I often wonder why humans of all stripes seem set on comparing humans to animals in order to show how ‘superior’ humans are. To me, that is not only unnecessary, but also arrogant. Can’t human intelligence stand on its own? Animals have an entirely different kind of intelligence than humans. So do all living organisms have intelligence and each in a different flavor, but it is, no less, “intelligence.”
With these thoughts in mind, I was overjoyed to find Stephen Harrod Buhner. In his profound book, “Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm’ he says: “In other words, all living organisms can not only process data, they also engage in a search for meaning, an analysis that runs much deeper than linear cause and effect. Thus, three capacities – self-awareness, intelligence and the search for meaning – that have (erroneously) been ascribed as belonging only to human beings are in fact general conditions of every living organism.”
He goes on to say: “. . .every living organism on this planet. . . has the capacity to analyze the nature of outside forces that touch them, determine their intent, and then to exercise judgment in determining from among a number of potential responses which one to implement. . . We are different only in the specific ecological functions we serve . . . Our intelligence is only a special instance of a general condition.”
I am not a proponent of the hierarchy of intelligence and decision making. Buhner gives a completely different way of understanding our place in the whole scheme of things: a place where we can act from a more expanded consciousness. I think that Buhner’s studies open the way to a much more egalitarian, health-giving, cooperative and peaceful way of living on and with this Earth.
When we believe that we are better than animals rather than fellow travelers on this Earth, we take an immense loss. We miss out on the kinds of intelligence, wisdom and humor that animals and other intelligent beings have to share with us. If you are interested in animal intelligence, I would highly recommend, among many other possibilities, “Kinship with All Life” by J. Allen Boone: “Three Among the Wolves” by Helen Thayer; “The Beauty of the Beasts,” by Ralph Helfer, “Mind in the Waters,” a Sierra Club book, and “Mutual Aid,” by Peter Kropotkin.