The Science of Imagination

The blog that leaves nothing to the imagination.

Should We View Animals As Humanlike?

People will often attribute minds and mental states to things that aren't people. It seems silly to believe that storms actually are angry, but what about when we attribute something like jealousy to a dog? Read More

Some people go too far

and others not far enough. The idea that animals "can't feel pain" is so absurdly obtuse that it's hard to imagine anyone believing it. Yes, the dog yelps and limps and tries to bite the thorn out of its paw just as a show for humans, not because it actually feels pain. OF COURSE animals feel pain, they have a nervous system very similar to ours, and the whole point is that avoidance of pain is a survival mechanism.

Some people do go too far, however, and start attributing human emotions to animals unlikely to have them. Social creatures are going to have more in common with humans than solitary ones. Read the comments that follow a youtube video of animals, and it becomes clear that lots of people haven't got a clue what they are seeing in animal behavior. Cattle, for example, will leave all the calves with a couple of "baby sitter" cattle while the rest go off to graze. This is readily observable. People who think animals are stupid won't believe this. People who think animals are people will start assigning all sorts of nonsense to the same behavior that is based on their own emotions.

Yes, we should

But it depends on to what extent you are attempting to portray.

You only had to visit with animal scientists, veterinarians and all other professions in animal care and welfare to learn how animals have emotions, feel pain, use their instincts, and a host of other aspects that we humans SHARE with them. You only had to ask people who live with animals and work with animals their entire lives, to answer your questions. Those who would deny that animals feel emotions and suffer pain and use their instincts to survive, are of the lowest animal species ever, that of the human being, who usually has not regard for life other than their own. Just take one moment to reflect on the advances we've made regarding care and welfare of animals, whether they are agriculture, or pets. Humans are evolving (albeit too slowly) to finally respect other species and appreciate them for the behaviors and aspects that we as humans could never possess.

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Jim Davies, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Science Imagination Laboratory at Carleton University.

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