Why is mankind (so much) smarter than the next most intelligent being?

I mean, whats the next most intelligent creature? A dolphin? A dog? An Ape? Why is mankind like a “10” on the intelligence scale, while the next most intelligent is like a “2”?

I mean, if things were left to chance and to evolution, there would be lots of “9s”, “8"s, “7s” and 6s” on the intelligence scale. That isn’t the case. Man is by far and away the most intelligent of all living creatures on this Earth. Why is that? Does science have an answer?

Please come up with an operational definition of “intelligence” and a way to test it across species.

If falcons defined “flying” they would wonder why no other bird is able to “fly” anywhere near as well as they.

True. But flying is a physical feat. Not a mental feat.

I think what our guest is asking, is why isn’t our Earth more like the bar scene in Star Wars.

And even then **DrFidelius, ** that is not a perfect analogy. There are birds which fly 90% as well as falcons. Are there animals which are 90% as intelligent as humans?

I don’t see Dolphins developing any PS2’s…

Yes, but then again we don’t see dolphins killing each other over territory or oil.

Thats not a sign of intelligence or anything else. Are you trying to suggest that dolphins are “more” intelligent than humans because they don’t fight over oil? Or is that just a flip remark?


Didn’t those have “microchannel” architecture so you had to buy ALL of your add-in boards fron IBM? Damn stupid idea in retrospect. Then they came out with the non-upgradable “PS-1” (although we all thought that the IBM PC family was the first “personal system” for which the new one was the second. [I feel as if I am channelling Yogi Berra]).

As we know, chimps use tools, gorillas have incredibly complex social lives, and orang-utans can be Librarians. The difference between what they are able to do and what humans can do is a difference of degree, not kind. And that difference looks a lot bigger when we are the ones to set the definitions.

There are a couple of fairly obvious reasons:

  1. Luck of the draw. Evolution granted our ancestors with the prerequisites (opposable thumbs, vocal cords allowing for complex language, etc.) necessary to evolve intelligence. Other lineages evolved in different directions.
  2. Competition. If any "9"s did evolve, we would have killed them off. Humans are very good at eliminating or reducing competition from other species. In the early days of our history, we would very likely have eliminated any such competition among other proto-humans. And if another species had evolved superior intelligence earlier than did our ancestors, we likely wouldn’t be around to discuss this. As the saying goes, “there can be only one.”

Keep in mind that intelligence, however you care to define it, is not the end all and be all of evolutionary success. We may think we’re on top of the world now, but bacteria and bugs have been around for far longer than we have, and will be around for far longer than we will.

On what scale? If you are using a scale that extends from sponges to humans, then apes are probably at least 90% as intelligent as we are.

Mankind is only “smarter” because we are able to define ourselves as such, through language. As it has been shown animals demonstrate intelligence that I would rank at least 50 to 75% of our own. Why does eating with a fork make you any smarter than an chimp you uses sticks to accomplish the same task?

If your trying to prove Creationism, you’ve picked the wrong audience. And why is this:

a dumb argument? Making politics, commerce and military makes you smart, but using them to the ultimate end of self-destruction is not dumb?

Well, chimps may be able to bang a rock against a nut, thus “using a tool”, but that has absolutely nothing to do with humans planning, designing, and manufacturing a space ship going to the moon.

Also, whats with your answer “Orangutans can be librarians”? I think you are stretching it a bit to say that Orangutans can be librarians in your local library :slight_smile:

Or perhaps you are saying that orangutans can be librarians in their own library?

Chimps modify sticks to be better at picking termites out of logs, and they convert leaves into absorbant sponges to sop up water. They also execute complex plans requiring coordination among a number of individuals to kill other individual chimps. Difference of degree to building a rocket (which we have only figured out in the last three generations – are we that much “smarter” than our great-grandparents?).

Orang-utans would never work at a public library. We are talking about University libraries here, and an occasional appearance as the guest organist at the opera.

It’s a joking reference to the Terry Pratchett Discworld books.

Whether eating with forks or sticks has no difference to the question. Are you saying that chimps are 50-75% as smart as humans because they sometimes eat with sticks? Stop being so contentious. This is the StraightDope General Question forum, and I’m just trying to find out the answer.

Show me any one human who is capable of such feats. We are able to go to the moon because we can pass on the thoughts in our own head to those outside us, and they can build upon them. The vast bulk of our knowledge is communal, and has little to do with intelligence per se.

Left to their own devices, there are relatively few people who could even build a decent shelter, much less the entirety of the Apollo program.


Are you trying to suggest that in 3 generations, chimps will build rockets? That seems to be your argument.

Also, we are “not” that much smarter than our great grandparents. Our great grandparents were as smart as us, if not smarter. Its just that they had not discovered all the inventions and discoveries that make our life so easy today.

It’s a Terry Pratchett joke.

No need for name calling here. Your obviously not looking for a FACTUAL ANSWER because you keep pedaling the idea that you know better. I take it you mean “makes no difference to the question” and really it makes every difference. If an animal can use basic tools that perform the same function as a mass produced item then the job is done. It has no reason to learn how to make a fork, or a house, or a car because it is not a necessity and as such the species will never adapt to incorporate such technologies as we have.