses the term "consciousness." Do we need to speculate about an animal's consciousness or so-called cognitive processes to fully understand its behavior? The answer is an unequivocal "no."
If we behavioral scientists (evolutionary biologists, ethologists, behavior analysts, neuroscientists and even geneticists) can discover the physical events that are responsible for behavior, then there is nothing left to explain or about which to speculate.
Psychologists, ethologists, and neuroscientists are still intrigued by the lofty and ultimately unanswerable philosophical questions about mind and consciousness. Despite persistent optimism in some ranks, these questions will never be answered until the concepts are defined in objective, measurable terms involving the animal's behavior and its physical causes. Once that is done, the questions will become moot because we will have a complete understanding of nonhuman (and human) behavior.
Until then, the debate about human and nonhuman mind and consciousness will continue ad infinitum and ad nauseam.
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