Are We Really Smarter?
What does it mean to be human? Are we really the most intelligent beings on this planet? As humans, we seem to think so. Throughout human history, and up until very recently, we as humans believed we were the only living beings on Earth with a conscience. We thought we were the most intelligent, highest living organisms on the planet. However, we may be wrong. After watching Nova’s “Inside Animal Minds: Smartest“, I realized even more that I previously believed that being “intelligent” (as we define it) and having a conscience is no longer something unique just to humans. Animals such as dolphins and elephants recognize themselves as an individual when they look in a mirror. They have an awareness of self, something humans do not even achieve until they are about two years old! How do we know that animals such as dolphins and whales don’t think the same way we do? Dolphins live in social groups, raise their young until they are old enough to survive on their own, and have lifelong friends. These characteristics could be used interchangeably with humans.
Scientists even believe that animals such as killer whales may feel emotions in more depth than we do. Even when comparing the brain of a dolphin and a human, there are amazing similarities. Like a human brain, the cortex of a dolphin’s is folded to increase surface area. They also have considerably large brains in comparison to their body, as do humans. There is even more evidence to back up questions about other animals having great intelligence.
I think that in 50 years, we’ll look back and go ‘My God, what a barbaric time.’
-From “Blackfish”, the 2013 documentary
A lot of research is being done on this topic (and in the past an unethical experiment when a dolphin named Peter was “taught English” in the 1960’s) and there has been a media boom as well with the release of “Blackfish“, a documentary about Tilikum and other animals involved with Seaworld. (I definitely recommend anyone to watch it, especially to open their eyes to how Seaworld is really just a prison where intelligent mammals are mistreated and denied the life they deserve.) Considering all this, why do we mistreat these animals, if they may be of equal or even greater intelligence of us?
To conclude, we have now discovered that having a conscience and being intelligent is no longer uniquely human. Other animals, such as dolphins and whales, share these traits with us. So what really makes us humans? Is the only difference between us and them is that dolphins don’t keep “lower life forms” in living spaces the equivalent to a bathtub like we do to them? Are dolphins and whales maybe even better than us because they do not display the cruelty and disgusting mistreatment of helpless animals like we are? Food for thought.