HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart…
Loading...

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Frans de Waal (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8853519,711 (4)34
From world-renowned biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal comes this groundbreaking work on animal intelligence destined to become a classic.What separates your mind from an animal's? Maybe you think it's your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future--all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet's preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have been eroded--or even disproved outright--by a revolution in the study of animal cognition.Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are--and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long.People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different, often incomparable, forms? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you're less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of a echolocating bat?De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal--and human--intelligence.… (more)
Member:SweatsNC
Title:Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
Authors:Frans de Waal (Author)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2016), Edition: 1, 352 pages
Collections:Read 2022, Read, Owned, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:non-fiction, science, environment-nature, currently-reading

Work Information

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal (2016)

Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 34 mentions

English (29)  Dutch (4)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Ethology over behaviorism, shotgun approach to experimental examples across species with many layered problems of intelligence, consciousness and theory of mind giving a mosaic picture of all of them being an evolutionary gradient rather than a spark of human exceptionalism. ( )
  A.Godhelm | Mar 14, 2022 |
I found the book quite interesting, as it pointed out the error in our thinking through the ages on animals. Life experience and therefore perspective and usefulness indicates what types of intelligence we have. We tend to have a bias on what IS intelligence because of our needs, not the animals' needs. I stopped reading at the end since he was disparaging religion needlessly, preaching his lack of religion during the summary - not impressed with that. ( )
  Wren73 | Mar 4, 2022 |
Short answer: no, of course we’re not. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because of thousands of years of cultural confirmation bias.

For the long answer, you can’t go wrong reading this book. De Waal writes a very readable treatise on the subject – where we started regarding our beliefs about animal intelligence, and how we got to where we are today, using a well balanced blend of anecdotes and scientific experiments. While his area of study is primatology, he also delves into research conducted by colleagues on birds, elephants, dogs, a few fish wales, dolphins, and the octopus. He systematically addresses each of the arguments that have been made as to what sets humans apart, and how these arguments have been torn down by research over time.

The book didn’t get the full 5 stars because, oddly enough, I felt De Waal was being too politic about at least one question: why are researchers, scientists and laypeople so historically stubborn about insisting that humans are above, and superior to, all other animals? To me, that answer is obvious, though I can see why scientists equate objectivity with atheism. The truth of the matter is that the Western world has been culturally inculcated by Judeo-Christian teachings, whether scientists like it or not, on such a fundamental level, that I doubt many are aware of it. Specifically, Genesis 1:28:

And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.

Personally – and this is just me – I’ve always had doubts about the original translation of Gen. 1:28 – specifically the words “subdue” and “rule”; I have to wonder if the original language wasn’t closer to something akin to ‘guard’ or ‘protect’, given that Earth may be our home, but it isn’t our house, so to speak. And while I’m going a bit off topic here, I’ll also just say that I do believe that God gave us something that separates us from the other animals: free will. In all my readings and my meagre experiences, we’re the only animals that can choose to be evil for the sake of being evil; we’re the only animals that can choose to hurt ourselves; we’re the only animals that will push our own boundaries just for the sake of pushing them.

Anyway – back on topic – De Waal doesn’t address deeply embedded cultural bias, which struck me as odd. But that’s really my only niggling objection. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found much in it that made me think hard about animal intelligence and what it means to be aware of self, others and our surroundings. But then again, I’m his audience: I have always believed animals are smart, aware, and cognisant and that humans have never been as special as we think we are. ( )
  murderbydeath | Feb 4, 2022 |
I listened to this audiobook the first time in 2017 when recovering from an injury, and with on-going therapy, medications, and interruptions, I missed a lot. So I kept it on my "to read" list, and finally, a year later, went back and listened to it again. As the title implies, the book looks at the natural intelligence of a number of animals, chiefly apes, chimpanzees, birds, elephants, along with several others. The author points out that many people look at animal intelligence as judged against human skills. But, as the author shows, there are other ways to look at and judge "how smart animals are", and it takes a well designed test for the evaluators to be able to recognize animal's skills, creativity, and abilities. So the book is as much about the ability of animal behavioral scientists to create effective tests in order to identify natural and learned skills as it is about the list of specific skills of each animal species. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Relative to other such non-fiction books regarding the natural world that I've read, this to me is a four star read.

As an over the hill naturalist student I still try to keep up with natural sciences research papers and books, and having read some of the author's previous books I was curious to read this one. To my perspective, in this book Frans De Waal presents a well-balanced, informative, lay-level description of the state of his science (Primatology and Ethology), his thinking, and a bit of history that has led to the current state of understanding. All this in the vein of:

"What we observe is not nature in itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."—Werner Heisenberg (1958)

There are some repeated mentions, albeit out of necessity in being applicable to or contrasting with differing contexts. In other words, rather than superfluous bits I see such as a scientific mind trying hard to convey understanding of complex subject matter. He can also be a little cutting at times, for the most part appropriately so from my perspective:

"What a bizarre animal we are that the only question we can ask in relation to our place in nature is 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the smartest of them all?'”

If anything captures the gist of this book it is:

"That all mammalian brains operate in essentially the same way has also been found in other domains. Behind these similarities is a much deeper message, of course. Instead of treating mental processes as a black box, as Skinner and his followers had done, we are now prying open the box to reveal a wealth of neural homologies. These show a shared evolutionary background to mental processes and offer a powerful argument against human-animal dualism.
. . .
"We are moving ever closer to Darwin’s continuity stance, according to which the human-animal difference is one of degree, not kind.
"

Think of the Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) which squirrels away more than twenty thousand pine nuts, in hundreds of different locations over many square miles, and in the winter manages to recover most of them. Cognition, in good part, is relative to survival in any evolved life form, and in turn if a species becomes weedy can lead to excesses that prompt demise in Nature's balancing act.

This month I came across a research paper which further reinforces Frans De Waal's thinking.
Titled MRI scans of the brains of 130 mammals, including humans, indicate equal connectivity, it can be seen at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200720112216.htm

This book can also be enlightening if the reader looks at it from another angle. That is, thinking about the evolutionary aspect of human proclivities. Most striking might be chimpanzee politics, which Frans De Waal mentions in this book and wrote an earlier (1982) book on. Chimpanzees are of course one of our close cousins, a sister taxon to the human lineage. Such can be enlightening in understanding our societal and governing issues.

"The greatest of human discoveries in the future will be the discovery of human intimacy with all other modes of being that live with us on this planet." ~ Thomas Berry

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and ...to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." - Albert Einstein ( )
  LGCullens | Jun 1, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
... De Waal argues that we should attempt to understand a species’ intelligence only within its own context, or umwelt: the animal’s “self-centered subjective world, which represents only a small tranche of all available worlds.” There are many different forms of intelligence; each should be valuated only relative to its environment. “It seems highly unfair to ask if a squirrel can count to 10 if counting is not really what a squirrel’s life is about,” de Waal writes. (A squirrel’s life is about remembering where it stored its nuts; its intelligence is geospatial intelligence.) And yet, there’s apparently a long history of scientists ignoring this truth. For example, they’ve investigated chimpanzees’ ability to recognize faces by testing whether the chimps can recognize human faces, instead of faces of other chimps. (They do the former poorly and the latter quite well.) They’ve performed the ­famous mirror test — to gauge whether an animal recognizes the figure in a mirror as itself — on elephants using a too-small, human-size mirror. Such blind spots are, ultimately, a failure of empathy — a failure to imagine the experiment, or the form of intelligence it’s testing for, through the animal’s eyes. De Waal compares it to “throwing both fish and cats into a swimming pool” and seeing who can swim...
added by rybie2 | editNew York Times, Jon Mooallem (Apr 26, 2016)
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frans de Waalprimary authorall editionscalculated
Haggar, DarrenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marin, CatherineAuthor photographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mattarelliano, LouiseProduction managersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moolman, LislCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sloan, DanaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

From world-renowned biologist and primatologist Frans de Waal comes this groundbreaking work on animal intelligence destined to become a classic.What separates your mind from an animal's? Maybe you think it's your ability to design tools, your sense of self, or your grasp of past and future--all traits that have helped us define ourselves as the planet's preeminent species. But in recent decades, these claims have been eroded--or even disproved outright--by a revolution in the study of animal cognition.Take the way octopuses use coconut shells as tools; elephants that classify humans by age, gender, and language; or Ayumu, the young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame. Based on research involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, Frans de Waal explores both the scope and the depth of animal intelligence. He offers a firsthand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing how smart animals really are--and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long.People often assume a cognitive ladder, from lower to higher forms, with our own intelligence at the top. But what if it is more like a bush, with cognition taking different, often incomparable, forms? Would you presume yourself dumber than a squirrel because you're less adept at recalling the locations of hundreds of buried acorns? Or would you judge your perception of your surroundings as more sophisticated than that of a echolocating bat?De Waal reviews the rise and fall of the mechanistic view of animals and opens our minds to the idea that animal minds are far more intricate and complex than we have assumed. De Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal--and human--intelligence.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (4)
0.5
1
1.5
2 4
2.5 3
3 23
3.5 11
4 71
4.5 10
5 36

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 171,587,340 books! | Top bar: Always visible