In the 1960s, Jane Goodall was criticised for saying chimpanzees have emotions. Today the evidence suggests she’s right although scientists remain wary of anthropomorphism – associating human traits with animals – often with good reason (eg. the gross inaccuracy of The Bee Movie in which boy bees did the work). Of course animals don’t see the world exactly we do, but we shouldn’t ignore what we have in common with them:
Anthropo-denial: A blindness to the humanlike characteristics of other animals, or the animal-like characteristics of ourselves. – F. de Waal
The weight of scientific evidence is that animal have thoughts, feelings and intelligence – animals are not mere ‘survival machines’. It’s now accepted that humans and animals share many traits (Marc Bekoff (The Emotional Lives of Animals); this fits nicely with evolution which teaches us animals are our relatives and all life is connected. Forgetting this relationship has led to the honey bee crisis, for example, as people have treated bees as tools rather than partners in pollination.
Acknowledged as individuals, those sparrows, salamanders and squirrels are not interchangeable parts of a species machine. They are beings with their own inner lives and experiences. – Brandon Keim (Animal Consciousness)
Using language that reflects our ‘common ground’ can help give children empathy with the natural world. When writing Flight of the Honey Bee I wanted accurate science yet also a sense of a bee’s experience. Should I use human concepts such as ‘know’, ‘remember’, captivate’, and ‘story’? Should I even call the bees ‘sisters’? The answer was yes. Honey bees have language, intelligence, and memory (and maybe something like emotions); and they’re more genetically sisters than humans.
They are not us, but to look into their eyes is to know that someone is in there. Imposing our own specific thoughts and feelings on that someone is in one sense too imaginative, in presuming he could receive the world in the way we do, and in another not imaginative enough, in not opening our minds to the full possibilities of his difference.- Caitrin Nicol (Do Elephants Have Souls?)