Posted by: megshoeman | May 6, 2008

Pleasurable Kingdom: Better to Delight in Diversity

Here is an interesting extract from a book which I’ll review shortly:
“In our assessments of animals, humans place altogether too much emphasis on intelligence. This is convenient for two reasons. The first is that because we are highly intelligent, we automatically qualify for whatever rights or privileges we ascribe to being smart. Second, by perceiving animals as ‘dumb brutes,’ or at least dumber than we are, we can more comfortably distance ourselves from them morally, and continue to treat them accordingly (i.e. badly).”
“Humans have a patronizing tendency to measure the intelligence of other animals in human terms. Koko, the famous lowland gorilla and star matron of Penny Patterson’s The Gorilla Foundation in California, has mastered more than 1,000 signs in American Sign Language, understands several thousand English words, and scores between 70 and 95 on human IQ tests. This score places Koko in the human slow learner- but not retarded- category. And though these results are impressive, they give a blurry picture of gorilla intelligence. they are tests devised by humans for humans, not for gorillas. And when we piously conclude that Koko actually exceeds the ‘retarded human’ category, the indelible image is of a beast who doesn’t quite meet our lofty standards for brains.
But how would a lowland gorilla do if she were tested on things that are important to her,such as the ability to recognize native plants and to distinguish edible from inedible ones? Or to predict weather changes in the lush African jungles where lowland gorillas live? Or to guage the moods of other gorillas based on facial expressions, body postures, or their scent? By such measures, she would be a genius among humans…Gorillas are intelligent at being gorillas.”
Jonathan Balcombe, Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good. London & New York: Macmillan, 2006, 48-49.
As I’ve said, difference does not diminish value!

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