Natures wonders: Crocodile tools (Introduction)

by dhw, Friday, December 06, 2013, 20:46 (2112 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: We do not know how instinct is developed.

dhw: Nor do we know how intelligence is developed. Nor do we know where to draw the borderline between instinct and intelligence. Instinct is normally pretty standardized, but if one croc uses sticks as bait and another doesn't, or one crow can solve puzzles while another can't, or one rat can exit the maze more quickly than another, is it not possible that the one is simply more intelligent than the other?

DAVID: Or luckier in trial and error. But Sheldrake's work on animal consciousness shows that one lucky fellow will be immitated by the others until the whole species is doing it. There is no question this happens. The "100th monkey" story is one the classics.

I've looked at three websites dealing with the 100th monkey story, all of which say it has been discredited, and the sweet potato washing is accounted for by observation and passing on from one generation to another. See
No doubt, though, Sheldrake has plenty of other examples for his theory, but this is irrelevant to the individual, supervised tests made, for instance, on crows and rats, demonstrating their intelligent ways of solving specific problems in the laboratory. You yourself drew our attention to corvids:

DAVID: More studies on how clever crow are with brains diffrent than ours:
The whole article is filled with references to intelligent behaviour, e.g.:
"The study published in Nature Communications provides valuable insights into the parallel evolution of intelligent behavior. "Many functions are realized differently in birds because a long evolutionary history separates us from these direct descendants of the dinosaurs," says Lena Veit. "This means that bird brains can show us an alternative solution out of how intelligent behavior is produced with a different anatomy.""

The "different anatomy" comment could well apply to other organisms such as ants and bacteria. We simply don't know how "intelligence" works, but there is plenty of evidence that ours is not the only form.

dhw: One intelligent croc and maybe a couple of intelligent ants are all you need to come up with a stick-baiting or ant-rafting idea that can then be passed on to subsequent generations.
DAVID: I like the way you tuck in the word intelligent.

Hardly tucked in. That is my whole point. Meanwhile, you switch from instinct to luck ... anything but "intelligence". See your next comment.

Dhw: Here is an article on the recent discovery that ants teach each other one to one in the hunt for food, after which the pupil becomes a teacher, and so on. Why would pupils need to be taught what you think is an instinctive activity?

DAVID: Excellent article and right to the point Sheldrake makes.

Miles from the point Sheldrake makes and from the point you keep trying to make. Each ant teaches others how to detect food. How can direct one-to-one teaching and learning be linked to luck, instinct or morphogenetic fields?

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