New research on the behavior of a group of crows shows that they are very aware of, and weary at the sight of the corpse of one of their own. See report from the New York Times. I had written about how chimps and crows can solve problems comparable to what a 4-year-old can do: Of Chimp & Child – And Aesop’s Fable. These animals show remarkable intelligence but it does not develop any further, as would that of a child.
Animal behavior researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle conducted an experiment where groups of crows gathered regularly at a spot where the researchers brought food. And when some of them brought a dead crow, the crows in the group would become more cautious and reluctant to approach the food even six weeks afterwards. A dead pigeon does not have such effect. The researcher proposed that the crows are treating the corpse as a warning that there might be some dangers.
Why should we be concerned about animals and what they do?
Science is about making observations – accurate ones that others can see as well. And observing others, including animals, sheds light on our own intelligence and consciousness. We cannot expect to fully know ourselves unless we know if there are others like us and what sort of system (brain, body, cognition) they have. With today’s digital technology rapidly replacing so much of what we do as humans – like parts of us are becoming digitized – the very core of our ability and judgement is being challenged (think self-driving cars). I wrote about this, When Robots Replace Humans recently.
But art can also do what science does. I believe that accurately observed and presented art can be better than science in conveying truths – often with a deeper and wider appeal if done well. But truly great art happens rarely and unexpectedly – and so I keep looking. My next blog will be about my impressions of a recent visit to Venice, Italy for the 2015 Biennale of international art.