Animal Intelligence 2019

“The beasts were intelligent beings and were seen and heard by John praising and glorifying God.”–Joseph Smith (1)

On October 10, 2019, young earth creationist leader Ken Ham shared an article on Facebook (yes, I do follow his page—for research purposes) about great apes having “theory of mind.” Now, there’s no problem with him posting this, but the thing is, he wasn’t posting it because he agreed with it, but to shoot it down. He complained how scientists are always trying to show how alike animals are to us so they can convince people that evolution is true. An animal with theory of mind is a creature that can guess what you or any other animal is thinking… which of course means that it can think for itself and has a mind. (2)

“Animals are biological robots. Very good robots because God programmed them. As with good robots they have the limited ability to adapt.”–Unnamed Ken Ham follower

Most people who commented in response to Mr. Ham’s post were of the opinion that animals are just “biological robots” that react to stimuli in their surroundings. They don’t have souls like we do. They don’t feel anything like pain or sadness like we feel. They’re not special like we are. I tried to reason with some of them, citing the biblical story of Baalam’s talking donkey in Numbers 22:21-32, or the hosts of beasts seen by John the Revelator glorifying and praising God in heaven, according to Rev 5:13-14. 

Even these examples drew disdain from Mr. Ham’s followers. To them, God must have caused the donkey to speak through divine power, but it was a supernatural occurrence, obviously not because the donkey had a spirit or a mind—animals don’t have souls! If they did have souls, they would have to accept Jesus as their Savior or they would be eternally condemned.

Since I’m a big fan of Joseph Smith, I pretty much stole the Prophet’s words and said in response, “I think if we deny that animals have souls, we might as well deny that the Book of Revelation is true.” Unlike Ken Ham and his followers, I thought the article about apes and their theory of mind SUPPORTED the Bible, not attacked it. I mean, if you can have a donkey who can contemplate and weigh the consequences of following her angry master’s commands versus obeying the threatening glare of an armed angel of glory holding a sharp sword, and then can TALK about it—you basically have an animal with a theory of mind, don’t you? How else could the donkey guess what the angel was thinking, even if he was brandishing a weapon? The donkey must have recognized the angel’s intent/thoughts as he menacingly stood waiting for a decision to be made. Sounds like a theory of mind to me. (3)

In a previous post entitled Organization of Intelligences, I presented a whole bunch of evidence that animals are indeed intelligent beings, as Joseph Smith once called them. You would probably be blown away if you took the time to study just a little bit about the very human-like things that animals are capable of. It’s one of my favorite things to learn about.

Here I have assembled a collection of articles and videos about the intelligence and emotions of non-humans, mostly from the year 2019. With this, my hope is that you will be able to see that the evidence that our furry/feathery/scaly/slimy friends have their own functioning minds is overwhelming, and hopefully convincing. And with this knowledge, as Ken Ham fears, I hope you will be convinced that evolution is the actual way God created living things; and that since Joseph Smith was on board with intelligent animals from the early 1830s (long before science provided evidence), you’ll be convinced that he was a true prophet of the Lord.

You see, Joseph Smith taught that animals have spirits and have places in heaven. He taught that beasts have feelings of joy, intelligence in their eyes, and the ability to make choices. He taught that they were “full of knowledge” (D&C 77:2-4). I think that the intelligences Abraham saw before the world was made included not only humans, but also all the animals we have here on earth (Abraham 3:21-22). And I think that this assemblage of pre-Earth-life animal spirits all arranged on a scale from lesser to “more intelligent” is evidence that evolution is how God created the diversity of life (Abraham 3:18-19).

First, here is a list of important quotes taken from the articles I’ve collected. After those, will be a list of the articles themselves in chronological order. Please feel free to peruse them and see for yourself how magnificent God’s creation really is. He didn’t just make a bunch of self-replicating biological robots. He gave all the intelligent spirits bodies, and in all sizes and shapes too. These spirits, now embodied, are free to express themselves and live out their lives to the fullest with joy. 

Think about that the next time your dog hangs around just to be with you, or when you see a mama bird feeding and protecting her young.

Quotes

“Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, knowledge, etc. — to oneself, and to others, and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one’s own.”–Wikipedia article, “Theory of Mind, accessed 12/2/19

“We humans don’t own love or grief – these emotions are widespread in other animals.”–Dr. Barbara J King (4)

“But given the growing sum of research investigating the topic from different angles, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue that humans are the only species capable of second-guessing another’s actions based on presuming their state of knowledge. Just think about that.”—Mike McRae (5)

“To me, consciousness is the thing that feels like something. It’s the sensation of experiencing the input from your sense organs. We’re learning that a lot of animals — dogs, elephants, other primates — have it.”—Carl Safina (6)

“This kind of thing happens in many other species, too, so forming a strong pair bond and emotional attachments between a male and female is evidently not only a feature of humans.”–Trevor Price, Ph.D. (7)

“These findings raise the exciting possibility that the capacity to generate meaning from meaningless building blocks is widespread in animals.”—University of Zurich

“Without doubt, dogs have feelings, [Alexandra Horowitz] wrote, but she cautioned that just as certainly, those feelings were not the same as human feelings. Nor, she argued, should we assume that dogs are in between robot and homo sapiens on an emotional spectrum. She wrote in her book, ‘For all we know, dogs’ emotional experience is far more elaborate than ours.’”—James Gorman

“Well, until the 1950s and the 1960s, the study of animal behavior wasn’t seen as real science. Until Jane Goodall, Iain Douglas-Hamilton and George Schaller began publishing, there were few studies. They were among the first to watch wild animals for the purpose of describing their behavior. Before, if you wanted to study elephants, you shot them and pulled their molars out to see how old they were.”—Carl Safina (8) 

“The views that people have are so far apart that it goes all the way from, ‘Neanderthals are meat robots that had nothing interesting going on in their head’ on one extreme, to ‘Neanderthals are fully modern and basically like us and we can’t discriminate against them,’ on the other end.”–John Hawks (9)

“Sometimes a scientist will ask me, ‘What are your data points?’ ” he said. “But if we accept that animals are self-aware beings and have emotions, they are no longer data points. No amount of data points will explain identity.”–Vint Virga (10)

“ARE animals conscious? This question has a long and venerable history. Charles Darwin asked it when pondering the evolution of consciousness. His ideas about evolutionary continuity – that differences between species are differences in degree rather than kind – lead to a firm conclusion that if we have something, ‘they’ (other animals) have it too.”–Marc Bekoff (11)

“A profusion of recent studies has shown animals to be far closer to us than we previously believed — it turns out that common shore crabs feel and remember pain, zebra finches experience REM sleep, fruit-fly brothers cooperate, dolphins and elephants recognize themselves in mirrors, chimpanzees assist one another without expecting favors in return and dogs really do feel elation in their owners’ presence.”— Alex Halberstadt (12)

A rat driving a car. [13]

Articles


SOURCES AND NOTES

  1. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-8-april-1843-as-reported-by-william-clayton-b/7
  2. Ken Ham’s post: https://www.facebook.com/aigkenham/posts/2736903856339953; The article he shared: https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-one-more-reason-to-think-great-apes-can-tell-what-s-on-your-mind?fbclid=IwAR3d7GtugtMCooG-2b7GHlaxAZf2o2qLLVOnkdyhzAoB4JXNWnQNL37Rztk (The featured image of this blog post is taken from this article); Definition of “theory of mind”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_mind
  3. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-8-april-1843-as-reported-by-william-clayton-b/6#full-transcript
  4. https://www.bbcearth.com/blog/?article=the-truth-about-animal-grief&ocid=fbert
  5. https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-one-more-reason-to-think-great-apes-can-tell-what-s-on-your-mind
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/21/science/carl-safina-animal-cognition.html 
  7. https://phys.org/news/2019-10-investing-affection-species-life.html
  8. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/21/science/carl-safina-animal-cognition.html 
  9. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/eagle-talon-jewelry-suggests-neanderthals-were-capable-human-thought-180973451/#Rh86QVcGrUp6wzgS.99 
  10. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/magazine/zoo-animals-and-their-discontents.html
  11. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528836-200-animals-are-conscious-and-should-be-treated-as-such/
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/magazine/zoo-animals-and-their-discontents.html
  13. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2220721-scientists-have-trained-rats-to-drive-tiny-cars-to-collect-food/

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