ARE WE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW SMART ANIMALS ARE?

0040d5e4-406d-11e7-a09b-a4ae022938a6Ian Ground at the TLS:

De Waal’s thesis is that our attitudes and ideas about other animal minds are at last changing. In the past twenty years or so, largely as a result of exhausting ourselves trying to defend philosophical presuppositions against the empirical discoveries of those who have taken a genuinely scientific perspective, the sense that we are the only genuinely minded creatures on the planet has begun to fade. We have moved from an age in which it was taboo for scientists to name their animals to one in which we recognize that dolphins use something akin to names among themselves. The answer to the question of the book’s mischievous title is: Yes. We are smart enough to learn how smart animals are. But you wouldn’t think so from looking at our history of trying.

Across chapters examining communication, problem solving, the experience of time and social skills, De Waal documents the ways in which we systematically underestimate animal complexity. Primates are an obvious central example, and attention is also given to the more recent stars of animal studies, especially corvids and parrots. But there are plenty of less familiar examples: from zebra fish and moray eels to the stupendous intelligence of the honey badger.

more here.

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