Evolution and animal intelligence: Humans are not the “pinnacle”

SciAm has a great article about the evolution of intelligence throughout the animal kingdom. The details are interesting–for example, certain birds have demonstrated a kind of recall not seen in nonhuman mammals–but perhaps the greatest value in the article lies in the fundamental points it underscores: that evolution is not teleological, and does not “aim” to “achieve” some “higher” “goal” (and yeah, I’m pretty “sure” I “need” every “one” of “those” “quotes,” given the general public’s “understanding” of the “process”), and that the same evolutionary events have arisen independently multiple times in biological history and in many different locations.
It’s a lengthy but worthwhile read offering a nice overview of not only intelligence vis-a-vis evolution, but how the field of neuroscience and its cousins have changed in response to new information gleaned in just the past quarter-century or so.

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  1. #1 by Jim Thomerson on December 30, 2008 - 8:32 pm

    Years ago, I read a science fiction story in which the aliens had landed. They were polite and cordial toward humans, but were here to visit the dolphins.

  2. #2 by PEM on December 30, 2008 - 9:23 pm

    I skimmed this last night and it is interesting but it gets some of the details wrong: Nicky Clayton works with Western scrub jays, not Florida scrub jays. Western jays are not cooperative breeders, and probably don’t rely as much on caching as Florida jays. I think it would be great if someone could do some serious comparative cognition on Aphelocoma jays, but as far as I know, it hasn’t happened yet.

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