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

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  • honu

    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

      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

        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

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

          • markus

            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

        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

        Do dolphins troll??

        Proof that dolphins are smarter than some humans.

      • Wittybritgirl

        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.

  • tonyviner

    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

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

      • tonyviner

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

  • 5by5

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

  • Word Eater

    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

  • someguy

    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.

  • Synapse

    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

      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

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

        • Flurble

          Welcome to the internet. Enjoy your stay.

          • Amanda

            Complimentery LOLcats will be provided.
            Maid service is unavalible.

        • Gregory

          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

            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

        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

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

  • Gregory

    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

      Mice, sir. Not rats. Mice.

    • markus

      Good Bye, and thanks for all the fish.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/PDDVWRQVUPMKRGHURIEQVNYWHQ Sean

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

  • mutterhals

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

  • mn

    fuck dolphins

    • Amanda

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

      Oooh wait, are you just being a dick?

  • FUKDolfins

    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

      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

        Vote down Kraken penalty!

  • spad

    So long, and thanks for all the fish!

  • Ben

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

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/PDDVWRQVUPMKRGHURIEQVNYWHQ Sean

      this reminds me of a song

  • Wolfie Rankin

    “People”

  • letsgotodebarr

    i am dolphin

  • http://www.facebook.com/miarya Mimmopietro Iarya

    we can discuss……..gosh…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian-Carswell/42500630 Ian Carswell

    this is wild

  • http://hazel8500.wordpress.com/ Hazel

    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

  • Gregory

    “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

      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”.

  • pmwnorton

    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.

  • Chris

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

  • Wittybritgirl

    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.

  • songbird

    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.

  • songbird

    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.

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