Book Review: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? is not just an absorbing scientific read, but also a manifesto in defense of the study of animal cognition. As one of the most prominent leaders in this field of biology, Frans de Waal gives a passionate and impenetrable body of evidence to support the concept that animals are so much more than mindless stimulus-response machines. De Waal argues that it’s high time for science to accept that human beings are in good company when it comes to thinking skills like planning ahead, creating culture, communicating, and even playing politics. With results from studies on chimpanzees, orangutans, macaques, crows, octopuses, wolves, and many more fauna, this book takes us on a tour through different types of cognition and explores the history behind what we know about animals’ amazing thinking abilities. As far as readability, the prose is a bit dry and tough to stick with for readers who don’t normally read in this genre–it is very heavy on scientific terminology, so approach it as such. One can’t help but respect de Waal’s copiously researched and referenced work in this volume: it speaks to how seriously he takes his discipline, and how seriously we should consider the minds of our crawling, flying, and swimming neighbors.

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