Critical Analysis : ' Critical Anthropomorphism '

2037 Words9 Pages
Critical Anthropomorphism
This story illustrates beautifully the idea of “critical anthropomorphism” as one way to understand how other animals think, feel and operate in their own worlds – possibly with senses that most of us don’t even know we have. Using this approach, developed by biologist Gordon Burghardt, a scientist or layperson combines scientific knowledge, including behavior studies of the animal and its habit, with a perceptual shift. In a sense, he or she steps into the animal’s world, tries to sense it as it might sense the world, to walk in its shoes – or, as Burghardt put it, wear the snake’s skin.
Burghardt, alumni Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has worked primarily on reptile
…show more content…
Burghardt and Rivas write:

“Too often ethologists and herpetologists regard snakes and other reptiles as robot-like machines or as animals so alien from us that attempting to put ourselves into their world, even heuristically, is both useless and a scientifically dangerous conceit. On the contrary, approaching unresolved issues by considering the perceptual world and the perspective of the target animal may generate testable hypotheses that were previously unconsidered.”

Burghardt and Rivas also point out that “female ethologists have correctly emphasized the value that taking a female perspective has added to our understanding of social behavior.” In other words, human beings do not come through only one doorway; the same is true for every other creature. And that is a consequential truth not only for science, but for how all of us perceive the world, ourselves, and other animals.
All of this makes me wonder how laypeople could apply it to their own lives. Most of us won’t be coming up with testable hypotheses or doing rigorous research. We would be, or are, more like the boy who became the grasshopper. Critical anthropomorphism suggests ways that adults (and children) could explore the bond they have, or could have, with other animals, domestic or wild.
Get Access