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Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina
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Beyond Words Quotes Showing 1-30 of 38
“People have told me that a wolf looks right through you. But you know what I realize? That's because a wolf isn't interested in you. It's always hard for humans to accept that we're not the most important thing anyone's ever seen.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Whenever elephants met men, elephants fared badly. Syria's final elephants were exterminated by twenty-five hundred years ago. Elephants were gone from much of China literally before the year 1 and much of Africa by the year 1000. Meanwhile, in India and southern Asia, elephants became the mounts of kings; tanks against forts, prisoners' executioners, and pincushions of arrows, driven mad in battle; elephants became logging trucks and bulldozers, and, as with other slaves, their forced labor requires beatings and abuse. Since Roman times, humans have reduced Africa's elephant population by perhaps 99 percent. African elephants are gone from 90 percent of the lands they roamed as recently as 1800, when, despite earlier losses, an estimated twenty-six million elephants still trod the continent. Now they number perhaps four hundred thousand. (The diminishment of Asian elephants over historic times is far worse.) The planet's menagerie has become like shards of broken glass; we're grinding the shards smaller and smaller.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“We look at the world through our own eyes, naturally. But by looking from the inside out, we see an inside-out world. This book takes the perspective of the world outside us—a world in which humans are not the measure of all things, a human race among other races. ...In our estrangement from nature we have severed our sense of the community of life and lost touch with the experience of other animals. ...understanding the human animal becomes easier in context, seeing our human thread woven into the living web among the strands of so many others.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“I don’t mean to imply that I value the life of a fish or a bird the same way I value a human life, but their presence in the world has as much validity as does our presence. Perhaps more: they were here first; they are foundational to us. They take only what they need. They are compatible with the life around them.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“People in Japan and the Faeroe Islands kill dolphins and pilot whales by running steel rods into their spinal columns while they squeal in pain and terror and thrash in agony. (In Japan, it’s illegal to kill cows and pigs as painfully and inhumanely as they kill dolphins.) The lack of compassion for dolphins and whales indicates that humans’ “theory of mind” is incomplete. We have an empathy shortfall, a compassion deficit. And human-on-human violence, abuse, and ethnic and religious genocide are all too pervasive in our world. No elephant will ever pilot a jetliner. And no elephant will ever pilot a jetliner into the World Trade Center. We have the capacity for wider compassion, but we don’t fully live up to ourselves. Why do human egos seem so threatened by the thought that other animals think and feel? Is it because acknowledging the mind of another makes it harder to abuse them? We seem so unfinished and so defensive. Maybe incompleteness is one of the things that “makes us human.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Parental care, satisfaction, friendship, compassion, and grief didn’t just suddenly appear with the emergence of modern humans. All began their journey in pre-human beings. Our brain’s provenance is inseparable from other species’ brains in the long cauldron of living time. And thus, so is our mind.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“humans are not the measure of all things.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“do other animals have human emotions? Yes, they do. Do humans have animal emotions? Yes; they’re largely the same. Fear, aggression, well-being, anxiety, and pleasure are the emotions of shared brain structures and shared chemistries, originated in shared ancestry.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“The largest animal in the ocean and the largest living land animal were no more than a hundred yards apart, and I was convinced that they were communicating! In infrasound, in concert, sharing big brains and long lives, understanding the pain of high investment in a few precious offspring, aware of the importance and the pleasure of complex sociality, these rare and lovely great ladies were commiserating over the back fence of this rocky Cape shore, woman to woman, matriarch to matriarch,”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Most people fantasize that if they won the lottery, they would quit their jobs and immerse themselves in leisure, play, family, parenthood, occasional thrilling sex; they'd eat when they were hungry and sleep whenever they felt sleepy. Many people, if they won the lottery and got rich quick, would want to live like elephants.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Why do human egos seem so threatened by the thought that other animals think and feel? Is it because acknowledging the mind of another makes it harder to abuse them?”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Other animals are exceptionally good at identifying and reacting to predators, rivals and friends. They never act as if they believe that rivers or trees are inhabited by spirits who are watching. In all these ways, other animals continually demonstrate their working knowledge that they live in a world brimming with other minds as well as their knowledge of those minds' boundaries. their understanding seems more acute, pragmatic, and frankly, better than ours at distinguishing real from fake. So, I wonder, do humans really have a better developed Theory of Mind than other animals? ...Children talk to dolls for years, half believing or firmly believing that the doll hears and feels and is a worthy confidante. Many adults pray to statues, fervently believing that they're listening. ...All of this indicates a common human inability to distinguish conscious minds from inanimate objects, and evidence from nonsense. Children often talk to a fully imaginary friends whom they believe listens and has thoughts. Monotheism might be the adult version. ...In the world's most technologically advanced, most informed societies, a majority people take it for granted that disembodied spirits are watching, judging, and acting on them. Most leaders of modern nations trust that a Sky-God can be asked to protect their nation during disasters and conflicts with other nations. All of this is theory of mind gone wild, like an unguided fire hose spraying the whole universe with presumed consciousness. Humans' "superior" Theory of Mind is in part pathology. The oft repeated line "humans are rational beings" is probably our most half-true assertion about ourselves. There is in nature an overriding sanity and often in humankind an undermining insanity. We, among all animals, are most frequently irrational, distortional, delusional, and worried. Yet, I also wonder, is our pathological ability to generate false beliefs...also the very root of human creativity?”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“(Bottlenose dolphins engage in more same-sexual behavior than any other known creature.) As Denise Herzing concluded, “Dolphins love to have sex and they have sex a lot.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“When my experiences with dogs and other animals—and people—were fewer, I used to think it silly for people to speak of dogs as “family” or other animals as “friends.” Now I feel it’s silly not to. I’d overestimated the loyalty and staying power of humans and underestimated the intelligence and sensitivity of other animals. I think I understand both better. Their gifts overlap, though they are different gifts.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Ingrid Visser describes the strategy of a particular quartet of dolphin-hunting killer whales off New Zealand (she prefers the name “orca”): The orca are cruising nonchalantly towards a small group of dolphins. The dolphins head away, but not too fast, as they don’t want to draw the attention of the orca just in case they aren’t really hunting. After following for 30 minutes, one female orca, named Stealth, doesn’t surface the next time the others breathe, nor the next, nor for the following 10 minutes. The three remaining orcas take off towards the dolphins at high speed, which is incredibly dramatic as they hurtle through the surface. The dolphins are fleeing for their lives and they know it; they fly out of the water and don’t even seem to touch down before they are off again. The three orca are closing fast. But suddenly one of the front dolphins goes flying as if it was a tennis ball, tumbling through the air as it turns somersaults. Stealth is also hurtling through the air in the follow-through after hitting the dolphin from below. She grabs the dolphin in mid-air, then falls back into the water with it in her jaws. Together, the four orcas devour the meal. Visser adds, “I have never seen them miss.” *   *   *”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“We're obsessed with filling in the blank for a Mad Libs line that goes: "_____ makes us human." Why? Scratch and sniff the "what makes us human" obsession and you get a strong whiff of something that could fit into that blank: our insecurity.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Species differ - but are often not very different. Only humans have human minds. But believing that only humans have minds is like believing that because only humans have human skeletons, only humans have skeletons.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Umysł człowieka i słonia kształtował się, gdy poruszaliśmy się po takim samym krajobrazie, radząc sobie z tymi samymi wyzwaniami, mierząc długość dni w oparciu o wysokość tego samego słońca, a nocami nasłuchując odgłosów tych samych niebezpieczeństw. Jesteśmy zsynchronizowani, bo zasadniczo mamy podobne pochodzenie.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Another big group of dolphins had just surfaced alongside our moving vessel—leaping and splashing and calling mysteriously back and forth in their squeally, whistly way, with many babies swift alongside their mothers. And this time, confined to just the surface of such deep and lovely lives, I was becoming unsatisfied. I wanted to know what they were experiencing, and why to us they feel so compelling, and so—close. This time I allowed myself to ask them the question that was forbidden fruit: Who are you? Science usually steers firmly from questions about the inner lives of animals. Surely they have inner lives of some sort. But like a child who is admonished that what they really want to ask is impolite, a young scientist is taught that the animal mind—if there is such—is unknowable. Permissible questions are “it” questions: where it lives; what it eats; what it does when danger threatens; how it breeds. But always forbidden—always forbidden—is the one question that might open the door: “Who?” — Carl Safina”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Perhaps the most amazing practitioner of echolocation among humans is Daniel Kish, blind since he was one year old, who early in life discovered that making clicking noises helped him get around. Much of his brain must be reassigned to sound, because he uses his own clicks to navigate. He can ride a bicycle in traffic (hard to imagine), and he has founded World Access for the Blind to teach other blind people to use their own sonar—to summon, as it were, their inner dolphin. Sounds from his tongue clicks, he explains, “bounce off surfaces all around and return to my ears as faint echoes. My brain processes the echoes into dynamic images.… I construct a three-dimensional image of my surroundings for hundreds of feet in every direction. Up close, I can detect a pole an inch thick. At 15 feet, I recognize cars and bushes. Houses come into focus at 150 feet.” This is all so hard to imagine, people have wondered if he is telling the truth. But he’s not alone, and his claims appear to check out. He says, “Many students are surprised how quickly results come. I believe echolocation capacity is latent within us.… The neural hardware seems to be there; I’ve developed ways to activate it. Vision isn’t in the eyes; it’s in the mind.” So, is it possible that a dolphin such as a killer whale might actually see the echoes?”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“The sensation I was feeling on the clifftop was some sort of reverberation in the air itself.… The whale had submerged and I was still feeling something. The strange rhythm seemed now to be coming from behind me, from the land, so I turned to look across the gorge … where my heart stopped.… Standing there in the shade of the tree was an elephant … staring out to sea!… A female with a left tusk broken off near the base.… I knew who she was, who she had to be. I recognized her from a color photograph put out by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry under the title “The Last Remaining Knysna Elephant.” This was the Matriarch herself.… She was here because she no longer had anyone to talk to in the forest. She was standing here on the edge of the ocean because it was the next, nearest, and most powerful source of infrasound. The underrumble of the surf would have been well within her range, a soothing balm for an animal used to being surrounded by low and comforting frequencies, by the lifesounds of a herd, and now this was the next-best thing. My heart went out to her. The whole idea of this grandmother of many being alone for the first time in her life was tragic, conjuring up the vision of countless other old and lonely souls. But just as I was about to be consumed by helpless sorrow, something even more extraordinary took place.… The throbbing was back in the air. I could feel it, and I began to understand why. The blue whale was on the surface again, pointed inshore, resting, her blowhole clearly visible. The Matriarch was here for the whale! The largest animal in the ocean and the largest living land animal were no more than a hundred yards apart, and I was convinced that they were communicating! In infrasound, in concert, sharing big brains and long lives, understanding the pain of high investment in a few precious offspring, aware of the importance and the pleasure of complex sociality, these rare and lovely great ladies were commiserating over the back fence of this rocky Cape shore, woman to woman, matriarch to matriarch, almost the last of their kind. I turned, blinking away the tears, and left them to it. This was no place for a mere man.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“In Yellowstone, where ravens have dotted their black exclamation points onto the white pages of the snows of many thousands of winters,”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“The sensation I was feeling on the clifftop was some sort of reverberation in the air itself.… The whale had submerged and I was still feeling something. The strange rhythm seemed now to be coming from behind me, from the land, so I turned to look across the gorge … where my heart stopped.… Standing there in the shade of the tree was an elephant … staring out to sea!… A female with a left tusk broken off near the base.… I knew who she was, who she had to be. I recognized her from a color photograph put out by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry under the title “The Last Remaining Knysna Elephant.” This was the Matriarch herself.… She was here because she no longer had anyone to talk to in the forest. She was standing here on the edge of the ocean because it was the next, nearest, and most powerful source of infrasound. The underrumble of the surf would have been well within her range, a soothing balm for an animal used to being surrounded by low and comforting frequencies, by the lifesounds of a herd, and now this was the next-best thing. My heart went out to her. The whole idea of this grandmother of many being alone for the first time in her life was tragic, conjuring up the vision of countless other old and lonely souls. But just as I was about to be consumed by helpless sorrow, something even more extraordinary took place.… The throbbing was back in the air. I could feel it, and I began to understand why. The blue whale was on the surface again, pointed inshore, resting, her blowhole clearly visible. The Matriarch was here for the whale! The largest animal in the ocean and the largest living land animal were no more than a hundred yards apart, and I was convinced that they were communicating! In infrasound, in concert, sharing big brains and long lives, understanding the pain of high investment in a few precious offspring, aware of the importance and the pleasure of complex sociality, these rare and lovely great ladies were commiserating over the back fence of this rocky Cape shore, woman to woman, matriarch to matriarch, almost the last of their kind. I turned, blinking away the tears, and left them to it. This was no place for a mere man”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Nie wiadomo, co myśli pies. Chyba że akurat wiadomo. Oboje wiecie, że zaraz pójdziecie na spacer albo wejdziecie do auta; oboje wiecie, że psu zaraz dostaną się resztki. Faktycznie przez większość czasu nie wiem, co zwierzak myśli. Przez większość czasu nie wiem też, co myśli moja żona, jak bardzo mnie kocha ani co by chciała na kolację. Może mi to powiedzieć albo pokazać. Miłość i kolacja to również psie sprawy, ale ich możliwość opowiadania o nich jest ograniczona. Zdolność okazywania odrobinę lepsza. Ale tak czy inaczej, myślą to, co myślą. Posiadamy jednak wspólną walutę, te kilka słów i gestów, zaufanie i uczucia, wystarczające do wspólnego życia.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“We look at the world through our own eyes, naturally. But by looking from the inside out, we see an inside-out world.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Niektóre eksperymenty świadczą głównie o badaczach. Gdy naukowcy nie potrafią zrozumieć myśli lub punktu widzenia zwierzęcia, oznacza to, że wielu ludzi nie jest w stanie zastosować teorii umysłu do istoty niebędącej człowiekiem.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“A humpback whale off San Francisco got tangled in dozens of crab traps connected by about a mile of rope, with weights every sixty feet; the whole apparatus ran to well over a thousand pounds. Rope was wrapped at least four times around the whale’s tail, back, mouth, and left front flipper, cutting into the giant’s flesh. Though nearly fifty feet long and weighing about fifty tons, the whale was being pulled down and was having trouble breathing when divers got into the water to see whether they could help. The first diver was so aghast at the extent of the entanglement, he didn’t think they’d be able to free the whale. Further, he feared that the whale’s thrashing could entangle the divers, too. But instead of struggling to break away as soon as possible, the whale remained passive through an entire hour while the divers worked. “When I was cutting the line going through the mouth,” James Moskito said, “its eye was there winking at me, watching me. It was an epic moment of my life.” When the whale realized it was free, it did not swim away. Instead it swam to the closest diver, nuzzled him, then swam to the next one. “It stopped about a foot away from me, pushed me around a little bit and had some fun,”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Dear Elephant, Sir: … There are those, of course, who say you are useless, that you destroy crops in a land where starvation is rampant, that mankind has enough problems taking care of itself, without being expected to burden itself with elephants, They are saying, in fact, that you are a luxury, that we can no longer afford you. This is exactly the kind of argument every totalitarian regime from Stalin and Hitler to Mao uses to prove that a truly “progressive” society cannot be expected to afford the luxury of individual freedom. Human rights are elephants, too. The right of dissent, of independent thinking, the right to oppose and to challenge authority can very easily be throttled and repressed in the name of “necessity.” … In a German prison camp, during the last world war … locked behind the barbed wires we would think of the elephant herds thundering across the endless plains of Africa, and the image of such an irresistible liberty helped us to survive. If the world can no longer afford the luxury of natural beauty, then it will soon be overcome and destroyed by its own ugliness. I myself feel deeply that the fate of Man, and his dignity, are at stake.… There is no doubt that in the name of total rationalism you should be destroyed, leaving all the room to us on this overpopulated planet. Neither can there be any doubt that your disappearance will mean the beginning of an entirely man-made world. But let me tell you this, old friend: in an entirely man-made world, there can be no room for man either.… We are not and could never be our own creation. We are forever condemned to be part of a mystery that neither logic nor imagination can fathom, and your presence among us carries a resonance that cannot be accounted for in terms of science or reason, but only in terms of awe, wonder and reverence. You are our last innocence.… I know only too well that by taking your side—or is it merely my own?—I shall no doubt be labeled a conservative, or even a reactionary, a “monster” belonging to another and, it seems, prehistorical era: that of liberalism. I willingly accept the label. And so, dear Elephant, sir, we are finding ourselves, you and I, in the same boat.… In a truly materialistic and realistic society, poets, writers, artists, dreamers and elephants are a mere nuisance.… You are, dear Elephant sir, the last individual. Your very devoted friend, Romain Gary”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“The main characteristic of an alpha male wolf,” Rick says, “is a quiet confidence, quiet self-assurance. You know what you want to do; you know what’s best for the pack. You’re very comfortable with that. You have a calming effect. Point is, alpha males are surprisingly nonaggressive, because they don’t need to be.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
“Your body is run by a competent staff that’s been on the job since before the company acquired consciousness. Too bad you can’t personally meet your team.”
Carl Safina, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel

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