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The Secret Language of Life:
How Animals and Plants Feel and

by Brian J. Ford

New York: Fromm International, 2000

Man, the crown of creation, has set himself above and apart from other life-forms, regarding animals and plants as dumb and insentient. Now a pioneering scientist tells us how wrong we have been. In an engrossing tour of the many species we share our planet with, Brian J. Ford reveals how all living things feel and communicate in ways that, though mysterious to us, are very real. He cites a growing body of research to show that we are surrounded not by brute beasts we can use at will, but by sensitive souls with emotions and responses we must respect.

We are taught -- wrongly -- that dreams are unique to humans. Our animal relatives dream, too, and have, long before we as a species existed. Do animals feel pain? The weight of scientific evidence shows they do. Mammals have languages of their own to transmit inner feelings -- aggression, affection, fear -- to their fellows, from dolphins' aquatic chirping to elephants' subsonic trumpeting. Birds show astounding cognitive ability, conducting elaborate courting rituals and displaying great passion and devotion to lifelong partners. Even protozoa carry out surprisingly complicated tasks such as navigating obstacles. The Secret Language of Life also sheds light on many intriguing wonders of biology, including the purpose of the beautiful shapes of pollen grains, how protozoa hibernate in winter, and the reason trees shed their autumn leaves.

Ford's fascinating and entertaining examination of life's many forms shows that within each species, whether insects, fishes, plants, or even microbes, life exists in glorious and surprising variety, rich in sensation and creating a marvelously complex web of interaction with its surroundings. In an era when animal rights are widely debated and discussed, this timely, thought-provoking book offers a revolution in popular science.

Brian J. Ford is a biologist teaching at the University of Wales, and the author of over eighty books, including Images of Science, The First Encyclopedia of Science, and Microbe Power -- Tomorrow's Revolution. He is also a contributor to the BBC, the London Times, Nature, New Scientist, the British Medical Journal, and the Encyclopedia Britannica.


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