From Publishers Weekly
This study of the abilities of all sorts of creatures to sense and interact with the world will leave many readers impressed and at least buffeted, if not convinced, by the author's passionate approach. Cambridge University scientist Ford (Images of Science; Microbe Power) has in effect written two books at once. The first surveys many species' social, cognitive and sensory powers. The second is a call for eco-awareness and for animalAand plant and microbeArights: "All animals and plants sense their surroundings, and thus they all have feelings." A chapter on mammals' mental processes explains how mole rats search and socialize underground, how primates learn to use medicinal plants and how prairie dog colonies learn from experience. Turning to avians, Ford covers birdsong, echolocation and gulls' mating postures. Later chapters deal with reactive abilities among flora and protozoa. A fertilized ovum, like any single-celled organism, Ford suggests, has "its own sense"; as to whether the cell is self-aware, "we know too little... to decide." Ford's practical suggestions for reducing cruelty (e.g., vets should use soft tables) are useful. Most lay readers will admire his fascinating survey of creaturely powers and may be sympathetic to his call to "value the global network of all plants and animals, and react to their presence with respect." But though it trails a dazzling set of facts, Ford's call for "a new vitalism" seems less scientific (or philosophical) than quasi-religiousAand it's unevenly argued, though deeply felt. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"How poorly we appreciate the finely tuned senses of the other organisms who share the planet." With these words, Ford, the author of many books of popular science, sets out to demonstrate that a belief in the sensory behavior and lives of "lower" (read: not human) forms of life is necessary to a full understanding of those lives. Eschewing the mechanistic approach that he sees in the emphasis on molecular biology in today's science, the author feels that only the holistic view of organismal biology will help us to understand the interactions that produce life on a global scale. By examining the senses and behavior of life-forms ranging from Volvax (an alga) to bower birds and such interconnections as how the welfare of farm animals can directly influence the outbreak of new diseases among humans, the author lends credence to his contention that we are surrounded by animals and plants reacting to and making sense of the world. Ford argues his thesis well in a book that is recommended for large natural-history collections. Nancy BentCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved