Discussing the current push to give animals human-like rights, Maggie Koerth-Baker tells us at Five Thirty Eight:
Animals don’t stack up the way you’d expect. “[Pigeons have] knocked our socks off in our own lab and other people’s labs in terms of what they can do,” said Edward Wasserman, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Iowa. “Pigeons can blow the doors off monkeys in some tasks.” Experts who study animal intelligence across species say we can’t rank animals by their smarts — scientists don’t even try anymore — which means there’s no objective way to determine which animals would deserve more human-like rights.
A little more than 100 years ago, scientists started to amass the data necessary to prove that animals had real, independent minds. But everyone still assumed that you could, with the right set of tests, line animals up in a great chain of relative intelligence. Chimpanzees somewhere near the top. Earthworms somewhere near the bottom. Offer respect accordingly. More.
We have now reached the point where animals have “real, independent minds” but human consciousness is thought to be an illusion.
Koerth-Baker ends by quoting an astoundingly reasonable suggestion that the most important right for any species is the protection of its environment and that should be the goal.
The idea of the primate ape that thinks like a human is really a romantic one. It crops up in talking animal legends, even modern ones like the Planet of the Apes series. It creates distractions from doing what’s needed for real chimps.
With respect to chimps, why don’t we say that they can have the same rights as unborn children do in a given society? No more, no less. (Whoops, that hysterical screaming you just heard in response was not a chimp. 😉 )
See also: Are IQ tests “unfair” to apes?
Surprise!: Chimpanzee sounds not much help in understanding human language
Are apes entering the Stone Age?
Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?