Who is smarter: a person or an ape? Well, it depends.

Illustration: Richard Lydekker 1849–1915.

A growing body of evidence shows that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence.

Can an octopus use tools? Do chimpanzees have a sense of fairness? Can birds guess what others know? Do rats feel empathy for their friends? We’re not so sure.

Experiments with animals have long been handicapped by our anthropocentric attitude: We often test them in ways that work fine with humans but not so well with other species.

The field of animal cognition has a long history of claims about the absence of capacities based on severely limited information….and the fact that humans put all life-forms in rank order, from low to high, with humans closest to the angels. Animals might be capable of learning, we argue, but surely not of thinking and feeling.

Frans de Waal’s complete thoughts on the matter are found here.


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