Tuesday, 3 November 2009


I can count the number of ad banners I have clicked on one mouse. But I had to click on this one:
[picture of cat and human] - "We're not that different, if you believe we're all OneKind".

As a linguist trying to understand the genetic basis of language in humans, I immediately thought "Uh-Oh".

The link took me to a sign up sheet with a picture of a dog and Paul O'Grady. This is what it said:
"Feelings. We all have them and so do animals. 9 out of 10 people agree. We’re all OneKind."
Amazing! A whole new way to approach the study of cognition in animals - tap into the 'Wisdom of Crowds' collective subconscious of the masses. It continued:
"Can an animal feel lonely, can an animal feel scared, can an animal feel pain? Common sense and experience have long implied that animals are capable of feeling. New research reveals that 91% of people believe this."
Who could argue with those statistics? I've always said that science gets things wrong sometimes - look at the classification of the tomato as a fruit! Surely this is having an adverse affect? Yes, OneKind tells me - Seals are having a bad time in Scotland, there are snares in the world and scientists are running experiments with monkeys.

What are OneKind doing about this? The only answer on the whole site? A petition! Which doesn't seem to be being sent anywhere!
"I believe that animals can feel.
I believe we’re all OneKind.
I emphatically hope that my intrigued ad-click did not boost the ratings of a brainwashing cult. Not even brainwashing - just a group of people saying a meaningless statement, a sentence with a made up word, then three categories. And probably getting money and sympathy for it.

As an evolutionary linguist, I am very happy with the idea that we share many cognitive abilities with animals, and I'm not sure whether we'll ever find out whether animals have what people would describe as feelings. And, of course, I believe that all organisms are probably related at some level. What really annoys me, as a linguist, is that this site is exploiting a strange hypocrisy that, as Nettle & Romanie (2000) point out, people care about some obscure endangered species without caring that whole human languages are going extinct at a comparative rate. I'll be keeping my ad clicking in check from now on.

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