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January 26, 2008

And You Thought "Bush the Chimp" Was an Insult!

By: Bernard Chazelle

No, I do not mean the reopen the Great IQ Debate.
Just want to point out that this is getting ridiculous.

Posted at January 26, 2008 10:16 AM

Ugh. Comparing chimps to the White House staff insults the chimps. And the day we have chimps running around with blue-in-blue eyes -- well, let it suffice to say that I think the better cutural analogy is not to Dune but to Planet of the Apes. I mean, once global warming (and fresh water shortage, and increased fuel costs, and antibiotic-resistant plague) does its work, we will get that trademark shot of the Statute of Liberty; all we need is Dr. Zaius. . .

But I digress.

Memory is a good example of how the word "intelligence" lacks a great deal of meaning. Perhaps chimps aren't as clever a tool-user as we are because they rely more on route memory and response than a tactic of more immediate experimentation when faced with a new phenomenon. Our ability to alter our environment, and/or our own behavior (as overrated as the latter is) perhaps makes eidetic memory less useful than for a chimp so there was not as much pressure to select for it in our ancestors. . . and more's the pity because I would love that trait.

Anyway, it goes to show that intelligence equals "whatever mental attributes I like today" and little else.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at January 26, 2008 11:58 AM

Could be lack of ambition, chimps may not desire to rule the world or travel to the moon.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 26, 2008 12:09 PM

I'm not trying to be contrary, Mike, but isn't ambition itself a kind of intelligence? Think back to the plains of Africa, long before our world-travelling ancestors venturd out. We had the ambition to control (natural) herds of wild animals and met that ambition by anticipating the destinations of migrating packs instead of just following them around. Maybe you can't even desire some things without the right intellectual development. Do chimps, who can be very violent towards each other, pine for a day where no chimp raises his hand against another? Hell, if they could articulate that desire it would settle the entire sentience debate for me in an instant.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at January 26, 2008 03:03 PM

Speaking of our primate cousins and their ambitions, take a look at

which appears in the place of honor at

Stayin' Alive

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at January 26, 2008 04:18 PM

Perhaps Bush is a failed Kwisatz Haderach of the chimp world.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 26, 2008 04:35 PM

There's a debate about Bush's IQ? Didn't know he had one.

Posted by: Don SinFalta at January 26, 2008 04:49 PM

No One of Consequence: Aristotle, a genius and mathematician, built high tech weapons for warfare, as did Leonardo Da Vinci also a genius and artist. Albert Einstein, a genius and mathematician, helped to design and build a nuclear arsenal, all three, arguably the cream of human intelligence, built the most advanced weapons of their respective days, weapons of war and conquest. At this point of human history, pacifists, peaceniks and their ilk are concidered DFH's (or worse) and therefore, by default, unintelligent, weak mutations of human evolution---obsolete. Concerning the chimps, one could postulate that their violence toward each other IS a sign of sentience. Perhaps a good experiment into the matter would be to find a physically large chimp, give him a sword and a horse then see if he will go off aconquering.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 26, 2008 05:13 PM

Horses don't like chimps, I understand.

And as I said, intellegence is whatever mental traits we happen to prefer. So, as far as it goes, you're right (sarcastically or otherwise) -- we can erect a rubric that defines chimps as superbly intelligence since they help others in their troupe and devour outsiders. (A nature show I recently saw: "No one knows why chimps will eat the young of rival troupes." Lemme take a stab at it: because they're fucking beasts and meat tastes good.)

Chimps don't have opposable thumbs so swords aren't their preferred tools (poor grip), but I garauntee that they'll hack each other with both hands if you give them one. So you're half-right.

Personally, I define intelligence to include political and psychological intellect. Thus, many philosophers come across to me as mere brilliant technicians. If you build a bomb and are amazed that it's used to kill people, you're a dumbass. That includes you, Nobel.

Posted by: No One of Consequence at January 26, 2008 09:20 PM

Wow, so enlightened. Is this like the Hamas Mickey Mouse?

Posted by: TRY at January 31, 2008 03:07 AM