Philosophy/Biology Public Lecture

Gregg Poster as JPG
, to
Mulroney Hall 2070

Animal intelligence vs. human stupidity: who’s winning?

There is tacit assumption that human intelligence (whatever that might be) is a good thing. Good in the sense that it is responsible for our species’ evolutionary success. Good in the sense that it helped us eradicate smallpox and land people on the moon. Good in the sense that is allows us to enjoy an orange Aperol spritz, appreciate Picasso’s Guernica, and relish in the sublime spectacle of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. Good in the sense that it nudges us to contemplate the nature of existence and perhaps generate spiritual fulfilment on a level that other species simply cannot fathom. But this assumption is, in my opinion, insidiously wrongheaded. It’s wrong both in the way it misunderstands the nature and value of animal minds, and in how it lauds the decidedly ambiguous fruits of human intellectual labor. There is an argument to be made that human intelligence is, in fact, a very bad thing that both 1) makes us a miserable species and 2) will, in the not-too-distant future, lead to our own extinction. Might animals like slugs, sloths, and salamanders be beating us when it comes to having “better” ways of thinking about and interacting with the world?