Thursday, August 22, 2013

Not So Special After All?

Our specialness is re-enforced by pop science, human hubris and social conditioning. Conventional wisdom says human beings are special, superior and the peak of evolution because we, of all the creatures on earth, can think and use tools. What if other creatures can think and use tools, what does that say about our specialness? Is it still so important? Do we need our arrogant specialness to survive and prosper or does our so-called ‘specialness’ get in our way and keep us from making a contribution to a world that works for everything and everyone in it?

The July 22 issue of The Christian Science Monitor Weekly reported that ten untrained cockatoos were not only able to think and use tools, but were also able to innovate and solve problems: “Ten untrained cockatoos were presented with a complex device that, if a series of steps were completed, would give a quarter of a cashew.  First, the birds had to remove a pin, then a screw, then a bolt; then turn a wheel 90 degrees and then a latch sideways.

“It took one of the birds, Pipin, less than two hours to finish the process unassisted in five different sessions. Other birds finished the puzzle with some help or watching a bird partner do the task. Each task required a different set of behaviors and an understanding of the necessity of completing each task in sequence.”

And we talk about ‘bird brains’! This is only the most recent ‘discovery’ of so-called special, human intelligence, outside humans. What might be accomplished if we could let go of our arrogant specialness and be compassionate, loving parts of the world, instead of above and beyond it?

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