Apr 23, 09
Read in April, 2009
[Readers note: the author is a professor of Sanskrit and a trained Freudian analyst who has a passion for animals and exploring our relationships to animals from a philosophical point of view. He is not a practicing biologist, animal behaviorist, or any other -ist within the zoological/anthropological realm. I believe his intent is to help make this area of science more compelling, interesting, and accessible to the lay public. Best to read it with that understanding in mind.]
I fell right into this book from page one of the prologue. My inner dialog was so loud and persistent I had to take notes on paper to help myself focus more clearly on what I was reading; it felt good to be so actively interactive with a book! About halfway through chapter one, though, I realized I definitely wasn't part of the target audience. Back when I worked at the public library I became hooked on non-fiction, and I've always loved the life sciences in particular, so I'm already very familiar with the topic. Despite feeling like I was being beaten over the head with his strident arguments, I still found myself cheering Masson for writing such a passionate book, and I was happy to overlook some of his more specious generalizations knowing the intent was to convince folk who hadn't really thought about this topic before that it's one worth embracing and exploring more deeply. The thing I couldn't get away from, however, was my need to shout: "...in Western scientific traditions!" after each of his assertions that there is "..almost no investigation...in the modern scientific literature," or "...the worst of ethological sins - anthropomorphism." At least he did mention Jane Goodall and Frans de Waal, and again, de Waal's research was not really the point of this book. It did make me hungry to read " The Ape and the Sushi Master" again, where de Waal does explore the limitations of Western science and how Eastern scientists have a much more holistic approach that includes recognizing the sentience and emotional expressions of other animals.