Books  Animal & General Biology  Animals: Behaviour 

Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals

Lining up evidence from a range of disciplines, this book makes abundantly clear how animal and human behaviour differs only in degree, not in kind

By: Nathan H Lents (Author)

349 pages, no illustrations

Columbia University Press

Hardback | Sep 2016 | #227284 | ISBN-13: 9780231178327
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £25.99 $32/€29 approx

About this book

Animals fall in love, establish rules for fair play, exchange valued goods and services, hold "funerals" for fallen comrades, deploy sex as a weapon, and communicate with one another using rich vocabularies. Animals also get jealous and violent or greedy and callous and develop irrational phobias and prejudices, just like us. Monkeys address inequality, wolves miss each other, elephants grieve for their dead, and prairie dogs name the humans they encounter. Human and animal behavior is not as different as once believed.

In Not So Different, the biologist Nathan H. Lents argues that the same evolutionary forces of cooperation and competition have shaped both humans and animals. Identical emotional and instinctual drives govern our actions. By acknowledging this shared programming, the human experience no longer seems unique, but in that loss we gain a fuller understanding of such phenomena as sibling rivalry and the biological basis of grief, helping us lead more grounded, moral lives among animals, our closest kin. Through a mix of colorful reporting and rigorous scientific research, Lents describes the exciting strides scientists have made in decoding animal behavior and bringing the evolutionary paths of humans and animals closer together. He marshals evidence from psychology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, anthropology, and ethology to further advance Not So Different and to drive home the truth that we are distinguished from animals only in degree, not in kind.

"Not So Different lucidly and entertainingly reminds us just how much of us there is in other mammals and vertebrates – and how much of them there is in us. You may never think of yourself in quite the same way again."
– Ian Tattersall, American Museum of Natural History|

"In a beautifully written and very readable book, Nathan H. Lents provides compelling evidence that animals are not that different from us, making it difficult to argue that there is a vast gulf between us and the rest of the animals. As Lents artfully shows, that gulf just does not exist."
– Con Slobodchikoff, author of Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals

"As someone who has studied animal behavior and cognitive ethology and animal emotions for many decades, I have always been fascinated by the similarities and differences between humans and other animals. In Not So Different, Nathan H. Lents focuses on the similarities, and readers will discover that humans and nonhumans share numerous traits, some of which might seem rather surprising, but the existence of which can be readily explained by well-accepted evolutionary arguments and considerations of the social worlds of the animals involved, something Lents does very well."
– Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals and Rewilding our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence

"Nathan H. Lents has put together a comprehensive look at animal counterparts of human emotions and thoughts. The scope and quantity of his examples make a compelling argument for zoological precursors to nearly all human sentiments and many cognitive capabilities. His book is a charming read for general audiences that will also find value in the biology courses of high school and university curricula."
– Joan Roughgarden, author of Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

"Thoroughly enjoyable and accessible [...] Whether Lents is discussing love, grief, greed, or envy, he provides ample evidence that animals have a rich inner life."
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Introduction: Emotions, Drives, and the Brain
1. Why Do We Play?
2. Animal Systems of Justice
3. Moral Animals
4. Sexual Politics
5. Do Animals Fall in Love?
6. The Agony of Grief
7. Jealous Beasts: The Dark Side of Love
8. Darker Still: Envy, Greed, and Power
9. Afraid of the Dark
10. The Richness of Animal Communication
Epilogue: Metacognition, Self-awareness, and the Mind

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Nathan H. Lents is professor of molecular biology and director of the biology and cell and molecular biology programs at John Jay College of the City University of New York. His work has been published in at least a dozen leading science journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Molecular Cell, and the American Journal of Physiology, as well as the science education journals the Journal of College Science Teaching and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is on the editorial board of The Journal of Phylogenetics and Evolutionary Biology and maintains The Human Evolution Blog.

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