Wednesday, February 27, 2008


If there's anything that proves the arrogance of the human species it's our ability to dismiss the astounding capabilities of animals as simply stimulus/response.

The March, 2008 National Geographic cover article "Inside Animal Minds" recaps recent scientific research with birds, dogs, apes, and even sheep demonstrating that diverse animal groups have significant cognitive abilities hitherto considered exclusive to human intelligence. The ability to understand and use language and symbols to communicate has been well documented in the research yet too often the results are dismissed outright, labeled anecdotal, or my personal favorite - results in a revised definition of what constitutes communication.

Anyone with a dog knows how well they can communicate with us. Anyone with a dog knows how they can problem solve to get what they want or need. Anyone with a dog knows their capacity for love and affection. But knowing it and proving it are vastly different things in the scientific community. I contend they are trying to prove the wrong premise. The question is not whether intelligence is an exclusively human trait, or even whether human intelligence is superior to nonhuman intelligence. The real question is how can we use these creatures unique skills and intelligence to enhance our own in a mutually beneficial arrangement. The proof? Belle and the countless service and guide dogs that each day perform big and little miracles for the humans they love and serve.

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