National Geographic: Animal Minds
In case you’ve missed it, check out the interesting article on Animal Minds in the March 2008 issue of National Geographic. The thrust of the article is an elaboration upon the Darwinian notion that animals are not the simple machines that many early twentieth-century researchers (fearful of being accused of any whiff of anthropomorphism) thought that they were: instead, animal cognition has evolved into something complex and creative. Not surprisingly to any of us who know the breed intimately, border collies who have seemingly astonishing vocabularies (and can even recognize two-dimensional pictures of toys as representations of the toys themselves) are used to illustrate the idea that the canine understanding of human language is something that has evolved over time because of the long association between dogs and human beings. The author of the article even speculates that these skills are especially prevalent in border collies because our dogs are bred to work and to pay close attention to commands while herding. The article is well worth reading, and I’d love to hear what people think about it.