n Ekklesiastikos Pharos - How smart are animals really? The Joban divine discourses and natural science : research article

Volume 94, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1018-9556



In the divine discourses of the book of Job, the wonder and mystery of the natural world are vividly portrayed. Wild animals in particular are presented as pedagogic models to Job to teach him that he (humankind) is not the centre of the universe and that there is as much meaning to be found in the larger cosmic order, inclusive of chaos, as there is in the humanly experienced, predictable side of life. The smartness of these animals is revealed through their (elementary) mental capacities of self-awareness, emotions, perspective taking (mindreading) and beginnings of morality (eg parenting). The poet's keen intuitions and poetic descriptions of these traits have been confirmed by modern ethology. Where these mental capacities have in the past been reserved for humans only, it has become clear that we share these traits with animals, even though humans have evolved far beyond their animal past. The poet's subtext of humans' kinship with animals - therefore we can learn from them - becomes a subtle appeal also for our respect and care for the environment, an issue of critical urgency nowadays.

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