Dolphin Cognition and Behavior: A Comparative Approach

By Ronald J. Schusterman; Jeanette A. Thomas et al. | Go to book overview
a. A-biologism: Two individuals can be said to be doing "fundamentally the same thing" if a human judge, who can see only a formal transcript of their data, cannot tell whose data is whose.
b. Scientism: The judgments of laypersons are value-laden and subjective, but those of scientists are not.

A necessary step in clearing up this muddle is to clearly distinguish between several questions which have very often been entangled with one another. Can a given animal not only solve the sorts of problems it faces in everyday life but also come up with solutions that are (in the long run of biological adaptation if not in the short run, when the animal is first confronted with novelty or change) "functionally adequate" if not optimal? What sorts of behavioral strategies and internal mechanisms does it employ? How did these strategies and internal mechanisms originate, both developmentally and phylogenetically speaking? What is the full range of circumstances to which the animal could adapt itself.? What IQ score should one give it according to human norms? The last of these questions in particular must be disassociated from the others, if not consigned to the domain of nonscience.

As I still have not answered the question that I posed in the title to this paper, let me be explicit. Quite possibly we can never know with dead certainty whether or not any given animal is "really" intelligent, let alone precisely how intelligent it is or to what degree it actually comprehends what it is doing or saying, as opposed to simply fooling us into thinking as much. (After any experiment is completed a radical skeptic can, after all, always come up with some still further consideration or doubt--or revise his or her definitions, as Plato did.) The same doubts could, however, be expressed even more pointedly regarding the validity of the judgments one might pass on one's colleagues and students; and this does not prevent many scientists from passing such judgments themselves and requesting others to do the same. I am also confident that if students of animal behavior had had no interest whatsoever in questions of intelligence it would be very unlikely that they would have been led to discover more than a fraction of the phenomena that have been discovered in the past few decades--which phenomena would have been viewed not merely as incredible but as inacessible to analysis by the adamant antimentalists of earlier eras. Philosophers might or might not be satisfied with such an answer, but those whose interests are first and foremost in elucidating "actual variation among actual things" should be.


REFERENCES

Blurton N. G. Jones, & Konner M. J. ( 1976). !Kung knowledge of animal behavior (or: The Proper Study of Mankind is Animals). In R. B. Lee & I. DeVore (Eds.). Kalahari hunter- gatherers (pp. 325-348). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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