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Do animals think? According to Cartesian models of science that have long influenced the Western view of the natural world, they do not: they merely react to external stimuli, the responses to which they cannot control.
A different view has emerged in recent years, one that draws on findings from experimental psychology, biology, linguistics, and cognitive ethology. Writes Donald Griffin, an associate at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, "Communicative behavior is not a human monopoly." Animal communication--from the dance language of the bees to the vocalisms of parrots and bonobos--suggests that there is more than a ghost in the machine. For underlying that communicative ability are other powers that humans have no easy way of gauging: a sense of time and futurity, a complex memory, an ability to lie, even consciousness itself.
Griffin examines recent studies that show that many species are able to discern and classify colors, shapes, materials, and "sameness," and that many other species are able to adapt their communications systems to account for novel situations. Warning that our understanding of animal minds is still ill-formed and that much work remains to be done in the field before we can confidently answer that ancient question one way or the other, he argues that "animals are best viewed as actors who choose what to do, rather than as objects totally dependent on outside influences." --Gregory McNamee [via]