Who says chickens are stupid? Ignorant people, I assume. While this research reported in Science News isn’t about chickens per se, it probably would apply to chickens. I mean how much smarter is a pigeon going to be than a chicken? (Google [Pigeons match monkeys in abstract counting skills].) How much true difference is there between so-called higher and lower intelligence? Chapter 20 hints, Normal people discern difference, I alone am subdued. Doesn’t discerning difference help gratify our need to feel we’re at the top of nature’s pecking order (1).
The irony here is that the further from the top we feel the more we need a story that tells us we are superior (2). Just consider the name we’ve given ourselves — Homo sapiens ((Latin: “wise man”). Self-interest chose this label. We have made ourselves judge and jury on what is good and beautiful, and we inherit just the opposite, as chapter 2 bluntly states, All under heaven realizing beauty as beauty, wickedness already. All realizing goodness as goodness, no goodness already.
Why do we feel it so essential to be at the top of nature’s pecking order? What produces our species’ deep insecurity that drives our age-old delusion of superiority? While these myths are especially noticeable in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, I see human elitism implied in all other religious traditions as well, although perhaps less in Taoism for obvious reasons. Chapter 34 sees through our illusions of supremacy… Meritorious accomplishment yet anonymous, or chapter 78’s Of weakness and loss through death, superior to strength.
Our ability to think causes us a sense of disconnection from nature. This in turn causes us to mislabel ourselves. Chapter 71 underscores one reason why we can’t view ourselves more honestly… Realizing I don’t know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. Not knowing this knowing—or rather thinking that we know—transforms the entire realm of natural instinct present in all “higher” animals into our species’ illusion of free choice and superior self-control.
One of the wisest moves I ever made was realizing that I was being a damn fool to judge humanity by its own human standards! It is a rigged, no win, paradigm in which we entrap ourselves as both judge and the judged. It appears science alone, in time, will finally release us from this trap… and only Taoism or something similar can help us avoid being trapped by science.
Here now are a few excerpts from Pigeons rival primates in number task…
Working Bird Pigeons rival rhesus monkeys at putting groups of shapes in numerical order. The birds also show the primate like quirk of taking longer and making more mistakes when clusters hold close to the same number of shapes.
Pigeons, who aren’t even distant uncles to a monkey, have matched primates in a test of learning an abstract numerical concept.
The results “suggest that despite completely different brain organization and hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary divergence, pigeons and monkeys solve this problem in a similar way,” says Elizabeth Brannon of Duke University, a coauthor of the original study of numerical order in monkeys.
Human kind may be pretty proud of its numerical prowess, but numbers — four succulent fruits versus eight, one lurking lion versus three — matter very much in animal life, too. Research is uncovering various kinds of number-related abilities in animals as diverse as the honeybee, mosquito fish, grey parrot, Plethodon salamanders and a water bird called a coot.
(1) Regarding any differences I see as bio-illusions (i.e., the bio-hoodwink, p.11 and p.100) helps me keep perspective. In other words, perceptions of difference are relative, evolving over time to help animals deal with their environment. As such, perception’s primary role is to pull us into playing the game of life, not to inform us of any impartial truth of life. Perceptions of similarity—This is called profound sameness of chapter 56—strike much closer to the unbiased truth.
(2) I see this same ironic inversion in other animals as well. Meaning, animals (including us) counterbalance the insecurity felt within by putting on an outward show of strength—puff up and bluff. However, other animals don’t create narratives to support this drive. Essentially, our story making is an emergent property (p.121) of this fight-or-flight dynamic. Therefore, instead of judging a book by its cover, it helps to consider to what extent the inside is actually the opposite of the cover. The symptoms point of view (p.141) can help guide insight.