The line between species is pretty clear. Dolphins most recent common ancestor with us is a long way down the line. But the question of whether Dolphins are, in a rather philosophically scientific way, people is a lot more complicated. Now, of course, the ethics are confusing. What do we value about the non-human world? What makes intelligence more important than other attributes? Should all non-humans be treated equally well (or poorly)? Etc. But if the question is one of intelligence, then science has already started to answer those questions.
Lori Marino at Emory University is taking a scientific approach to determining how human dolphis are. She's simply running them through an MRI and measuring the complexity of their brains. The result, unsurprisingly, is that dolphins are extremely smart. Their brains, according to Emory, are more complex than any other non-human brain, beating out Chimpanzees for the title.
Of course, we might not have needed MRIs to tell us this. Dolphins have the largest non-human brain to body-size ratio and the same folds that make our brains so useful. And, just behaviorally, they've been shown to teach eachother, have regionally specific "languages" and appear to have a defined concept of self.
The question is, can science answer a question that has, thus far, been philosophical. Can we determine whether dolphins are, in effect, an alien species with a mysterious technology and culture just as we are to them. And, if so, is it possible to stop the "harvesting" that might, in fact, be murder.
written by Andrew, January 04, 2010
written by hank, January 04, 2010
written by Jess @ Openly Balanced, January 04, 2010
written by Darrin, January 07, 2010
written by drew, January 07, 2010
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