2017-07-08

They are not dumb, they are different


Despite a plethora of supportive reports David Suzuki says we do not have enough data to predict that global warming will definitely bring about human extinction. Derrick Jensen quotes people claiming that millions of years provide not enough data to state that indigenous peoples are living sustainably.
Theoretically, that is true. There is never enough data to predict the future. It's highly unlikely but some undiscovered feedback loop might reverse global warming, and the tribes may kill life on Earth if only we give them enough time to do so.

It's a different thing regarding another claim which concerns present-day matters of fact: that there is not enough data to support the notion of human-like animal intelligence. I'd just turn that around and say, there is not enough data to support the notion of human intelligence superiority. What do we actually know about animals? That they do not write novels? That they do not have a theory of gravity? That they did not paint a Mona Lisa? That they do not conspire to get rid of us? What if they do, but in their own way, a way that we cannot understand because the inquiry into animal intelligence is sort of forbidden terrain? Our inability understanding 'simple' animal communication does not exactly encourage the notion of evolutionary hierarchies.

Lack of understanding is not a one-way street.
Beyond our civilization, most of what we do also makes absolutely no sense, even to humans themselves – those humans who have the privilege of still living outside the Matrix, in aboriginal tribes. They have no use for abstract art or historic novels or mathematical functions or a language built from hundreds of thousands of words, so they don't produce them. Counting to three is enough for some of those tribes, sixty words are enough for others, simple stick figure murals are enough to serve most tribals' needs. They don't need money, they don't measure time, they don't form complex societies. They are capable of more, as we know from individuals who have been abducted and pulled into the Machine, but they don't apply it. And that served them well for millions of years.

So what justifies the notion of our way of life as an expression of human superior intelligence?
Exactly nothing. Looking at all the problems it continues to cause, the opposite may seem more correct. But that does not do humanity justice; we know by the example of the tribes that our problems are cultural phenomenons only. Similarly, the intricacy of our societies, the cleverness of our technology, and the beauty of our arts are cultural in nature rather than expression of humanity's supposedly higher intelligence.

With open eyes intelligence can be seen ranging from a Universal level down to the behaviour of atomic particles, and it is not dependent on the size – or even the presence – of a brain. I find the way everything makes sense truly astounding, though I am aware that this might be so due to my personal bias. But then again, I am in and of this world, a member of the web of life, an offspring of its evolution, and basically one with it. Why would I not be able to intuitively make an accurate guess? There is no doubt in my mind that science's efforts to measure intelligence are heavily distorted by a cultural lens which is farther removed from a direct grasp on reality than my own bias. Science literally claims to observe matter in separation from the observed.

How would I put it more appropriately?
Well, it seems to me that our language, art, music, technology, society etc. are specific applications unique to our culture(s). They naturally vary from culture to culture and from species to species. They are expressing basic faculties common to all of life, plant and animal (including human), even existence as such. One basic faculty is communication, one of its applications is language. Cognition is a faculty, reasoning is an application. Intelligence is a faculty, technology an application.

If the theory of evolution has any root in reality it must follow that human faculties emerged from animal faculties. There is no reason to believe that ours are mounting sky high above everyone else's.

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