Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Remember when dolphins could talk?


So long and thanks for all the fish, and all that? Carl Sagan (1934–1996) And Frank Drake were believers.

Impressed as early as 1949 by the sheer size of the dolphin’s brain, American physician neuroscientist John C. Lilly (1915–2001) was convinced that dolphins could learn to communicate at a human level. Indeed, he thought they were possibly “just as intelligent as humans.” At the time, sheer brain size was thought to correlate with intelligence in a way that is now doubted. In 1960 he founded the Communication Research Institute on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, with the goal of establishing intelligent interspecies communication with dolphins …

The Green Bank Conference (1961), to which Lilly introduced “Dolphinese,” was a serious science meeting. The conferees were “totally enthralled” by the idea that communicating with dolphins would open to door to communicating with innumerable types of extraterrestrial intelligence…

Denyse O’Leary, “Dolphinese: The idea that animals think as we do dies hard” at Mind Matters News

But even though one researcher ended up living in a dolphinarium for six weeks, the dolphins never talked and the research group lost its funding, so they couldn’t keep the dolphins anymore and “At the Miami lab, held captive in smaller tanks with little or no sunlight, Peter quickly deteriorated, and after a few weeks Lovatt received news…”

Thought: If only half the effort put into trying to show that animals are just furry people went into practical stuff like spay/neuter/vaccination programs for feral and semiferal animals that hang around human developments, neither wild nor tame… It can work. But no matter what you do, they do not become people. They would just suffer less from stuff people can prevent.

Further reading on efforts to make animals speak:

The real reason why only human beings speak. Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly (Michael Egnor)

Elephants who fly—or become “persons”—are magic. Okay, it’s impossible. But then why do thinkers who don’t believe the one believe the other? For decades, researchers were transfixed with the idea of humanizing great apes by raising them among humans and teaching them language. Emerging from the ruins and recriminations of the collapse, philosophy prof Don Ross has a new idea: Let’s start with elephants instead.


Researchers: Apes are just like us. And we’re not doing the right things to make them start behaving that way…
In 2011, we were told in Smithsonian Magazine, “‘Talking’ apes are not just the stuff of science fiction; scientists have taught many apes to use some semblance of language.” Have they? If so, why has it all subsided? What happened?

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Humans are not the only animals who can think abstractly and Dr. Egnor is neither an expert nor an authority on the matter. We have observed animals reasoning and planning. Both require abstract thought. ET

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