BIRDS AND HUMANS: WHO ARE WE ?
What are birds? Are they really today's dinosaurs as against us mammals and how does their evolution compare with that of humans and their lifestyle, parenting, tools, travelling and intelligence – better or worse? Was it they who first discovered music and then taught us – and do they too have an aesthetic sense and a joy in play? What about the art of birds and – well, how many poems or proverbs about birds do you know? This beautifully argued and illustrated book gives some startling answers. It contends, most unusually, that it is time for us to revise the widespread assumption, most distinctly expressed in Harari's magnificent best-selling Sapiens and Homo dues, that we humans are the Lords of the Earth. Rather, Callender argues, it is for humans, not after all so unlike birds, to share the guardianship of our precious world with this wonderful parallel species.
We have our gifts too, but birds have the advantage of many more millions of years and climate changes here in which to learn and survive as highly intelligent and generous guardians of our precious earth.
David Campbell Callender is a pen name of the anthropologist Ruth Finnegan.
BIRDS AND HUMANS: who are we?
David Campbell Callender is the pen name of Ruth Finnegan. Largely brought up in Derry, she spent most of the war years in Donegal, 13 months of it in a small cottage in a 'gentle' (faerie) wood, an experience vividly described in her mother's entrancing 'Reaching for the Fruit' and her own semi-autobiographical novel, 'Black Inked Pearl'. This had a lasting influence on her life. In order to avoid an upbringing tainted by Ulster religious divisions, on their return to Derry in 1945 her parents sent her to a Quaker school in York (the Mount) where the experience of memorising and repeating daily 'texts' from the Bible and other literature, shaped much of her future writing, most directly in her monograph Why do we quote? and her novel Black Inked Pearl. This was followed by four joyous years (1952-56) at Somerville College Oxford, again reflected in the novel, in the delightful study of classics (a degree that then combined literature, history and philosophy), ending, to her amazement, with one of the best classics firsts of her year. After two years teaching (and repaying her student debt) at the leading public school Malvern Girls College (now Malvern St James) she decided to return to the intellectual life but this time, much though she would always love the Greek and Roman cultures, to follow her instinct, honed partly by her anti-colonialist and broadly left-wing stance, to widen her study to include learning about other cultures. She chose to focus on Africa, and completed first the postgraduate Oxford Diploma and B.Litt in Anthropology, then fieldwork (1960-61, 1963-4) on story telling among the Limba speakers of Northern Sierra Leone (her manuscript field notes are deposited in the archives of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London); digitised versions of audio taped Limba story-telling and (minimally) music are available. She completed her D.Phil in 1963, supported by Nuffield College, under the celebrated anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard. Immediately after her marriage in 1963 to David John Murray, grandson of Sir James Murray, the first editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. She and her husband were recruited as founding members of the academic staff of the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK HQ.