Thursday, January 19


This study doesn't seem all that remarkable, other than the fact that a mental capacity previously thought to belong only to primates has been found in owls. But the lead is a cliche worth highlighting again:

"Owls just got a little wiser: Scientists say they've detected a link between sight and sound in the bird's brain, a phenomenon previously reported only in primates. This finding, published in the Jan. 19 issue of the journal Nature, also advances knowledge about how the brain is able to sort out incoming sensory information."

The opening sentence is (hopefully) meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but it's the standard opening for just about every story like this, the "joke" being that animals we're observing "get wiser" upon our discovery of their innate intelligence. I wonder how many of the writers who use this trope are aware of how this "joke" actually resonates with humans' standard conception of animals - that they're some alternate type of being from us, halfway between subject and object. Since our say-so is what determines reality, in one sense owls don't have this capacity until a supreme, all-knowing human says so. What would Heisenberg say?

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