Can we really understand the animals in our lives? copyright by the author, Frania Shelley-Grielen
As I write my thesis, I've been grappling with just how valid our observations about animals are. To be taken seriously in the scientific community the observations we relate must be credible.
In order to be able to relate observations one must be able to describe and interpret them in a meaningful and scientific way. Essential to the scientific method is the descriptive statement of which there are two types, statements to describe descriptions and statements to describe processes. A statement describing a process has been likened to watching a motion picture; one in which the observations of what changes and what is changed by that is noted (Anderson, 1971). As the science of animal behavior progresses so does the validity of certain descriptive statements.
Our critical observations of causal events are being redefined. Balcombe (2009 in press) argues the following points: that the denial of according animals consciousness denies science “rigour” and has become progressively more outdated and anthropocentric ("viewing or considering an issue from a narrowly human perspective, especially when disregarding or disdaining other animals.." -Colman, 2006). Anthropomorphism, as long as it is done carefully, from established information about the subject animal, and as long as the conjectures made to arrive at anthropomorphic assumptions are supported by good science is not bad science. With the current advances in what we know about the cognitive and emotional states of animals it is a far larger assumption to deny them these states.
Watanabe (2007) points out that anthropomorphism is central to animal welfare and that it is a key starting point to determine animal emotion for those practicing veterinary science. Further, our use of relating the rules of behavior obtained from animal experiments to comprehend the behavior of humans is “generic expansion.” Inverting the direction of the expansion from more sophisticated to less sophisticated systems allows metaphorical expansion, one in which a valid statement such as “my dog behaves as if she is sad when I leave the house,” can be made as opposed to “my dog is sad when I leave the house.”
So in a word and in most things that matter, it's what we see and how we say it that makes a difference.
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Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Anthropomorphism, as long as it is done carefully, from established information about the subject animal, and as long as the conjectures made to arrive at anthropomorphic assumptions are supported by good science is not bad science. With the current advances in what we know about the cognitive and emotional states of animals it is a far larger assumption to deny them these states".
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen