Discover magazine carried a story titled “Fowls in Love” about two Canada geese nicknamed Arnold and Amelia. Many animals pair up to raise young or for protection. However, evolutionary survival of the fittest fails to explain animals sticking together when one of the pair becomes injured and unable to assist in survival. So do animals fall in love?
The Birdsey Cape Wildlife Center staff in Barnstable, Massachusetts, noticed the male goose limping. He had an open fracture that wouldn’t heal on its own. They caught Arnold and prepared to do surgery to repair his foot. The female goose observed the procedure through the clinic’s sliding glass door. When Arnold awoke from surgery, Amelia was allowed into the room, and she used her beak to preen his feathers. For the next 14 days, Amelia was at the center daily, sharing Arnold’s meals and spending time with him.
After Arnold was released, the staff observed the pair together for two weeks until they left with a passing flock of Canada geese. Do animals fall in love? The article writer concludes that the two geese were in love. The article ends with this statement by the veterinarian who did the surgery, “There has to be some internal motivating force that allows that animal to behave in a particular way, and we call it love – that internal driving force.”
This is a classic example of anthropomorphism, attaching human characteristics to an animal. The biblical concept of love is spelled out uniquely in the New Testament by the Greek word “agape,” meaning to consider the object of one’s attention to be of incredible worth. Jesus used agape in His teachings, and we find it in New Testament references to marriage. Human marriage is not just for survival.
We have numerous geese where we live on the St. Joseph river in Michigan. They are always in pairs, and getting near to one of them or their chicks invites an attack from the mate. Raccoons learn to avoid pairs but will go after an isolated goose or chick. Do animals fall in love, or is there a survival reason?
God has placed an instinctive drive in geese to maximize their chances of survival and success in raising young. The bond between Arnold and Amelia demonstrates how strong the instinctive drive is. It is not the biblical concept of love. When Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies and not resist evil (Matthew 5:38-45), He tells them to do something animals cannot do.
— John N. Clayton © 2023
Reference: “Fowls in Love” in the January/February 2023 issue of Discover magazine, page 14