Animals Could Teach Us a Lot about Ourselves: If Gorillas Can Respond with Compassion for One of Us, What Does This Tell Us about Ourselves?

By Ruether, Rosemary Radford | National Catholic Reporter, September 27, 1996 | Go to article overview

Animals Could Teach Us a Lot about Ourselves: If Gorillas Can Respond with Compassion for One of Us, What Does This Tell Us about Ourselves?


Ruether, Rosemary Radford, National Catholic Reporter


Binti-Jua is a heroine in the area. In case you haven't heard about her, Binti-Jua is 160-pound female gorilla who lives in the Brookfield Zoo in a suburb of Chicago. This zoo prides itself on creating natural settings for its animals. For example, the Tropic World gorilla area is constructed to look like a tropical forest in which humans peer down from paths and bridges at trees growing in a rocky pit below. This construction proved dangerous recently for a three-year-old boy. Running ahead of his family, he climbed over the bamboo fencing and tumbled 25 feet,into the pit, striking himself on the jagged rocks as he fell.

Zoo attendants leaped to spray water on a group of gorillas near where the child fell, assuming. they might attack him. But Binti-Jua, her own baby riding on her back, strolled over and scooped the injured boy up in her arm. She carried him about 40 feet around the pit to a door used by the zoo attendants. There she laid the boy down for the zoo attendants to retrieve.

The boy, despite the fall, which knocked him unconscious, seems to be recovering quickly.

The story of Binti-Jua's act was front page news in Chicago papers and crowds of people have rushed to see her. Experts on animal behavior have been solicited to explain what was taken to be extraordinary evidence of compassionate help offered by a gorilla to an injured human child.

Although student's of gorilla life,such as Jane Goodall, have for years shown that gorillas are not violent unless threatened and have a high capacity for thinking and feeling, the surprise at this caring gesture seems to reflect the contradictory way we humans continue to think about-animals.

On one hand, we incorporate pet dogs and cats into our families, giving them care and attention similar to the care and attention we give our children. Meanwhile dogs and other highly sentient animals are tortured in our medical laboratories. Animals we plan to eat are subjected to short and miserable lives, cooped up in small pens on factory farms.

This contradictory treatment has been rationalized.by disparate views of animals. Dog and cat owners have no doubt that their pet feels and interacts with them in highly sensitive ways, feeling our grief, anger and joy and responding to our moods with compassion, fear or playfulness.

They learn the sound of our car approaching and are at the window peering out, they have vanous ways of insisting on their own comforts and making us accede to their wishes. We learn to pay attention to their feelings as they to ours. In short, we communicate with them as persons.

Yet our official theories about animals have denied our own experience with them. Particularly since the Renaissance, the official Western view of animals, promulgated by Descartes, was that they were propelled by instincts and devoid of interior psychic life. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Animals Could Teach Us a Lot about Ourselves: If Gorillas Can Respond with Compassion for One of Us, What Does This Tell Us about Ourselves?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.