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How Animals are Smarter Than We Think: Real Life Lessons


That question is the title of a new book by primatologist and bestselling author Frans de Waal. It’s a must-read for fans of writers who open new vistas into how we see ourselves and our place in nature.

Are animals smart… and are we smart enough to know how smart they are…?

Are animals smarter than we think? And Are We Smart Enough To Know How Smart Animals Are?

By David Stone

for Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

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Catchy titles, as every good publisher knows, sell books.

With competition intense, an immediate attention grabber gets you ahead of the crowd. But the science of title creation surpasses that of book writing.

The contents often have a hard time keeping up with the few words that decorate the spine.

With Frans de Waal, that’s never an issue. If anything, he has a habit of making his case so fully that he delivers more than you need.

In his earlier The Age of Empathy, de Waal convinced me before I was halfway through, but he’s such an engaging writer I still enjoyed reading on

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In Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? he takes a giant step away from traditional science’s dismissal of other species as not being up to human standards.

Some scientists stubbornly hold to that idea, although the most direct understanding of evolution shows us that every species, including our own, is now at the peak of its path through the universe.

Evolution hones us to be the best we can be on our own terms, given the challenges of the world in which we and our ancestors have lived.

Does your cat pet you for pleasure or do you pet your cat for his or her pleasure?

The next time someone tells you your dog’s not smart, explain to him that your dog is smart enough to be fed without going off to work or getting a driver’s license, privileges few humans can claim.

De Waal chides scientists for making human abilities the yardstick for measuring animal intelligence.

Japan’s monkeys wash their potatoes and ride deer like horses

For example, scientists tested chimps’ skills at face recognition by showing them human faces. The chimps did poorly. Then, someone decided to test them with chimp faces, and they did fine.

Why, you wonder, would a clear-thinking scientist imagine that chimps would evolve a skill for recognizing human faces?

Our insistence on judging animals by comparing them to humans ignores the very dynamics that make cats and dogs different than humans.

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Are rabbits lesser creatures because they don’t read Shakespeare? Or are they geniuses of their own kind, brilliantly aware that sitting in a chair leafing through pages of sonnets is of no use whatever to their well-being?

If you love animals and want to gain a deeper understanding of what nature has done with them, get a copy of Frans de Waal’s bestseller, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

You will never look at your cat or dog the same way again. You might begin to wonder who’s running the show.

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