Kevin Laland is Professor of Behavioural and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews, U.K. His book is Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind.
From a Q&A with the author:
What does this book have to say about animal intelligence?Visit the Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony website.
Our research into animal behavior has established that mammals, birds, fishes and insects all acquire knowledge and skills through social learning. Mostly animals copy useful things, such as how to find and process food, but social learning can generate extraordinary habits. For instance, capuchin monkeys possess habits of sucking of each other’s body parts, whilst some chickens have a taste for cannibalism. Animals can be highly innovative. For instance, apes have contrived clever means of extracting palm hearts from trees with vicious spines, whilst gulls have devised the habit of catching rabbits and killing them by dropping them onto rocks. From these foundations, human culture evolved through a runaway autocatalytic process in which innovation, social learning, tool use, and brain expansion fed back on each other.
Animals can be smart, but humans are clearly far more intelligent. Why is that?
Studies of how the brain evolved in primates suggests...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Darwin's Unfinished Symphony.