One of the very first questions we asked ourselves when we discovered that we were not the center of the universe was, Are we alone? Today most educated people would say that somewere in the vastness of the universe there must be other intelligent life.They would even agree that in all likelihood this intelligent won't look like us.However 99.9% of these individuals all make the same assumptions concerning what would be considered intelligent life.
The criteria would fall into three areas; 1) Are they self aware
2) Do they manipulate their environment
3) Can they understand abstract thought
Very basic requirements for the most part wouldn't you agree.However, these three areas don't really cover what should be considered intelligent life.The reason is that they are to rigid, and do not take into account some oblivious exceptions. I will cover these exceptions shortly.
Are they self aware.I think all would agree that this is a very basic assumption. However,this requirement does not only cover what is considered intelligent but what is life.I would argue that all life starting from and including insect life has some basic self awareness.Sounds a lot like what the Buddhist believe, doesn't it.Well that is one area that I agree with them on, Of course I don't include viruses, microbes,or bacteria.Now I might be wrong about them,and they might have a very rudimentary awareness much like I believe insect life has.
Now, I think everyone can agree that intellegent life must have the capacity for abstract thought. No disagreement there.Now for the second requirement, do they or can they manipulate their enviroment.On the face of it, it seems like such a basic requirement. After all the manipulation of ones enviroment is a good indiciation of the possibility of intelligence,but cannot be the only one. After all insects manipulates their enviroment, but no one would argue that they are intellegent.Which may be a huge mistake on our part?But can their be intelligence without the ability to alter or shape ones enviroment.The answer to that question is a resounding yes.
There is a very good example of this right here on our planet.Take example the humpback whale.The humpback's song is so complex and long, that as far as we can tell they do not repeat the song in excatly the same way twice. Now this is excatly what one would expect when the only way to pass on information is orally.After all, thats excatly what early humans did before writing was invented,they passed on their history,how to track and killing game, and how to use the carcass.Then after they became agrarian,when and how to plant crops and how to harvest and use the crop.All was verbal, and no one who argue that early man was not intelligent.So intelligence can be presence in beings who communiate all their knowledge verbally,and are unable to change they enviroment do to lack of limbs.
Even if we acknowledge that this is possible, the vast majority of individuals will not agree.The reason they would not accept this possibility is because then they would have to acknowledge that at the bare minimun there is another intelligent species that shares this planet with us.An what would that make us? After all we hunted this other intelligent species for food and their body parts . Can anyone say cannibal. Let us hope that soon mankind will acknowledge that it is a very real possibility that whales and maybe even porpoises are intelligent,and will quit killing them.Once that happens maybe we can learn to communiate with the other intelligent species that we share this planet with. That way when we finally do venture out into the stars we will search for intelligence in every species that we recognize as alive.What say you.
Hope that this post gives you pause, and makes you think.One final thought. If we acknowledge that all life from insect upwards have some basic self awareness then why aren't we vegetarian?