karen_w_newton (karen_w_newton) wrote,

Oh, the humanity!

I have a dog (see pic at left) and a cat (see below). I love them both and consider them friends. Neither one is, frankly, all that bright. Like many cats, Carbomb (there's a story behind the name), will chase the red dot generated by a laser pointer. He is incapable of learning that the dot isn't really "catchable." Darwin (as in Voyage of the Beagle) is sweet but dim; I'm willing to bet a major part of his brain is used for assessing odors, because the one thing he's stellar at is finding food. At the same time, they are both home loafing while I go off to work five days a week, so it's hard to say they have no brains at all.

Intelligence is a sliding scale; there are certainly animals who are smarter than cats or dogs. In terms of what separates humans from animals, there might be fewer things than you might think. Animals have been shown to make and use tools. Dolphins and chimps can understand complex instructions once they have been taught enough words. Chimps can even learn to sign.

Animals certainly have musical ability; there's an obvious reason the term "songbirds" exists. Some birds perform mating dances. Beavers engineer and build dams. Male weaverbirds attract females by building elaborate nests (architecture!).

One thing we have that animals don't is stories. Animals have been taught to paint, but no one has yet put forward a story by a non-human. It might be because they are more honest. What is fiction, after all, but untruth? People make up stories. Animals don't.

So if you're a fiction writer, pat your dog on the head and yourself on the back. You might not be better, but you are sure as heck different.

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Tags: story telling, writers

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