Suppose you give an animal some very complex stimulus – more elaborate than simply “heat”, “pain”, “light”, and you observe some very complex response. AND suppose that complex response is very recognizably similar to the complex response a human would likely display, given the same complex stimulus.
What would you make of that? If you say the animal is having the same internal reactions that a human is, should we dismiss that as anthropomorphizing? If we deny the animal is having a human-like response, then we must suppose that this complex stimulas/response reaction must have evolved independently. How likely does that seem?
It may be that assuming human-like complex stimulus/response patterns may be the more parsimonious choice, especially if you keep seeing lots of examples of this.
This seems to be the case with dolphins. You’ve all read or heard all the cute stories about how intelligent and “human-like” they are. So what is the more plausible hypothesis: That they do, in fact, have human-like feelings and emotions and reactions, or that all those complex but “human-like” responses have evolved separately and independently?
True story: I was a part-time dolphin trainer for several years. One evening, one of the trainers, just for fun, showed one of the dolphins how to twirl a frisbee on its snout. That evening, after most everyone had left for the day, the dolphin spent the entire evening and night swimming around the tank, twirling a frisbee. By the next day, the other dolphin was doing the same. For a week or so, they spent all their free time twirling frisbees. They even got creative. The frisbees weren’t all the same size. So they put a smaller frisbee inside a larger frisbee and twirled them both.
What would you make of behavior like that?
(They also liked to put a frisbee over the drain, so the tank would overflow. Then they would swim at high velocity around the perimeter of the tank, creating large waves that sloshed all over the edges of the tank. I’m pretty sure they were doing that on purpose.)