More on Animal Language

This article doesn’t provide any new information, and frustratingly doesn’t link to any actual studies, only journalistic accounts of the studies, but it is a nice summary of the state of our knowledge of animal language and whether or not it exists.

I do note the one claim about dogs being as smart as a two or three-year-old human child. The way they are measuring intelligence s remarkably anthropocentric. It’s like the old saying that the remarkable thing about a dancing bear is not how well he dances, but that he dances at all. Dogs are that smart because they demonstrate equivalent linguistic capabilities. And in fact, dogs that are trained to respond to human voices, like border collies, score higher on the “intelligence” scale. Well, duh. Rough comparisons of “intelligence” between species are meaningless. We can measure narrow aspects of intelligence, and such measurements are interesting and useful, but since we don’t have any consensus on what intelligence is in its entirety, broad comparisons like this are quite silly.

(Tip o’ the Hat to Andrew Sullivan)

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