The Issue of Non-Human Intelligence

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The Question of Non-Human Intelligence

Human beings have long assumed that they were at the pinnacle of the evolutionary pyramid thanks mainly to their more complex brain. They believe that this advanced brain makes them not just more intelligent but categorically different from all other organisms. Recent advances in the fields of neurobiology and anatomy have begun to chisel away at this most scared of human assumptions and demonstrate that human brains, and the intelligence associated with them, are not categorically different than other animals. Instead the research indicates that intelligence is on a continuum from "lower" animals to "higher" ones. These findings led to new fields of research which sought to gain a better understanding of intelligence and its evolution by comparing the behaviors and the brains of various organisms. Despite existing for many years and being supported by researchers in fields as varied as biology and linguistics there have been nearly as many steps backward as there have been forward.

The central dilemma in studying intelligence is to come up with a universally acceptable definition of intelligence. Many researchers define intelligence as the ability to use language and create tools to manipulate the environment. While this definition may seem fairly logical, especially because humans seem to be the axiomatic example for this definition, many researchers argues that its anthropocentric nature is too limiting. By placing parameters on intelligence which only humans meet, and lower primates fit to varying degrees, it is inherently impossible to find "intelligence" in any other species. A second problem with this humanist definition of intelligence is that it is based largely on human introspection and the knowledge that we are conscious, rational, linguistic animals(1). Kenneth Marable argues "if the same criterion that are used to rule out non-human intelligence were applied to humans without the benefit of introspection, we would doubt even our own intelligence"(1).

One of the first goals of inter-species intelligence studies was to create a quantitative scale to measure the intelligence of animals. Since the administration of IQ test to many different species seemed illogical, researchers turned to using scales which compared the size of an animal's brain to the size of its body; this value was known as the Encephalization Quotient. The Encephalization Quotient (EQ) "allows researchers to ask the question: 'Is the brain of a given species bigger or smaller than would be expected, compared with that of other animals its size?
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