The New Atlantis » Do Elephants Have Souls? by Caitrin Nicol


The New Atlantis » Do Elephants Have Souls?. This seminal piece in The New Atlantis:A Journal of Technology & Society is an exhortation to rethink determinism and the notion of our consciousness as it relates to life and creation. In the last two centuries elephant populations have declined by 98%.

Caitrin Nicol is Managing Editor at The New Atlantis in Washington after starting there as an intern in June of 2006.  She also does research and writing for the Witherspoon Council on Ethics and the Integrity of Science.

Caitrin Nicol is Managing Editor at The New Atlantis in Washington after starting there as an intern in June of 2006. She also does research and writing for the Witherspoon Council on Ethics and the Integrity of Science.

Staff members at the Elephant Sanctuary told me of an incident with one of their “girls,” who spotted a fallen bird outside her barn and ran right over to it, utterly distraught. She crooned and stroked it and did not settle down till it had been properly laid to rest. What did this mean to her, exactly? We don’t know. But she was clearly very moved by a fellow creature’s woe and had no trouble seeing it for what it was, different life forms though they were. How sad when we, “higher” animals who share this gift, convince ourselves to dull it.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31). If a single little bird is worth the all-consuming grief of Dulary the Elephant and the cosmos-animating mind of the Father of Creation, and human worth surpasses that, then what is there to lose in holistically appreciating the life of this one bird, even insofar as it resembles ours? And how much more than the bird an elephant, which by its own extraordinary nature shows that all species are not equal — but is a portal to the world of non-human life, and the possibilities therein.

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