Offensive? Eh, yes animals can feel emotions, but many of their actions, for example taking care of young and choosing a mate, is based on instincts. Yes, feelings relating to self, such as dismay, fear and loneliness, animals can feel, but not for example compassion or gratitude, which requires the ability to put one in another being's place. That's why in a zoo, the regular keeper should not be there when the vet is visiting, because the animal will then associate that person with something unpleasant.
Animals can't feel compassion or gratitude? What about prosimians, who will share food another of their kind, if they have something to eat, while the other one doesn't? What about elephants, who mourn their dead? What about a mere dog, who silently thanks you for feeding him and taking care of him and being there when he needs you? Whose gratitude can be seen in how he loves his human, how he stands in their defense, how he keeps them from getting hurt? And if animals can't put themselves in another being's place, how is it possible for so many species to live in packs, herds, prides, flocks? The ability to relate and understand others of their kind is basic for the survival of the species, and according to the evolution theory -- therefore present. Believe me, Wikipedia is not the all-knowing source of information. Try reading some latest research.
I agree that animals can show altruistic behavior, and that mammals such as elephants, whales and apes can mourn. But they also have much more complex brains than a dog or a cow. Herd behavior is evolutionary sensible because it provide protection. Ofc animals can relate to each other and behave accordingly to complex social structures, but that doesn't mean they love each other or feel gratitude. Or even that they consiously recognize the consequences of ther actions. There's a big difference. A bird mother will feed its chick, but change a few factors, such as sound, and the chick will be completely ignored. Its not love, its instinct. And about a dog thanking you and defending you, well that is in my oppion a matter of instinct as well, defending the leader of its flock as it is genetically programmed to do. You, as a loving owner, then interpret the animals behavior. If you are so inclined, i don't doubt you can read love and admiration out of your dog's behavior, but that is because you love the dog in the first place. In other words, you are biased. Along those lines of reasoning, the cases of a otherwise friendly dog suddenly attacking a child would be because the animal was angry at the child? Because it wanted revenge on its owner? If a dog can love, then it should also be able to hate, and suddenly a dog should be held responsible for its actions and be punished for assault? Sorry, I don't buy it. To prove gratitude you need a proper animal behavior study, not the words of a loving owner, sorry.
About evolution, the ability to relate and to react is present in bees as well, but I would hardly claim that this is a matter of feelings(maybe you will). The fact of the matter is that animals do not need feelings as we define them to propagate, which is the basic for evolution. Evolution will not automatically lead to feelings.
I know that Wikipedia is not a valid source of information, but I was too lazy to go to NCBI. If you want, I will be happy to do some research and then we can take the discussion from there.
You're right with the loving owner part, that was a crappy argument.
Nevertheless, the fact is that you can't say that some animals' brains are better developed that the others'. Mostly because the elephants brain in relation to its body is three times smaller that a dog's brain in relation to a dog's body. Actually, every animals brains (including our, human brains) are based on the same basic scheme. The centers that are believed to be responsible for emotions and social behaviors are present in human brains, are also present in animal brains. The centers in the front lobe, for example, which is responsible for what we call reason and sensible behavior. It is present in animals brains, but it's not superior to other centers there. For example, the sexual behavior centers located in the limbic system and rhomboideal fossa are inferior to reason centers in humans' brains, but superior in most of animals' brains. Which pretty much means that if a human feels a sexual urge, he will control it, because that's a right things to do, while a horse will destroy carts and jump over fallen trees to get to a female in heat (which I have seen with my own eyes). Wolves, on the other hand, won't give up so easily, simply because the society they built in their packs would punish such behavior (like being a lower male and wanting an alpha female). So their reason centers will be, indeed, superior to their limbic systems. [And believe me, I know what I'm talking about, I have to know it all (and much, much more) for an exam I have in a week.]
Therefore, you can't say animals DON'T feel emotions, no matter if self-centered or other ones. They do, because they have centers in their brains for that, just not always those centers are superior to the more primitive ones, which are believed to be responsible for "instincts".
It is getting quite interesting now When I am talking about developed brains I am referring to the cognitive processes. Ofc most brains have the same basic centers, but in terms of sheer "brain power", an elephant is more advanced (and this is referring to complexity) than a dog.
I never stated that animals cannot feel emotions, but what you describe are urges - lust, hunger - and that cannot be transferred with any form of reason to what we humans for example associate with love.
Yes, maybe I can't say animals can't have certain emotions, but you on the other hand cannot say that they can. Possesing a certain center in the brain is not proof of that, you need to see the center in action so to speak. In rats, depression is defined as a certain behavioral patterns, such as apathy and staying in dark places. Similarly, we would need to define criteria for feelings to test them. I'm a molecular biologist, btw So as a final note, my point is just that animals are not humans and I find that you actually do them a disfavour by thinking them capable of the same range of emotions as a human being.
Future vet here ^^ Yes, okay, in the range that humans do, animals usually don't feel emotions. And you're right, without assuming certain criteria and "symptoms" for different emotions. It would be easier to call on some situations where they showed their emotions. That was an interesting discussion, by the way.