Natures wonders: killer penguins hunt in packs (Introduction)

by dhw, Saturday, September 30, 2017, 13:25 (879 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: I view this as an alteration in lifestyle activities during which animals can learn new techniques by trial and error.

Agreed. I would say that any organism which can alter its lifestyle by creating new techniques must clearly be possessed of intelligence. Bacteria have been doing it since life began.

QUOTE: Recent research has demonstrated that many bird species have high-order cognitive processing abilities comparable to primates. […] For a long time, scientists used to believe the mammalian cerebral cortex to be the anatomical cause of cognitive ability,” coauthor Sara Letzner of Ruhr-Universität Bochum says in a press release. But birds have no cortex. “That means the structure of the mammalian cortex cannot be decisive for complex cognitive functions such as multitasking.”

DAVID’s comment: I think the study is misinterpreted. The birds are trained to respond automatically. The human metacognition, introspective brain comes to play when the delayed signal is introduced. But those birds are bright!

dhw: I don’t think you can have it both ways. If they respond automatically, it has nothing to do with brightness. Nobody would claim that pigeons are capable of metacognition and introspection on a human scale, but if the cerebral cortex is not the only source of cognitive abilities, we have to ask (a) whether cognitive abilities depend on the physical brain at all, and (b) just how “bright” our fellow organisms might be – from bacteria upwards. As you keep reminding us, what appears to be automatic may be pure intelligence – although you like to put it the other way round, don’t you?

DAVID: You are skipping over the fact that they were meticulously trained to be automatic. Humans were not.

They were trained to undergo a test that was not natural to them, and then to use their intelligence to make a decision. In any case, that is hardly the point. You have agreed that pigeons are “bright”, and it is the intelligence of our fellow creatures (right down to bacteria) that is so often the bone of contention between us when you provide us with the wonders of nature and insist that only God can design them. (The other really interesting issue raised by the article is (a) above, which of course we have discussed at length.)

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