18 February, 2010

We Could Always Eat Johnson, Sir!

I must be having a fractious day. All sorts of things are irking me today. Such as this article which ends with this paragraph:
"Intelligence Only Seen in Great Apes and Humans
In terms of numerical skills, elephants outperform primates and human children. When researchers tested elephants' ability to differentiate two quantities of objects placed in buckets, they performed very well: Equally as good determining between five and six objects as between one and two.
Professor Dick Byrne of St Andrew's University said elephants have "proved to have abilities which have only been found elsewhere in the great apes and humans. We're a bit limited by how little we know about elephants, but the off glimmers we get seem to be rather remarkable.""
Now excuse me my nitpicking but this is precisely what other biologists have said about cetaceans like whales or dolphins, and about octopuses, and about a whole range of other animals. Isn't it time they just lumped all these species into a classification of "highly intelligent" and be done with it?  It's indicative of our elitism and self-obsession, that even our scientists can't just come out and say it like it is.

This also calls into question the human reaction to intelligence and basic rights.  When the world was still a very new place to us, other races were considered unintelligent and only worth enslaving.  Then most of the world got it, and all races are now afforded the basic rights of intelligent beings anywhere.  (Of course, the majority of people still don't bother to learn a language other than their own, and we still have extremely racist views on the whole.  But this is a damn sight better than the "kill 'em or chain 'em" attitude we had only a few generations ago...)

So as a whole, we accept that others' viewpoints are as valid as our own, we accept that other races have as much right to live as we do.  But practically, we don't share our wealth with the people who need it more than we do, we don't decrease our prodigious consumption of resources so that others might live better, and we're generally still very hypocritical of others' rights.

And now we know that all these other species are as intelligent as us but in different ways, I wonder how long before we extend basic rights to them?  And no I'm not kidding here - there was the chimp in Austria for whom the people were seeking "person" status, and I believe a few others have also made that legal journey.

But of course, elephants are so much nicer if we keep them in zoos to look at, and whales (apparently, ask the japanese,) are delicious, and octopuses make good bait, and monkeys and apes make us laugh cos they're so cute like "little people."  Oh bugger - it's all too hard, let someone else deal with these rights issues another time.  And I'm not kidding here, either.  Sadly, we'll probably go on mistreating all these others because we don't understand what they're saying...

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