Anthropologist Barbara J. King, whose previous book Evolving God explored the roots of religion among non-human animals, has a new book, called Being with Animals, about how and why humans relate to other species:
Animals rule our existence. You can see this in the billions of dollars Americans pour out each year for their pets, in the success of books and films such as Marley and Me, in the names of athletic teams, in the stories that have entertained and instructed children (from The Cat in the Hat back to well before Aesop created his fables), in the animal deities that pervade the most ancient forms of religion (and which still appear in sublimated forms today), to the paintings on the cave walls of Lascaux. The omnipresence of animal beings in our lives–whether real or fictional–is something so enormous that people take often it for granted, never wondering why animals remain so much a part of human life. It has continuously maintained a powerful spiritual, transcendent quality over the tens of thousands of years that Homo sapiens have walked the earth. Why?
King looks at this phenomenon, from the most obvious animal connections in daily life and culture and over the whole of human history, to show the various roles animals have played in all civilizations. She ultimately digs deeply into the importance of the human-animal bond as key to our evolution, as a significant spiritual aspect of understanding what truly makes us human, and looks ahead to explore how our further technological development may, or may not, affect these important ties.
Read (slightly) more at Random House.