“They” being animals.  I lifted the post title from the Time.com article “What are Animals Thinking? (Hint:More Than You Suspect)”. There are some interesting observations in the short article, but after reading it turns out that it’s just a preview – almost an advertisement –  for the Time book “The Animal Mind” (On Newsstands Now!).

Since the most popular post on the blog is “What Makes a Human Different From an Animal?” I thought that this would be a natural topic to do a follow up post.  The original post ended up being more of a reflection on animal rights vs. human rights.  Not having read “The Animal Mind” because I do not know where I might find one of these “newsstand”  things, I can only go with the ideas put forth in the preview article which seem to focus more on animal intelligence and “intellect” if you will, based on animals’ exhibition of so-called “human” behaviors and their relative success at performing those behaviors.  There is no doubt that all animals have some degree of intelligence.  We’ve heard for years that some animals are “smarter” than others – A pig is smarter than a horse, which is smarter than a dog, which is smarter than etc, etc.  Also, a (fill in the blank) is as intelligent as a (blank) year old child.  A quote from the article:

“Animals, the research is proving, are creatures capable of reflection, bliss, worry and more. Not all of them in the same ways or to the same degrees, surely, but all of them in far deeper measures than we’ve ever believed.”

Interesting, if true.  I guess I’ll have to read “The Animal Mind” to find out how you measure whether an animal feels “bliss” or whether they worry.  I think that these type of “human behaviors”, if that’s what you want to call them, require a certain amount of self- awareness.  All animals are self-aware to some extent – they’d have to be to survive.  I think the question lies in determining how much of their behavior is geneticaly embedded “instictive” behavior and how much is driven by intellectual reasoning and emotion.  To the extent that certain behaviors are noted I think that it is interesting that the behaviors do not seem to overlap species which leads me to believe that much of it, no matter how human it seems, is instinct.

I don’t believe that cats groom themselves because they worry that their hair  doesn’t look good.  But that doesn’t mean that I like cats any less because of it.  There are a lot of people who are emotionally invested in portraying animals as “beings” – just look to the animal rights movement for proof.  I think animals have it better today than at any time in the past; machines have taken over a lot of the labor we used to use animals for.  The animals we eat are raised and slaughtered more humanely than in the past and we’re probably eating fewer of them to boot.  Animal cruelty is socially unacceptable today.  These are all good things.


Often I would like to know what is going on inside my dog’s head, though I don’t think there’s a lot of intellectual activity going on there.  But that won’t stop me from trying to live up her expectatations and to be the kind of person she thinks I am.  Or rather the kind of person I imagine that she thinks I am.