What animals are thinking and feeling, and why it should matter | Carl Safina | TEDxMidAtlantic


Translator: Milena Tomol
Reviewer: Claire Ghyselen We start with a simple question: “Does my pet really love me,
or does she just want a treat?” (Laughter) Obviously, she really loves us. Obviously, right? (Laughter) How do we know what’s really going on
in those furry little heads? Something is going on. Why is the question always
“Do they love me?” Why is it always about us?
Why are we such narcissists? (Laughter) I have a different question. Who are you? That’s a better question
for animals, I think. We have things going on in our minds
that we tend to assume are the exclusive abilities of humans. But there are other brains out there. Some of them are very big. What are they doing with those big brains? Can they think? Can they feel? How can we possibly find a way
into that question? Well, there are ways in. We can look at the brain,
we can look at evolution, and we can look at behaviors. First thing we have to realize
is that our mind is inherited. Our brain comes from somewhere else. Jellyfish had the first nerves. The first nerves gave us
the first spinal cords. The first spinal cords
became the first vertebrates. Vertebrates came out of the ocean
and started creating all kinds of trouble. It’s still true that nerves of a fish,
or a dog, or a person, all are basically the same. It’s their organization that matters. But if the nerves are the same,
what does it have to say about the possibility
of mental experiences? Something like a crayfish, for instance. It turns out that you can give
a crayfish anxiety disorder by giving it little electric shocks every time it tries
to come out of its burrow. But if you give it the same drug that is
used to treat anxiety disorder in humans, the crayfish relaxes, mellows out,
and comes out, and starts exploring. The same thing with dogs
with obsessive compulsive disorder: you give them the same drugs
used to treat OCD in humans, it works for them too. What does it have to say about
the parallel functionings of our brains? Do we celebrate the anxiety of crayfish? No, mostly we just boil them. (Laughter) Octopuses use tools,
as well as do most apes. They recognize human faces. Do we celebrate
the ape-like minds of octopi? Mostly we boil them. When grouper fish chase a prey fish
into a crevice in the coral, they will go to where they know
a moray eel is sleeping, and they will signal
to the moray, “Follow me!” The moray goes. The moray
will slither into the crevice. Sometimes the moray will get the fish. Sometimes the fish bolts,
and the grouper gets it. It’s a partnership. How do we celebrate the partnership
between groupers and moray eels? Mostly fried. (Laughter) Sea otters use stone tools,
and sea otters take time away from their own doings
to teach baby sea otters what to do. Chimpanzees use tools,
but chimpanzees don’t take time to teach. Killer whales teach, and they share food. When we look at human brains, we see that the human brain
is an elaboration on earlier brains, an elaboration that comes
through the long sweep of evolution. If you look at the human brain
and a chimpanzee brain, you see that the human brain
is basically a very big chimpanzee brain. It’s big at least, so we can retain
a certain insecure sense of our own superiority, which is the main thing
that matters to us. But, uh-oh, there is a dolphin brain –
bigger, more convolutions. What is it doing with that brain? We can see brains, but cannot see minds. Yet, we can see the workings of minds
in the logic of behaviors. These elephants
in this family of elephants have found a shady patch under the palms. That’s a good place
to let the babies go to sleep. The adults are resting too,
but they are just dozing, and they are staying
a little bit vigilant all the time. We make sense of that, because they
make sense of the world in similar ways. They look relaxed
because they are relaxed. They’ve chosen the shade for the same reason
we would choose the shade. These elephants don’t look relaxed. No one would make that mistake
looking at them. They seem alarmed. They are alarmed. There are dangers. There are people who hurt them. It turns out that, if you record
the conversations of tourists and you record
the conversations of herders, who sometimes hurt elephants, and then you play it
through a hidden speaker, the elephants ignore the tourists, but they bunch up and flee in fear
from the conversations of herders. They put different kinds of humans
in different categories. They know what’s going on. They know who their friends are;
they know who their enemies are; they know who their family members are; they have the same
imperatives that we have. Whether on land or in the sea,
it’s the same: stay alive, keep your babies alive, let life continue. We see and understand helping.
We see curiosity in the young. We see the bonds of family members. We recognize affection for what it is. Courtship is courtship. People sometimes still ask:
“But are they conscious?” Well, when you get general anesthesia,
you become unconscious. It means that all of your
sensory input is stopped. You have no sensation
of the world around you. That’s unconscious. When you have sensation
of the world around you, you are conscious. Consciousness is very widespread. Some people think
that empathy is a very special thing that only humans have. But empathy is simply the mind’s ability
to match the mood of your companions. It’s very useful, and it’s very important. You have to know
what’s going on around you, what everybody is doing. The oldest kind of empathy
is called contagious fear. If you are with a bunch of companions,
and they suddenly all startle and leave, it’s not very good for you
to be staying there, saying, “Hey, I wonder
why everybody has just left?” (Laughter) Through evolution, empathy has been
embellished as well. I think there are sort of
three stages of empathy. There is feeling with another:
I see you happy, it makes me happy; I see you sad, it makes me sad. Then there is sympathy:
I’m sorry your grandmother died. I don’t feel the same way
that you do, but I sympathize. And then, there is what I call compassion, meaning “acting on your
feeling for another.” [Human Empathy: Far From Perfect] Far from being a special thing
that only humans have, human empathy is far from perfect. We round up empathic animals;
we kill them, and we eat them. And you might say,
“Well, that’s just predation. That is a different species.” Humans are predators, but we’re not so great to our own
species either a lot of the time. I’ve noticed that people who know only one
thing about animal behavior know this word and that “you must never project human
feelings and emotions on other animals.” [Anthropomorphism] But I’m here to tell you
that I think projecting human emotions and human thoughts on other animals is the best first guess
about what they are doing and why. After all, it’s not terribly scientific to say they are hungry,
when they are eating, and they are tired,
when their tongues are hanging out, and then, when they are playing
and seem joyful, say, “We have no way of knowing
what’s going on in their minds.” Now, recently, I sort of had a conversation
with a reporter, and the reporter said, “OK, that’s kind of convincing,
but, really, how do you really know that other animals think and feel?” And I thought of the hundreds
of scientific references that I read when I was writing my book. But then I realized that the answer
was right in the room with me: that when my pup comes off the rug
and comes over to me, rolls over on her back
and exposes her belly, she’s had the thought,
“I would like my belly rubbed.” And she knows that she
can come to me, not the sofa, that I will understand her request,
and that I can get the job done, and she anticipates the pleasure
of having her belly rubbed. She can think, and she can feel. And it is not much more
complicated than that. Usually, when we see animals, we say,
“Oh, look! There are elephants,” or “There are killer whales!”
or whatever it is we see. But to them, they know
exactly who they are. This is not just killer whales. That one with the tall fin,
that male there, he is 36-year-old L41. Right to his left is his sister. She is 42-year-old L44. They have been together for decades.
They know exactly who they are. This is Philo the elephant. This is Philo the elephant
four days later. Humans not only feel grief,
humans create grief. We want to carve their teeth.
Why don’t we wait for them to die? Elephants used to live from the shores
of the Mediterranean to the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. By 1980 they still had vast strongholds
in Central and East Africa. Their ranges are being fractured
and fragmented. This is the geography
of a magnificent creature that we are driving to extinction. We do much better in our own
national parks here in the United States. We simply killed
every single wolf in Yellowstone. Then, sixty years later, we brought them back
because the elk had gotten out of control. Many thousands of people
spent many million of dollars coming to the park to watch
the world’s most famous wolves. These are the alpha trio
of a very stable pack. That one on the right there
is the breeding male. The one on the left is his mate. The other one is his brother. Then, suddenly, wolves came off
the Endangered Species Act. Congress took wolves off. The wolves went to the edge of the park. Those two were shot. The entire pack, which had been so stable,
disintegrated into fighting and division. The alpha male of the most famous,
most stable pack in Yellowstone lost his companions, his hunting territory
and his whole family. We bring them a lot of harm. One of the mysteries is:
why don’t they harm us very much at all? No free-living killer whale
has ever hurt a human being. This one had just finished eating
part of a gray whale that he and his family had killed, but those people in the boat
had absolutely nothing to fear. This one had just eaten a seal that weight
as much as those people in the boat, but they had absolutely nothing to fear. They eat seals. Why don’t they ever eat us? How is it we can trust them
around our toddlers? Why is it that, on more than one occasion,
killer whales have returned to researchers who got lost in the fog
and guided them miles to home? In the Bahamas, dolphins who were very familiar
with Denise Herzing, a researcher there,
and very interactive with her, suddenly got entirely skittish. What in the world was going on? Suddenly somebody on the boat realized
that a person in the boat had died during a nap in their bunk. How could the dolphins have detected
that one of the human hearts had stopped? And why would it spook them? These are the mysteries of other minds. In an aquarium in South Africa,
there was a baby bottlenose dolphin. Her name was Dolly. One of the keepers
was on a break having a smoke outside the window to the tank. Dolly was watching him smoke.
She went over to her mother. She nursed for a couple of moments,
she came back to the window, and she released a cloud of milk
that enveloped her head like a cloud of smoke. (Laughter) Somehow, she had the idea
of using milk to represent smoke. And when we use one thing
to represent another, we call it art. (Laughter) The things that make us human
are not what we think. What makes us human
is that we are the most extreme. We are the most compassionate;
we are the most violent. We are the most creative,
and we are the most destructive animals ever to appear on this planet. But we are not the only animals
that love one another. We are not the only ones who care
for our mates or for our children. Albatrosses routinely fly
six to ten thousand miles to bring back one meal for their chick. They live on the most
remote islands in the world, and those islands are covered
with plastic trash. Into the sacred chain of being that gives
life from one generation to the next is our garbage. Here is an albatross chick,
who was about six months old. It was about to start flying. It died. It was packed with red cigarette lighters. This is not the relationship we are
supposed to have with the world, but we, with our big,
celebrated brains, don’t use them. Yet, when we welcome
new life into the world, we welcome them with pictures of animals. We don’t paint cell phones
and work cubicles on nursery walls. (Laughter) We want to say,
“Look who is here with us!” And yet, every one of those, every one deemed worthy
of being saved on Noah’s Arc, is in mortal danger now,
and the flood is us. We started with a question:
“Do they love us?” We need to get outside ourselves
a little bit and ask: “Do we have what it takes to simply let life on Earth continue?” Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “What animals are thinking and feeling, and why it should matter | Carl Safina | TEDxMidAtlantic

  1. were you there to witness the evolution of jelltfish? waa anyone there to witness it? i cant listen to anyone whos logic is so vacant.

  2. Plants are capable of responding to their environments but if I cut those out of my diet, that wouldn't leave many options.

  3. Animals are conscious in their particular way. Approach them not with your mode of thinking but make the effort to consider how that particular species would be aware. From the clues you pick up your understanding of them deepens, all are unique characters. This leads to a broadening of your own awareness that allows us to live together harmoniously, the way that it always should be. Further, this experience of understanding between us, it is a delight!

  4. Congratulations ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŒธ
    We need to teach animals donโ€™t eat each otherโ€™s… but how?… if the humans continue eat and abuse them… so sad….๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

  5. โ€œUpon the research of Demons, Iโ€™ve come to find humans are the closest things to itโ€ -Migi, Parasyte (An anime.)

  6. What I would like to know is how non-human animals think. Try to think of anything without using language. You can't. The best you can do is imagine some image (and not if you have Aphantasia).

  7. "what makes us human is that we are the most extreme"

    That's the line of this talk. I'll keep that with me forever, so thank you for that ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Everyone, everything is different and unique to begin with. Everyone and everything does not look the same and or act the same. Our ego makes things up to try to understand what we are experiencing with our senses. It is like trying to understand the unknown or to go against it. Animals is one of the things we don't know. What we do to them happens to ourselves because we and all living things are connected. We were created by the same thing which is the unknown. This man is correct with what he said. I recommend watching The Dodo channel on YouTube.

  9. Excellent. The final picture of the little albatross skeleton filled with junk in its belly made me cry… ….and this is supposed to be at the โ€œheightโ€ of human intelligence?? I felt ashamed. To be a human being is NOTHING to be be proud of.

  10. No contentiousness is not the existence of sensory he gat it all wrong! Consciousness is being aware of the actions that you take and why you take them. Elephants can differentiate between people but the don't know why they differentiator them it is something like a reaction that there brain has to keep them alive! It is something like what happens to people when they are "hypnotized" they are not continuous of there actions they just react to what the "hypnotist " tells them!
    Either way i really agree we destroy these animals for no good reason and that should stop!

  11. This makes me wonder about empathy's "learning curve" and the underdeveloped empathy of psychopathy. As a child, I made many wrong assumptions about animal behavior, misreading them, and without parents I'm not sure how much I would've learned. One of the worst of these involved a dazed woodpecker which had flown into our window: my brother and I thought this bird enjoyed "swimming" in our temporary pool, when really he was struggling not to drown (the bird later died, no doubt aided by our childhood ignorance/innocence). Similarly, we were excited by our dogs' ability to speak when the corners of their eyes were pulled- "Look, mom! She says, "See, see!"- not recognizing that this sound was, in reality, the sound a dog makes when it cries. One story my mom remembered involved me, at a very young age, playing with a cricket I had found. I was friendly and feeding my new friend little grass blades, and she thought it was sweet; she called me in, and I started to come; then, remembering my new friend, I turned back and crushed him, purposely, with my foot. ("Coming!") ~ My mother finds that last story horrible, but I think it's more nuanced, and bafflingly humorous- the sort of vignette which captures all too well a young child's way of thinking about the life around her.

  12. The very first fault is to name behavings if people. Like vegetarian, vegan etc. What will you call human who eat meat, there is no name to that. By naming your self, you create a feeling for the others of being better as they are. Im vegan youre human. . . . . . Just start saying im a human who didnt eat meat, it leaves the others to ask you why. If you answer to, why you dont eat meat stays, im a vegan. They wont ever start listening.

    We are all humans and we should start respecting each other, if thats archived we can cooperative start respecting the animals.
    Because even "animal" is just a word wich let us sound superior. Thruth is we all are called live!

    Get rid of abstract words for true feelings.

  13. Dolphins swim halfway around the world and return to the exact same cove without a map or smart phone. The human world is full of landmarks, but the ocean, unless you're swimming at the bottom or stay near land, there is nothing to guide you. Just based on the size and convolutions of the dolphin brain, I believe they are way smarter than us in terms of mental capacity and capabilities.

  14. 08:49 People do not deny that fact. In fact, you can see that humans are way more complex compared to animals by using that same principle. Therefore although may look like to be expressing themselvs the same way actually they are very limited.

  15. In Ojibwe teachings we lost our abilities to easily communicate with animals once we started to eat them, when we became convinced of our superiority. I love the stories about how we are the beloved gifts to the animals from Creator/God to the animals themselves, since they begged for us so they could love us.

  16. Poor wolf I mean if animals can feel lose then think about how a human would feel after losing his home his family and his job itโ€™s exactly how the wolf feels itโ€™s so simple but so thought provoking that animals are actually the same as us but just not as capable of smart as us they all still have every raw emotion each and every single one of us has

  17. Please, enable contributions for the translation of captions, I'd like to add the translation into Spanish because I'd like to show this video to my peers and they don't speak English. Thanks.

  18. once an overly religious guy said that animals didn't has souls. That animals were just that, animals. I told him, if they dont have souls, how you think they move? Because, heck! I don't see Energizer batteries on them to make them move.

  19. As long as I get to have my beef steak , ribs, and lamb and you donโ€™t impose your views beliefs and religion on me then we are ok…..

  20. Why do you look so weird?
    Why do you cover your bodies?
    Can I have some?
    Is that for me?
    Can I eat it?
    Can it eat me?

  21. We forget that we are animals too, and unlike other animals on this planet we are not necessary for other animals and plants to exist, but if ants disapear – whole ecological systems would collapse. Humans have so much potential and we choose to be monsters

  22. It makes me so happy there are a few people on this earth like this guy. We have a tremendous job ahead of us, but we can do it. โค

  23. I enjoyed watching this as I saw a lot of truths spoken however what spoilt it for me was he took these facts and tried to use them to push his own belief system on us of evolution which is theory and belief system as is creationism. It would have been much better if he had just stuck to the factual insights instead of trying to use them to influence us to his opinions on greater issues which are actually contextually irrelevant to the points he was making on animal thinking and feeling.. 3 / 10

  24. other life forms are used by humans as food.
    that's just how it is and how we were created, nothing wrong with that.
    some animals that think and feel also eat people.

    I hate when people call someone a monster or not a human.
    it's like a bear saying to his cousin you are not a bear for not liking fish.

    people should embrace who they are and their biological needs.
    but should also reason and preserve the wild life for the next generations to exploit.
    I think animals shouldn't be put in cages, they should be in the wild and protected.
    No Excessive hunting of wild animals.
    but I like my chicken and beef and fish.
    just give them a quick death and don't destroy the marine life by overcatching fish.

    and continue to be yourself.

  25. My opossum, just walked up to me, CLICKED and licked my toe I pet his head (like I do everyday)
    and I followed him into the kitchen.

    He looked down at his bowl CLICKED and then looked up at me and CLICKED (like the does everyday)
    I opened the fridge, while he waited at his bowl, and I prepared his food.

    I put his food into his bowl while he stared at me, clicking.

    I poured it in, and pet his head, he CLICKED again and ate.

    We've done this everynight for over 2 years.. He woke up, thought about food, thought about me, came to get me, thought about his bowl, went to his bowl, waited by his bowl, and KNEW I would get his food for him. All the while talking to me, in his language. ๐ŸŒธ

    He is AN OPOSSUM guys.. I mean, they've been around for millions of years- but he knows his name, he can do tricks- he sleeps with me in the bed, he has a very strict routine and uses pee pads- never once using the bathroom anywhere except on those. He's my 5th NR opossum and he's just a peach to live with ๐ŸŒธ

  26. But why does no one ever talk about the immense intelligence of pigs, chickens, and cows? Are they not individuals too?
    yeah….lets just talk about the "pretty" species… ๐Ÿ˜’ prime example of ignorance right there.

  27. Sorry, I really didn't get the "why it should matter" bit, and that's what I came for. Yes, animals have a bunch of feelings and they're smartypants, I don't think anyone reasonable disputes that. Conserving species is also important, for many practical and aesthetic reasons. But the man denigrates eating animals, and I don't know why. Humans are awesome, and they happen to be the most important part of living for me and my extended family of 7 billion, that's why I care about humans and don't eat them nor enslave them, but I'm fine with us doing so for animals.

  28. We humans had to give up parts of our memory (partial reasons for new diseases like Dementia, Alzheimers, etc) in our brain in exchange for the part of the brain that controls speech/communication skills. Animals are so smart that they have all their brains and their own forms of communication. For us tho, the need for compromise and communication was key for our knowledge of a further life on the ground. This DOC seems like A GIVEN TO ME, IF YOU ARE A ''SENSITIVE PERSON'' LIKE ME, WE FEEL GREAT EMPATHY/SIMPATHY FOR VULNERABLE, CHILDREN, The ELDERLY, WOMEN AND ANIMALS*. HUMAN PREDATORS-which are MAINLY MEN, PREY ON THESE VICTIMS. ITS ALL UP TO US *WOMEN TO CHANGE THE DAMAGES THAT MEN HAVE CAUSED. * AS WOMEN CONTINUE TO STEP UP IN THIS WORLD, ONLY A POSITIVE FUTURE WILL THEN EXIST,,,,,,KEY WORD EMPATHY*'ONLY WOMEN CAN CHANGE THE FUTURE,,,,,,,MEN WILL NOT BE PART OF THE INGREDIENTS NEEDED FOR A NONVIOLENT WORLD TO OCCUR,,,,Starts in your own backyards ladies, **CONTINUE TO RALLY ON*

  29. For all the psuedo intellectuals who fake compassion and need to care for animals feelings because they have no empathy for their fellow man

  30. Chernobyl was able to have wildlife return years later simply because humans had left not because of destructive radiation… That really puts our impact into perspective doesn't it?

  31. Always felt this way. Wish more people in the world would see this in the hopes that they may appreciate and respect nature even more!

  32. I take the time to watch brown anoles in my back yard. Faithfully. I've watched the males guide their offspring to "bed" for the night before retiring themselves. I've watched them guide them to food before they eat themselves. From what I've read about them, this isn't a common lizard trait. They keep my bugs at bay, so no, I did not spray chemicals around my house! And fire ants.. for those of you who don't know.. eat termites !!!!!

  33. Tiki, my cat, is pretty stand-offish. But sometimes late in the night he'll come up and lay right on my face.
    I think it's reasonable that he had a bad dream and worries I'll abandon him, like his prior owner that died.

  34. He said something very very important First: We give the cray fish Anxiety , then:We made we make something they need to over come anxiety ..!! hmmm ๐Ÿค”

  35. Today I was in the garden, brought in some stuff, and 2 little bugs got mixed in there. When they fell out of the bowl, the were on their backs, kicking. Eventually one of them got up, went right up to it's buddy and helped him to get on it's feet too. I don't think this could be considered empathy, only a survival mechanism (one could be male and the other female, a couple, I guess).
    I think it does not matter what we consider it to be, but it sure warmed my heart.

  36. Still, a perfect example for anthropomorphic interpretations of animal "consciousness". Some exceptional animal behaviours mentionned should depict a deep understanding between non-human animals and us, but how can you be so sure of that its not just a wild speculation. Here an example: As a child, I saw a deep connection in my grandpaยดs dog eyes… I believed in it until the day he bit me.

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