The huge gulf between the cognisant, social and intellectual skills of homo sapiens and other species leads some – including me – to suppose there to be a Grand Spiritual entity who provided the r & d, cells, dna, water and other materials that enable us to exist, then (fortunately) left us, pretty-well to our own devices, enabling free thought, action and (if you’re a Catholic) guilt.
Whilst there is an enormous gulf between us and the most intelligent of other species – apes, dolphins, UKIP voters (I jest) – there is also a massive gap between, say, ants and cats. The former can work as a team, have instincts and skills, can lift up to 100 times their body weight and achieve communal goals; the latter purr.
Cats are social, react to changes in weather conditions, relate to each other sexually – if, occasionally, in a less than PC way – and communicate their feelings quite forcefully, hunger with a miaow, irritation by a scratch. They do not necessarily worship a celestial being, wonder how they got here or what their purpose is, nor laud their superiority over other less intelligent animals. We do.
Is the intellectual gulf between ants and cats any less than the gap between men and apes? A cat can’t do more than its brain enables it to – although brain size is not the main determinant of capacity or skill, most animals have around three times the behavioural skills of insects, despite their brains being hundreds of times bigger. According to Scientific American magazine, a cat’s brain has a thousand times more data storage capacity than an iPad and reacts more quickly.
It has always been a deep-seated desire to explore boundaries, find out where we are in the universe as well as who and what we are. Ultimately, as innovation and scientific progress transform daily living, work and social practices in the developed world, it is essential that less rich countries are not sidelined or left behind. As we move onwards, progress must benefit every corner of the planet, if it does not, hatred, bitterness and other base instincts will attack our culture creating conflict, chaos and fear.
We can actually learn from ants – working together for the common good, a weight on our shoulders, maybe, but one well worth carrying. As for cats: maybe there are times they wonder where they’re going, more often than not, towards the next meal. We worry too much about the inconsequential, most of us are well fed; it’s about time we directed our thoughts and actions to those who are still starving in the 21st Century, whichever corner of the globe they inhabit.