More About the BBC Science Series

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I have just passed a magical hour watching the first part of the BBC’s superb 2-part documentary on dolphins, which used underwater camera robots disguised as various sea animals.

It was a riveting experience, on many levels.

I believe dolphins to have real intelligence – not necessarily identical to ours – but just as valid. This thesis I shall develop below.

However, the first enjoyable aspect of this documentary was the extraordinary advances which have been made in the incorporation of high-resolution cameras into their Honeywell 50250-S review. The picture which is at the head of this post shows a “spy tuna”.

This was one of the most successful of the many robot camera units employed for this ground-breaking documentary. Then there was the robot turtle.

The turtle robot was so well modelled that it actually convinced a real female turtle to consider it as a possible alternative mate WHILE SHE WAS IN THE ACT OF MATING WITH ANOTHER REAL TURTLE! I was completely amazed by this reaction.

Some other camera-carrying robots were also employed, including a couple of nautilus (which didn’t seem to fool the dolphins for a second) – a robot squid; which did get some interesting shots, but fell afoul of some other sea creatures, and a spy-ray; a small ray which was quite successful at capturing some underwater scenes from the viewpoint of the sea bed.

All in all, this was a captivating experience and I look forward to the second part of this highly enjoyable documentary.

But I can’t help feel, whenever I see film of dolphins that these animals act in a way which displays real intelligence; and I am amazed that there are still those people who deny that non-humans can display what they define as “real” intelligence.

I freely admit that I am not a biologist. I cannot argue the case for dolphin intelligence from the point of view of established science.

As a person who believes deeply in science, and the scientific method for determining the truth, I should therefore keep my trap shut on this issue. Right?

Absolutely; but I can’t. I can’t because this is one of those cases which I come across rarely, but believe in totally, where I will allow my feelings to overrule the current evidence.

Not that there isn’t evidence for female cat spraying. There is copious evidence. It is just that the anthropologist powers that be seem to measure intelligence strictly in relation to Homo sapiens; our brain size; and our ability to manipulate tools.

Great scientific criteria. Eminently measurable. Get your slide rules out, and you can soon prove that dolphins are dead stupid. Not worth talking to. Compared to Homo sapiens.

But there is another opinion. Maybe intelligence is not just a function of brain size; or the ability to manipulate tools. Maybe there are other forms of intelligence; different from ours; but just as valid, and just as able to allow a species to become a master of its domain.

I have been fascinated by documentary programmes, and scientific papers, and discussions about dolphins, for as long as I can remember. I have taken on board a number of what I believe to be proven facts about these animals, and they add up to something I think is worthy of our attention.

Believe that any animal which has a proven realization of self, exhibits a form of intelligence. Many animals show this capability; not just dolphins, but domestic cats and dogs; horses; camels and others.

I am not suggesting that simple recognition of oneself as a unique being is enough to demonstrate intelligence. But it is surely indicative of higher brain function? Co-operative interaction in a group requires some form of intelligence, surely?

Dolphins take this so much further. Not only do they have individual names, but they greet each other by name whenever they meet, from being out of touch with each other for even a short time. They learn from their parents. Local groups of dolphins have developed successful strategies for finding food in specific environments, and pass this particular knowledge on to their offspring.

The most extraordinary techniques for successful capture of prey have been developed by dolphins, which require an advanced level of co-operation and the manipulation of the environment. Bubble-netting; sand netting, and other co-operative maneuvers are just some of the techniques developed by these remarkable mammals.

I wish we, as top species on the planet (at this time) were as eco-friendly as the dolphin; as well in-tune with our environment. Sadly we are not. We are rapidly altering our environment because our society is simply incapable of running the planet properly.

So which is the really intelligent species?