Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Most Intelligent Animal?

The Most Intelligent Animal?

“I want to see 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.

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 20 years ago.  The giant Pacific octopus, I’ve said many a time to guests, is the most intelligent of the invertebrates, recognizes people, expresses emotion, can learn new, faster ways to get dinner…..

But recently the great Aquarium education staff taught us volunteers a new idea: that each and every 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 the three jobs we all have: find dinner, not be someone else’s dinner, and be part of a family.  That’s my life also, and I and all my fellow critters have enough intelligence to pull it off.

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 particular gifts I have.  Thanks be to God.

I wrote this post three years ago and share it again today as I look and hope for more intelligence on our planet. As we say to all our Blue Theology groups – God gave us brains for a reason, and is happy when we use them.  Monterey Bay is pretty amazing right now – come and visit!

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