Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dolphin Intelligence viz Human Intelligence

by Hardy Jones

It has long been my belief that there should not only be a ban on directly killing dolphins but regulations which protect their habitat, food supplies and water quality.

I’ve spent more than thirty years among dolphins in the wild. Much of it has been spent with spotted dolphins in the Bahamas. But I’ve also interacted in a personal way over varying periods of time with spinner dolphins in Hawaii, killer whales in Norway, sperm whales in the Galapagos and off Dominica and bottlenose dolphins at Rangiroa Atoll.

Their curiosity and inventiveness in creating and maintaining a relationship with a non-cetacean intelligence such as myself has convinced me there is something extraordinary going on in their massive brains. My conviction is only enhanced by observations of them interacting among themselves.

I don’t need scientific proof that cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are intelligent but I welcome it as a way of convincing the vast part of humanity who’ve had no contact with these creatures that they are a special case; that they merit special protection under law.

Drs. Lori Marino and Diana Reiss used mirror self-recognition to prove that dolphins are self-aware. The story of this remarkable work received substantial media play when it was published. In January of this year articles began to pop up around the world reporting a call from Dr. Marino that dolphins be treated as “non-human persons.”

The articles cited studies that have shown dolphin communication is similar to that of humans and that dolphins have brains have many of the features and functions of human brains.

In a statement that really pecks at the cosmic egg Dr. Marino, Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University in Atlanta, said dolphins neuroanatomy “suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions.”

After reading of Dr. Marino’s statement I traveled to Atlanta to interview her. In a Starbuck’s just off campus we had a fascinating discussion of the difficult subject of comparative intelligence.

I pressed her on a question that I’ve long had about why dolphins, who in many cases have larger brains than humans, are “marked down” because of something called the brain-body weight ratio. Essentially that says that to get a true value on the intelligence of an animal you must divide the brain size by the body weight. This produces the result that because dolphins weigh more than humans the high denominator in the calculation pulls down the “intelligence” of dolphins viz humans.

I propose to Lori that a large part of dolphin weight is simply blubber that requires no brain functions to control it.

Her answer was complex.

(To be continued)

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Oh man, to be continued!? Looking forward to reading the rest.