Friday, December 12


Are animals as smart as Donald Rumsfeld? The Defense Secretary's famous "gaffe" about "unknown unkowns" made a lot of people scratch their heads, though it seems perfectly lucid to me ("We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.") But it appears that animals may at least know that there are things they don't know. In an article headlined "New UB research finds some animals know their cognitive limits," it's reported that some non-humans "have shown the capacity for 'metacognition,' or thinking about thinking, considered to be one of humans' most sophisticated cognitive capacities."

At the same time, the oft-derided "anthropomorphising" that pet owners do, asserting that their dogs and cats have individual personalities has been confirmed as factual by scientific study. "Confirming dog owner suspicions, a new study reveals that dogs have personalities, and that these character traits can be identified as accurately as similar personality attributes in humans. Experts suspect that many other animals also possess unique personalities." The import of both of these is summed up by James King, professor of psychology at the University of Arizona and an expert on primates: "Tool using, culture, and language have recently been shown to not be uniquely human. Now, we are seeing that our personality and personality dimensions are also not uniquely human, but shared with non-human primates and even dogs." So once again, what is it - other than the practice of killing other animals needlessly - is it that "separates us from the animals"?

UPDATE 12/13: Don't know how this fits into the equation, but worms are genetically wired for getting drunk.

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