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Inside the Animal Mind:
George Page, creator and long-time host of television's Nature, knows animals well. He has written Inside the Animal Mind, a broad look at how birds, apes, and others solve problems without the advantages of the human brain, as a companion to the three-episode series covering the world of animal intelligence. Exploring the natural world and the laboratory, he comes up with some interesting insights into intelligence and (more importantly) how we see it. Though the reader occasionally wishes for greater depth, Page's breadth offers interconnections that we would never find elsewhere (moving from the Sun King's gamekeeper to Stephen Jay Gould is beyond most writers).
Page is clearly sympathetic to his subjects, speaking for them where most of them cannot. Investigating tool use and language, he finds the competition not so barren as we had once thought, with finches and gorillas merely heading the lists of nonhuman animals learning clever tricks. Interwoven with his descriptions of bright animals is a story of our own species' long, slow coming to terms with our non-unique status. Perhaps intelligence is not distributed equally, even among humans, but it seems fair to say that we've lost our monopoly. Page's warm, gentle prose also reminds us of our responsibilities to those whose capacity for suffering has been quietly ignored for centuries. Inside the Animal Mind ends with a call to treat animals with respect. --Rob Lightner [via]