Week 2: The Song of Nature, theme 1: ORGANISMS
Week 3: The Song of Nature, theme 1: ORGANISMS
Week 4: The Song of Nature, theme 1: ORGANISMS
Week 6: The Song of Nature, theme 2: STORIES
Week 7: The Song of Nature, theme 2: STORIES
Week 8: The Song of Nature, theme 2: STORIES
Week 9: Interlude - To Experience Nature
Week 10: The Song of Nature, theme 3: ENVIRONMENT
Week 11: The Song of Nature, theme 3: ENVIRONMENTS
Week 12: The Song of Nature, theme 3: ENVIRONMENTS
Appendix #1 - Natural History Books
Appendix #2 - Index of Nature Poems
Appendix #3 - Selected Outlines of Living Things

Day 3: Intelligence


Devoted students of natural history appreciate the remarkable ways in which animals deal with their needs and challenges. Few today would dispute that we should consider animals to think, and have intelligence, even if it is not the same sort or degree as our own unprecedented human mind. Today we’ll think about how animals think. We’ll start with three videos on the topic:

Video: “Inside the Minds of Animals (Bryan B Rasmussen)” (5:12)

Video: “Like Humans Chimps Learn Behavior From One Another (Smithsonian)” (3:27)

Video: “What Animals Are Thinking and Feeling, and Why It Should Matter (Carl Safina)” (16:27)

Intelligence is not just a vertebrate thing, though. Every year we learn more about the smartness of octopus and other molluscs such as cuttlefish and squid. Here is a scientific review paper about personality, play, and thinking in these cephalopods:

Reading: “To Boldly Go Where No Mollusc Has Gone Before (Mather 2008)



Find animals again today, and try to understand their thinking. What are they looking for? What are they afraid of? What are their needs? Put yourself—to whatever limited extent we humans can—in the mind of an animal you are watching, whether it is a caterpillar or a chipmunk or a dog.


~Don’t forget to go out and observe at night~



I leant upon a coppice gate, 

When Frost was spectre-gray,

And Winter’s dregs made desolate 

The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky 

Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh 

Had sought their household fires.


The land’s sharp features seemed to me 

The Century’s corpse outleant,

Its crypt the cloudy canopy, 

The wind its death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth 

Was shrunken hard and dry,

And every spirit upon earth 

Seemed fervourless as I.


At once a voice arose among 

The bleak twigs overhead, 

In a full-hearted evensong 

Of joy illimited.

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small, 

With blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul 

Upon the growing gloom.


So little cause for carolings 

Of such ecstatic sound

Was written on terrestrial things 

Afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through 

His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew, 

And I was unaware.


-Thomas Hardy (1900)