Look, few would dispute that dogs are complicated creatures with internal lives that fall far short of humanlike consciousness or self-awareness. And anyone who's spent more than five minutes with dogs knows their priorities and our own differ dramatically. That's part of the magic of doggy goodness. Dogs don't care whether you're rich or famous or popular. They care about you. Or, in the case of my dog, Cosmo (a shelter dog), he cares about me and about maintaining an orderly and secure perimeter on our block, as free of mail carriers, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, cheetahs and wildebeests as possible. His biggest successes have been with the cheetahs and wildebeests -- so far.
Here's the question reductionists like Zorn don't answer: Why does canine affection have to be a trick or a con? After all, according to the very same logic, I love my wife and daughter because I have strong instinctive attachments for them grounded in my genes. But even if the genetic explanation is absolutely true, it doesn't change the fact that I love my family.
Why should it be different with dogs? It's not as if dogs have a Terminator-like computer screen inside their heads that says "run fake-love subroutine now" when their masters come home from work. Dogs don't pose in front of the mirror practicing their tail-wags like lines from a script so they can make it convincing. If it is true of any living thing, it is true of dogs: They are what they are. A happy dog can no more be faking his joy than a hungry lion could be faking his appetite.
Do we really want to live in a society in which love is a genetically mandated confidence game? Where will that argument take us?
Indeed, if embracing modernity means I have to accept such unlovely idiocy, count me out. I'll be elsewhere. If you need me, just follow the sound of the barking.
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