Difference, Intelligence, and Life

Crows, scientists say, are as smart as the typical five-to-seven year-old. Any comment about the “intelligence” any kind of “life” has or does not have is immediately problematic–and human-centric. The more we learn about other forms of life, the more we realize how much more they know than previously acknowledged and how much more we have in common than easily admitted. 

But, think about human five-to-seven year olds. Some are learning to read and write. Some are very interested in playing outside. Some are struggling with cancer. Some are amazingly talented painters or singers. Some are homeless because their guardians have encountered hard times. So, imagine similar parallels in crows.

And why are humans the point from and to which we measure everything?

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda

Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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4 replies

  1. Maybe children believe animals, so to speak, can talk and have feelings because at that age, the animals are smarter. Some of them, anyway.

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  2. Most of what people call “intelligence” is the behavior that makes the animal more like a human. There are some intelligent animals who perform far better than humans do at any age. The language of dolphins is extremely complex, more so than any human language is. That is probably because their social system is far more advanced than ours. I recall someone who told us that humans have less than 100 people they have met in their lifetime. Dolphins have to recognize more than 700 individuals during their lifetimes, mainly because they migrate and have elaborate greeting ceremonies when they meet each other. Of course their language will be far more developed than the less demanding humans! It stands to reason that intelligence is relative to what the needs of the species are.

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    • Exactly. I’ve been thinking a lot about the connection between philosophical ideas and science. Every time a new science articles comes out and says something knew they’ve discovered about what other animals can or cannot do, for example, I always tell myself it will be more complicated and there will be more discoveries soon. I wish science more readily acknowledged this. Their research only says what’s proven, now what “makes sense” given their larger world and philosophical ideal. And what’s “proven” is rooted in given sets of ideas, times, places, etc. Philosophical ideas are needed to push science out of its comfort zones and to further see social constructions.

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  3. Fascinating video. And I thought crows were little “stealers” attracted to shiny objects. Perhaps to answer your question why do we humans look at animals in human terms is because “humans” is what we know best!

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