Thursday, August 24, 2006

Smartest Animals On Earth

I always think it's funny when people on documentaries say that various animals are "the smartest on earth." On the list: dolphins, various types of monkeys and chimps and pigs.

And how do we measure intelligence in these geniuses of the animal world?

Well, it's because they do what we say.

Dolphins, for instance, will push a button with their nose in response to seeing the right combination of flash cards. They train pretty easily.

Not that it's any different with human beings. We socialize kids to "know" the right answers but it really has more to do with obedience to what they have been taught then to independent, intelligent observation of the world around them.

Case in point: What color is the sky?

And of course the answer: Blue.

Unless it's at night. Unless it's sunset or sunrise. Unless it's overcast. Unless there is smog. In fact, I would guess the sky is blue far less than 50% of the time most places on earth. But it's still the correct answer. The answer "blue" has very little to do with intelligence.

All that to say this: it is possible, nay, likely that the smartest animal in the world is the common household cat. It does not do what it is told. It does whatever it wants. It trains human beings to feed it, to pet it, and to clean up its feces. It also tricks human beings into thinking that they are in charge. That is pretty smart.


  1. come on matt, everyone knows that dolphins are dumber than goldfish: dimwitted but happy . That's great actually ... I wish my body generates more serotonin. I don't know which one is better, smart but sad, or dumb but happy.

    now, sharks are really smart ... mwahahaha. maybe that's why you're deathly afraid of them.

  2. HA! I'm not afraid of any dumb old shark. Why, I'd like to see one come up here on land and see how it does against me!

    Okay, I take it back. I don't want to see a shark here on land. Back into the ocean with the lot of them! Dirty wolves of the sea.

  3. Anonymous2:53 AM

    Well at least like any of you shark or cat lovers! Dolphins make love like some of us "excluding you" so that's at some point of inteligence! Doggy stype for you cat lover!

  4. Dear "Who Cares So Long As I am Right"...

    I have to say that your comment is quite possibly my favorite one I have ever received on the site.

    A couple of thoughts in reply:

    A) Since all forms of life engage in intercourse or, as you put it, "making love", I am not sure it is necessarily a sign of intelligence. Just a thought.

    B) I am not sure you really want to equate your own sexual life with that of a dolphin. They are not known for being particularly discerning creatures in that sense.

    C) Thank you so much for the lively comment "doggy stpe for you cat lover!" This is a comment that is bringing me a lot of happiness. I love reflecting on what exactly "stype" is. And I love thinking through the various meanings your sentence could have, particularly if coupled with a comma... or a "your" instead of a "you." The possibilities are endless.

    D) I can't help but think you are one of my foreign friends making a foray into the difficult world of english. Keep up the good work!


    Matt "cat lover" Mikalatos