Looting Versailles

Looting Versailles
My first book of poems, just released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing

Friday, April 11, 2014

Animal Intelligence

I think it's human nature to look at another species - our cats, our dogs, the robins, the squirrels, the giraffe at the zoo - and wonder: What are you thinking? What do you know?

First of all, my dogs and cats are relatively lazy. A lot of their time is spent lounging on the sofa or by a vent, or on the bed. But think about a human doing that: The human is not sitting their with an empty mind; we daydream, fantasize, ponder.

I spend a lot of time wondering about my life and about God, or my (our) creator. I'd be willing to bet a hefty sum cats and dogs and giraffes, in their own ways, wonder about their (our) creator, as well. As evolution-minded scientists know, much of human behavior has precedents; it did NOT just pop up suddenly when modern Homo sapien came on the scene. That goes for tools, art, language, etc, etc. Though I still think the fact that we wear clothes is fairly nifty.

Some sort of wondering about God, and attempting to make sense of life, must go on in each individual animal with a mind, to some degree, probably in some way humans are incapable of imagining. Since no animal (we know of) can do something like a book - share his or her or its ideas - those ideas of God are probably limited to that individual, hence there are probably no animal religions. That seems absurd, but deliciously so.

I was thinking about the way we test animal intelligence - silly problem-solving and maze-memorizing games. Here's my question: If an animal is able to survive, and THRIVE, in the wild for a long enough time to mate, isn't that proof of its intelligence? It survives in the wild - think of the humans you know who couldn't! Not just people with special needs (all children, special needs children, elderly) but some low-functioning adults. Yet we presume the human mind to be superior, when we know the human eye is rather pathetic compared to some other species.

I think the human mind is a supremely creative one, and that mankind relies heavily on its creations, unlike any other beast in the world. I question our superiority in other realms of intellect though. Elephants have tremendous memories, create beautiful paintings; Gorillas with training in sign language demonstrate previously unimagined depths of feeling.

It's difficult being a human, a born omnivore who at once adores animals and survives by eating them. I think that recycling of matter and spirit, eating, growing, dying, pushing up daisies - it's at once beautiful and tragic. The necessity of death for life. I've decided to be on the side of conservationists, to be a conscientious omnivore, and avoid at all costs harming animals unnecessarily, and to consider it morally reprehensible - evil - to drive one of God's creations to extinction. It makes me queasy thinking about it; all the megafauna gone because of us - though of course if we crossed paths with some (i.e. saber-toothed tigers) we'd probably kill or be killed, as well, and part of my desire to see them alive might include some kind of zoo facility (i.e. Jurassic Park), or just being able to sleep at night (in my bed, sheltered) and KNOW...they're out there!

Anyway, my daughter loves animals, music and animals, and I think those are loves we never outgrow; I haven't! So I just wanted to put forward the idea that animals are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. Think of what they accomplish! Surviving - every day - without a refrigerator or winter coat, without a gun or car; pretty impressive.

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