Book Review – Alex & Me
Book Review – Alex & Me
I recently read the landmark book, (yes landmark) Alex & Me and found a new hope for humanity. This book is landmark in the fact that Dr. Pepperberg’s work with Alex has profoundly changed the way science views animal intelligence and communication, and has conclusively proved that intelligence is not a function of brain size.
But more importantly for humankind, is the recognition it should bring to all thinking humans that we can no longer treat animals as mindless automatons, alive only to serve our needs. They are smart, emotional, and communicative living souls that demand respect. And until humans learn to respect ALL life as sacred, we will never be truly civilized.
This book is very important, not the book itself, but the 30 years of work it represents, and the story of a Parrot who changed the world.
The book can be purchased at Buzzflash.com (Buying their premiums is how they pay their bills and helps support this important independent news site) :
On September 6, 2007, an African Grey parrot named Alex died prematurely at age thirty-one. His last words to his owner, Irene Pepperberg, were “You be good. I love you.”
What would normally be a quiet, very private event was, in Alex’s case, headline news. Over the thirty years they had worked together, Alex and Irene had become famous –two pioneers who opened an unprecedented window into the hidden yet vast world of animal minds. Alex’s brain was the size of a shelled walnut, and when Irene and Alex first met, birds were not believed to possess any potential for language, consciousness, or anything remotely comparable to human intelligence. Yet, over the years, Alex proved many things. He could add. He could sound out words. He understood concepts like bigger, smaller, more, fewer, and none. He was capable of thought and intention. Together, Alex and Irene uncovered a startling reality: We live in a world populated by thinking, conscious creatures.
The fame that resulted was extraordinary. Yet there was a side to their relationship that never made the papers. They were emotionally connected to one another. They shared a deep bond far beyond science. Alex missed Irene when she was away. He was jealous when she paid attention to other parrots, or even people. He liked to show her who was boss. He loved to dance. He sometimes became bored by the repetition of his tests, and played jokes on her. Sometimes they sniped at each other. Yet nearly every day, they each said, “I love you.”
Alex and Irene stayed together through thick and thin, despite sneers from experts, extraordinary financial sacrifices, and a nomadic existence from one university to another. The story of their thirty-year adventure is equally a landmark of scientific achievement and of an unforgettable human-animal bond.
From an online reviewer: When scientist Irene Pepperberg wanted to study animal cognition and language, she purchased an African Grey Parrot, who she named Alex. What followed was a thirty-year partnership that rocked the foundations of our understanding of animal intelligence and challenged all previous assumptions of the phrase “birdbrain.” Pepperberg writes beautifully, bringing the study of language and cognition to an easily-understood level without dumbing down the impact of her work. Beyond science, however, Pepperberg captures the dignity and personality of Alex, a lovable and admirable creature whose early death was a tragic loss.