THE DISCOVERY OF ANIMAL BEHAVIOR by John Sparks

THE DISCOVERY OF ANIMAL BEHAVIOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The companion to a BBC-TV series to debut here in October on PBS, this is replete with color photographs of animals behaving in one way or other but organized around the human observers who, says Sparks, ""advanced our knowledge like stepping stones."" After the unheeded good example of Aristotle, the steps proceed from the gullible wonder-mongering of Pliny the Elder and the medieval bestiaries to the accurate observations of English parsons and their like--and then, led by Darwin, to theory and interpretation. After Darwin, the investigations of animal intelligence, behaviorism, and animal communicatons and community are cast largely as chapters in the ongoing debate between nature and nurture, instinct and learning. Today, Sparks concludes, science has reached a detente between ethology and ecology. He sees such a synthesis in the ""selfish gene"" theory and the study of the kinship factor in altruistic behavior--the concluding topic and the one to which he devotes the most attention. Otherwise, his reports on earlier observers deal with their lives and eccentricities as well as their work, and he tends to thumbnail the work of Darwin, Skinner, Goodall, and others in terms of associations (""struggle for existence""; ""learned or conditioned reflex"") that viewers can already be expected to have formed. The ideas are presented via specific examples, which promises splendid viewing, as do the photos included here. The text--a little learning, a little polite entertainment--is for readers attracted by the series. On this subject, though, more in-depth popular coverage abounds.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1982
Publisher: Little, Brown