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Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals (MacSci) 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0230613621
ISBN-10: 0230613624
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Who knew that chickens and humans find the same faces beautiful? Or that fish choose reliable partners for dangerous predator inspection missions? Referencing such intriguing studies, Balcombe (Pleasurable Kingdom) builds a compelling case for blurring the line between animal and human perception, thereby questioning the prevailing scientific orthodoxy that humans alone possess the ability to reason. Over the years, studies have shown that animals have intelligence (dolphins have been known to teach themselves to delay gratification to get extra treats), emotions (like humans, baboon mothers show elevated levels of glucocorticoids after losing an infant), cunning (gorillas divert the attention of rivals from food, often by grooming); that they can communicate (nuthatches can translate chickadee chirps), can be altruistic (chimps who know how to unlatch a door help those who can't). Yet philosophers have routinely dismissed animals as unthinking, unfeeling beasts—Descartes grouped non-human animals with machines, a line of logic that has been used to justify callous treatment of laboratory animals. Balcombe's brief, marred only slightly by sermonizing, builds to a passionate and persuasive argument for vegetarianism on both humanitarian and environmental grounds. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Ethologist and author (Pleasurable Kingdom, 2006) Balcombe discusses the broad range of animal experience in this new examination of how animals view the world. As famous South African novelist J. M. Coetzee asks in his foreward, why should the onus fall on animals, whatever their species, to prove that they are sentient? Balcombe answers this question by showing, through a broad-ranging review of both the scientific and philosophic literature, that animals think and feel, that they are sentient and show morality, and that we can no longer treat animals cruelly and carelessly. By examining animal intelligence, perception, and awareness in the first section of the book, the author brings readers into the animals’ experience and helps create appreciation for that experience. In the second section, Balcombe focuses on animal interactions and sociality, demonstrating the sophistication of communication in animals and their resulting emotions and morality. Finally, the author focuses on human coexistence with other animals and his views about how we need to change our treatment of these other sentient beings. Graceful prose makes this an excellent introduction to the examination of animal minds. --Nancy Bent
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Product Details

  • Series: MacSci
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230613624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230613621
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,360,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill Schatz on March 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For most of the twentieth century, scientists avoided questions about how animals might feel and what they might think. They wanted to be viewed as objective in their study of animals and not use terms laden with human meaning. This led many to a view of non-human animals as being without emotions or thinking, and guided solely by reflex, instinct, and trial-and-error learning. But beginning with the work of pioneers such as Jane Goodall and Donald Griffin, scientists have discovered great surprises about how animals socialize, communicate, and think. As Jonathan Balcombe describes in his new book Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals, no longer is it viewed as heresy for researchers to examine such aspects as reason, culture, and even moral awareness in animals. His book documents that researchers around the world have found more thought and feeling in animals than humans have ever imagined.

Second Nature gives us an understanding of the complex ways in which animals perceive and react with other animals and the environment. It starts out looking at animal senses, and shows how in many cases animals not only have sharper senses than we do, they often have full senses that we don't have. Birds can sense magnetism. Some fish can both make and sense electricity, and use it to perceive what is near them. Bats can make sounds far out of our hearing range, and use this to "see" flying insects similar to how we use light to see. What do these senses feel like to these animals?

From here, Balcombe goes on to look at animal intelligence, and this is where the book begins to get really fun. There is a section looking at fish--animals that many people have prejudged to be lower animals, cold-blooded and machine-like.
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Format: Hardcover
I remember as a child eating meat products with names like `jellied veal', `liver-sausage', `corned beef', `hazlet', `ox-tail soup' and `tongue'. They were just labels at the time, for things I put in my mouth. Only much later would I associate them with animals.

Now, reading Jonathan Balcombe's new book `Second Nature - The Inner Lives of Animals' I'm asking myself why it took so long to make that rather obvious connection. In fact, it's got me thinking about a whole host of issues related to how we as a species perceive and treat other animals - nonhuman beings as Balcombe prefers to call them. For the issues Second Nature addresses have as much to do with human morality and ethics as they do with animal behaviour.

Balcombe wants to open our eyes to the possibility of accepting animals as fellow sentient beings, with feelings and emotions as real to them as ours are to us; beings with lives that are pleasurable and worth living for their own sake; lives worthy of sensitivity and respect. As Balcombe puts it: "My chief aim in this book is to close the gap between human beings and animals - by helping us understand the animal experience, and by elevating animals from their lowly status."

He begins by setting out the evidence for animal sentience, emotion and feeling, then discusses the implications this has for human attitudes and actions.

Part I summarises the findings of numerous field and laboratory studies that demonstrate a range of animal capabilities, experiences and sensitivities we usually associate more with people. Part II is a description of how animals use these qualities to interact and communicate between themselves and with other species, including man.
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Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Balcombe is a reputable scientist with a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior. He has authored over 40 scientific papers (peer-reviewed by leaders in the field of Ethology), in addition to several books. His life's work has centered on the education of laypersons (and fellow scientists) by presenting research documenting that animals have perceptions, intelligence, emotions, awareness, and social skills that were considered impossible just a few decades ago. In his most recent book, Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals, Balcombe discusses recent scientific findings as he delves into the innermost lives of animals and how they react to one another, to other animal species (including humans), and to specific circumstances they encounter. He cites well-documented studies confirming that many animal species are capable of showing consideration to one another, can distinguish between fairness and unfairness, perform acts of kindness to one another, and can reason and solve problems revealing an astounding intelligence.

Evidence that chimpanzees can outscore humans on short-term memory tests, and that they even possess a degree of photographic memory is remarkable. Just as remarkable is the interspecies communication between gecko lizards and planthopper insects. And, Balcombe does not leave out the lower vertebrates by documenting that certain fishes feel and show mental and emotional responses once considered highly improbable for that group. Numerous examples are well-documented by Balcombe as he cites studies published in such reputable scientific journals as Science, Nature, New Scientist, Animal Behaviour, Ethology, Neuron, American Zoologist, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Comparative Psychology, as well as many others. His bibliography is impressive.

This book should be owned and read by all those who love, befriend, and defend animals.
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