10 August 2004
"When Koko the gorilla used the American Sign Language gesture
for pain and pointed to her mouth, 12 specialists, including three
dentists, sprang into action."
-from the Associated
Just a few years ago, it was an article of faith among scientists
that animal awareness existed at a much lower level than human
consciousness. Now there are dogs
that have vocabularies of hundreds of words, and trained chimps
and gorillas who share their world with us, using a child-like
speech. The tongue seems to be more a limiting factor than the
It may be that dolphins and even elephants communicate in a rich
and complex syntax. Why havenít scientists yet decoded their
language? Perhaps we are making the wrong assumptions about the kinds
of things they are interested in transmitting.
Once we open to perspectives on the world so different from our
own, how much can we expand our own range of perspective?