We have a tendency to view the human race as better than other animals on earth, due to our perceived moral and intellectual superiority. After all, humans have used technological advancements in exceptionally creative and beneficial ways.
Laptops have been around for a mere 38 years, whilst the wonders of smartphones have only been dominating our lives for just under a decade. Such examples indicate that technological developments have come a long way. However, despite the astonishing outcomes of evolution, allowing us to bring convenient means of communication and even medical advancements to the forefront, we still feel the need to set alarms for doing simple daily tasks.
Animals may not need to remember to turn the cooker off , but they certainly don’t set alarms for everyday activities. Therefore suggesting that humans possess inferior memories, especially when referring to everyday duties – an area where many animals trump us with ease.
Undoubtedly, the minds of animals differ substantially from those of humans, however we cannot ignorantly categorise the issue as one of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ Basic visual observations would lead to assumptions that most animals do not posses certain qualities that humans do, such as: humiliation, morality, wisdom, humour, malleability, or even the ability to worship.
Nonetheless, the central nervous system of all animals allows them to feel pain and acknowledge danger, which ultimately leads to fear – an instinctual reflex that animals have in common with humans. Immediate conclusions that dismiss animal capabilities due to a perceived ‘inferior’ mind, uses human criteria to judge capabilities of animals, that deserve to be judged on an individual basis according to their species.
‘in the same way that you cannot use puzzle pieces for LEGO games, or even LEGO bricks for cooking dinner, you similarly cannot judge an animal’s abilities based on human standards of intelligence’
In the same way that you cannot use puzzle pieces for LEGO games, or even LEGO bricks for cooking dinner, you similarly cannot judge an animal’s abilities based on human standards of intelligence. The effectiveness of an animal’s actions are manipulated through the discourse of our human understanding, and the cultural psychology that we’re subjected to. Certain expectations are hence based upon conceived definitions of ideas.
What is perhaps overlooked in many of these studies is that when certain researchers address the concept of intelligence, or self-awareness, their concluding findings are based upon a preconceived idea of what defines the concepts themselves.
A study conducted at Kyoto University indicated that chimpanzees have a remarkable memory, one that possibly cannot even begin to compare with the capacity of our human mind. Initially, a group of chimps were taught to count to nine, which they excelled in. As impressive as that may seem, each of the chimpanzees were shown randomly scattered numbers on a board, that were later covered and the subjects were required to identify the position of each number in order.
The results were outstandingly impressive, with scientists attributing the results to the “eidetic imagery” of chimpanzees, also known as photographic memory. When the time spent looking at the image was shortened, their performance did not decrease as the chimps memorised all the numbers instantaneously. In this case, humans have a significant disadvantage, and would most likely accomplish the task with great difficulty, as we’re conditioned to list numbers in an ascending order.
In contrast, if the chimps were asked to listen to a simple presentation, they’d most likely fail to maintain an adequate level of concentration, let alone understand any of it. Thus, despite the incredible aspects of a chimp’s brain, remarks associated with intelligence are relative to interpretations.
Hence, when comparing animal minds to human ones, it must be remembered that words such as ‘intelligence’ have longstanding societal definitions that have been accepted by humans. When comparing the emotional state of animals, their characteristics, and their observed actions, judgements drawn upon this in comparison to human attributes are funnelled through what is “normal” and acceptable for the human mind.
Einstein, one of the most highly proclaimed intellectual geniuses amongst us, had successfully strayed away from so called “human standards” of intelligence, as he acknowledged that you cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree. Yes, he was using that as a metaphor to reflect his optimism about the human race, however, can nonetheless be applied to the question at hand.