Why resist the idea of intelligent animals?

Why are people so resistant to the idea of intelligent animals? Animals are smarter than we thought, and it’s not just ‘higher’ mammals either. Birds can problem solving, learn vocabulary, and might even have a sense of time – all things we associate with higher mental function.

I found the National Geographic article fascinating, and I was intrigued by the reticence of human cognitive scientists to accept this despite mounting evidence. If you believe in evolution at all, these findings should be music to your ears. It gives credence to the theory that intelligence evolved just as physical forms did. It also provocatively suggests that intelligence is not necessarily unique – that nature created many versions of it across many species.

Yes, it’s humbling – maybe humans aren’t as special as we once though, but that’s a poor reason to discredit these findings. Science is not a popularity contest; it’s based on measurable evidence. It’s your choice if you want to believe in something like Creationism, but that’s not science since it’s not provable or disprovable. If you don’t like the theory, propose a viable alternative. It is easy and dishonorable to tear down someone else’s hard work without proposing alternatives.

It is likely that much of the resistance is dogmatic, and dogma really should have no place in science. Science, like religion, does not readily change, but it eventually accepts new ideas on the weight of evidence and logic. Which is more plausible: that intelligence evolved slowly or that it randomly dropped from the sky on a select few species and then rapidly grew? It’s only a matter of time before the consensus changes.

Comments welcome!