If we have not much peered into the hearts and minds of other species and have not even studied them carefully, we may impute to them virtues and strengths as well as vices and deficiencies that in fact they lack. Consider this bit of verse by the poet Walt Whitman:
I think I could turn and live with animals, they’re so
placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania
of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived
thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
On the basis of the evidence presented in this book, we doubt if any of Whitman’s six purported differences between other animals and humans is true–at least given a little poetic license; that is, in the spirit if not the letter of the poem.