Birdbrains – The Smart Kind

Scientists: ‘Birdbrained’ doesn’t mean stupid

Jarvis, who studies how birds learn vocalizations such as songbird songs and imitated speech in parrots, said their behavior can be surprisingly complex.

They can use tools, they can use songs and imitate human language to communicate and they can count.

The article doesn’t mention the groundbreaking work of Irene Pepperberg in demonstrating the conceptual capabilities of parrot cognition using human language for communication.

There are times when I definitely feel that Rusty and Glamdring, the Harris’s hawks, have gotten the better of me, and raptors aren’t particularly noted for avian intelligence.

There was another interesting passage in the news article:

The names scientists use to describe a bird’s brain structure date back 100 years to a German scientist, Ludwig Edinger, who is considered the founder of comparative neuroanatomy.

“A lot went into trying to support the idea of a human’s place in the evolutionary scheme of animals. They didn’t follow Darwin’s view that evolution was a tree,” Jarvis said.

They tried to link it to religion — a linear system where god created one creature, not good enough, then created another creature, not good enough and then created human — perfect,” he added.

“It was beautiful story but it wasn’t true.”

I’d prefer to have a look at Edinger’s work myself before blithely accepting this construction of events. However, if this is correct in its broad outlines, we would have an example of what Darwin himself referred to as the unwholesome power of a false fact:

False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do little harm, for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.