Thumbs up for Made For Each Other by Meg Daley Olmert. Science/nature.
Supposedly about the man-animal bond, at times it reads more like the author’s love affair with oxytocin. No, not the stuff Rush Limbaugh was famously hooked on (that’s OxyContin), but the “feel-good” neurochemical that is activated in social interactions both between people and people, and people and animals. The book could have been trimmed from 244 pages (not including notes) to about 100 without suffering, but it reads quickly enough, and has enough of value, that skimming through the “ra-ra oxytocin is great” repetition is tolerable.
“For twenty years evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond sought to understand how Stone Age New Guineans see their world. In the end, he realized, no matter how hard or how long he stared, he couldn’t even look at a bird the way they do. He was particularly humbled by his efforts to identify a couple of species of warblers he’d collected on a visit to the Foré tribe. Even holding them dead in his hand – with the entire ornithological collection of the American Museum of Natural History for comparison – he took weeks to detect their subtle distinctions. His sense of accomplishment was checked when he discovered that the Foré were well aware that the birds belong to two different species – which is why they had separate names for them. ‘To make matters more embarrassing, the Foré distinguished the mabisena and pasagekiyabi in the field without binoculars, in silhouette, when the birds were 10 meters away.’ In the jungles of New Guinea, Jared Diamond was the primitive.”
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