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CARL SAFINA: All right, well, we're
going to talk about basically the subtitle of this book.
This book came out two days ago, so it's brand new.
And we're going to start in a kind of familiar place.
Many of us have animals at home, and we've often asked ourselves
these questions, right?
How many people have asked themselves
if their cat or dog really loves them, or just
wants food, or whatever, right?
That's pretty common.
And we think, well, it's impossible to know.
But is it really?
Is it really impossible to know what's
going on in the mind and the heart of our pets?
Well, in a way, no and in a way, yes.
What's really going on in those minds is the question.
Another question is-- it's not showing up very well
there-- how are they like us?
But I don't like that question so much.
It's an inescapable question because they
are in many ways like us.
But when we say, how are they like us,
we put the attention back on us.
And us is our favorite story.
We like to talk about ourselves.
And what we're really supposed to be doing here
is asking, how are they like us or not?
Who are we here on Earth with is really the point.
And what is going on in these minds that
are our co-voyagers on planet Earth?
Is there any way to get into the mind
of an elephant, for instance, or any other kind of creature?
Well, I think there are actually several really good ways
of seeing in.
You can look at their brain and their mind.
You can look at their body, at the logic of their behavior,
at their evolution.
So the first thing is if we're interested in minds
is to know where is the mind?
In many parts of human history, people
have thought the mind is in the heart or the mind
is in the soul.
The mind is a disembodied spirit that
is our eternal presence in the universe, all
these different kinds of things.
So first of all, where is the mind?
And a hint is that if you have a heart surgery,
it's not going to damage your mind.
But if you have brain surgery and something goes wrong,
it's going to damage your mind.
Your mind comes from your brain.
The mind is in the brain.
And we might say, oh, we have no idea if animals
are experiencing anything.
But we use their experience all the time.
For instance, if we want to know if cosmetics
are going to sting us, we test them on the eyes of rabbits
to see if they sting the rabbit.
So if they sting the rabbits, the rabbits
are having exactly the same experience
of pain, the sensation of stinging, as people have.
When dogs are depressed, or if dogs
have obsessive-compulsive disorder,
they respond to the same drugs in the same way
that we give to people-- antidepressant drugs.
Because the part of the brain that gets depressed
and the chemicals that create depression
or obsessive-compulsive disorders are exactly the same.
They're not experiencing an analogous problem.
They're having the same problem in the brain of a dog.
Or even as low as down below vertebrates
on the evolutionary timescale, or before vertebrates,
something like a crayfish, you can
make crayfish develop anxiety by giving them
little electrical shocks and making
them feel nervous and tense.
And so they retreat into their burrows.
They stop exploring.
They won't eat.
You give them the same anti-anxiety drugs
that work on people, the crayfish relaxes,
comes out of its burrow, and starts exploring again.
So these are ways we can manipulate minds
with different kinds of tests and drugs
to see if they respond the same way ours do.
And that's a good way in.
Now you can say, well, we can see brains,
but we can't see the mind.
And that, in a sense, is a fair enough statement.
I mean, it's true, right?
But I can't see your mind.
You can't see my mind.
It's always true.
But where is our mind from?
Where is the human mind from?
The human mind is from the minds of non-humans
that were here before us.
When evolution created-- in a sense-- humanity,
humanity evolved from something.
We had to use the parts that were already in stock
and make a few tweaks.
And the parts that were in stock are the highly developed brains
of the other mammals from which we evolved.
So if you look at a mouse brain, and you look at a human brain,
it's a very similar, very recognizable kind of thing.
The human brain looks different.
It's got lots of convolutions in the forebrain.
That's where a lot of thinking happens
in humans-- human thinking.
If you compare our brain with a chimpanzee brain,
you see basically that we are apes,
so it's not too surprising that the human brain is basically
a very big chimpanzee brain.
So it's not logical to think that the human brain only
does things that only humans do and nothing that
happens in any other brain.
It's just completely illogical.
We're all very insecure, we human beings.
We can soothe our insecurity with the thought
that at least we have the biggest brain, right?
Except, uh-oh, there's a dolphin brand.
It's not only much bigger.
It has way more convolutions than ours.
It's doing something with all of those neurons
and all of those networked connections.
We can see the working of the mind
in the logic of behaviors of other animals, the fact
that their responses and emotions make sense to us.
We don't see-- well, we'll go through a few, OK.
We say these albatrosses here, they're dancing in courtship.
And why do we say they're dancing in courtship?
Because that's a very recognizable thing.
It happens at the same time that humans dance in courtship.
It's something that we do, pre-bonding and pre-mating--
same with them.
We look at elephants like this.
Now, elephants don't do this if they're surrounded
by all kinds of dangers.
And they don't do this if they're famished.
They do this if everything is cool and nice,
and they're relaxed.
And the parents are still a little bit on guard
while they let the babies lie down and not worry
That totally makes sense to us, and it's totally
appropriate to the situation.
So we can tell by the logic of their behavior, something about
what's going on in their minds.
They are protective and parental,
like we are protective and parental,
whether they are humans or elephants or mammals in water.
The differences between us are mostly the outer contours
and a few internal tweaks.
So one analysis is only humans have human skeletons.
But it's not true that only humans have skeletons.
And only humans have human minds,
but it's not true that only humans have minds.
When help is needed, help is provided.
They're not trying to eat their baby.
They're trying to help it to its feet.
I love this picture.
This is the cover of the book, actually.
That's a newborn elephant that has never stood up before.
And its mother and two cousins are helping it
to its feet for the first time.
When animals are very young, they're very curious.
They don't know what things like egrets are.
They check everything out, because they
have to learn what's in their environment.
And many animals have to learn just about everything.
Baby elephants don't even know that lions are dangerous.
They have to be taught by their parents
and by example that lions are dangerous, that bees can sting
you, and these kinds of things.
But when we're young, we do lots and lots of exploring.
And as we get a little older, and we
know what's going on in our environment,
and what we have to do, we tend to be less playful than when
we were children.
We tend to do less exploring.
You can see that in others.
And when something goes wrong, or something
might be dangerous, you see a very different set
And you see them paying attention
in very different ways.
When it's time to relax and have fun,
they relax, and they have fun.
Now, no one would look at this and say,
I have no idea if the baby is frightened out of its mind,
It's not what you'd say.
You can see that they're just having
a nice time in the water.
And that not all of their behaviors
are driven by the need to survive in the next minute,
that there are other things that help us to survive.
A lot of these deep motivations like love and like bonding,
these things, we don't just do it in the minute it's needed.
We develop relationships before these things
need to come into play.
So the love and bonding of family members
is something that provides ongoing benefits in many ways.
But we don't think, OK, let's see,
I'm going to get ongoing benefits in many ways,
so I better love my siblings, and my parents,
and my family members.
That's just not how our minds are equipped.
We just feel these motivations, and then they
do what they are supposed to do, what they're evolved to do.
Albatrosses have these bonds and maintain these pair bonds
in ways that are a bit unusual among birds, actually
even a bit unusual among mammals.
Because their pair bonds are very, very long-lasting.
They can live many decades in the wild.
They mate with the same mate every year.
And if a mate dies, it usually takes them two or three
years to court and re-mate.
So you see the deep maintenance of these bonds in them In a way
that I find quite touching and really quite beautiful.
All right, there are other things that are unexpected,
Only unexpected because our assumption
and what we've been taught is that animals
have very, very simple minds, and they're not
really aware of much.
And they just do things without thinking about it,
without feeling about it.
But it turns out that if you broadcast the recorded
conversations of tourists, farmers who farm away
from where the elephants live, and pastoralist herders who
walk around with spears and get into trouble with elephants
around water holes, and fairly frequently hurt the elephants,
that the elephants ignore the conversations of the tourists.
They ignore the conversations of the farmers.
And when they hear the conversations
of the herders broadcast out of hidden speakers,
they react with alarm.
The family bunches up, and they run away.
They can actually tell the difference
between human languages.
And they know which ones are dangerous to them.
They react exactly the same way to clothes
that are worn by those three different groups, that
are placed on trails where elephants can encounter them.
And that's been shown with experiments.
So let's get a little bit deeper into a question here
that is fundamental, which is, can animals think?
Well, first of all, the shortest answer is, of course.
Because humans are animals.
And human thinking is animal thinking.
But another thing is, we need much better definitions
of these words that we tend to use.
So what do you mean by think is the first question that you
What do you mean by grieve?
What do you mean by empathy, and all these questions that
are discussed with different animals.
Thinking is the processing of information
that's coming in through the senses in ways
that help you make decisions.
So a jaguar that is trying to sneak up
on a tapir or a peccary, a wild pig, is thinking.
He's making calculations.
They know that the intended prey will run away
if it detects them, and it is trying to sneak up on it.
So that's thinking.
Somebody who is aiming an arrow at a target is thinking.
And somebody who is entertaining a proposal of marriage
should be thinking, although perhaps not always.
Consciousness is another thing that the definitions
are all over the map.
And some people think that consciousness means
that you can plan years ahead.
And consciousness means these complicated things
that-- I don't really think that that's what it means.
Because if you are given total anesthesia,
the difference between conscious and not conscious
is induced by the anesthesia.
Consciousness means you're experiencing sensations.
It's the thing that feels like something.
That's what consciousness is.
So a motion sensor senses, but it
doesn't experience sensations.
Dogs playing on the beach experience sensations.
That's the difference between an unconscious reaction
I think consciousness comes into play in evolution
at the level where animals need to make decisions about things.
So if you simply cut your leg, that's just a physical thing.
And lots of unconscious processes
start happening immediately and automatically.
The blood starts clotting.
The cells begin to heal the cut.
The immune system kicks in to prevent infection.
So those are physical things if you cut your leg.
But if your leg hurts when you cut it,
then you know you're conscious.
So that's just consciousness.
There are, in a sense-- now this is just something
that I made up to try to tease out different aspects
of consciousness-- these four interrelated
processes of consciousness.
We detect the world through our senses.
We get information in.
Then if we think about that information,
if we evaluate that information, that is thinking.
If we just have an emotional response to the information,
If it changes our mood to see something--
we may see something that frightens us.
We may see something that makes us jealous.
And then these moods or these thoughts
give us motivations and urges to act.
Empathy is often talked about as something
that is uniquely human.
And when you are trying to write a book about what
animals think and feel, you read a lot about humans.
And you come across constant claims
about what makes us human and what things are uniquely human.
And most of them are wrong.
One of the things that supposedly makes
us uniquely human is empathy.
Well, empathy is the ability to feel with your companions
and to match their moods.
If you get scared, I get scared.
You feel and look sad, I get sad or concerned.
It means your mind is able to match
the mood of your companions.
This is not something new that just
started when people arrived, and suddenly, here I
am, a human being, suddenly, oh, empathy.
The oldest form of empathy is something really important
and really basic, which is, if you're with companions,
and one of them is suddenly startled and frightened,
you cannot wait around saying, wow, what got into you?
Why did you just run away?
Why is that?
Because the predator will nail you.
So empathy and the mind's ability
to match moods instantly with companions
is something very, very old.
And the oldest kind of empathy is
called contagious fear or fear contagion.
There are different kinds of empathetic responses.
Contagious yawning is the weirdest one,
because I don't even know what yawning is.
I don't think anybody even knows what yawning is.
And yet, it's contagious.
It's very strange.
And I think you can tease out different kinds of empathy
So there's basic empathy-- feeling with another.
You match moods.
A little bit away from that, and a little distant from that
is what I call sympathy.
You say, oh, my grandmother died.
I don't know your grandmother.
It doesn't make me sad to know your grandmother died.
But it makes me a little sad to know that that makes you sad.
So that's a kind of empathy I call sympathy.
And then if you see something happening,
and you are moved to act, I call that kind
of empathy compassion.
It's like sympathy and the urge to help.
And the motivation to help and do something
is what I call compassion.
So you see somebody who's homeless,
and you want to buy them a sandwich.
Or you want to sign a petition to save the whales,
or anything like that, where your mood is affected,
and you are urged to act.
That I call compassion.
Human empathy is far, far from perfect.
This thing, we like to exalt ourselves
and say, oh, we're the most empathetic.
Well, maybe and maybe not all the time.
So on the left there is a bunch of dogs bundled up
in a cage for a dog-eating festival in China recently.
And on the right-- I'm not sure how well you can see that--
but that is a man in a cage in Indonesia.
He is a Burmese man.
He is a slave.
This was a picture taken this past March
when hundreds of Burmese slaves were found being forced
to work on Thai fishing boats.
Buy shrimp that has been wild-caught in Thailand,
chances are pretty good that slaves have caught it,
because human empathy is not really so great all the time.
A thing that I find interesting is
that people who know essentially nothing about the science
of animal behavior know one thing,
and that is, you should never use anthropomorphism.
Everybody knows this tricky word, anthropomorphism,
which is projecting human thoughts and emotions.
In the behavioral sciences, doing such a thing,
and attributing human thoughts and emotions to animals,
has been for a few decades, a total career killer.
It's absolutely not allowed in academia.
And journalists write about this all the time.
And journalists try to be very professional by saying,
oh, we can't anthropomorphize the animals.
But since their minds and their imperatives
are very similar to ours because we came from what they have,
I think it's actually a very helpful first step.
And then if you know a little bit something about animals,
you're not likely to make many mistakes.
For instance, these two elephants
are consorting, right?
That's a male on the right and a female on the left.
Actually, the female had a baby just as the book
was going to the publisher.
And if you saw them, and you were really projecting,
you might say, oh, look at them.
They're in love.
But if you talk to any elephant researcher,
it's well-known that elephants actually
don't have romantic love.
They do find sex very exciting, and that is very obvious.
This one in the front has just made it and run back
to her family.
Her facial glands-- they have glands on their faces,
kind of like we have glands in our armpits.
And when they get very emotional about anything, when they're
happy or frightened, at a heightened emotion,
those glands stream.
So she's just made it.
Her family is reassuring her.
And they're sniffing her, and they're checking her out.
But there's no pair bond between her and the male.
The male provides no parental care.
So it is obvious that they do find sex thrilling,
but sex for them is not always coupled with romantic love.
I don't know if that sounds familiar to any of you,
but I'm not going to ask, OK?
So the main thing that evolution shows is that life
is on one continuum.
There are no sharp breaks.
Everything that we see in people,
we see the beginnings of in other animals.
Some things that we see in people, we
see other animals that have it far, far better developed.
Many other animals have superhuman response times,
superhuman strength, superhuman homing abilities,
things like that that we just don't have.
And we have some things that they don't have.
But it's all on a continuum.
All the way back to worms, the chemicals
that worms make that create mood and motivation
are some of the same chemicals that create mood
and motivation in human brains.
Even plants make some of those chemicals.
And it's unclear whether any plants actually
have any sensations at all.
They don't have a nervous system like animals do,
so there's some speculation on that.
And many people say no, and some people say, yes, probably.
But especially among animals, there are no sharp breaks.
So we recognize when an animal looks hungry or thirsty,
we say, oh, it's hungry and thirsty or it's tired.
And then when they're happy, we say, oh, we
have no way of knowing.
This is the science of animal behavior.
And actually, that is just not scientific.
It's really a bias.
So denying that they have thoughts and feelings
helps us to retell our own favorite story.
What is our favorite story, do you think?
Who wants to take a guess at this?
AUDIENCE: Animals are here for us to use.
CARL SAFINA: That's one of our main stories.
It's not our favorite story that I was thinking of.
AUDIENCE: We're the endpoint and the goal of evolution.
CARL SAFINA: We're the endpoint of evolution,
the goal of evolution.
And we are absolutely special and absolutely different
and better than everything else.
And part of the reason we tell ourselves
that story is so we can think that all animals are here
for us to use, which makes it easier
to make decisions about what we're going to do to them.
So those two things combined, I think, help reinforce us.
It just makes it easier for us to continue to think
and believe those things.
What about love?
Do animals feel love?
This is a baby humpback whale, a nursing age humpback
whale that washed up in East Hampton a couple of summers
And the night that that whale washed up,
the lighthouse keeper at Montauk,
15 miles away, said that she heard
incredibly mournful sounding whale sounds coming
from the ocean all night.
And she said, nobody would believe me if I told you that.
But I mean, she is the lighthouse keeper
at Montauk Point.
So I do believe her.
It sounded like there was a whale out there
looking for its lost baby.
So what do we mean by this word love?
Here's another definitional problem for us, right?
Many of us would say that we love our parents.
We would say that we love our children.
We also say we love that movie.
We love ice cream.
We love having a glass of wine before bed.
Some people love fighting.
So if we use that word, that word that's
so important, if we use that word to cover
all kinds of things that we like-- I love ice cream-- then
it is clear and inescapable that animals love.
Animals that care for one another, your pets that
have a relationship with you and seek contact and comfort
from you, that that is love.
It may not be exactly the same kind of love
that you feel when you talk about how
you love your spouse, or your lover, or your children.
But the way you love your spouse is not
the same exact way that your spouse loves you, right?
So love is not all one thing.
And I think we can safely say that animals do often--
those animals that really experience
these social bonds and these protective bonds-- experience
Now, this guy here, that elephant on the right, his name
And he's a 15-year-old juvenile male in Kenya.
And that's the last photograph taken of him,
because four days later, that was him
on the lower right with a bullet hole in his brain.
Elephants are maybe the most famous animals with regard
to their responsive grief.
When an elephant goes down, the family always rushes to it
and tries to lift it and aid it.
And if an elephant dies, family and friends
hang around, often for days, and will revisit the bones,
often for years.
And when they revisit the bones, they usually
touch the parts that they knew best in life--
the tusks, if there are any tusks left, the teeth.
Because when elephants greet, they usually greet in a trunk
to mouth greeting.
It's kind of a combination handshake, hug, and kiss
that they do with their trunk.
Grief is something that I've noticed and read about,
not only in elephants, where it's really
pretty well-known and well-documented, but in wolves.
A researcher told me about a female wolf
whose mate had died.
And she had pups that were less than a year old.
And she immediately left.
She left her pups.
It was winter.
She went on a two-week trip on the highest, bleakest parts
of Yellowstone National Park, where
there were no tracks of prey.
There was nothing she was doing there.
She was just wandering, kind of aimlessly.
And two weeks later, she came back,
and she rejoined those pups.
This sounds silly, but it was very interesting to me.
I had a pair of ducks, and these ducks were inseparable.
We had two ducks and four chickens.
They were inseparable.
And the drake died.
And the female spent weeks wandering around the yard,
quacking, and calling, and looking,
and calling, and looking.
And you could really see that she
was taking a lot of time out of her normal routine.
It wasn't her normal routine at all.
She wasn't eating in the same way.
She wasn't going to the same spots
and resting in the same way.
And a woman named Barbara J. King,
who wrote a book on grief, provided
I think a very helpful definition of that word, which
is that grief happens when a companion is lost,
and the individuals who have lost the companion change
They go off their feed.
They look around.
They're trying to find the companion, that that's grief.
And that's pretty much what we do.
And our grief takes different forms also.
For some of us, we might miss a day or two of work,
and then we're kind of back to it.
Go to the wake and come back.
And others of us, our entire lives
are upended and never really the same.
It's similar to other families of animals that I've seen,
families of wolves, and families of elephants,
where if something happens to the adults, they get shot.
They die really prematurely.
The whole trajectory of the family is changed forever.
We don't really tend to know these things
because watching animals and knowing them is very, very new.
The first people who ever systematically watched
wild animal behavior are still alive-- Jane Goodall,
and Cynthia Moss, and one or two other people
who've been doing that for about 40 years, since the 1960s.
That's as far back as we go to understand anything
about the family lives of individuals.
And they can tell you, I've known
that elephant for 40 years.
I knew who her mother was.
I know what happened to her sisters,
I know what she did during the last drought
to keep the family alive.
It's really incredible, but it's not
something that has seeped deep down
into general human knowledge.
All right, this I mentioned.
There's a lot of grief in the world
in and around elephants nowadays.
That woman is Daphne Sheldrick, and she
runs the very famous elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.
Kenya is only one country in Africa,
and that's only one orphanage.
And they're constantly besieged right now
by orphans because there's this war against elephants,
really, going on.
I mean, it's basically an extermination campaign going on
because of how out of control the ivory
market has gotten again.
But she will tell you, as she told me, that an elephant can
actually die of grief.
And many of these young elephants
who've watched their families in the turmoil of getting
demolished, come in very, very traumatized
and take many months to settle down,
and then years to try to repatriate them
in these not very natural artificial families
that they are creating back in the wild.
I had the extreme good fortune of being
allowed to go out with them on these walks every day.
They take these little orphan baby elephants,
let them out of their pens in the morning.
They know the keepers very well.
They bond with each other and with the keepers, and they
And in a few minutes, you're in the bush.
You can't see them most of the time.
You can kind of hear them.
If the keeper wants them to go somewhere else,
we're going to go down this hill now, they just call.
All the babies come out of the bush.
They follow them down.
And it's really moving to see and feel the capacity
that these creatures have.
And just because we're just discovering it,
doesn't at all mean it's new.
It's not at all new.
It's many, many millions of years old.
And it's the lives that they have
and the vivid lives that they lead.
And as I mentioned, nowadays, all these elephants literally
have a price on their head.
It's very, very remarkable that this guy-- his name
is Tim-- that he is still alive.
Around Roman times, when Europeans first
took an interest in ivory, elephants
lived everywhere from the Mediterranean
to the bottom of the Cape of Good Hope,
except for the bleakest parts of the Sahara Desert.
The African elephant covered all of Africa.
And you can see how its range has shrunken since 1980
and is just fracturing into splinters now.
That is the geography of an animal
that we are driving to total extinction.
In another part of my travels for the book,
I went to Yellowstone Park to look at wolves.
Wolves are really, really incredible animals.
They're very, very much like us.
They live in family groups with a breeding pair
and the youngsters of several different ages,
usually one to three years old.
And then after that, the youngsters
leave and try to find and establish their own packs.
These two adults from one of the main
packs-- this one was a really, really famous wolf.
Lots and lots of people watched her and photographed her.
And she was very well-known.
They left the park and were almost immediately shot.
And their whole family kind of fell apart.
The alpha male was left with no mate.
That guy on the top right was his brother.
Basically, his hunting companions
and the ones who held down the territory were gone.
He had no mate.
Two new males came in.
He lost his family, basically.
And then this daughter, who was the most precocious one
in the pack, got ganged up on by these two
sisters, who wanted to be the mates of the two new males.
And they forcibly ejected her from her own family
permanently and wouldn't let her back in.
Now, I knew that wolves live in packs.
And I knew that the packs were families-- that I knew.
And I knew that, in that way, they were a lot like us.
But what I had no idea about was the turmoil
that would happen in the family when something happened
to the parents-- the coalitions, the vendettas, the politics.
It was really all too human.
So that one that got run out, she had to eventually leave
the park, and she got shot.
And this guy, who was the alpha male,
the breeding male that lost everything--
he lost his family, he lost his mate, he lost his territory,
and it was winter, and he was not young-- he, incredibly
enough, against all odds, he is still alive.
That's him sitting on a rock.
He had just been calling to another female
that he was trying to draw out of another pack
to try to take her as his mate and start a new pack.
So anyway, that was him when I was there, and this is him now.
And he's still alive, which I think
is quite remark-- it makes me feel really good
that he survived.
We like survival stories.
What do you think that is?
AUDIENCE: A dog?
CARL SAFINA: You think it's a dog.
Who thinks it's a dog?
Who thinks it's a wolf?
All right some dogs, some wolves.
Well, it's a full-blooded wolf.
And an interesting thing about dogs
is that before people understood evolution,
but they started applying Latin names to animals,
the dogs were called Canis familiaris, the familiar canid.
And wolves were Canis lupus.
But now we know enough about their genetics
to realize that dogs are so minutely differentiated
from their wolf ancestors, that their Latin name
got changed back to wolf.
So the dog's Latin name is now Canis lupus-- wolf--
So it's a wolf, but it's our wolf.
Domestication doesn't mean a tame, wild animal in captivity.
It means an animal or a plant genetically changed
from its wild type.
Almost all animals that are domesticated
are domesticated for tameness first.
And it turns out, weirdly, that the same genes that
make animals tame and tractable also
create certain similar physical changes.
They create floppy ears, blotchy-colored coats,
coats of different textures, curled
tails, passive personalities.
The same genes, not a suite of different genes.
So dogs show a lot of that.
Farm animals show a lot of that.
Who else shows some of that?
CARL SAFINA: Foxes.
Well, that gets to an interesting story,
which is that most of this stuff that's
known about what's called domestication syndrome
is known because of a 40-year experiment with foxes
done in Russia, where they selected them only
The ones that were tame and friendly, they let breed.
And the ones that weren't, they basically killed.
After a few generations, they got tame foxes
that wag their tails, seek their humans,
and have floppy ears, blotchy coats, and curly tails.
These are hand raised wolves.
They act remarkably like dogs.
They have not been bred for 10,000 years around people.
These are our wolves at home, our two wolves.
They're not fighting, they're playing.
They're good friends.
Other aspects of domestication include a lot of sex
outside the breeding season that does not
result in offspring, passive behavior, conformity,
reduced brain size, and neoteny.
Neoteny means you carry juvenile traits way into maturity,
That's what it means.
So, can anybody think of any other animal
that does all of this?
CARL SAFINA: Humans.
Now, why would humans have those traits?
If you look at the bottom thing there, farm animals,
we brought animals onto farms to live a passive, settled
crowded life, and be able to conform and get used to it
and do OK there.
And we inadvertently had to do exactly the same thing
So in the process of domesticating animals,
we slightly, at least, domesticated ourselves.
We are also like big juveniles, many
of us, as you can clearly see by all the themed
sections of this building.
In the interest of time, and because we stopped late,
I think I'm going to stop there.
Because I really want to have some discussion and some
So I think I said we stopped late.
We started late.
So I'm going to just stop right there.
And anybody have any questions about animals?
Animal thinking, animal emotions,
objections to anything I said?
We can just take it all on.
AUDIENCE: I wanted to know your opinion about studies where
scientists assess animal intelligence
and give equivalents, like, oh, a dog's
equivalent to a three-year-old, like an octopus is
equivalent to an eight-year-old.
What's your opinion on that?
CARL SAFINA: Yeah, what's my opinion of studies
that equate the intelligence of animals
with humans at certain ages.
Well, in a way, they're interesting.
And in a way, they're the wrong question.
And I came to see that it's the wrong question because I
asked Cynthia Moss, who has been studying elephants
for 40 years.
This, I thought, was the big question.
I said, what has watching elephants for 40 years taught
you about human nature?
And I thought that was a really deep question,
and it was going to be so interesting to talk about.
And she said, I'm not really interested in that.
I'm interested in elephants.
I want to learn about elephants.
Comparing an elephant or a raven's performance on a puzzle
to a human toddler doesn't interest me at all.
And I was very taken aback by that.
I also felt kind of stupid for asking that question,
considering her response.
And I thought about that.
It took me a few days for me to really do a full mental reset
on that question.
The problem with comparing a raven
to a toddler or the communication
ability of a chimpanzee to a small child
is not that it tells you nothing,
but that it doesn't ask the question that
lets you get the full answer.
It's always about us.
Tell me, what could you learn about the ability of a raven
to solve a puzzle by comparing it with a child?
You learn, again, that humans are better
at solving puzzles than ravens.
But you don't really learn a lot about what
ravens do in their complicated, vivid lives
that they lead among their friends and their rivals
in familiar territories, how they seek status, how
their status gets deposed over the course of their life, how
their life follows the arc of a career.
You don't learn any of that about them
by comparing them to a three-year-old.
So the whole question of what intelligence
is, is a very fraught definitional
question anyway, because there are just
different kinds of capacities.
And usually with humans, we think
of intelligence, more or less, as the ability
to solve novel problems.
And many humans have a pretty good ability
to solve novel problems.
But who was more intelligent, Henry Ford or Pablo Picasso?
Does intelligence mean anything at most levels
of performance and existence?
And many animals do things that we can't do at all.
But if we can do anything, we give ourselves
an enormous amount of credit.
Like we have the ability to learn music,
for instance, just to think of one thing off
the top of my head.
We can learn music, and we can learn how to play instruments
that other people have invented for us to play and make music.
We just have a musical ability.
We don't have such a great homing ability.
We can't home for thousands of miles
across open ocean just based on our perception
of the Earth's magnetic field, and things like that.
So fish and birds that can do that, we just discount that.
We don't say, oh, my god, they're brilliant at this.
They are geniuses compared to us.
We never say that.
We just say, oh, who cares?
Well, we can play an instrument, or we
can solve a problem, or something like that.
There have been experiments done with ravens,
with certain kinds of puzzles, where the ravens can figure it
And dogs and toddlers are left, in the words of one researcher,
"not even realizing there was a puzzle to solve."
So to me, it just isn't really all about us,
and it's not all about now.
And we have to get outside of ourselves.
Every time, we're always looking at the world
through our eyes, which of course is
the normal starting place.
But when you look from the inside out,
you only can see an inside out world.
When you can get outside yourself,
like the famous iconic first photograph
of Earth from space orbit, you get a different perspective.
And what I've really tried to do in my work, in my thinking,