What are animals thinking and feeling? | Carl Safina

What are animals thinking and feeling? | Carl Safina

Have you ever wondered
what animals think and feel? Let’s start with a question: Does my dog really love me,
or does she just want a treat? Well, it’s easy to see
that our dog really loves us, easy to see, right, what’s going on in that fuzzy little head. What is going on? Something’s going on. But why is the question always
do they love us? Why is it always about us? Why are we such narcissists? I found a different question
to ask animals. Who are you? There are capacities of the human mind that we tend to think are capacities
only of the human mind. But is that true? What are other beings
doing with those brains? What are they thinking and feeling? Is there a way to know? I think there is a way in. I think there are several ways in. We can look at evolution,
we can look at their brains and we can watch what they do. The first thing to remember is:
our brain is inherited. The first neurons came from jellyfish. Jellyfish gave rise
to the first chordates. The first chordates gave rise
to the first vertebrates. The vertebrates came out of the sea, and here we are. But it’s still true that a neuron,
a nerve cell, looks the same in a crayfish, a bird or you. What does that say
about the minds of crayfish? Can we tell anything about that? Well, it turns out that
if you give a crayfish a lot of little tiny electric shocks every time it tries
to come out of its burrow, it will develop anxiety. If you give the crayfish the same drug used to treat anxiety disorder in humans, it relaxes and comes out and explores. How do we show how much
we care about crayfish anxiety? Mostly, we boil them. (Laughter) Octopuses use tools,
as well as do most apes and they recognize human faces. How do we celebrate the ape-like
intelligence of this invertebrate? Mostly boiled. If a grouper chases a fish
into a crevice in the coral, it will sometimes go to where it knows
a moray eel is sleeping and it will signal
to the moray, “Follow me,” and the moray will understand that signal. The moray may go into the crevice
and get the fish, but the fish may bolt
and the grouper may get it. This is an ancient partnership that we
have just recently found out about. How do we celebrate
that ancient partnership? Mostly fried. A pattern is emerging and it says
a lot more about us than it does about them. Sea otters use tools and they take time away
from what they’re doing to show their babies what to do,
which is called teaching. Chimpanzees don’t teach. Killer whales teach
and killer whales share food. When evolution makes something new, it uses the parts it has
in stock, off the shelf, before it fabricates a new twist. And our brain has come to us through the enormity
of the deep sweep of time. If you look at the human brain
compared to a chimpanzee brain, what you see is we have basically
a very big chimpanzee brain. It’s a good thing ours is bigger,
because we’re also really insecure. (Laughter) But, uh oh, there’s a dolphin, a bigger brain with more convolutions. OK, maybe you’re saying,
all right, well, we see brains, but what does that
have to say about minds? Well, we can see the working of the mind in the logic of behaviors. So these elephants, you can see, obviously, they are resting. They have found a patch of shade
under the palm trees under which to let their babies sleep, while they doze but remain vigilant. We make perfect sense of that image just as they make perfect sense
of what they’re doing because under the arc of the same sun
on the same plains, listening to the howls
of the same dangers, they became who they are
and we became who we are. We’ve been neighbors for a very long time. No one would mistake
these elephants as being relaxed. They’re obviously very
concerned about something. What are they concerned about? It turns out that if you record
the voices of tourists and you play that recording
from a speaker hidden in bushes, elephants will ignore it,
because tourists never bother elephants. But if you record the voices of herders who carry spears and often hurt elephants
in confrontations at water holes, the elephants will bunch up
and run away from the hidden speaker. Not only do elephants know
that there are humans, they know that there are
different kinds of humans, and that some are OK
and some are dangerous. They have been watching us for much longer
than we have been watching them. They know us better than we know them. We have the same imperatives: take care of our babies,
find food, try to stay alive. Whether we’re outfitted for hiking
in the hills of Africa or outfitted for diving under the sea,
we are basically the same. We are kin under the skin. The elephant has the same skeleton, the killer whale has the same skeleton, as do we. We see helping where help is needed. We see curiosity in the young. We see the bonds of family connections. We recognize affection. Courtship is courtship. And then we ask, “Are they conscious?” When you get general anesthesia,
it makes you unconscious, which means you have
no sensation of anything. Consciousness is simply
the thing that feels like something. If you see, if you hear, if you feel,
if you’re aware of anything, you are conscious, and they are conscious. Some people say well, there are certain things
that make humans humans, and one of those things is empathy. Empathy is the mind’s ability
to match moods with your companions. It’s a very useful thing. If your companions start to move quickly, you have to feel like
you need to hurry up. We’re all in a hurry now. The oldest form of empathy
is contagious fear. If your companions suddenly
startle and fly away, it does not work very well for you to say, “Jeez, I wonder why everybody just left.” (Laughter) Empathy is old, but empathy,
like everything else in life, comes on a sliding scale
and has its elaboration. So there’s basic empathy:
you feel sad, it makes me sad. I see you happy, it makes me happy. Then there’s something
that I call sympathy, a little more removed: “I’m sorry to hear that your grandmother
has just passed away. I don’t feel that same grief,
but I get it; I know what you feel and it concerns me.” And then if we’re motivated
to act on sympathy, I call that compassion. Far from being the thing
that makes us human, human empathy is far from perfect. We round up empathic creatures,
we kill them and we eat them. Now, maybe you say OK,
well, those are different species. That’s just predation,
and humans are predators. But we don’t treat our own kind
too well either. People who seem to know
only one thing about animal behavior know that you must never attribute
human thoughts and emotions to other species. Well, I think that’s silly, because attributing human thoughts
and emotions to other species is the best first guess about what
they’re doing and how they’re feeling, because their brains
are basically the same as ours. They have the same structures. The same hormones that create
mood and motivation in us are in those brains as well. It is not scientific to say that they
are hungry when they’re hunting and they’re tired when
their tongues are hanging out, and then say when they’re playing
with their children and acting joyful and happy, we have no idea if they can possibly
be experiencing anything. That is not scientific. So OK, so a reporter said to me, “Maybe, but how do you really know
that other animals can think and feel?” And I started to rifle
through all the hundreds of scientific references
that I put in my book and I realized that the answer
was right in the room with me. When my dog gets off the rug
and comes over to me — not to the couch, to me — and she rolls over on her back
and exposes her belly, she has had the thought,
“I would like my belly rubbed. I know that I can go over to Carl, he will understand what I’m asking. I know I can trust him
because we’re family. He’ll get the job done,
and it will feel good.” (Laughter) She has thought and she has felt, and it’s really not
more complicated than that. But we see other animals
and we say, “Oh look, killer whales, wolves, elephants: that’s not how they see it.” That tall-finned male is L41. He’s 38 years old. The female right on his left side is L22. She’s 44. They’ve known each other for decades. They know exactly who they are. They know who their friends are. They know who their rivals are. Their life follows the arc of a career. They know where they are all the time. This is an elephant named Philo. He was a young male. This is him four days later. Humans not only can feel grief,
we create an awful lot of it. We want to carve their teeth. Why can’t we wait for them to die? Elephants once ranged from the shores
of the Mediterranean Sea all the way down to the Cape of Good Hope. In 1980, there were vast
strongholds of elephant range in Central and Eastern Africa. And now their range is shattered
into little shards. This is the geography of an animal
that we are driving to extinction, a fellow being, the most
magnificent creature on land. Of course, we take much better care
of our wildlife in the United States. In Yellowstone National Park,
we killed every single wolf. We killed every single wolf
south of the Canadian border, actually. But in the park, park rangers
did that in the 1920s, and then 60 years later
they had to bring them back, because the elk numbers
had gotten out of control. And then people came. People came by the thousands
to see the wolves, the most accessibly
visible wolves in the world. And I went there and I watched
this incredible family of wolves. A pack is a family. It has some breeding adults
and the young of several generations. And I watched the most famous, most stable
pack in Yellowstone National Park. And then, when they wandered
just outside the border, two of their adults were killed, including the mother, which we sometimes call the alpha female. The rest of the family immediately
descended into sibling rivalry. Sisters kicked out other sisters. That one on the left tried for days
to rejoin her family. They wouldn’t let her
because they were jealous of her. She was getting too much attention
from two new males, and she was the precocious one. That was too much for them. She wound up wandering
outside the park and getting shot. The alpha male wound up
being ejected from his own family. As winter was coming in, he lost his territory,
his hunting support, the members of his family and his mate. We cause so much pain to them. The mystery is, why don’t
they hurt us more than they do? This whale had just finished eating
part of a grey whale with his companions
who had killed that whale. Those people in the boat
had nothing at all to fear. This whale is T20. He had just finished tearing a seal
into three pieces with two companions. The seal weighed about as much
as the people in the boat. They had nothing to fear. They eat seals. Why don’t they eat us? Why can we trust them around our toddlers? Why is it that killer whales have returned
to researchers lost in thick fog and led them miles until the fog parted and the researchers’ home
was right there on the shoreline? And that’s happened more than one time. In the Bahamas, there’s a woman
named Denise Herzing, and she studies spotted dolphins
and they know her. She knows them very well.
She knows who they all are. They know her.
They recognize the research boat. When she shows up,
it’s a big happy reunion. Except, one time showed up and they
didn’t want to come near the boat, and that was really strange. And they couldn’t figure out
what was going on until somebody came out on deck and announced that one
of the people onboard had died during a nap in his bunk. How could dolphins know
that one of the human hearts had just stopped? Why would they care? And why would it spook them? These mysterious things just hint at
all of the things that are going on in the minds that are with us on Earth that we almost never think about at all. At an aquarium in South Africa was a little baby bottle-nosed
dolphin named Dolly. She was nursing, and one day
a keeper took a cigarette break and he was looking into the window
into their pool, smoking. Dolly came over and looked at him, went back to her mother,
nursed for a minute or two, came back to the window and released a cloud of milk
that enveloped her head like smoke. Somehow, this baby bottle-nosed dolphin got the idea of using milk
to represent smoke. When human beings use one thing
to represent another, we call that art. (Laughter) The things that make us human are not the things
that we think make us human. What makes us human is that, of all these things that our minds
and their minds have, we are the most extreme. We are the most compassionate, most violent, most creative and most destructive animal
that has ever been on this planet, and we are all of those things
all jumbled up together. But love is not the thing
that makes us human. It’s not special to us. We are not the only ones
who care about our mates. We are not the only ones
who care about our children. Albatrosses frequently fly six,
sometimes ten thousand miles over several weeks to deliver
one meal, one big meal, to their chick who is waiting for them. They nest on the most remote islands
in the oceans of the world, and this is what it looks like. Passing life from one generation
to the next is the chain of being. If that stops, it all goes away. If anything is sacred, that is,
and into that sacred relationship comes our plastic trash. All of these birds
have plastic in them now. This is an albatross six months old,
ready to fledge — died, packed with red cigarette lighters. This is not the relationship
we are supposed to have with the rest of the world. But we, who have named
ourselves after our brains, never think about the consequences. When we welcome new
human life into the world, we welcome our babies
into the company of other creatures. We paint animals on the walls. We don’t paint cell phones. We don’t paint work cubicles. We paint animals to show them
that we are not alone. We have company. And every one of those animals
in every painting of Noah’s ark, deemed worthy of salvation
is in mortal danger now, and their flood is us. So we started with a question: Do they love us? We’re going to ask another question. Are we capable of using what we have to care enough to simply
let them continue? Thank you very much. (Applause)

Comments (100)

  1. This guy's message is a danger to capitalism… he must be destroyed for the profit machine to keep rolling…

  2. Yes it's ok to eat plants. They don't have brains, nerves or neurons to feel.

  3. this was so interesting!! Thank you Carl!!

  4. This makes me cry

  5. wow!! what a powerful words of truth

  6. Wow. I am truly moved and maybe forever changed.

  7. If you recognize a deadly cancer cell, you attack it in the same way that you would squash a poisonous bug before it bites you. As the speaker asked, "Why don't animals eat us?" Perhaps it is because they don't see us as cancer, nor do they see us as weaker or inferior. Perhaps they see us as incredibly brilliant and too special to ever destroy. In other words, they hold admiration. Just most animals are smart enough to know that it's wise to stay away from us, because their lives could be in danger.

    We aren't cancerous, we are just extreme… just as Carl Safina said. We are an incredibly powerful species, and our individual power grows stronger with each passing year. And it's up to us to decide if we are cancer or if we are the cure. Let's choose the latter. We don't attack the sun for the same reason that we don't see it as inferior to us. If anything, we see it as superior. These animals probably look at us like they look at the sun and marvel at us in amazement. We owe them better.

    Beautiful video. Thanks Carl

  8. Lobsters just are. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin,

    But us? "We have achieved incredibly high levels of understanding of the environment and the universe."
    So what?……"this video took thousands of years of human ingenuity" so what? We don't need to understand the universe, and had we not impacted the environment in any way, the environment would be just fine. As far as humans go, the earth and the universe would be so much better off without so much as one of us. We have done far, far more harm than any good.
    What have we done that's "good" that would be needed if humans did not exist? World hunger? Not a problem. World Wars? Not a problem. Global Warming, polluted oceans, the decimation of thousands of other species, not by natural selection but by us? Not a problem. The ebb and flow of other forms of life would happen organically. The balance of the earth doesn't need a video, or a cell phone, or an understanding of the universe or the atom or anything from us.

    We are deleterious and totally without value on the earth. Tell me wonderful things that we have done, that would be necessary if we weren't here.

  9. 17:17 eye makeup better than mine

  10. early whites are the reason for the madness…. ancient children of the nephalim.

  11. i wish we can brother. we must submit our hearts to good, which is God. Only then will this world be beautiful again.

  12. <3 thus I heard (Y)

  13. Conjectures, non-sequiturs, and emotionally charged ideological statements. A few interesting and thought-provoking animal mannerisms, though he utterly fails to delve into the significance of such behaviors, instead choosing to use hasty appeals to emotion to conclude that animals have consciousness and emotive qualities analogous (in fact, homologous) to humans. Very disappointing presentation on a very interesting topic

  14. Hopefully, one day, they may forgive us.

    *Edit – They shouldn't

  15. Love is not makes us human – reason is what makes us human. I wouldn't have it any other way.

  16. I wonder if the speaker is vegan…
    He didn't mention any animals involved in the dairy/farming industries.

  17. what a great lecture! heart touching one ,its not love that make us human its so sad that its true ,we don't have love in our heart even for our own race 🙁 .

  18. Thank you very much!

  19. yes, man is the climax of animals behaviour, difficult to understand by animals. I am bit nascist about the future of this beautiful comapny.

  20. This is so funny. Oops I'm making this about us.

  21. On tam říká"uvědomme si ,že jsme svůj mozek zdědili" jenže člověk nevznikl evolucí z opice (jak to tvrdil Darwin) ale byl tady vytvořen mimozemskými obyvateli, takže s tím myslením to nebude tak jak říká….ale taky jsem četl,že velryby a delfíni jsou tu na Zemi inkarnované duše které nás mají nasměrovat k životu v Lásce ….ono je to asi na větší bádání ale těma zmanipulovanýma vědcema,kteří dělají pro Světovládu a ututlávají co se dá toho moc nevybádáme 🙂 jedině revoluce nám otevře oči…

  22. his book on the same topic is wonderful. so is deep blue sea. i read it a while back although it was published late 90s. i remember one part where he laments the loss of the blue-finned tuna. he says 'will the last one be killed by spear-gun & sold for a million dollars?' Highly likely. the first one of the season is always sold for the price of a house. apparently the tuna migration is as majestic as anything of that seen in the Serengeti.

  23. unfortunately the answer is no

  24. Two words. GO VEGAN

  25. The public is so DUMB, he's talking about sad facts, and they keep laughing again and again.

  26. Absolutely awesome! Love it.

  27. Good speech.. apart from the evolution bullshit

  28. One of the best speech ever! 💛💛💛💛💛💛💛💛

  29. Maybe I should have searched. Are animals self aware? Are they able to make intelligent decisions?

  30. what a beautiful message!
    part of me hoped when i clicked that I'll get a NO for that question because of all the misery human have caused to these poor creatures, its quite heartbreaking to see how humans hurt them without feeling the slightest bit of guilt,and to see them suffering because of us.. i find humans quite scary and creepy i don't understand us
    this will sound dramatic but these thoughts made me realy depressed and angry yet i can't do much about it
    thank u for ur great talk i will do my best to share it with whom around me, i hope it will make a difference

  31. Speed x1.25 🙂

  32. the ego is the enemy

  33. First I thought it is an awesome speech but then it into gone so much vegan propaganda -___- pathetic.

  34. I don't like the moral of this story. It says humans aren't worth a dime. He's trying to bring animals up but In reality, he's bringing us down to the point that one day, they'll treat us like slaves again. We need to draw a line..for our own protection and we should already be responsible in protecting our animals with respect. It's already our obligation and people disrespecting animals already shows we're messing up in our current understanding of our world. The mental sickness is deep within. Not the symptoms of our sickness.

  35. Fascinating! Many thanks.

  36. Remember Harambe was trying to protect the kid!

  37. absolutely brilliant! i just shared with friends. continue to educate and inspire!

  38. If I needed a sermon, I would have gone to church. 😤

  39. Is it only me or this guy looks and talks like a "serious" Jerry Seinfeld" ?

  40. Somebody please send me the link to the study about elephants hearing two different kinds of people

  41. 14:29 Well answer the question. Why did he ask it 5 times and then just go on about a completely different story?
    Such a waste of time this presentation. 3 minutes worth of useful information and the rest is some very bitter guy whine about boohoo angry hoomans

  42. This dude is a quack

  43. If you ask me, all animals are intelligent. Even the quote-on-quote, stupid ones.

  44. Thank u for showing the human mind that there's more lives out just as important as ours.

  45. I couldnt know about animal's thinking. The terrible thing is that human always destroyed many species because of their convenience. Human is always selfish 🙁

  46. great talk. every human needs to hear this and understand this!

  47. I like this man, and am filled with sorrow when I see the unnecessary atrocities of mankind against sentient beings for things like ivory, fur and skins which we generally don’t need anymore. This video made me sad hearing about the pain mankind inflicts for no reason, I had to listen instead of watch the terrible imagery.

  48. i love you, thank you for this

  49. Beautiful and Essential Conference about our sisters and brothers of our planet, the others species. Human is so destructive, if humans don't repair they must disappear. Animals are much better than humans some are more intelligent but all of them did not choose to dominate the others species and dd not destruct Biodiversity!

  50. This makes me consider to be a vegetarian.


  52. I felt so mad at 11:37… WTF is that.. I know Money can be basic need of human to survive but what made human species this cruel..

  53. Wonderful points! Thanks for the talk

  54. yeah, animals are so sensitive.
    like killer whales, when they find a seal cub, they torture it for fun, throwing it around.
    or wasps, paralyzing a bug and laying an egg inside it, which hatches and slowly eats it alive.
    like hyenas /wild dogs which catch an animal and eat it alive, not bothering to kill it. or apes, our closest relatives, which hunt other apes, tear them limb from limb, and fight over the remains, screaming and jumping in the trees. we are not animals. animals are amazing in their own way, but we are special. we have something they don't. we can feel empathy, fight for justice, and love each other. don't believe anyone telling you otherwise.

  55. We all dream with an better world, but few really do something about it.

    ps. Omg i've became one of those internet-critics.

  56. The best and only video one needs to watch

  57. I just realized how much better it would have been if dinosaurs were still around and humans didn't rule over the world.

  58. We can’t even love other humans I doubt we are gonna take animals into consideration anytime soon. 😰

  59. 🐅🐄🐊🐆🐋🐖🐘🐃🐬🐝🕷

  60. One of the best and saddest TED talks I've seen in a long while :'(

  61. that was interesting

  62. .. sea otters also rape seals to death, and then go back and rapes the corpse months later.

  63. Thanks Carl. One of the most beautiful books I've ever read.
    Through beautiful and intriguing stories about animal's life, you highlight things that should be obvious and yet they aren't for the majority of us.
    This book is a rare and unique jem in the desert of today's ignorance.

  64. Absolutely beautiful

  65. It seems the majority of humanity is narcissistic due to the overwhelming fact of poachers, pollution and the ignorant care of putting our species above all others. Perhaps animals realise this, which may be why they don't fight back. Sometimes i think extinction might be the best for humanity because I'd much prefer the millions of species to survive rather than our own.

  66. Interesting talk. I wonder what this behavioral analysis would imply for robots in the future. Would it be morally wrong to hurt a robot that behaves just like an animal?

  67. There is no logical or ethical argument for consuming animal products (in todays western society). That's why we went vegan. Easy as that. And btw: it is awesome 🙂

  68. What's with all the pictures of indionesia and asia? Like the usa doesn't imprison and kill millions of cows, chickens, turkeys and any other meat they find editable? How about some photos of usa prisons, a LOT worse than Indonesia. judge yourselves before you judge others.

    The fact that we're even having this discussion about animals is ridiculous. If you don't think that animals have feelings and consciousness, then you clearly show how primitive, unintelligent and unwise people are. These are basic, common, fundamental understandings of the world and life. The fact that this is even a debate is a very very sad commentary on the low mental level and emotional level of people.

    The animal kingdom is wisest, kindest, most compassionate and loving kingdom on earth. They are above people in many many ways.

  69. this guy for pres

  70. From the creators of: 'the sun spins around the earth'

    Now playing: 'humans aren't animals'

  71. In our defense, having articulated those characteristics for ourselves led to the realization of the continuum. Also, the observational data collected on other species.

    What makes us 'human' or differentiates us is language and cooperation, the outage of those thoughts; Not that we are more 'extreme at out shared/ inherited characteristics.

    A new paradigm is in the horizon, it must be, this was filmed 3 years ago and here i am, today looking for this, having reached the same conclusions he did, before hearing his facts.

  72. We are animals, but we use our intelligence to create weapons. And we ignore anything that might conflict with our inflated ego’s idea of morality.
    “God put the animals here just for us to eat” and the universe revolves around the earth because we are the only important creatures “created in gods image”. Lol

  73. amazing sad that they die 😢what can we do though?

  74. Good talk so far. First mistake though is that "elephants know more about us than we know about them". Elephants know wich humans to be afraid of. Ok. We know a miriad of things about elephants from anatomy, to behavior, to the environments they like and need. We know more. I am surprised that he never brought up neuronal density. His talk seems incomplete. He posed a question and never answered it.

  75. 1 like equals 1 point for saving animals
    BTW, I looove animals


  77. This topic fascinates me, but this guy is a terrible speaker. His presentation jumps all over the place. “Human bad. Animal good.” Tell me all about animal intelligence and culture, but don't lecture me on how cruel we are toward them. It's just oblivious.

  78. This is a very good talk no doubt about it, but why do Male bears eat thier own young? Is the bear not concious enough to know better? Why does a mountain lion attack and eat a human? Some animals do not care just like humans do not care. Also if animals are on the same level as humans, then why cant they capture a human and put them in a cage. Animals are not brain dead but they are not us.

  79. I loved my dog and he was smartest thing ever and he stayed with me every day of his life all day and all night. He knew everything I was thinking and I knew what he was thinking. His brother kept coming back to me time after time , he didn’t want to go to another home. They wanted to be with me. I miss them so much. I’d of never been beat a shovel if I’d of I’d of had my service dog but I had to move out of my home and my land pimp wouldn’t let me have another dog. So I’m alone in the world and so the dogs in the pound, but we’re not allowed to have each other , my dogs never made a mess I didn’t clean right up. They learned just from me getting right on it that I cared about where they lived not my rug. I never scolded them for stuff that’s normal or otherwise, They were always connected. Bear even got someone when I had a censure.mi trained them like children and they were my family. I certainly pray in all my heart they will see me again. I was going to burry them after carding the ashes for so long but my car broke down by deer and insurance won’t fix any mcanical effects of a deer hitting you but the look of the car, so I’m not putting them in any yard, I wait another year till some miracle happens and I get transmission. My father will provide , the government does nothing, never retire. It’s all messed up. People are mean out here and there’s no fun anymore in a policed state

  80. Somos nós o dilúvio para os animais, simplesmente impactante

  81. I feel like a tiny sliver human population, which is logical, reasonable and scientific, is actually propelling our human race forward while the rest of us are just like a growing plague whose overwhelming needs and demands are responsible for the extermination of animals and desecration & destruction of the natural world.

  82. We are animals too. So they think and feel same as us. That's simple.

  83. I confronted Carl about his cognitive dissonance and he didn't handle it so well:

  84. Well I'm now a vegan for life.

  85. Это было сильно!

  86. So true, obvious (not for many ppl) and so sad 😔
    I believe that ppl are the most cruel and useless creatures on this planet (even before this video).

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