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Frans de Waal Embraces Animal Emotions in His Latest Book ‘Mama’s Last Hug’

FRANS de WAAL: When we deny the facts of evolution, when we pretend that only humans think, feel and know, “it stands in the way of a frank assessment of who we are as a species.

SY MONTGOMERY: ‘For too long, emotion has been cognitive researchers’ third rail. In research on humans, emotions were deemed irrelevant, impossible to study or beneath scientific notice. Animal emotions were simply ignored. But nothing could be more essential to understanding how people and animals behave. By examining emotions in both, this book puts these most vivid of mental experiences in evolutionary context, revealing how their richness, power and utility stretch across species and back into deep time…

In this book, de Waal sets the record straight. Emotions are neither invisible nor impossible to study; they can be measured. Levels of chemicals associated with emotional experiences, from the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin to the stress hormone cortisol, can easily be determined. The hormones are virtually identical across taxa, from humans to birds to invertebrates. Emotions are not an affliction we must strive to keep in check. They are adaptive: Love, anger, joy, sorrow, fear all help us to find food and safety, protect our families, escape danger. Emotions enable us to survive…

Researchers who study animal behavior have been methodically warned against exploring empathy as a means of understanding. Too many illuminating observations have gone unpublished because suggesting that humans share traits with other animals invites accusations of anthropomorphism… This isn’t just silly; it’s dangerous… When we deny the facts of evolution, when we pretend that only humans think, feel and know, “it stands in the way of a frank assessment of who we are as a species,” he writes. An understanding of evolution demands that we recognize continuity across life-forms’. SOURCE…

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