Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Intelligence of Our Related Species

I am always annoyed when people of the human race make comments indicating their supposed superior intelligence over any other species on the planet. Its not just intelligence either. Many believe that non-humans lack logical and rational thought, feelings, etc. All this while scientific study after scientific study has illustrated otherwise.

I have sufficient proof to convince myself through careful observation of wildlife. For more thorough proof, there are scientific studies that have demonstrated the use of tools by many species (check many references to bird intelligence and dolphins), the creation of tools by many species (tool making crows), and teaching of others by species (Chimpanzees) as just a few examples of supposed higher thought. A few months back Chimpanzees were shown to be faster at a number of computational tasks. Why do we find this so surprising? From a non-creationist point of view, we are all organic beings composed of much of the same raw materials, just assembled in a different manner. The brain of a Chimpanzee is not too different than our own.  Actually, the brain of most any mammal is highly similar in structure to our own. Thus, why can't they be as sophisticated as ours?

National Geographic has an article on a new study that finds that Chimps eat dirt and leaves to fend of malaria. I found this fascinating as the article illustrates that it is the combination of the dirt and the leaves that is required to get the benefit. Show me a human that if inflicted with malaria would be smart enough to eat the right combination of dirt and leaves to be cured. My wife pointed out that humans have clearly reverse evolved in this area.  Our own evolution and dependence upon societies have deselected for the ability to cure ourselves with nature. Our lack of predators has probably caused our computational processing to become slower as well, hence the slower responses in the other study, but these are simply my own hypothesis.

One more interesting point to consider, we are evolving more slowly than Chimpanzees. Thus, they have the potential in a world that selects for intelligence to pass us if they have not done so already.

When will we learn to respect other living things for what they are - biological beings that are different but not inferior than ourselves?

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