Seeing things from different perspective: Is man really more intelligent then animals?


For centuries it is being believed that the man is most intelligent among all the species on the planet earth. Animals are identified as much less evolved species that are way poorer than human beings when it comes to intelligence. However, if we would see the things differently we might be in for a surprise.

“Animals are dumb”: The belief that has been ingrained in human mind for millenniums

Right from science to philosophy, every field seems to assert one thing that human beings are more intelligent than animals and so the human race needs to enjoy the privilege. The reality, however, can be very different.

The belief that man is smartest among all creatures on the planet finds its roots to the Agricultural Revolution. As he learned to produce cereals, the man started farming that allowed him to live a more settled life as opposed to the nomadic life he was living for such a long time. It also encouraged him to tame animals for farming or food purposes. Now taming is closely associated with “controlling”. The man was no longer hunting the animals for food, as is done by any other predator like lion, wild dogs and wolf. He was “domesticating” the animals in a controlled environment for specific purposes. Later on, the organized society also saw the emergence of some beliefs and one of the earliest beliefs during primitive form of religion was that the human being is more intelligent than any other creature on the earth.

The stage of evolution mentioned above took place around 10,000 years ago. Let us fast forwards and move further, when the tribal communities started living a civilized life, made colonies and started enjoying arts, philosophy, sciences and other refined cultural elements. All these developments allowed the people to believe that they are much superior to animals. Besides, many scholars and philosophers also strengthened the belief by presenting strong arguments for propagating the belief that animals are dumb and wild, and human beings, due to their superiority, should control them or use them for their own gain.

Quirky sports by “privileged sector” that further strengthened the difference

One more thing that further widened the rift between man and animal was the royal sports that included various animals. Taming wild animals and subduing them was the favorite sport of many kings. Some regions also used to arrange the competitions that included wild animals being subdued by the mighty warriors. One overarching question that should arise here: In many such fights some extremely powerful men were used to control wild animals in an enclosure while the audience would be enjoying this unequal fight, where many times the man would have to enter barehanded. Doesn’t this bring both man and animal on the same plane?

As the animals were officially claimed to be almost dumb, insentient and “things of pleasure” there were almost no efforts to see animals as an intelligent species. Though there were a few races or specific institutions who would be kind towards animals, this kindness was due to the religious or moral reasons rather than an effort to acknowledge their intelligence or rights.

Industrial Revolution: A Big leap for human race

The Industrial revolution was another milestone for human race where they started producing huge amount of goods in unbelievable time by using the machines. The goods that used to consume days or even months to make were now being produced in the matter of hours and that was another feather in the cap of the crown of human race!

Evolution of science revealing animal’s intelligence

It was during 20th century that the evolution of science allowed the human to experiment on animal intelligence. The scientists now wanted to widen their scope and finding intelligence in apparently unintelligent species was a great challenge, and thus an opportunity, for them. The series of such research produced unbelievable results. It was during that time that animal rights were talked of, animal welfare organization were founded in a huge number across the world, whilst dominant European nations even started taking the matter very seriously. As they wanted to maintain their position as one of the most evolved race, these nations now wanted to prove that their mercy was not limited to the fellow beings but also to the animals. Professor Maciej Henneberg, a professor of anthropological and comparative anatomy from the School of Medical Sciences, is reported as saying that the latest research shows that the animals may not be dumb but they may just possess “different abilities that are misunderstood by human beings.”

Dumb or Different?

He also indicated that the seeming inability of animals to understand is akin to 2 persons who speak different languages. For example even a Chinese scholar with knowledge of English language would use broken and incorrect English to communicate with an American student who does not know Chinese at all. Such limitation of language may give an impression to the student that the Chinese person may not be very intelligent person. But the reality is that the latter is a scholar, far more intelligent than the former. However, it is the limitation of language that results in lisping, stuttering, slow speech and incorrect use that is generally associated with lack of intelligence.

Unintelligence or irrelevance?

Apart from difference in language or communication methods, the technology is another aspect that gives a human seemingly strong (but false?) reason to believe that they are much more intelligent than animals. But then, the technology is not of any use to the animals that live in forests. Many species of apes have various sounds and gestures to express their emotions and communicate with their community members. Some species of apes have 15-20 different sounds, each having distinct meaning. They are not equipped with technology or technique for building houses. But they don’t need it as they are built to live on trees and jump around unlike human beings. Conversely, we are also not equipped naturally with the techniques to jump from one tree to the other or balance ourselves while living on trees. The reason may not be unintelligence but irrelevance.

The intelligent communication of animals that we human beings can’t understand

There are a variety of ways that the mammals can communicate with each other. While they may not produce poetry or a piece of fiction, they do use these special communication techniques for broadcasting a variety of information. Many wild animals are known to mark or guard their territory using special scents that they leave on trees and other elements of their surroundings. While human beings can’t even sniff these scents even while being very near, these animals can recognize the scent from a far distance and the message that it contains.  Some of the messages can even be more complex like the one left by Koalas. Equipped with specifically designed pectoral glands, the Koalas can actually “read” the complex information communicated by specific scents. The human beings fail here. That can be the technique we are not yet equipped with.

The misunderstood fact

One of the major arguments that can be used in the favour of animals is that many times, the technique is misunderstood as information and being different is seen as being dumb. Besides, the animals living in the forests don’t have to fight against the nature that limits their “challenges”. They are fine with their natural environment. Human being, on the other hand, cannot live without a house, a car and various technical gadgets. All these things necessitate him to “push against the wall” presented by nature, or flow against the waves. Some animals, when in the company of human beings can learn to use many tools and techniques. A tamed parrot can learn to open the door of the cage while the ravens in Japan were observed throwing the hard shelled walnuts in front of vehicles whilst stationary at a Red traffic light in order to get their walnuts crushed (shelled) when the vehicle would move forward. The Koko is an intelligent member of the ape family who communicates using digital interface to express various emotions and demands. All these things can prove the fact that when presented with the similar environment and challenges, the animals can also develop their intelligence.

Conclusion…..It is still too early,

Going by the above revelations, it would be interesting to further the research and enrich our knowledge about the complex lifestyle of animals to understand the type of intelligence that really matters to them. Before we do that, it would be too early to say that the man is more intelligent than animals.

Please rate this