I had the wonderful fortune of interviewing Duke University animal behaviorist and anthropologist Brian Hare, who studies cognition in dogs, bonobos, humans, and other animals, and who also launched the citizen science project Dogntion. I produced an audio slideshow, shown above, featuring the interview as part of the American Scientist Pizza Lunch Podcasts, a monthly multidisciplinary science speaker series. You can listen to other Pizza Lunch Podcasts here.
My favorite part of the interview was when Hare laid out his perspective on human intelligence in the context of evolution and biological life, taking a step outside of an anthropocentric worldview:
“When I think about cognition and who’s the most intelligent species on the planet, I mean, it’s not hard to be very proud to be a human. You know, I have an iPad, and I fly on airplanes, and I follow the news, and I know that Voyager’s entered the heliosphere, and, you know, we have the international space station, and of course, there’s the internet. So, how in the world could you accept anything but humans as the most intelligent species? Well, if you celebrate all the things we can do, you start forgetting the things that we also are a little bit ashamed of, so, you know, we have problems taking care of the environment, we obviously universally if you look across every continent where there are humans, there has been genocide in the last 200 years, we have a really hard time cooperating on the small scale, actually. And, I would suggest to many people that there’s some other species that are way better at some of those things than we are.”
You’ll have to watch the rest of the slideshow to find out which species he’s talking about, and some interesting new research on their intelligence and behavior.