Scientists Say Dolphins Should Be Considered ‘Persons’

Scientists say that dolphins as a species are significantly smarter than chimpanzees, so smart that they should be classified as “non-human persons” — making it deeply unethical to keep them in amusement parks or inadvertently kill them in fishing operations.

Until recently, dolphins were placed third among animals in intelligence (behind humans and chimps). However, new behavioral studies suggests that dolphins are smarter than previously believed. How smart? From the U.K.’s Times:

Dolphins have distinct personalities, a strong sense of self and can think about the future.

Dolphins can solve difficult problems, and those in the wild cooperate in ways that imply complex social structures and a high level of emotional sophistication. It has also become clear that they are “cultural” animals.

Bottlenose dolphins [can] recognize themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies, an ability that had been thought limited to humans and great apes.

Read More in the Times

, , , ,

49 Responses to Scientists Say Dolphins Should Be Considered ‘Persons’

  1. honu January 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    I'd heard, though I never confirmed that dolphins were the only animal potentially smarter than humans. Their brain size relative to their body size is larger than a human.

    • DAN January 5, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

      no they aren't, their brain to body ratio is greater than ours due to insulating fat and thicker myelin sheath. they are dumb, i.q.s of 80 on average.

      thats more than enough to be self aware and have language however, so yes, they are people.

      • markus January 5, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

        It almost seems that they are keeping a good pace to pass us as the smart species.
        Just watching current events (within the last 10 years) it seems that the IQ is starting to slip dangerously on a global level and their 80 might be the new 130 pretty soon as people are starting to get dumber by the minute.

        • IQ January 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

          the average IQ is, and always will be 100. That's how IQ works.

          • markus January 6, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

            Considering that Dan was referring to the average IQ of a Dolphin, now get this, its important, COMPARED to humans, his statement is sound. Now I am not aware of these comparisons and the source of the actual data. I am just commenting on the meaning of his statement, not on his numbers. But since you made me chuckle, I'll give you a 'like' on this comment.

      • Hazel January 6, 2010 at 12:10 am #

        How on earth can a human realisticly measure a dolphin's IQ? IQ tests are very culturally bias (it is claimed non whites do not do as well as whites as the test was devised by a white man). So to assumed we can IQ test another species is implausible. How would we do on a dolphin IQ test I wonder? They would probably describe us as dumb for sure.

      • Amanda January 7, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

        Do dolphins troll??

        Proof that dolphins are smarter than some humans.

      • Wittybritgirl October 4, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

        It was proven that IQ testing was biased against African Americans..so just think how biased it must be against dolphins..or wonder how well we would do in an IQ test of dolphin design.

  2. tonyviner January 5, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    I am not sure dolphins want to be considered persons once they see how we treat each other. There is no way they will sign up for that, especially if they are as smart as we think. Give it 20 years and some Froot Loop will have built dolphin internment camps or will have taught dolphins how to use weapons. This is just a bad idea all around if you look at it from my perspective.

    • ca h January 7, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

      Dolphins aren't saints either. Males will get into groups to essentially gang rape female dolphins.

      • tonyviner January 8, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

        That is okay, though, they don't have churches to tell them that it is wrong.

  3. 5by5 January 5, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Somebody tell the Japanese, because they're killing them by the thousands every year.

  4. Word Eater January 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    They can also murder other animals and even other dolphins for fun. So they are at least as smart as we are.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/3323

  5. someguy January 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    should we give them little fanny packs so they can fill them with federal reserve notes? They should be able to come to the amusement parks and go when they please, earning fish treats, and dollars to stuff in their fanny packs. They can sit in front of the T.V. all day, eat nothing but frozen dinners, and become overweight. We'll allow them to vote, run for office, Hell one day we may even have a dolphin president!
    We could build him(or her) robot legs and a small misting system. Learn to speak like ze dolpin. I can't wait to have one move in next door.

  6. Synapse January 5, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much–the wheel, New York, wars and so on–while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man–for precisely the same reasons.

    -Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

    • Gregory January 5, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

      exactly. all this stuff we build and complicate our lives with can just be indicators of discontent and that we are easily bored.

      I mean, my cats have it made. they dont have to do anything, it's all taken care of. who has to fill their food dish and change their water and scoop their litter pans, etc? me, that's who. no, I'm not smarter than my cats.

      • Tuna Ghost January 6, 2010 at 9:38 am #

        that's sort of romanticizing the facts a little, don't you think? Possibly at the cost of common sense?

        • Flurble January 7, 2010 at 1:10 am #

          Welcome to the internet. Enjoy your stay.

          • Amanda January 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

            Complimentery LOLcats will be provided.
            Maid service is unavalible.

        • Gregory January 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

          It's what your perspective is, TG. The idea that dolphins are more intelligent than man and that maybe I am a thrall to my cats' wills is what is important. How many of us would like a life where we can play in the ocean all day and eat fish that is low hanging fruit or sleep almost all day and then go to the food and water dish whenever you want? Human activity, especially in the past few centuries, can be seen as restlessness and discontent for no good reason. We have complicated our lives to the fact where we feel entitled to a certain level of comfort, meanwhile we're not able to afford it and the federal government is running a huge deficit and states even right now are trying to figure out how to pay to clear snow from the roads, people at the DMV are having to work for free, etc.

          “common sense” is to assert that what humans have accomplished is good which looked at objectively is not necessarily the case. There must be a point to it. And you'll notice that there are many people in this world who don't care about all the knowledge we have. all the global climate change deniers, for example. there is a certain demographic of americans, conservatives and Xians, who distrust science…yet are clearly materialists who take advantage of the capitalist system that is driven by technological advancement. this is a paradox in that people want to pretend they're enlightened and advanced when they're dependent on things to bring them a sense of happiness.

          We can get all giddy about our iPhones and things…meanwhile, the dolphins are still enjoying themselves and my cats live like royalty. And it's no stretch to suggest that dolphins and cats are just as mentally capable as we are and that they're laughing at how squiggy we get inside about all the things we create…which we really don't need. do my cats sleep or do they pray or meditate?

          The flip side of this is…if we came out of the trees where we lived a much simpler life…it must have been for a pretty good reason. We clearly thought that complicating our lives was to our benefit. The secret to what it means to be human is to explain why we have made our lives more difficult than they need to be. Why humans are at odds with each other, why capitalism means taking business away from others and gathering wealth and material things while the dolphins are happy with each other and work together for the good of the whole. We're either not very bright or we're really on to something. we use the resources of this planet like they're never going to end and faced with climate change that appears to be at least aggravated by human activity, the solutions to these problems are said to be…yes…technological advancement…the very thing that got us to this point of crisis.

          the answer may very well be that…yes, we dont appear to be very bright sometimes, but that yes…there is some point to modern human activity. maybe we're just eating the leaf we're wriggling on until it's time to be a butterfly and we'll flit about in a nirvana that dolphins and cats already enjoy.

          fiat lux

          • songbird May 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

            I believe it is in connection with the Gaia hypothesis that some believe humans were created as an aggressive, restless species with the potential for solving the problem of saving earth’s life from being destroyed by asteroids as appears to have happened several times in the past.

      • pmwnorton January 9, 2010 at 2:39 am #

        Technology and the ability to use it seems to come out of biological necessity.The dolphins have not yet met a challenge that necessitated a change beyond biology. However they have met challenges that required social complexity and intellect. Perhaps it is better to see the organisms of this world as simply different from one another, and not place them into some sort of artificial hierarchy.

    • Chris January 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

      I was thinking the same thing. If the dolphins ever disappear, we ought to get off the planet before the Vogons arrive!

  7. Gregory January 5, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    Thank the deities dolphins don't have thumbs or they would rule ze world. Geez, my cats are smarter than some people I know.

    I think Douglas Adams had it pretty right in the intelligence scale.

    Lab rats
    Dolphins
    Us

    • Lisette January 6, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

      Mice, sir. Not rats. Mice.

    • markus January 6, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

      Good Bye, and thanks for all the fish.

  8. Sean January 6, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    soon as they can outsmart a net give them the fast track…..til then nope

  9. mutterhals January 6, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Hey, grow some thumbs, stupid dolphins!!1!1!1!

  10. mn January 6, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

    fuck dolphins

    • Amanda January 7, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

      Interesting concept, but I don't think dolphin human hybrids are possible yet.

      Oooh wait, are you just being a dick?

  11. FUKDolfins January 6, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    Fuck dolphins there have been reports of dolphins raping and murdering each other if they are persons they should be held accountable for that

    • markus January 6, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

      And I am sure as soon as the dolphin senate is in session, they will write a proposal to amend the dolphin code of conduct. As soon as it passes dolphin majority it will be presented to the dolphin head of the dolphin state and the dolphin police will arrest the dolphin perpetrators and bring them to justice by feeding them to the Kraken.

      • Amanda January 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

        Vote down Kraken penalty!

  12. spad January 6, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    So long, and thanks for all the fish!

  13. Ben January 7, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    death to whalers…… fuckin disgusting……… DO NO HARM !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOVE IS THE LAW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Sean January 7, 2010 at 8:21 am #

      this reminds me of a song

  14. Wolfie Rankin January 7, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    “People”

  15. letsgotodebarr January 7, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    i am dolphin

  16. Mimmopietro Iarya January 7, 2010 at 3:23 pm #

    we can discuss……..gosh…

  17. Ian Carswell January 7, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    this is wild

  18. Hazel January 8, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    Bottlenose dolphins [can] recognize themselves in a mirror and use it to inspect various parts of their bodies,

    So can my dog.

    Simple rule of thumb you got a personality? You're a person. jmho

  19. Gregory January 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    “KEEEE eeeEEE KK SWEEEEEK eekkk eeekekkke,” he seemed to say.

    I answered, “yes I never got through Ulysses myself. Joyce had me lost midway thru. How do you feel about his classic, Portrait of the Dolphin as a Young Man?”

    “skweEEK eee EEE KK sWEEK EEEkk,” Splashy replied.

    “Oh yes, that's what I thought too.”

    • Hazel January 10, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

      actually I interpret “KEEEE eeeEEE KK SWEEEEEK eekkk eeekekkke,” as this dolphin taking issue with the second law of thermodynamics..the response “skweEEK eee EEE KK sWEEK EEEkk,” attributed to Splashy could be interpreted as, “Leave it to landdwellers to come up with such a bunch of rotton smelt”.

  20. pmwnorton January 9, 2010 at 2:30 am #

    I find it strange that degree of intelligence is the method by which we choose if an organism is worthy of respect. Even stranger is the idea that organism should have to earn respect in any way.

  21. Chris January 12, 2010 at 3:48 am #

    I was thinking the same thing. If the dolphins ever disappear, we ought to get off the planet before the Vogons arrive!

  22. Wittybritgirl October 5, 2010 at 3:50 am #

    It was proven that IQ testing was biased against African Americans..so just think how biased it must be against dolphins..or wonder how well we would do in an IQ test of dolphin design.

  23. songbird May 5, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    I believe it is in connection with the Gaia hypothesis that some believe humans were created as an aggressive, restless species with the potential for solving the problem of saving earth’s life from being destroyed by asteroids as appears to have happened several times in the past.

  24. songbird May 5, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    I believe it is in connection with the Gaia hypothesis that some believe humans were created as an aggressive, restless species with the potential for solving the problem of saving earth’s life from being destroyed by asteroids as appears to have happened several times in the past.

Leave a Reply