Show 71 – 9th October 2009
This week I am up to my eyes in giving public talks and so here is one of my all time favourite interviews
The morality of other animals in the wild
This weeks programme is entirely devoted to this intriguing topic that is becoming part of a quiet new scientific revolution on animals and animal behaviour. For centuries animals have been thought of and treated as mere machines by science. Decartes in the 17th century proposed his ideas that animals, unlike humans, were like mere mechanical automata without souls (read as mind/consciousness). This lead to increased vivisection on live animals (not Descartes’ intention). The father of mechanistic biology, Jaques Loeb, in the early part of the 20th century was fairer – he saw all animals, including us, as machines.
One of the problems is that we do not understand what mind is – it is like the holy grail of science. It is not a good idea to invoke mind and emotion unnecessarily in scientific explanation – it can clouds the issues and hold up scientific progress. Nonetheless I think that we have gone too far in ruling them out altogether. On the one hand I don’t believe an old lady when she tells me that her cat understands everything that she says to it. But on the other hand, animals may have their own types of thinking that fits in with their world.
In this show Marc Bekoff and I chat about many of these issue from Anthropomorphism to evolution and cooperation as well as the moral natures of animals with a focus on his book Wild Justice with Jessica Pierce
This is an accessible book litered with interesting anecdotes behind the science: stories about animals that put themselves out for others or punish others for their wrong doings. You can buy Wild Justice from Amazon
Next Week: robot cars sooner than you think
I talk to one of the world’s leading exponent of robot car development, Professor Sebastian Thrun, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL). Sebastian tells me about how this could save many lives on the world’s highways and how the disable, the blind and even children will be able to take to the roads on their own in a robot car.
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