“Many scientists say it’s impossible to study thought and emotion in non-humans. Animals, they say, don’t communicate their inner turmoil through spoken word, which is why any attempt to understand their psyche is typically sneered at as ‘anthropomorphism’ (transferring your own experiences and emotions onto the animals you study) and deemed ‘unscientific,’” writes Becca Cudmore on www.audobon.org. Marine Biologist Carl Safina says that scientists who watch wild animals realize the absurdity of not addressing an animal’s inner life. In his new book “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel” he takes us inside the lives and minds of animals, witnessing their profound capacity for perception, thought and emotion.
Weaving decades of observations of families of free-living creatures with new discoveries about brain functioning, Safina’s narrative breaches many commonly held boundaries between humans and other animals. In “Beyond Words,” he takes us to the wilds of Africa to visit some of the last great elephant gatherings, to follow wolves of Yellowstone National Park as they sort out the aftermath of their personal tragedy, and to plunge into the peaceful society of killer whales living in waters of the Pacific Northwest. He spends time, too, with dogs and falcons and ravens; and considers how the human mind originated.
In his book, Safina examines how animals truly think and feel, which, he says, calls into question what really does—and what should—make us human. He calls on us to re-evaluate our relationship to other species around us.
Carl Safina’s work has been recognized with MacArthur, Pew, and Guggenheim Fellowships, and his writing has won Orion, Lannan, and National Academies literary awards and the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Rabb medals. He has a PhD in ecology from Rutgers University. Safina is the inaugural holder of the endowed chair for nature and humanity at Stony Brook University, where he co-chairs the steering committee of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and is founding president of the not-for-profit organization, The Safina Center. He hosted the 10-part PBS series Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina. His writing appears in The New York Times, Audubon, Orion, and other periodicals and on the Web at National Geographic News and Views, Huffington Post, and CNN.com. His previous books include “Song for the Ocean Blue,” “Eye of the Albatross,” “Voyage of the Turtle,” and “ “The View from Lazy Point.”