Humans have the highest IQ; but animals have vastly more commonsense. How so? Let’s consider various settings, starting with one we all share – time and space.
TIME & SPACE
Wake Up: Animals will wake up when their biological clocks tell them it’s time to wake up. Humans wake up when the alarm clock rings!
Going to Sleep: Animals go to sleep when their biological clocks tell them to go to sleep (including catnaps). Humans go to sleep after their favourite TV program finishes, like the late, late show! Humans push the boundaries and often refuse to rest even when their bodies tell them it’s desirable. An afternoon catnap ultimately increases productivity, but how many workplaces encourage napping (even briefly) on the job?
Time: All animals have a sense of time, a biological clock. However, unlike humans, one cannot suggest that animals are anywhere near as obsessed with time as are humans. Humans, like animals, regulate their activities by the ‘clock’, only with humans it tends to be not a vague time, like with animals – just sometime soon as long as the Sun’s up – but timed to not only the minute, but often the second. The factory whistle; the timing (start and stop) of a sports event; the start of your TV program, are all programmed down to the second. New Years Day isn’t New Years Day until precisely the tiniest split second post midnight. Scientific measurements are down to the nanosecond; that phone call is expected at exactly 9:15 a.m., etc. You’d be hard-pressed to imagine an animal needing to wear a wristwatch or operate a stopwatch!
Holidays & Anniversaries; Animals attach zero importance to holidays and anniversaries. Humans are obsessed with them, an obsession which often takes a financial, social, physical and mental toll.
Vacations & Weekends: Animals don’t need a break from their daily routine. Humans require (or at least think they do) annual (or more frequent) time off and away from the routine, not to mention the “thank god it’s Friday” syndrome. What does that really say about modern human society?
Territory: Animals will occupy and defend as much territory as is necessary for their survival and the continuation of their species. Humans however will often try to possess and rule over as much territory, property, as possible, sometimes for economic (investment) reasons; often for sheer power for the sake of power. Humans are rarely satisfied with what they control – they always want more and More and MORE. [See also: Domination]
MATTER & ENERGY
Possessions: Animals have no urge to acquire things, other than that required for survival (like building a nest or storing away food for the winter). Humans – well, what’s the expression, “keeping up with the Jones family” or “shop till you drop”!
FILL WHAT’S EMPTY
Eating #1: Wild animals, who don’t know when and where their next meal might come from, will make hay while the sun shines. Humans, even when they know where and when their next meal comes from, will still over indulge, especially on certain festive or special occasions. [See also: Obesity]
Eating #2: An animal, assuming food is available, will eat when it is hungry – a natural state of affairs. A human will eat according to a schedule, at fixed times, when the dining room is open, when the office clock and the boss says “go to lunch now”, regardless of need – an artificial (phoney) state of affairs.
Eating #3: A wild animal eats natural foods, as Mother Nature (natural selection & evolution) intended it should. Humans tend to eat processed foods, full of preservatives and other artificial chemicals (all to after-the-fact found to be harmful, maybe even carcinogenic), often laden with additional salts, sugars, fats, and other tasty bits that don’t usually give the human any additional nutritional benefits.
Obesity: A few companion animals are allowed to overeat and put on too much weight, because their owners, out of ‘kindness’ overfeed them. However, most cats and dogs, etc. are pretty good at self-regulating their intake and saying “enough” when it’s enough, even if presented with an unlimited food supply. In humans, the obesity epidemic in the developed world, like the USA, Australia and similar countries is totally out of control despite thousands of diet books, articles, DVDs, websites and fitness gyms seemingly on every street corner. Now I have a normal quota of male hormones, but a good third of all females between 15 and 35 don’t rate a first glance, far less a second because they are very unpleasingly plump (and that’s being kind).
EMPTY WHAT’S FULL
Bathroom/Toilet: Animals go potty when the need arises. Humans go after the meeting or during intermissions, whatever. Such restrictions are often unpleasant, but humans impose such restrictions on themselves. Animals have no sympathy for us.
Greenhouse Gases: My cats can certainly pass wind. Cows and methane are a well know duo. Humans are expected to refrain from emitting greenhouses in the presence of others other than exhaled carbon dioxide and water vapour.
SCRATCH WHERE IT ITCHES
Itches & Twitches: If an animal itches, it scratches and doesn’t give a damn if anything or anybody is observing. Humans, in the company of polite society at least, usually refrain from scratching, especially in certain places. They suffer the itchy/twitchy consequences!
Good vs. Evil: Animals are neither good nor evil – those are human inventions or concepts. There are no animal equivalents of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s no point in saying “good doggie” or “bad pussy cat” since they have no concept of “good” or “bad”. They may have learned what is and is not acceptable behaviour (what does and does not piss you off) but they do not understand why. While not every human transforms from good to evil and back again, and again, every human, unlike an animal, is theoretically capable of having a dual good/evil personality. Individuals’ aside, when looking at any large sample of humans, the dual nature becomes obvious.
Revenge & Justice: No animal deliberately plots and executes revengeful actions or has hidden agendas. What you see is what you get. Animals don’t fly planes into skyscrapers. Animals couldn’t even conceive of such a scenario in their wildest dreams. Humans on the other hand – need I say more?
Law & Order: All animal societies have some sort of internal regulation system which almost seems to be ingrained or hardwired. Such regulation usually doesn’t go much beyond the parents keeping the cubs in line and ensuring they don’t put themselves in harms way. Humans on the other hand have formalized their regulation of themselves to such an extreme degree that comparing the regulation of human society to say self-regulation of massive ant, termite or bee colony societies (which does just fine without cops and lawyers), is comparing not so much apples and oranges as the simplicity of a single electron with the complexity of the global weather system. How is it that an animal society can regulate itself without the need for a massive judicial infrastructure and requirement for highly specialized legal eagles and law enforcers?
Killing #1: Animals kill only as necessary for their own survival, both in defence as well as obtaining food for themselves and perhaps offspring. Humans kill out of sheer sadistic pleasure, for so-called ‘sport’, often just because they can. My cats, if they wanted to, kill garden snails – the weight of one paw would do it. However, snails are not food and pose no threat to them, so it’s live and let live. That’s unlike many humans who if they see a snail, a snail doing no harm to them or anything else, just delight in stomping on them – an 80 kg human vs. an 8 gm snail is no contest. Now that’s if the snail is lucky. All too often the sadistic human will just step on the animal lightly enough to crack the shell, leaving the snail helpless to either dry out in the sun or be at the mercy of the ants. It’s a very sad state of affairs that such examples can be expanded on by many orders of magnitude over a very wide range of species.
Killing #2: If an animal wants to kill a human it has to get up close and personal. The reverse isn’t of necessity true. I wonder how brave our so-called ‘sportsmen’ hunters would be if the animals they hunted could shoot back. The concept of ‘sport’ is about equal contests and the same rules for all. Hunting animals therefore is not sport and it is high time the glorification of sport was divorced from hunting, which is anything but a glorious activity. The exception might be if the hunter is putting food on the table, but again, that’s not a ‘sport’.
Creativity & Technology #1: Some animals can be creative and ‘manufacture’ and use ‘technology’ like animals that pull off twigs and fashion them to stick into termite mounds in order to pull out a termite snack, or making use of materials to build a nest. But that ‘technology’ never backfires and bites them on the bum. Humans invent cars, but we have a road toll. We have electricity and accidents happen. We construct nuclear plants then have to worry about terrorism. We have created computers, and thus evolved the inevitable computer hacker and the computer virus. We manufacture all sorts of synthetic chemicals then wonder what to do with the toxic waste (actually we don’t wonder at all what to do with it – we dump it in the sea or the air since the solution to pollution is dilution).
Creativity & Technology #2: Animals get along quite nicely thank you very much without Facebook, Twitter, iPads, email, mobile phones, Internet message boards, text-messaging, etc. Any human being, especially under the age of 40, and really, really especially under the age of 20, deprived of such technology becomes a basket case in nanoseconds! Attention to all those who feel the need to SMS 24/7: freedom is not being tied to your mobile phone; in contact with the rest of the world 24/7! Once upon a time, not all that long ago, human civilization (including teenagers therein) survived and thrived via communications that depended on smoke signals, semaphore flags and the pony express. If you really needed fast, there was the overland telegraph!
Domination: Humans Rule, OK? Left to itself, Mother Nature finds its own non-static, ever changing balance, in good times and bad times. Animals clearly affect that balance and in turn are affected by it. However, no animal species seeks to call the shots and exert ultimate control over that balance – no species except one of course, and no prizes for guessing what that species is. Humans decide, via some sort of divine right the fate and makeup of Earth’s ecosystems; what lives, what dies, in what ratios, what the landscape will be like, ever manipulating to find that balance that best suits us, which is going to be as far removed from a natural balance as it is possible to get. Take any human dominated environmental landscape. Remove the human element. Will that environmental landscape or ecosystem remain as is, as humans made it, or undergo a radical shift back to Mother Nature’s balance? Look no further than the typical backyard ecosystem/garden. It wouldn’t take long before natural change would render it unrecognizable if neglected by the garden’s occupants. If humans went poof, Earth would soon (in relatively minor geological time frames) become equally as unrecognizable as that household garden, or rather as recognizable as it was before humans came along with delusions of grandeur.
Birth, Death & Deities: Animals have no concept of their own death, hence an afterlife. They have no remembrance of their conception and probably their birth and of the concept of creation. Animals therefore have no need of religion and deities. Animals therefore have to carry around a lot less philosophical baggage. Humans however are obsessed with these concepts, really all unnecessary philosophical baggage IMHO.
Economics & Finance: No animal jumped out of windows at the start of the Great Depression. They lose no shuteye over the tax man, and bills are something on ducks.
Lifestyle: Animals don’t need to go to the ‘beauty’ parlour for a quick pick-me-up. The whole idea of a social scene – the right venue, the in-crowd, being seen with the ‘right’ people – is totally foreign to them. What to wear is a non-issue. The current must have fashions (doomed to be out of date within months if not less) is just so much ho-hum. There’s no need or desire for tattoos and body piercing. The latest celebrity scandal in the tabloids is a non-event. Collectables aren’t. A snazzy sports car or any other boy toy is boring. Animals don’t suffer from information overload. Because animals don’t purchase any products, they can’t be held responsible for any litter that arises (of which there is plenty). Humans however engage in this ever ongoing, never ending, pursuit in quest of the ‘good life’ and are usually never satisfied. Animals just enjoy life as best they can one day at a time – they live for the moment.
Drugs: Animals do not wilfully harm themselves with substances foreign to their day-to-day survival. Humans – well there’s caffeine, smoking, drinking alcohol, all sorts of recreational drugs with varying degrees of mental addiction and artificial ‘stimulation’. Need one say more!
Harmful Habits: Animals do not engage in habits harmful to their wellbeing other than what’s required for basic survival, like say a predator taking on prey way larger than itself, defending your offspring from attack, or herds crossing a raging river on an annual migration. Then there are head-butting type contests over mating rights, but they usually result in a back-down, not death or extreme injury. Of course animals are still hardwired for the natural environment. Their eons ago development and evolution hasn’t caught up with our modern civilization yet, and so dogs may chase cars, and the road kill is additional evidence of how humans put animals in harms way – they don’t do it because they are suicidal. Humans, well from tattoos to body piercing to baking in the sun for an unnecessary suntan to extreme sports, humans like to take on risk without any possible actual additional benefit. Habits aside, humans, usually young macho males with way too much testosterone, like to put themselves in harms way – demonstrate the ‘right’ stuff. Pity more of them didn’t end up with a Darwin Award and remove themselves from the gene pool! I’ll drink to that since such self-destruct events wouldn’t bother me one iota.
Mental Health: Animals, left to their own devices, are in no need of a shrink. It’s only when humans try to force a (square) companion animal into their requirement of a (round) behavioural hole that problems arise. Companion animals under the influence of their human associations have ‘need’ of pet psychologists, or at least some of them apparently do according to the human, and really it’s ultimately the human’s fault. Do you think any wild animals have any such need of a shrink? No? I didn’t think so. Humans of course are often on the couch for counselling and therapy of one sort or another; the list way to long to detail in a short essay.
Isms: Animals do not discriminate on the grounds of gender or appearance. A ginger male cat will accept or reject a black male cat on grounds that have nothing to do with fur colour. A white female cat might pick and choose between lots of male cats and reject them all – that doesn’t mean she’s sexist or prefers female cats. Humans on the other hand, accept or reject other humans on just such distinctions, plus a whole host of other ‘isms’ that animals have no conception of in the first place.
Opinions: Animals ask no questions; tell no lies; mind their own business; take everything at face value. Humans – can you say the same about you and the rest of the human race? Let’s face it; humans do anything but mind their own business. They happily pass judgements on any other lifestyle (especially one involving sex in any shape manner or form) that doesn’t conform to their own moral standards.
HUMAN-ANIMAL INTERACTIONS I’D LIKE TO SEE
What about jockeys carrying the horses around on their backs as they run around the race track! Now that would be worth watching!
How about a human three-ring circus with an animal audience!
In fact, just about any human-animal role reversal would be interesting.
So what does this analysis tell us about the differences between humans and ‘mere’ animals? We’ve seen there are many fundamental differences between way overrated humans (overrated by our own human opinions of ourselves of course) and way underrated animals (again, underrated according to the relatively biased opinions of humans). If the human-animal differences are due to natural selection, then there is a puzzlement in why did the rest of the animal kingdom take the ‘smart’ and commonsense road while humans took the intelligence road? While I’m sure there is an evolutionary connection between animals and the human animal, I also think there is some hidden variable(s) that caused the human branch to head off into uncharted territory (and go off the rails). If these differences (the hidden variables) are due to God, what does that tell you about what God is like? Nothing good, that’s for sure! If it’s artificial selection, but not due to anything supernatural, then things get interesting.
The celebrated astrophysicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawking, among many others, is a strong advocate of humans boldly going and colonizing space as the only viable way of ensuring our long term survival. The Big Question however in my mind is should humanity infect the wider cosmic scene? Isn’t it enough one ‘pale blue dot’ has to suffer our lot? So, ET, if you are out there; be afraid, be very afraid!