Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Most Intelligent Animal?

The Most Intelligent Animal?

“Show me the biggest shark in the Aquarium, the really poisonous ray, the tank with the most water….”  Youth in our Blue Theology mission trips often want to see the superlative, the biggest, the most dangerous…..

But I hadn’t heard this request before; “Which are the most intelligent animals here?”  An intelligent (!) member of First Christian Church of Sterling, Colorado  (yes, 21 of them flew here for a week of ocean spirituality and stewardship) asked me that question this week.

Hmmm, probably the otters and the octopus.  Good problem solvers, long memories, can communicate with each other, use tools, learn from past challenges and find a new solution – these are the various definitions of intelligence we were taught when I first became a volunteer guide at the Aquarium.  The giant Pacific octopus, I’ve said many a time, is the most intelligent of the invertebrates, recognizes people, expresses emotion, can learn new, faster ways to get dinner…..

But recently the great education staff taught us a new idea: that every single animal on land and sea  is intelligent.  Because every animal has the intelligence it needs, from single cell to – human, to survive.  It’s not about superlatives, who has the most.  It’s adaptation, every creature evolves to do what it needs to do.

As I was trying to give this new answer to my questioner, he quickly responded, “Oh, like what Einstein said, ‘Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’”

God the Creator gave every living being the intelligence they need.  I would be superlatively bad at being a fish.  My tree climbing days are over.  But I humbly try to share the gifts I have.  Thanks be to God.

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