Smarter than we think


Nice spot by that charming man, Will Humphrey – a piece by Franz de Waal in the WSJ describing how much we underestimate the cognitive powers of our animal cousins. Have a read.

HERD fans will know we've long made this kind of case. We've talked about how Orangs for example, not only have cultures but develop them in the same ways as we humans do our own cultures. 

Denying the connection just messes with our thinking: you know that old saw "Monkey See Monkey Do" – turns out we humans are much better at copying than they (or other primates) are and our (Western) obsession with originality is not the real gift; copying is what makes us.

This is just one of many ways in which we try to separate ourselves from them, when in fact who and how we are has very strong roots in them.We are – for good or ill – a Super Social Ape and not the unique and inevitably successful creature we imagine we are (as the late Stephen Jay Gould pointed out, if we were to re-run the tape of evolution, it's far from clear that we'd end up as we are or as successful as we are).

Calls for some humility, I'd say