Monday, January 16, 2017

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

Traditionally, humans have been thought to be uniquely intelligent, able to plan, coordinate, and adapt our behavior, environment, and society.  De Waal stresses commonalities between human and animal cognitive capabilities.

The point is not which species is smarter than another. De Waal presents evidence that intelligence, or cognition, is diverse.

Instead of a scale of intelligence with species placed upon it, de Waal urges us to think in terms of a bush — with branches sprouting in all different directions, diversity and variety rather than more and less or higher and lower. Ecologically, animals are as smart as they need to be. Each has developed the capacities it needs to meet the challenges of its ecological niche.

 The main point is that there is more continuity than discontinuity between human cognition and animal cognition. If we realize that we are not the only intelligent species, we may find ourselves changing both our regard for ourselves and our regard for other species.