DEAR DR. FOX: I am an animal lover. I have two old dogs and I am, or was, a devout Christian. But my faith is being tested by all the cruelty toward animals and our own kind I hear about on a daily basis. The world is in chaos, and religious wars between fundamentalists of various faiths are escalating while the environment and wildlife are going to hell. I am depressed and in despair; perhaps you can help me find some hope and restore my faith. -- E.L., Silver Spring, Maryland
DEAR E.L.: You have my sympathy. Many feeling and thinking people like you are indeed experiencing hopelessness and despair.
As more than one philosopher and humanitarian has opined, the only true religion is in the spirituality of compassion-in-action and reverential respect for all living beings and the natural environment, which need no god but only our unconditional embrace and protection from inhumanity. This is ultimately enlightened self-interest.
The Buddha advised that the only true religion is in "maitri," loving kindness or compassionate friendship toward all beings, and in embracing that principle, I have my faith and hope that my species may yet evolve! I am heartened that several Christian denominations and other world religions are addressing environmental and animal welfare issues. For more details, see my book "The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures and Creation." For a lighter touch, enjoy the new book by Lutheran theology professor Andrew Root, Ph.D, "The Grace of Dogs: A Boy, a Black Lab, and a Father’s Search for the Canine Soul."
DEAR DR. FOX: I am viewing the video “Cat Behavior and Psychology” posted on your website from September 2015, and I just had to write to you regarding your comment about cats being sensitive to red and green; I was extremely glad to hear you say it, but it makes me wonder, why do animal experts say cats do not see or recognize the color red?
I can’t tell you how many articles I have read by animal "experts" who all say this, but I questioned it when I observed my cat playing with a toy that holds two plastic balls, one yellow, one red. I noticed that she paid no mind to the yellow one going round and round, but concentrated on the red one. The plastic balls are exact duplicates in size and consistency; the only difference is in their color. I wrote to these animal experts regarding this, but I never received responses. Surely they should know what they are talking about. But the behavior I see in my cat says otherwise. You are the only one who says that a cat recognizes red. -- C.H., Alexandria, Virginia
DEAR C.H.: All “experts” in virtually every discipline and specialty need to have some resources on hand for continued professional development -- and they must engage in routine fact-checking. According to the entry on this issue on that excellent resource Wikipedia, “Cats can see some colors, and can tell the difference between red, blue and yellow lights, as well as between red and green lights. Cats are able to distinguish between blues and violets better than between colors near the red end of the spectrum. A 2014 study found that, along with several other mammals, cats' lenses transmit significant amounts of ultraviolet light, which suggests that they possess sensitivity to this part of the spectrum.” (Sources include the Journal of Neuroscience; see Wikipedia entry "Cat Senses" for details.)
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