Animals Attract Academic Attention

Except for our pets, we love animals from afar. “Most people interact with animals when they’re dead and eaten,” Dr. Lori Gruen, head of the philosophy department at Wesleyan, told The New York Times.

As our physical separation from animals has grown, our cultural and philosophical distance diminished.

In universities, animals once belonged in the lab or in ag schools, now animal studies make inroads into humanity studies, reports The New York Times:

    This spring, freshmen at Harvard can take “Human, Animals and Cyborgs.” Last year Dartmouth offered “Animals and Women in Western Literature: Nags, Bitches and Shrews.” New York University offers “Animals, People and Those in Between.”

Science reporter James Gorman writes:

    The field builds partly on a long history of scientific research that has blurred the once-sharp distinction between humans and other animals.

It was an artificial distinction, based on culture and myth, not on facts. It’s about time humanities catch up with science when assesing similarities and differences between species.

Missing in action

“Thirty years ago, she said, animals were at the margins of philosophical discussions of ethics; now “the animal question is right in the center of ethical discussion,” Dr. Gruen told The New York Times.

With an ethics angle, Animal Studies in the midst of very urban Greenwich Village doesn’t seem so out-of-place, although I wonder, how many live animals are there on the New York University campus?!

Another big issue, with huge ethical and practical implications, is not mentioned. Sure, the NYT article focuses on the academics. I’m glad there is so much coverage of animals, but I still wonder why the current species extinction wave isn’t mentioned.

An estimated 35 species died today, according to the poodwaddle clock. The huge rate of species extinction is missing from the “why animal studies now” blurbs on the various sites. Imprecise as this estimate may be, with all awareness that species have gone extinct before humans even existed so we are not necessarily causing it, there’s still a strong suspicion that loss of habitat and environmental problems contribute mightily to species loss.

I also want to know the name of the chimp pictured with the article. It’s all about integrating animals and ethics, but who is the chimp? The photographer wasn’t credited either, only gettyimages got credit for the portrait.


Animal Studies Cross Campus to Lecture Hall, By James Gorman, January 2, 2012

Photo used in the article above:
Chimpanzee pondering his life like the Thinker, Pan troglodytes
Creative image # 100480527, photo by Bridger Nielson, Gravity Giant Productions

Human, Animals, and Cyborgs, Harvard University 2011-2012 Course Catalog, Freshman Seminar, Faculty Jill Constantino
Description excerpt: How do we fit among the animals, plants, and materials around us?

New York University Animal Studies

Animal Studies at NYU: A Look at the School’s Newest Program (Interview)
What Brad Goldberg, NYU grad, animal activist and donor to the program, has to say about the initiative.

By Rachel Cernansky, Oct 13, 2010

Animals and Society Institute
“Where knowledge and science meet ethics and compassion”

new book due in April 2012
Thinking Animals: Why Animal Studies Now?, by Kari Weil

    Exposing humanism’s conception of the human as a biased illusion, and embracing posthumanism’s acceptance of human and animal entanglement, Weil unseats the comfortable assumptions of humanist thought and its species-specific distinctions.

As always, needs to be mentioned:
US and World Population right now:
U.S. 312,831,075, World 6,986,968,884, 19:39 UTC (EST+5) Jan 10, 2012


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