This book has been such a great entertainment for the past several days. That is exactly why I am willing to invest some time in writing this very brief review. For three reasons this book stands among the best pop-science books I have ever read.
First of all, it offers, as one would easily imagine, a lot of eye-opening facts about animals. Their behaviors both in the lab and in the field, their sometimes super capabilities, their social structure, and so on. For one thing, I was really impressed to learn that the kind of magpie which I basically see every day here in Europe, the Eurasian Magpie, was the first non-mammalian species to pass the so-called mirror test, i.e. more or less recognizing oneself in the mirror. A little research online directed me even to this website Animal Cognition where it says even some ants passed it. Mind-blowing! Moreover, as soon as I got to know the relatively higher intelligence level of these animals, some moral intuition somewhere deep in my mind seemed to automatically arise that I should treat them 'more equally', and share them with more respect. This feeling is a bit strange for me. Isn't true that if one believes in animal egalitarianism, one should think that all animal species including the human should be equal, regardless of their intelligence level or maybe the ability of suffering? Worth thinking anyway.
The second thing about this book is that I really enjoy the author's critic and comments, on the methodology of scientists, either behaviorists or (cognitive) ethologists, working in animal science and those historical stories interpersed in between. I totally agree with his critics on anthropocentrism and human arrogance, and I believe we humans should be more liberal and open to accept the idea that animals can do a lot of things as well as or even better than us. It would be no shame to perform worse than them in some intelligent activities.
Last but no least, the book describes many experiments with real life languages so that even a total layman like I can understand almost everything, but still explains very well much logic and critical thinking behind the design of these scientific experiments. Simply put, one learns scientific thinking there. Furthermore, the purpose of the different experiments intrigued me also pretty much in the sense that different ways of thinking, basic social behaviors, etc., that we take for granted in daily life, were tested on animals. For example, we have a sense of time and causality, we learn from the past and plan for the future. Or take, we have triangular social relation where we may not only know A and B, but also know the relation between A and B. Different animals, such as rodents, molluks, not to mention the great apes, perform surprisingly well.
Anyway, I really learnt a lot from this book, and will give a second read soon, and I recommend it to everyone who is interested in animals.