Our time is one that has fostered a tragic relationship between human beings and nature, making it a very good time revisit Karl König’s voice of conscience, a voice that spoke with compassion about the intertwined destinies of man and all twelve phyla of animals – the invertebrates (protozoa, coelenterates, echinoderms, tunicates, molluscs, worms, arthropods) and vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals). His was a courageous, somewhat out-of-step voice in the climate of neo-Darwinian thinking of the early 1960s when these lectures were given. However, in the context of the moral dilemma provoked by recent developments in genetic engineering and the increasingly urgent calls for a reassessment of current attitudes towards the animal world, his thoughts and insights resonate with the concerns we all carry in our hearts.
König sought to place a new understanding of evolution alongside the orthodox view, and his radical approach still challenges the scientific mainstream in ways that offer food for thought to the open-minded student. These seminal lectures invite the reader into a landscape of perception and insight that can engender a new moral imagination towards our evolutionary brothers, the animals.