Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Octopus and the Orangutan: More True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity

Author: Eugene Linden

First line: As I sit here, poised to write an amusing story about ape intelligence, a squirrel peers down at me from a branch in the oak tree growing in my backyard outside my office window.

Why you should read this book: In his second book about animal intelligence, journalist Eugene Linden brings together a thought-provoking collection of anecdotes contributed by zookeepers, researchers, and animal lovers, coupled with hard scientific fact, to create a picture of how and why smart animals think. From octopuses communicating their disdain for spoiled shrimp to orangutans with a happy talent for escape artistry, the creatures in this book all appear to use reason and emotion, to communicate with humans, their own species, and other species they come across, and to satisfy their own needs via their own brains. Despite the caution that none of this evidence can satisfy the stringent requirements of modern scientists, this book makes a stunning argument for the belief that humans are not alone in the ability to think, lie, use language and tools, or empathize with the less fortunate.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe you have a divine right of dominion over creatures, which are put on earth to feed, serve, or amuse you.

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