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Mon Dec 16, 2013, 04:03 PM

Humans are not smarter than animals - we just don't understand them

Humans are not smarter than animals - we just don't understand them
Heather Saul
Friday 13 December 2013

For many years, humans have believed we are the most intelligent beings on the planet. However, evolutionary biologists are now claiming that some members of the animal kingdom may in fact have superior brains - we just don't recognise their intelligence.

Scientists at the University of Adelaide argue that evidence is emerging to suggest some animals actually have cognitive faculties that are superior to those possessed by human beings.

“For millennia, all kinds of authorities – from religion to eminent scholars – have been repeating the same idea ad nauseam, that humans are exceptional by virtue and that they are the smartest in the animal kingdom,” says Dr Arthur Saniotis, Visiting Research Fellow with the University's School of Medical Sciences.

"The belief of human cognitive superiority became entrenched in human philosophy and sciences. Even Aristotle, probably the most influential of all thinkers, argued that humans were superior to other animals due to our exclusive ability to reason.

More:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/humans-are-not-smarter-than-animals--we-just-dont-understand-them-9003196.html

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Reply Humans are not smarter than animals - we just don't understand them (Original post)
Judi Lynn Dec 2013 OP
itsrobert Dec 2013 #1
progressoid Dec 2013 #2
Egalitarian Thug Dec 2013 #3
longship Dec 2013 #4
BrotherIvan Dec 2013 #7
KurtNYC Dec 2013 #5
mindwalker_i Dec 2013 #6
The_Commonist Dec 2013 #8
Scuba Dec 2013 #9
CFLDem Dec 2013 #10
SoLeftIAmRight Dec 2013 #19
CFLDem Dec 2013 #20
Voice for Peace Dec 2013 #26
Thor_MN Dec 2013 #39
Voice for Peace Dec 2013 #41
Thor_MN Dec 2013 #42
Jim__ Dec 2013 #11
hunter Dec 2013 #12
qazplm Dec 2013 #13
Neoma Dec 2013 #22
Voice for Peace Dec 2013 #27
Neoma Dec 2013 #29
Voice for Peace Dec 2013 #30
gtar100 Dec 2013 #14
muriel_volestrangler Dec 2013 #16
gtar100 Dec 2013 #17
muriel_volestrangler Dec 2013 #18
hunter Dec 2013 #43
muriel_volestrangler Dec 2013 #44
hunter Dec 2013 #45
muriel_volestrangler Dec 2013 #46
LineReply ^
Wilms Dec 2013 #15
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2013 #21
Neoma Dec 2013 #23
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2013 #24
Neoma Dec 2013 #25
Egalitarian Thug Dec 2013 #31
FiveGoodMen Dec 2013 #32
Egalitarian Thug Dec 2013 #33
FiveGoodMen Dec 2013 #34
Egalitarian Thug Dec 2013 #35
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2013 #36
Egalitarian Thug Dec 2013 #37
Lionel Mandrake Dec 2013 #38
liberalmuse Dec 2013 #28
Thor_MN Dec 2013 #40

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 04:07 PM

1. is this the onion?

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 05:08 PM

2. Oh yeah? Let's see them twerk

or build a dynasty of duck.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 05:11 PM

3. K&R As usual, Douglas Adams was right.

 

"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons."

The people that don't get this either haven't spent much time with animals or don't get a lot of things.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #3)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 05:48 PM

4. Thread win here.

As usual, Douglas Adams got to the truth of the matter.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #3)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 05:59 PM

7. Right fucking on.

Nice quote.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 05:50 PM

5. A common measure of IQ is reaction time

Both IQ and reaction times are reduced with alcohol intake for example. It is a measure of how fast the mind works. If minds were computers then reaction time would be the speed of the processor.

Animals have exceedingly fast reaction times. AND they don't drink.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 05:53 PM

6. this runs into the serious issue of what do we mean by "smarter"

I've thought a lot about intelligence (which may or may not be an intelligent thing to do) and it seems to me that what humans have, is an ability to hold models of things in our heads. We can imagine how a rock falling from our hands, while we're in a tree, onto a critter makes food. We can imagine how planting crops (also) makes food. We can imagine that being mean to a woman (if you are a dude) will decrease our chances or procreation. This is what other animals lack and why they haven't created cities and playstations.

Whether those animals have other skills is a completely different question. Does that make them smarter?

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 06:24 PM

8. I'm smarter than my cat.

Sorry, I just am.
I've read Ulysses.
She poops in the shower, no matter how much we try to get her to stop doing that, and use the litter box which is RIGHT NEXT TO THE SHOWER, and which she has no problems peeing in.

She's very sweet, but not that bright.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 06:38 PM

9. My dog's smarter than I am ...

 

... but that's a low bar.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 06:44 PM

10. Maybe they are wiser at doing what they do

 

but more intelligent? Seriously?

Let me know how dolphin string theory is going or when they've colonized space.



(Btw I'm constantly surrounded by all sorts of animals)

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Response to CFLDem (Reply #10)

Tue Dec 17, 2013, 04:25 PM

19. I will drop you and my dog off in the wilderness...

 

Lets see who get home first - lets see who even survives.

Do not think you would laugh very long.

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Response to SoLeftIAmRight (Reply #19)

Tue Dec 17, 2013, 04:42 PM

20. Well it wouldn't be the dog.

 

First thing I'd do if the dog wasn't useful for hunting is make some 'puppy chow'.

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Response to CFLDem (Reply #10)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 05:34 PM

26. wiser yes. human beings have barely (if at all) retained the ability to have fun for no reason

 

without alcohol or drugs or electronics.

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Response to Voice for Peace (Reply #26)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 02:42 PM

39. There's a hell of a lot of us...

 

Now alcohol was probably initiated some of the "fun" that resulted in some of us, but put two compatible humans in a room with no alcohol, drugs or electronics and sooner or later they will be having fun.

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #39)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 03:26 PM

41. 'compatible' .. that's a big order.

 

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Response to Voice for Peace (Reply #41)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 03:31 PM

42. Not really. Give two people nothing to do.

 

As long as their sexual orientations work out out, sooner or later they will find something 'fun' to do.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 07:32 PM

11. I don't doubt that animals are intelligent. I do doubt they are as intelligent as humans beings.

We have come to dominate the planet, sad though that may be. We certainly didn't come to this dominance through our strength, speed, or quickness. I believe it is our intelligence that led to this dominance, and that implies to me that we are more intelligent than the competition.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Mon Dec 16, 2013, 10:21 PM

12. Artificial Intelligence research runs into the same problem.

When a computer can do something better than a human, then the bar is raised and we claim whatever the computer is doing is not intelligence.

But it's very likely we are just a big jumbled box of specialized problem solving processes.

Once we create a computer that has a similarly large jumbled box of specialized problem solving process we'll probably claim, "Well, it seems intelligent, but it's just a computer," the very same way some people claim it's "just" an animal.

A second, interesting angle is that our thoughts are so strongly shaped by language. In many ways the language itself is the greater organism and we ourselves are merely cells supporting it, like individual ants or bees.

I've known dogs who are very intelligent. If they had the language processing skills like people have, and they lived as long, they'd probably be brighter than some people. Humans can still speak even when their problem solving skills are mediocre and entirely unexercised. (Look at the comments on any loosely moderated discussion board. Hell look at some of the comments here on DU...)

I also know that humans can't even imagine the world of scents dogs live in, or the world of accurate colors birds live in, or the sonar world of dolphins, and thus we have trouble communicating with them. It's not surprising. We have trouble communicating with other humans who don't share our own language or culture.


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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Dec 17, 2013, 01:47 AM

13. yeah no we are

the fact that we can't speak dog fully doesn't make dogs smarter than us. Dogs depend on reading us to make us keep them in kibble. We don't depend on dogs at all. We enjoy and love them, but learning what they are saying really is low on our totem pole behind say discovering the secrets of the universe.

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Response to qazplm (Reply #13)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 09:15 AM

22. Dogs trained humans to take care of them.

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Response to Neoma (Reply #22)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 05:36 PM

27. cats do the same.

 

masters of psychology.

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Response to Voice for Peace (Reply #27)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 05:53 PM

29. I think dogs have adjusted better in order to appear useful.

Cats get by on cuteness.

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Response to Neoma (Reply #29)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 05:58 PM

30. you may be right, though the cats do bring me a mouse :(

 

once in a while to let me know they are indispensible.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Dec 17, 2013, 01:53 AM

14. We often fail to see the intelligence of animals because of our tendency to anthropomorphize.

If we constantly judge everything by human standards, we most likely miss what's really going on in the minds of other beings.

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Response to gtar100 (Reply #14)

Tue Dec 17, 2013, 10:50 AM

16. How many animals do you think are working out what goes on in the minds of other species?

There is no animal apart from us that can realistically be said to contemplate how other animals think. Our discussion on this is good evidence that we're more intelligent.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #16)

Tue Dec 17, 2013, 01:19 PM

17. You are still judging intelligence by human standards.

I'm not trying to say that being human isn't unique or special, just that it's not the only measure of intelligence. Our version of it is quite unique that we can even consider this.

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Response to gtar100 (Reply #17)

Tue Dec 17, 2013, 02:03 PM

18. Redefining 'intelligence', and then using that to say "we're not more intelligent than other animals

is pretty pointless and meaningless.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #16)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 05:28 PM

43. Dogs put quite a bit of effort into exactly that.

They contemplate what other animals think.

It's a useful talent for getting along with other animals in their pack (including humans), for avoiding enemies, and for hunting.

A good shepherd dog expends a lot of mental energy figuring out the minds of sheep, a good pig hunting dog expends a lot of mental energy figuring out the minds of pigs. The inclination is there by "instinct" but the skills are developed by experience, which includes quite a bit of contemplation of how other animals think.

As social hunters we ourselves are very similar to dogs in that respect. Contemplating the minds of other animals is a part of our own mental toolkit.

Humans are remarkable for our writing and sophisticated storytelling. These language processing talents are the foundation of our modern civilization.

I suspect if we could add this "language module" to the minds of any social species we'd have to call them intelligent.

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Response to hunter (Reply #43)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 06:59 PM

44. I don't think they have the concept of a 'mind'

They try to anticipate behaviour of animals they hunt, but it's a long way from that to asking "what goes on in the mind of a dog, or a pig, or an eagle?", and being able to put forward hypotheses - about a wide variety of animals too.

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #44)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 07:47 PM

45. I know what a brain is, what is a mind?

"Mind" doesn't have a scientific meaning.

I've known a lot of dogs and birds who certainly do develop models of other animal's "minds," both generalizations at the species level ("Cats do this..." and recognition of individual animals ("This cat does that."

An android model of a human that behaved as a human would be intelligent, even if every detail of it's "nervous system" was mapped and known, every subsystem knowable in fine detail.

From a religious or philosophical perspective if humans have "souls" or "minds" or "intelligence" then so do other animals. It's simply a matter of complexity and focus. At no point is there a single emergent property one can label as "intelligence."

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Response to hunter (Reply #45)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 09:10 PM

46. Intelligence can be compared; humans are more intelligent than other animals

Adults are more intelligent than 4 year olds, who are more intelligent than 2 year olds, who are more intelligent than newborns.

I think 'mind' does have a scientific meaning. That allows us to talk about 'theory of mind', for instance. And our awareness of others is well beyond that of other animals.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Dec 17, 2013, 09:50 AM

15. ^

 

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 02:23 AM

21. Only humans have complex language, both spoken and written, and indulge in abstract thought.

Our languages have subordinate clauses and are much richer than those of other animals.

By writing, we form records that last for many generations. No other animals do this.

Abstractions such as political expediency, musical form, omniscient narrator - these are peculiar to humans who have lived more than a few years. Small children and nonhuman animals cannot understand such abstract concepts.

Sorry, but we really are smarter.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #21)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 09:46 AM

23. We didn't used to read as a species.

That ability comes and goes a lot down the line.

For all our advancements, we rely on the genius to improve our lives. Other people's inventions are copy and pasted to our lives so that we can use them. In the long run, we're pretty damn dumb. I can't build an iPhone, laptop, printer, TV, cars, GPS, e-readers. Or even stupid things like cardboard and pencils. We read other people's thoughts and knowledge and use them for our own thoughts, and then we proclaim ourselves clever for what we can understand about the world, which isn't all that much in the end because we don't live long enough to learn it all.

We're entrenched deep into our bad habits, and because of this, the world is being screwed over because most of us aren't smart enough to figure out ways to save it from being completely destroyed. Mucking around the ocean instead of destroying everything we touch so that our grandchildren will have a third eye in their face doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

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Response to Neoma (Reply #23)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 05:13 PM

24. It's true that our species didn't evolve to read and write.

Reading and writing began about 5000 years ago, which is a brief instant compared to the million or so years that our species has existed (depending on which of our ancestors you wish to call human). Clearly reading and writing did not drive our evolution. Somehow our brains, which evolved for other reasons, have been able to accomplish these unnatural acts.

Few of us are smart enough to invent something new, to innovate, and thereby affect the course of history. But even the imitation that we all do, e.g., learning how to use the technology bequeathed by others, requires remarkable abilities not present in other species.

Nobody can build an iPhone … or even a pencil. Each of those items is built by a great number of people doing various jobs in an organized fashion, including the collection of raw materials, trade in those materials, transportation, manufacturing, and marketing the finished product. Only a civilization can produce the goods and services we take for granted.

What most of us do does not require genius, but it requires abilities that only humans possess. Using computers, the internet, the world wide web, and DU, we are able to dispute our place in nature, our relationships with other species, the impact we have had on the environment, etc.

Do you think a chimp or a dolphin could do any of that? I don't think so. I conclude that we are smarter than they are.

That doesn't mean we are wise. I agree that we had better wise up before the destruction of habitats and the mass extinction of other species go too much farther. But that's a topic for another thread.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #24)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 05:29 PM

25. So because animals can't do what is limited to human beings...

Yeah whatever.

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #21)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 08:22 PM

31. LOL! So, regurgitation of the ignorance-based arguments that led to an erroneous conclusion

 

serves as the justification of the error...

There's a name for this fallacy.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #31)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 08:24 PM

32. Do you think that all animals are EQUALLY intelligent?

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Response to FiveGoodMen (Reply #32)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 08:29 PM

33. No. n/t

 

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #33)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 08:51 PM

34. Then there's a continuum, and humans must fall somewhere on it

Above some and (possibly) beneath others.

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Response to FiveGoodMen (Reply #34)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 09:27 PM

35. Certainly. The problem lies when one species that lacks the senses to even have

 

any frame of reference, pronounces to itself that it is superior.

It's like a blind person pronouncing himself the ultimate authority on the aesthetic value of a sunset.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #35)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 09:43 PM

36. You're not making sense(s).

What is it that you think humans lack, sense or senses?

What sort of frame of reference do you have in mind?

How is a claim of human superiority like that of your blind straw man?

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Response to Lionel Mandrake (Reply #36)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 10:02 PM

37. Senses. I thought the metaphor would help to clarify.

 

Compared to most of the animals we are talking about, we are blind, deaf, and have no sense of smell, and since we depend almost entirely on spoken language, we are also generally ignorant of most of the communicative spectrum that they use.

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Response to Egalitarian Thug (Reply #37)

Thu Dec 19, 2013, 12:33 AM

38. We are not blind or deaf; nor do we lack a sense of smell.

Compared to dogs, for example,

1. Our eyesight is better than theirs. We see a greater variety of colors and finer detail at a distance.

2. Our hearing is inferior to theirs in some respects. They can hear softer sounds and higher frequencies than we can.

3. Their sense of smell is superb; ours is vestigial. This is hardly surprising, considering our upright posture and our descent from tree-dwellers.

We could make similar comparisons between humans and cats, humans and birds, humans and dolphins, etc. The upshot would be that we humans are not generally deficient, compared to other animals, in our ability to sense what is going on in the world.

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Wed Dec 18, 2013, 05:39 PM

28. Animal lovers have known this since they were born...

but we're, "crazy".

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Response to liberalmuse (Reply #28)

Fri Dec 20, 2013, 02:55 PM

40. If one has made oneself subservient to another species...

 

Is the malnourished person who spends almost all of their resources to feed animals crazy? What about someone who stocks a bird feeder in their yard? Are either of them less intelligent than the animals thy are feeding?

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