UserpicThe Puzzle of Intelligence
23.08.12, 02:05 PM

Human intelligence--including complex language, advanced tool use, and elaborate social organization--is clearly among the most powerful adaptations ever to evolve on planet earth. So why is it unique to the human species? One would think that such a powerful set of traits would be extremely useful to almost any species, yet no others have evolved these traits. Why? In other words, why have evolved brains always been so small compared to ours? Why, say, have our primate relatives not evolved our level of intelligence? Suggestions welcome.

11 comments 11 comments ( 1321 views )

No UserpicMalnes
21.03.13, 10:35 AM
It is a puzzle provided the distance between our intelligence and that of the second most intelligent species is disproportional to the distance between the latter and the third in rank, and so on. If not, it’s no puzzle that we’re the smartest. Someone has to be.

No UserpicSarah
27.02.13, 08:11 PM

ChrisH, did you mean that there are animals who are able to survive in places where it is hard if not impossible to survive, in general?
Because this is interesting.
The fact is that it is far better to live in a place where you have good conditions for living ( climate, food) than in a place where you do not. So, the natural tendency would be that we do not want to accommodate ourselves to live in bad conditions.
Many animals are known for moving to another place when there are no longer good conditions.
And that is, because they can move to a distant place and because they have a choice.
A place with good conditions does exist in order to move there. And they know it.

No UserpicSarah
26.02.13, 10:38 PM
Human intelligence as being unique only to humans? Or the only superior intelligence we know of?
Why other species do not have this or wanted to have it? Given the fact that it is extremely useful? As, we humans, think it is extremely useful? Why would be extremely useful for animals? If you are not a human, you are an animal, right?
they probably did not think it is that useful? or it never occurred to them? or,for sure, if it was not that useful for them, they did not need it?
you need to be aware to some degree of what you need otherwise you have to take into account that there is a limit that you can not cross. but you still need to be aware of it.

UserpicAlan C
20.02.13, 06:38 PM
Qui audet adipiscitur?

No UserpicKate
19.02.13, 04:56 PM
Speaking of intelligence. Why do people, even smart people do, think, and say so many stupid, stupid, stupid things?

No UserpicKate
17.02.13, 04:10 AM
Someone (the son of a philosopher, actually) once said to my brother (who is quite smart but frankly was behaving like a dick), "Intelligence is not an indicator of good or evil; it just means you have more power for good, or for evil."

But why is knowledge of morality tempting? I understand wanting to do something evil to somebody who rapes you or kills your kid or something else really horrific (especially is there is no justice), but some people hurt people who have not hurt them in such a way. I admit to occasionally wishing I was less moral so I could hurt one or two people because of terrible terrible things they have done. Sometimes evil is a means (for money or power) and I understand that, despite not being tempted in such a way. I don't understand sadism though. Evil and pain are not the means, but the ends. Animals aren't really like that. They kill for food or protection or even because they are territorial but very few creatures with the exception of cats do it just because they enjoy it. That doesn't seem intelligent to me, but I feel the two might be related anyway.

UserpicColin McGinn
15.02.13, 01:08 PM
Yes, knowledge makes evil possible, even tempting. It takes intelligence to do wicked things. Iago knew just what he was doing and was smart about it. But it always seems as if the bad people have some intelligence but not much; mediocrity is part of it.

No UserpicKate
15.02.13, 10:43 AM
Apes, not only use, but also modify tools. Dolphins have the language thing covered. And honestly there are lots of days when I think our social structure is not much of an improvement on many in the animal world. But animals don't have a combination of the 3. Also thumbs! So we really hit the jackpot.

My question is: What is it about having that combination traits of that makes us such assholes? Really. Think about human history and the atrocities we commit every fucking day. I'm agnostic, but I think the tree of knowledge is an excellent analogy. It isn't knowledge that is forbidden. It's knowledge of good and evil. If you don't know, you aren't moral or immoral, you are amoral, like a baby. You aren't really "sinning" if you don't know it's a sin. But it's not just that with knowledge comes responsibility. That ought to make us more ethical, not less. It's almost as if knowing somehow makes us go out of our way to do terrible things. Or do you think it's just a coincidence, correlation doesn't equal causation?

No UserpicSelfAwarePatterns
28.08.12, 01:31 AM
An interesting article related to this question:

No UserpicChrisH
24.08.12, 10:24 AM
I wonder whether the question is being begged. Maybe the 'powerful traits' aren't so powerful: rats, cockroaches etc seem to have evolved to survive and breed in greater numbers, in lots of places we can't, as well as most of ones we can. The question could be reversed and asked, why aren't more species cockroach/rat-like in terms of traits they have inherited.

No UserpicSelfAwarePatterns
24.08.12, 12:19 AM
I'm not sure that an intelligent species would tolerate another one. Apparently, we either crowded out or outright killed off the neanderthals. It may be that once the first intelligent species emerges, no others will have the opportunity unless (until?) the first species goes extinct. If so, maybe the non-human primates are still around because they never presented us with a serious competitive threat.

It's worth pointing out that several species lines are, or were, approaching intelligence. Aside from the other primates, dolphins, elephants, octopuses, crows, and others show a relatively high degree of intelligence. Given another ten million years, who knows what might evolve, if allowed to.

I do suspect primates had a big advantage in this race. With our dexterity, tool use was much easier for us to take up and develop, making higher intelligence a bigger evolutionary advantage.