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Preface 2014 Edition When The Genius Within: Discovering the Intelligence of Every Living Thing was published in 2002, readers and reviewers familiar with my work may have expected an anthology of cute stories about exceptionally smart animals, like a dolphin capable of arithmetic perhaps, or a piano-playing squirrel. The book does contain stories of smart beasts, but none named Flipper or Rocky. The brilliant creatures extolled here are bacteria, immune cells and ant colonies. The genius of humans is barely mentioned. I was interested in the overall genius of life itself.
To the Reader I recall seeing a simple little film many years ago about a man who lived among grizzly bears. In the closing credits, the following disclaimer appeared: “No animals were harmed in the making of this film.” This seemed a rather curious assertion, given that the movie frequently showed big-clawed bears snatching salmon from a stream and eating them alive. Clearly, the writers didn’t consider fish to be “animals,” at least not animals meriting any ethical consideration.
INTRODUCTION Brain Chauvinism and the Nature of Intelligence “A brain is a very mediocre commodity. Why, every pusilanimous creature that crawls on this earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain!” —The Great Oz to the Scarecrow, The Wizard of Oz, MGM Studios, 1939 I’m a rabid fan of the Firesign Theater, the four-man comedy troupe specializing in bizarre reenactments of old radio programs. Their eccentric recordings carry such schizophrenic titles as “We’re All Bozos on This Bus” and “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.” One of their older titles in particular—“Everything You Know Is Wrong”—still intrigues me to this day.
ONE THE MICROBIAL MIND … the Martians—dead—slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria … slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest creatures that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.