Fish… not so stupid

Critter interrupts his bath to focus on one of his toysIt’s easy to assume that other animals are stupid, after all they’ve achieved very little compared with ourselves. Yet while I don’t view Critter as my intellectual equal, I don’t follow the common sense view that his preference for sleep and failure to build and innovate make him thick. He’s a problem with dexterity – he has very little – and even if he has the brainpower, he will never be able to speak as he’s lacks the physical capacity. When we come across physically disabled people we don’t assume they’re stupid and resort to talking about them rather than to them.

Following this train of thought it comes as no surprise to me that fish may not be as stupid as they look. The thing is; if a fish were as clever as a human, how would its behaviour change? I suspect it wouldn’t change at all, as it would remain contained within it’s a very low capacity body. It’s probably reasonable to assume that animals evolve no more intelligence than they can put to good use, but that’s an untested hypothesis that echoes the notion that most of us believe each other to be conscious, but cannot prove it.

And there’s an interesting correction to this Observer piece on sentience; ‘we said that studies in Oxford showed that a Caledonian heifer called Betty had managed to bend a piece of wire to construct a hook and retrieve food from a jar. Betty is, in fact, a New Caledonian crow, a creature perhaps better adapted to bending wire than a cow’. That doesn’t mean the cow is too stupid to see how a crow might bend a wire.
Critter’s hunting, fishing & doing drugs…… Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals by John Gray……Protecting Animals in democracy

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