Dr. Jonathan Balcombe is the director of animal sentience at the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy and the author of a number of books, including Second Nature, Pleasurable Kingdom, and the newly released New York Times bestseller What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins. Balcombe has three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology (animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, where he studied communication in bats. A popular commentator, he has appeared on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the BBC, and the National Geographic Channel, as well as in several documentaries, and he has contributed features and opinions to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Nature, and other publications.
Keynote Lecture: What a Fish Knows
Arguably the least understood, and certainly the most exploited vertebrates on Earth, fishes have been predominantly viewed by us in two contexts: as a source of food, and as a source of recreation. It is as if they didn’t have lives of their own! Modern science shows otherwise. Combining science and story-telling, this presentation explores startling discoveries of fishes’ colorful lives that will raise eyebrows and drop more than a few jaws. In this companion to Balcombe’s latest book, What a Fish Knows, you’ll learn how fishes can use tools and create mental maps, recognize shoalmates, deceive others, keep accounts, parent, woo, collaborate, and undergo gender reassignment without costly surgery.
Lecture: The Inner Lives of Animals
Twenty-first century discoveries show what some have suspected all along—that animals lead lives of acute sensitivity, awareness, and virtue. This presentation takes audiences on a tour of some of the more surprising scientific revelations of how animals perceive, think, feel, communicate, socialize, and cooperate. You’ll discover how baboons grieve, how starlings show optimism, how crocodiles use tools, how rats laugh, how scrub jays deceive, how magpies recognize themselves in a mirror, and how a humble-looking intertidal fish performs a cognitive feat that will knock your socks off. Against this backdrop, our own anthropocentric and predatory behavior toward animals needs a major overhaul.
Lecture: Beastly Bliss -Animal Pleasure and its Significance
Animals’ capacity for pain and suffering has, quite rightly, been central to rising moral protests against humans’ abysmal record of animal abuse and exploitation, but very little attention has been given to animals’ capacity for pleasure. This lavishly illustrated presentation shows how central the desire for reward is to animals’ lives, and debunks the popular perception that life for wild animals is a continuous, grim struggle for survival. There are many sources of pleasure in animals’ lives, including food, play, touch, sex, comfort, companionship, love, beauty, and freedom. Animals are not just pain-avoiders, but active pleasure-seekers, and their lives take on intrinsic value. The moral implications are profound.