6688 The Scientific Evidence for Complex Intelligence and Self-Awareness in Cetaceans

Sunday, February 19, 2012: 3:00 PM
Room 220 (VCC West Building)
Lori Marino , Emory University, Atlanta, GA, United States
The scientific evidence for complex intelligence and self-awareness in cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and whales) is abundant and robust. They possess large complex brains second in relative size to our own and have demonstrated prodigious cognitive abilities in such areas as language comprehension, abstract thinking, problem solving, self-recognition and meta-cognition. Many cetacean species rely upon complex social dynamics.  Moreover, field studies over the past few years have revealed startling evidence for complex cultural traditions in many cetacean species, including orcas, sperm whales and humpback whales, to name a few. Despite these findings cetaceans are still subject to exploitation and abuse.  Examples range from the obvious, i.e., cetacean slaughters that occur around the world, to the less apparent, i.e., capturing and confining of cetaceans in marine parks. There is substantial and growing scientific evidence for the significant harm done to cetacean welfare in captivity. The scientific evidence on cetacean psychology – which continues to demonstrate their keen intelligence and awareness -   argues for a major shift in human attitudes and treatment of them from commodities and resources to beings with a similar level of intelligence, self-awareness and sensitivity to our own. I will review this evidence along with that of the negative effects of captivity and discuss how these findings might provide insight into how humans might achieve a more ethical stance towards cetaceans.
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