Darwin and animal cognition

As dogs, cats, horses, and probably all the higher animals, even birds, as is stated on good authority, have vivid dreams, and this is shewn by their movements and voice, we must admit that they possess some power of imagination. … Few persons any longer dispute that animals possess some power of reasoning. Animals may constantly be seen to pause, deliberate, and resolve. It is a significant fact, that the more the habits of any particular animal are studied by a naturalist, the more he attributes to reason and the less to unlearnt instincts.

– Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

He’s not wrong, even bees are now known to dream, and the higher animals have shown much inventiveness that we, in our arrogant and anthropocentric view of nature, have denied to them. What is clear now that intelligence has existed on this planet for a long time, and the wonders of man are the result of inheritance of the intelligence and cleverness of our distant, primeval ancestors.

My cats recognize that door knobs open doors, for example, and puffins have recently been seen to use tools:


The difference between humans and other animals is one of degree, not of kind, and to downplay or dispute that fact is to not only deny animals of what is rightfully theirs, but to deny humanity of our own dignity as well.