WHY WE THINK WE ARE SO SMART
WE ARE TAUGHT TO THINK WE ARE
We feel like we are not animals. When you are born in the modern world, you are bombarded with this concept from the day you leave the womb. Your family’s religious beliefs, your educational system (even your education in science), your religious leaders, your political leaders, your football coach, your aunts and uncles, all expunge ideas, morals, philosophies, and scientific discoveries from the position of separation between humans and the rest of life on earth. This mostly goes unquestioned, which makes it even harder to address because many of us are not aware that an alternative view of reality exists. Once the question is raised of why we feel different from other animals, the answer will be that we have an intelligence far superior to them. It seems simple enough. And it doesn’t require much thought. We talk on cell phones, send faxes, fly airplanes, and post angry tweets. What other species on earth even comes close to matching that?
THE PRIVILEGE THAT NONE OF US ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR
One thing that humans have been able to do is figure out how to record information. There is evidence that as far back as 50,000 years ago humans began to tally information important to them, as evidenced by incisions in bones that appear to have been used in primitive counting. This process evolved into writing systems and has allowed humans to pass on knowledge outside of oral tradition. But does this make individual humans “smarter” than other animals? Think about Elon Musk 100,000 years ago. I’m sure he would have come up with a really efficient and revolutionary way to store mammoth meat that would have contributed immensely to his hunter gatherer bands society. That information may have been transmitted to the next generation of his band and possibly others in his region. But would this have turned into a global phenomena? Probably not. As humans die off, through disease, predation, and weather events, this technological innovation of paleolithic Elon would probably have not gone very far. Entire bands would die off, and their cultural traditions with them, from any number of causes.
Actually, now that i’m thinking about it, Elon Musk may not have been shit 100,000 years ago. Same with Einstein. In order for these two to take their place amongst modern histories great thinkers, incalculable amounts of recorded information had to be copied and shared in order for Einstein to write his theory of relativity. And now the internet now allows us to find a video about the earth being flat uploaded by someone on the other side of the globe (the round side). The point is, all the technology that we look at as the undeniable proof of the intelligence of our species is not the result of our individual cognition. No human could create the iphone, airplane, nuclear bomb, or lip filler injections in isolation. A record of our global success stories, spanning thousands of years, has been necessary for one human to add something to our technological capabilities.
WHERE TO FIND THE ANSWER?
Therefore I believe it is wrong to look at any of the technological developments of the last 10,000 years as proof of our intellectual superiority to other species on our planet. They don’t tell us how smart a human is or what a human brain is capable of. Do you agree? And where should we look? I will explore this question in a later post. To learn more about how animals stack up against humans in the realm of cognition, check out my interview with world renown neuroscientist Dr. Lori Marino.