The study of animal intelligence has been a source of fascination for centuries. From the ancient Greeks to modern-day scientists, humans have long sought to understand the mental capacities of non-human animals.
by David Stone
Animal Intelligence and Human Stupidity
Recent advances in neuroscience have revealed that many animals possess cognitive abilities far beyond what we ever imagined. And there’s always a concern that determining animal intelligence by comparing it to our own.
Why would another animal – dolphin, parakeet or monkey – waste evolutionary energy trying to match up with us? Why would a mountain lion make a run at being more like a human?
The lion probably wonders why we can be more lithe and, for God’s sake, quieter.
Take chimpanzees, for example. They are capable of understanding abstract concepts such as numbers and symbols, as well as exhibiting complex problem-solving skills and social cognition.
Some studies suggest that chimpanzees may even be more intelligent than humans in certain areas, such as emotional intelligence and memory recall.
Yet despite this evidence, humans often fail to recognize the intelligence of our fellow animals. We tend to view them through a lens of human superiority, failing to appreciate their unique capabilities or acknowledge their capacity for thought and emotion.
This is especially true when it comes to our treatment of animals; too often we overlook their needs in favor of our own convenience or profit margins.
Our mistreatment of animals is off the charts in cruelty. See our list here.
Our failure to recognize the intelligence of animals highlights our limitations and flaws as a species. It suggests that we are not only ignorant but also arrogant in our assumptions about our place in the world.
If we want to truly understand and appreciate animal intelligence, then we must begin by recognizing our shortcomings and striving for greater humility in how we interact with other species on this planet.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way with Animal Intelligence
There are, of course, practical steps that humans can take toward achieving the goal of appreciating animal intelligence.
Start by educating ourselves on the science behind animal cognition and learning about their behavior patterns and communication methods. We can also make an effort to support organizations that advocate for animal rights and welfare. The Humane League or World Animal Protection is a good example.
And we can also strive to be more mindful when interacting with animals — whether pets or wild creatures. Try treating them with respect and kindness rather than viewing them solely as objects or commodities for our use or entertainment.
By taking these steps, we can begin to gain a better understanding of animal intelligence — one that recognizes its complexity and acknowledges its importance in the world around us.
Only then will we be able to truly appreciate the amazing capabilities of these creatures — from dolphins’ problem-solving skills to ravens’ tool-making abilities — while at the same time recognizing our limitations as a species.