The Human Side of Animals: Foreward by@royaldixon

The Human Side of Animals: Foreward

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Royal Dixon

The Human Side of Animals

The Human Side of Animals by Royal Dixon is part of HackerNoon’s Book Blog Post series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here: [LINK TO TABLE OF LINK]. Foreward

FOREWORD

"And in the lion or the frog—
In all the life of moor or fen—
In ass and peacock, stork and dog,
He read similitudes of men."

More and more science is being taught in a new way. More and more men are beginning to discard the lumber of the brain's workshop to get at real facts, real conclusions. Laboratories, experiments, tables, classifications are all very vital and all very necessary but sometimes their net result is only to befog and confuse. Occasionally it becomes important for us to cast aside all dogmatic restraints and approach the wonders of life from a new angle and with the untrammelled spirit of a little child.

In this book I have attempted to bring together many old and new observations which tend to show the human-like qualities of animals. The treatment is neither formal nor scholastic, in fact I do not always remain within the logical confines of the title. My sole purpose is to make the reader self-active, observative, free from hide-bound prejudice, and reborn as a participant in the wonderful experiences of life which fill the universe. I hope to lead him into a new wonderland of truth, beauty and love, a land where his heart as well as his eyes will be opened.

In attempting to understand the animals I have used a method a great deal like that of the village boy, who when questioned as to how he located the stray horse for which a reward of twenty dollars had been offered, replied, "I just thought what I would do if I were a horse and where I would go—and there I went and found him." In some such way I have tried to think why animals do certain things, I have studied them in many places and under all conditions, and those acts of theirs which, if performed by children, would come under the head of wisdom and intelligence, I have classified as such.

Life is one throughout. The love that fills a mother's heart when she sees her first-born babe, is also felt by the mother bear, only in a different way, when she sees her baby cubs playing before her humble cave dwelling. The sorrow that is felt by the human heart when a beloved one dies is experienced in only a little less degree by an African ape when his mate is shot dead by a Christian missionary. The grandmother sheep that watches her numerous little lamb grandchildren on the hillside, while their mothers are away grazing, is just as mindful of their care as any human grandparent could be. One drop of water is like the ocean; and love is love.

The trouble with science is that too often it leaves out love. If you agree that we cannot treat men like machines, why should we put animals in that class? Why should we fall into the colossal ignorance and conceit of cataloging every human-like action of animals under the word "instinct"? Man delights in thinking of himself as only a little lower than the angels. Then why should he not consider the animals as only a little lower than himself? The poet has truly said that "the beast is the mirror of man as man is the mirror of God." Man had to battle with animals for untold ages before he domesticated and made servants of them. He is just beginning to learn that they were not created solely to furnish material for sermons, nor to serve mankind, but that they also have an existence, a life of their own.

Man has long preached this doctrine that he is not an animal, but a kinsman of the gods. For this reason, he has claimed dominion over animal creation and a right to assert that dominion without restraint. This anthropocentric conceit is the same thing that causes one nation to think it should rule the world, that the sun and moon were made only for the laudable purpose of giving light unto a chosen few, and that young lambs playing on a grassy hillside, near a cool spring, are just so much mutton allowed to wander over man's domain until its flavour is improved.

It is time to remove the barriers, once believed impassable, which man's egotism has used as a screen to separate him from his lower brothers. Our physical bodies are very similar to theirs except that ours are almost always much inferior. Merely because we have a superior intellect which enables us to rule and enslave the animals, shall we deny them all intellect and all feeling? In the words of that remarkable naturalist, William J. Long, "To call a thing intelligence in one creature and reflex action in another, or to speak of the same thing as love or kindness in one and blind impulse in the other, is to be blinder ourselves than the impulse which is supposed to govern animals. Until, therefore, we have some new chemistry that will ignore atoms and the atomic law, and some new psychology that ignores animal intelligence altogether, or regards it as under a radically different law from our own, we must apply what we know of ourselves and our own motives to the smaller and weaker lives that are in some distant way akin to our own."

It is possible to explain away all the marvellous things the animals do, but after you have finished, there will still remain something over and above, which quite defies all mechanistic interpretation. An old war horse, for instance, lives over and over his battles in his dreams. He neighs and paws, just as he did in real battle; and cavalrymen tell us that they can sometimes understand from their horses when they are dreaming just what command they are trying to obey. This is only one of the myriads of animal phenomena which man does not understand. If you doubt it, try to explain the striking phenomena of luminescence, hybridization, of eels surviving desiccation for fourteen years, post-matrimonial cannibalism, Nature's vast chain of unities, the suicide of lemmings, why water animals cannot get wet, transparency of animals, why the horned toad shoots a stream of blood from his eye when angry. If you are able to explain these things to humanity, you will be classed second only to Solomon. Yet the average scientist explains them away, with the ignorance and loquaciousness of a fisher hag.

By a thorough application of psychological principles, it is possible to show that man himself is merely a machine to be explained in terms of neurones and nervous impulses, heredity and environment and reactions to outside stimuli. But who is there who does not believe that there is more to a man than that?

Animals have demonstrated long ago that they not only have as many talents as human beings, but that under the influence of the same environment, they form the same kinds of combinations to defend themselves against enemies; to shelter themselves against heat and cold; to build homes; to lay up a supply of food for the hard seasons. In fact, all through the ages man has been imitating the animals in burrowing through the earth, penetrating the waters, and now, at last, flying through the air.

When a skunk bites through the brains of frogs, paralysing but not killing them, in order that he may store them away in his nursery-pantry so that his babes may have fresh food; when a mole decapitates earth-worms for the same reason and stores them near the cold surface of the ground so that the heads will not regrow, as they would under normal conditions, only a deeply prejudiced man can claim that no elements of intelligence have been employed.

There are also numerous signs, sounds and motions by which animals communicate with each other, though to man these symbols of language may not always be understandable. Dogs give barks indicating surprise, pleasure and all other emotions. Cows will bellow for days when mourning for their dead. The mother bear will bury her dead cub and silently guard its grave for weeks to prevent its being desecrated. The mother sheep will bleat most pitifully when her lamb strays away. Foxes utter expressive cries which their children know full well. The chamois, when frightened, whistle; they might be termed the policemen of the animal world. The sentinel will continue a long, drawn-out whistle, as long as he can without taking a breath. He then stops for a brief moment, looks in all directions, and begins blowing again. If the danger comes too near, he scampers away.

In their ability to take care of their wounded bodies, in their reading of the weather and in all forms of woodcraft, animals undoubtedly possess superhuman powers. Even squirrels can prophesy an unusually long and severe winter and thus make adequate preparations. Some animals act as both barometers and thermometers. It is claimed that while frogs remain yellow, only fair weather may be expected, but if their colour changes to brown, ill weather is coming.

There is no limit to the marvellous things animals do. Elephants, for example, carry leafy palms in their trunks to shade themselves from the hot sun. The ape or baboon who puts a stone in the open oyster to prevent it from closing, or lifts stones to crack nuts, or beats his fellows with sticks, or throws heavy cocoanuts from trees upon his enemies, or builds a fire in the forest, shows more than a glimmer of intelligence. In the sly fox that puts out fish heads to bait hawks, or suddenly plunges in the water and immerses himself to escape hunters, or holds a branch of a bush over his head and actually runs with it to hide himself; in the wolverine who catches deer by dropping moss, and suddenly springing upon them and clawing their eyes out; in the bear, who, as told in the account of Cook's third voyage, "rolls down pieces of rock to crush stags; in the rat when he leads his blind brother with a stick" is actual reasoning. Indeed, there is nothing which man makes with all his ingenious use of tools and instruments, of which some suggestion may not be seen in animal creation.

Great thinkers of all ages are not wanting who believe that animals have a portion of that same reason which is the pride of man. Montaigne admitted that they had both thought and reason, and Pope believed that even a cat may consider a man made for his service. Humboldt, Helvitius, Darwin and Smellie claimed that animals act as a definite result of actual reasoning. Lord Brougham pertinently observes, "I know not why so much unwillingness should be shown by some excellent philosophers to allow intelligent faculties and a share of reason to the lower animals, as if our own superiority was not quite sufficiently established to leave all jealousy out of view by the immeasurably higher place which we occupy in the scale of being."

From the facts enumerated in this book I find that animals are possessed of love, hate, joy, grief, courage, revenge, pain, pleasure, want and satisfaction—that all things that go to make up man's life are also found in them. In the attempt to establish this thesis I have been led mentally and physically into some of Nature's most fascinating highways and hedges, where I have had many occasions to wonder and adore. I will be happy if I have at least added something to the depth of love and appreciation with which most men look upon the animal world.

Royal Dixon.

New York, April, 1918.

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books. This book is part of the public domain.

Dixon, Royal, 2006. The Human Side of Animals. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved May 2022 from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/19850/19850-h/19850-h.htm#Page_xiii

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