Dad of Divas' Reviews: Book Review - The Moral Lives of Animals

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book Review - The Moral Lives of Animals

About the Book
Wild elephants walking along a trail stop and spontaneously try to protect and assist a weak and dying fellow elephant. Lab rats, finding other rats caged nearby in distressing circumstances, proceed to rescue them. A chimpanzee in a zoo loses his own life trying to save an unrelated infant who has fallen into a watery moat.  These scenes (actually observed) are often dismissed as odd happenstance after a moment of mild astonishment or simple amusement.  But could there be more?

For centuries, we humans have viewed ourselves as the sole possessors of moral sense.  However, in his new book, The Moral Lives of Animals, critically-acclaimed author Dale Peterson, Ph.D shows that morality in non-human animals not only exists, but can be—and is—a complex system of inclinations and inhibitions, much like our own.

Using evolutionary theory and examples from the scientific studies of a wide variety of animals—from dogs to dolphins, apes to elephants, rats to lizards—Peterson shows how much animal behavior follows principles embodied in humanity’s most treasured moral codes, from the Ten Commandments to the New Testament.  By showing that animals have powerful, inherent impulses toward such behaviors as cooperation, generosity, complex decision-making and fairness, animals show that morality can be a completely rational function.

The Moral Lives of Animals is a seminal thought piece, an intellectually satisfying piece of writing that raises important questions.  By simultaneously challenging the bedrock of human wisdom, and promoting understanding and humane treatment toward other creatures, Moral Lives is destined to change the way we think and treat our environment and its inhabitants. 

About the Author

Dale Peterson Ph.D. is a lecturer in English at Tufts University.  He is a prolific writer of science and natural history, but found his passion in Animals after several scientific books.  He was introduced to Primatology by Jane Goodall, and traveled the world to study and document living creatures.

Peterson has produced several bestselling works, including Eating Apes, The Deluge and the Ark: A Journey into Primate Worlds, and bestselling biography Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man; a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and Boston Globe Best Book of 2006.

His other publications include Visions of Caliban (with Jane Goodall), and Demonic Males (with Richard Wrangham). Peterson lectures in English at Tufts University.

My Take on the Book
Have you ever read Moby Dick? If you haven't you have missed out on an amazing novel. This book, though written many years after Mody Dick, has used Moby Dick as the underlying framework for how he examines animal behavior.

What was amazing was the analogy that the author made to the way that Melville examined the whale and his "malevolence" toward humans. Seeing that I had read Moby Dick in the past I would not have thought about this correlation. The author goes beyond this fictional analogy and brings in many real life examples that show how complex their behaviors really are. While I am not a Zoologist, I could appreciate the arguments that the author shared and was completely interested in seeing how he would pull all of these thoughts together in the end. I have to say that in the end I was satisfied at how he did pull it all together.

You will be amazed at this book and completely educated in many areas that you probably would never have thought of. So no matter whether you are a Zoologist, Vet, or an average Joe, this book will open your eyes to the world around you!

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.
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