Animal Intelligence Preface by Yves Coppens Publication date : February 22, 2017
Emmanuelle Pouydebat is an ethnologist. A scientist at CNRS and at the Museum of Natural History, awarded numerous scientific prizes, she has been working on behavioural evolution for more than fifteen years, particularly in manipulation skills, use of tools and the notions of culture and tradition. She lives in Paris.
What is animal intelligence? How can it be defined and evaluated? And how has it evolved since the appearance of life on Earth?
Classically, intelligence is defined as a set of mental functions, including language, that contribute to conceptual and rational knowledge. No surprise that such a definition applies best to human intelligence, which it places at the top of the hierarchiy.
Turning away from fixed ideas, the author suggests reopening the enquiry and this time integrating the animal kingdom in all its diversity, from ants and spiders to chimpanzees.From this observation springs the idea that we share with a great number of species a adaptive capacity that allows is to respond with flexibility to new or complex situations, to learn and, more than that, to innovate. And following these criteria, in terms of intelligence, we do not necessarily come first…
Based on her fifteen years of experience in the field, and also on numerous works by research colleagues and on current international scholarship in ethnology, primatology and paleoanthropology, this is a work that can seriously damage the status of received ideas on the animal world and its hierachy, and human intelligence.