Articles Written by Barbara
Weekly between fall 2011 and spring 2018, Barbara wrote science commentaries focusing mostly on cognition and emotion of animals ranging from chimpanzees to octopuses and cats to cows; discoveries in human evolution including those related to ancient early art and culture; and issues of gender, including the spectrum of gender identities.
Undark Magazine, 2017
On the night after her six-hour-plus cancer surgery, laying alone in her hospital bed hooked up to medical equipment, Barbara felt acute empathy for the “bile bears” held in confinement in China and Vietnam. But as she explains, it’s not only bile bears in other countries who need our attention and our empathy.
Aeon Magazine, 2017
Science tells us that domestic pigs think and feel, so why do we as a society value the taste of bacon and barbecue more than the lives of animals who fascinate us with their cognitive and emotional capacities? Barbara writes about these issues, looking at research studies and at the life of one majestic pig named Christopher Hogwood.
Barbara argues in this piece that while we humans can do things other animals can’t, too often that leads us to miss what she calls “the fundamental, and often profoundly moving, continuity between how we humans and other animals negotiate the world using our heads and our hearts.” The distinction between being “unique” (which we are) and being “superior” (which we aren’t!) is key.
The Atlantic, 2016
Jane Goodall famously suggested that chimpanzees may feel awe and wonder for their natural world in ways that are reasonable to call “spiritual.” More recently, some scholars have suggested chimpanzees may exhibit full-out religious tendencies. What can we make of this? Barbara admits that she is a skeptic about some of these ideas but enjoys the collegial discussion with other scholars.
Times Literary Supplement, 2016
Essay about Peter Wohlleben’s ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’
In one of her frequent essays for the TLS, Barbara considers a fascinating book suggesting that trees communicate, think, and act in social networks with each other. Finding much to be excited about, including the invitation to think differently about trees in much the same way we were once invited to think differently about animals, Barbara also explains why she feels a degree of skepticism is needed about the claims made regarding tree pain.
Scientific American, 2013; Selected for The Best American Science & Nature Writing 2014
Dolphin moms who keep their babies afloat after death, elephants who stand vigil at the body of a matriarch who has passed on, and a duck who can’t recover emotionally from the loss of his friend: Barbara offers examples of animal grief, considers how we should define grief in nonhumans, and considers the evolutionary trajectory of mourning behavior.