From Wednesday August 23 through Saturday August 26, some of the world's leading scholars of animal behavior gathered at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Center in Chicago for a multidisciplinary discussion of "Animal Social Complexity and Intelligence." The conference, presented by the Chicago Academy of Sciences in conjunction with the Living Links Center at Emory University and the Jane Goodall Institute, offered a state-of-the-art glimpse of a field that is producing results with profound implications for our understanding of ourselves and our place in the natural order.

Jane Goodall herself was there, a charismatic presence and the center of media attention. The last day of the conference was devoted to her 40 years of work at Gombe, Tanzania, where her research with chimpanzees made her a familiar face throughout the world. Her appearance at the Chicago conference was one of a series of events between April 2000 and July 2001 in which she is making the case for increased awareness of the links between humans, other creatures, and the earth they share.

The substance of the conference was to be found in the papers given by Frans de Waal, Meredith West, Jan van Hooff, and many other eminent scholars, with subjects ranging from Laurence Frank and Christine Drea's study of "Social Cognition and Cooperation in the Spotted Hyena" to Peter Tyack's "Dolphins Learn Individually Distinctive Whistles to Maintain Individual-Specific Social Relationships." And while such titles may suggest tedious fare that would appeal only to specialists, the lectures were for the most part not only quite accessible but frequently entertaining.

It is impossible to hear a number of such papers—reporting on research among various species—without reflecting ...

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