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8 - Intelligence and Life

from Part II - Life Here, Implications for Elsewhere

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2020

Wallace Arthur
Affiliation:
National University of Ireland, Galway
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Summary

Here, I examine the link between intelligence and life. Unlike a skeleton, which is a requisite for any large organism, intelligence is less crucial for survival. It is much more thinly spread in the animal kingdom than are skeletons, and is absent entirely from the plant kingdom. After considering how intelligence might be defined, I consider the question of where it is found in the animal tree of life. I then focus on four examples – tool use by octopuses and crows, mirror self-recognition in certain mammals, and space travel by apes (both humans and chimps). I finish by considering the link between intelligence and Darwinian fitness. Over the course of animal evolution, some groups have prospered without having brains, others have evolved small brains, and others still – notably humans – large ones. Strangest of all, perhaps, is the case of the starfish group (echinoderms), where all current species are brainless, in contrast to their ancestors, which possessed brains, albeit small ones. This combination of evolutionary trajectories in brain size shows that the link between intelligence and fitness is complex.

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Chapter
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The Biological Universe
Life in the Milky Way and Beyond
, pp. 118 - 134
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Intelligence and Life
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.011
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  • Intelligence and Life
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.011
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Intelligence and Life
  • Wallace Arthur, National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Book: The Biological Universe
  • Online publication: 24 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108873154.011
Available formats
×