Molika Ashford writes for Live Science, Dec. 28, 2010:
“People often assign feelings to animals […] But scientists haven’t determined whether these human-like expressions really mean anything. […]
Scientists believe that certain brain cells in humans called spindle cells are responsible for human social behavior and the interplay between thoughts and feelings. Studies have revealed that chimpanzee, dolphin and whale brains also possess spindle cells. Although these are all animals that can act people-like, the presence of these cells does not mean that the animals have feelings.
Even animals that don’t have spindle cells, such as dogs, have shown behaviors that can suggest a human-like social sense. In recent experiments, dogs have shown that they know to follow a human’s pointed finger to find a food treat. Scientists report that this shows dogs are sensitive to human social cues and are able to correctly interpret them. Still, this only proves that dogs know how to find food, not that they have feelings.
[…] In a recent study, a Barnard College researcher tested dogs to see if their guilty looks were linked to actual bad behavior. Dogs were tempted with a treat and told by their owners not to eat it.
The dog’s owners weren’t allowed to see whether their pets had eaten the treat or not, but were told either that they did or that they didn’t, and were then instructed to scold the dogs that disobeyed. The experimenters noted that scolded dogs showed a guilty look whether or not they had actually done wrong.
This illustrates the difficulty in accurately interpreting animal behavior as a marker of human-like feelings. A guilty look suggests a feeling of guilt in a human but not necessarily in a dog, according to the Barnard research. Similarly, even apparent mourning or empathy behavior might not actually mean these feelings are present in the brains of animals.“
Tell me this dog, grieving over the death of a companion, doesn’t have feelings. Note his repeated gasping/choking toward the end of the video, his entire body shaking.
And yet we are to believe Christopher and Lynn McDonnell are grieving parents whose child, Grace, was killed by Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.
I don’t need “scientists” to tell me the meaning of what I can see with my own eyes, which is that the dog was overcome with feelings of distraught and grief, whereas the smiling and tearless McDonnells were acting.
If the McDonnells were grieving, they sure have a strange way of showing it. I’d sure like to see “scientists” explain their peculiar display of “feelings” over their 7-year-old daughter’s murder.
By the way, Christopher and Lynn McDonnell are among the Sandy Hook residents who purchased their home on December 25, 2009, for $0.