Study Finds That Children Spontaneously Help Puppies, Other Animals

Dr. Hugh’s Ross’ blog was picked up by Yahoo News Lifestyle where it discusses evidence for intelligent design

Original Article: Study Finds That Children Spontaneously Help Puppies, Other Animals

An interesting study from researchers at Duke University is asking important questions about how spontaneously children interact socially with puppies. Interestingly enough, the study’s results led Hugh Ross—senior Scholar and Founder of Reasons to Believe—to suggest evidence of intelligent design.

Tell Me More About the Puppies and Children

Leading the study was Rachna B. Reddy, a biological anthropologist and primatologist. Besides being a postdoctoral fellow at Duke, Reddy is also a research associate in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. In Reddy’s own words, her research goals include “[uncovering] an evolutionary basis for how and why social relationships shape human life”.

The study, published in the journal Human-Animal Interactions, observed behaviors such as “prosocial motivation and goal-reading abilities” between 2-3-year-old children and puppies. Out of the 97 children studied, less than half lived with dogs at home. Interestingly, researchers found that young children will respond positively to dogs trying to reach an inaccessible treat or toy.

 In fact, dogs that actively engaged with children received their help in about 50% of the 237 trials performed. Notably, researchers found that children would engage with all dogs, even passive ones. Additionally, outcomes were more positive when the desired object was a treat instead of a toy. 

What Do the Study’s Results Suggest?

These results confirm the study’s hypothesis that children extend prosocial behaviors to nonhuman animals. Admittedly, the study recognized that human experimenters could be influencing children’s behavior. Regardless, the study demonstrated that “young children can and do help dogs spontaneously.” 

Additionally, researchers suggested that these social relationships can be mutualistic. This idea carries a lot of weight and is evidenced by our long, meandering history with domestic dogs. With more research, the study said, we can continue understanding the complex relationships people form with nonhuman animals. That knowledge would be invaluable for those working with service dogs of any kind.

But Does This Prove Intelligent Design?

According to his profile, Ross says “Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim compelling new reasons to believe in Jesus Christ”. As such, it’s important to take his claims in stride with his objectives.

Regarding the study, Ross mentions the Biblical concept of nephesh, a Hebrew word that broadly refers to sentient traits in humans and certain non-human animals. Ostensibly, Ross believes that the study from Reddy and team proves that human-animal relationships are an inherent structure of our biology. Whether or not that theory stands, what we do know is that the relationships we form with dogs go far beyond what we can perceive.

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