Humans not smarter than animals: experts
Humans have been deceiving themselves for thousands of years that they are smarter than the rest of the animal kingdom, despite growing evidence to the contrary, scientists say.
"For millennia, all kinds of authorities - from religion to eminent scholars - have been repeating the same idea ad nauseam, that humans are exceptional by virtue that they are the smartest in the animal kingdom," said Dr Arthur Saniotis, from University of Adelaide's School of Medical Sciences.
"However, science tells us that animals can have cognitive faculties that are superior to human beings," said Saniotis.
He said the belief that humans have superior intelligence harks back to the Agricultural Revolution some 10,000 years ago when people began producing cereals and domesticating animals.
This gained momentum with the development of organised religion, which viewed human beings as the top species in creation, researchers said.
"The belief of human cognitive superiority became entrenched in human philosophy and sciences. Even Aristotle, probably the most influential of all thinkers, argued that humans were superior to other animals due to our exclusive ability to reason," Saniotis said.
While animal rights began to rise in prominence during the 19th century, the drive of the Industrial Revolution forestalled any gains made in the awareness of other animals.
Professor Maciej Henneberg said animals often possess different abilities that are misunderstood by humans. "The fact that they may not understand us, while we do
not understand them, does not mean our 'intelligences' are at different levels, they are just of different kinds," Henneberg said.
"Animals offer different kinds of intelligences which have been under-rated due to humans' fixation on language and technology. These include social and kin aesthetic intelligence.
"Some mammals, like gibbons, can produce a large number of varied sounds - over 20 different sounds with clearly different meanings that allow these arboreal primates to communicate across tropical forest canopy. The fact that they do not build houses is irrelevant to the gibbons," Henneberg said.