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Author Looks To Animals For Deeper Understanding Of Good And Evil

Aired 3/17/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Jefferey Masson, Ph.D.


We're all taught that the law of the jungle is to kill or be killed. We believe that our survival instincts are honed in the recesses of human history as we fought tooth and nail against wild killer beasts.

A new book points out that human beings, as the master predators are without a doubt the biggest killers on the planet. Jeffrey Masson, author of "Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About The Origins of Good And Evil," said in the book's video trailer, "What I find interested is that while they almost never kill us, we kill them, and every other animal, on a gigantic scale."

Masson said, what's more, they almost never kill their own. Killing members of your own species is a uniquely human trait.

In "Beasts," Masson, a longtime animal advocate, explored how taking a deeper understanding of animals may bring us back in balance with the natural world.

Masson will be speaking about his book "Beasts" on Tuesday, March 18 at 7 p.m. at the Institute For Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego.

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Avatar for user 'Noeye'

Noeye | March 17, 2014 at 8:15 p.m. ― 3 years ago

I listened to this interview today and I can assure you, this guy knows little to nothing about animal behavior. He is basically just a propaganda writer for "animal rights" extremist groups like PETA. He spouts assumptions and false conclusions and tries to pass these ideas off as valid data.

Read Jared Diamond or EO Wilson if you're interested in this topic. Or at least do some research first.

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Avatar for user 'dialyn'

dialyn | March 18, 2014 at 7:11 a.m. ― 3 years ago

It doesn't take a lot of research and see how humans have driven so many animals to extinction. They have not done the same to us. We in our mighty arrogance are also on the path to extinction by poisoning the environment for the sake of the almighty dollar. Aren't we proud?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 19, 2014 at 11:23 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Humans are the only living things that kill other members of their own species? Is this guy smoking crack???

Why don't we look at the killing in terms of percentage of the population. Predatory animals kill way, way more than humans when you use a reasonable method of comparison. What a ridiculous book and author.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | March 19, 2014 at 1:46 p.m. ― 3 years ago

Thanks for the article about Jeffrey Masson KPBS! Quite an interesting book. I'm sad I missed his presentation yesterday at USD. Although his website is full of info:


He never said humans are the only ones that kill their own species. Other do, but usually it is accidental while engaged in conflict. Their intent is to scare (or worst case injure), not to kill. Predators are hunting other species, not their own.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | March 19, 2014 at 3:05 p.m. ― 3 years ago

There's a great scene in the movie "Tree of Life" where a dinosaur encounters another dinosaur who is dying. The scene exemplifies mercy and compassion between animals. It's mindblowing. I'd like to hear Dr Masson's opinion on it.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 19, 2014 at 3:24 p.m. ― 3 years ago

DeLaRick how did they catch dinosaurs on film? Oh wait... they didn't. They just made up some dinosaurs and put human emotions on them. This is meaningless.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | March 20, 2014 at 7:37 a.m. ― 3 years ago


With all due respect, Terrence Malick's artistic expressions are more meaningful than your posts (mine, too). Every movie can't be "Lone Survivor." The artist gives tangible form to abstract thoughts and feelings. Contemplating animals' motives falls into that category. So, I would say my example is not quite "meaningless" on this particular topic. W'd be lucky to have Beth Accomando and Jefferey Masson discuss it on the air.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 20, 2014 at 1:45 p.m. ― 3 years ago

All we have are dinosaur bones. It is impossible for any artists rendition of dinosaurs to show the slightest bit of accuracy in terms of their emotions or behavior. I guess his work could have meaning, but that meaning is completely detached from the actual behavior of dinosaurs.

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