Subject: Intelligence/whales

Michael Williamson (
Tue, 29 Apr 1997 11:10:46 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 1997 14:22:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: "w. jones" <>
To: David Antwis <>
Subject: Re: Ask a Scientist

Hi David,

I am sure that you have found that the answer to your question may vary
depending on who you ask.  If you were to ask someone who is investigating
New Age ideas, they would probably tell you that whales are very sentient
beings that we may one day be able to communicate with.  If you ask
someone who thinks on a scientific basis, they may tell you that whales
are intelligent, though, not as intelligent as humans or that they have
the same intelligence quotient as "cows".  Some people think that cows are
smart animals.

My point is that your question can be answered differently according to
who you are talking to.  Different people have different opinions.  I know
people who have worked with dolphins for years.  Some of these people
think dolphins are smart, but they are still animals so they are not as
smart as humans.  Other people have had interesting experiences with
dolphins in which they feel a rapport was achieved.

Scientist  base their opinions on the facts they find from doing
experiments.  They will answer your question based on scientific evidence
and if you have been asking scientists, those scientists are going to
answer you based on the empirical evidence.  There not any studies that
have conclusively proved that whales are as intelligent or more
intelligent than humans, according to the human definition of
which is always based on human standards.  Scientists are conducting
experiments to try to develop a way to communicate with dolphins and there
should be some interesting results from those studies.

My own, personal opinion is that whales and dolphins are very intelligent
and when science is willing to open their mind to possibilities that
seemed farfetched in the past, one day, we as humans will have a more
complete and thorough understanding of exactly how intelligent we are and
how intelligent cetaceans are.  After all, which one of the two of us is
doing the most harm to the Mother Earth?

I hope I answered your question.  Have a good week.  If you have any more
questions, drop me a line.


On Fri, 25 Apr 1997, David Antwis wrote:

> Hi Wanda,
> I'm probably supposed to ask you about manatees but I'm afraid I don't
> have any questions about them at the moment.
> I'm fascinated by whales yet cannot find any information on them
> beyond the train-spotter type statistics and photos.
> My question relates to the matter of intelligence.  Having heard that
> a large whale's brain exceeds the size and weight of a small car, I
> logically assumed that whales must have faculties undreamed of by
> anything else on the planet (including us) and an intelligence
> quotient several orders of magnitude beyond ours. Yet, curiously,
> no-one I discuss this with has any doubt that whales "...are at least
> as stupid as cows/dolphins/sheep etc.".  I find such responses
> incredibly arrogant and thoughtless.  
> Where am I going wrong?  What is the simple proof that dissolves my
> argument?
> I'd be immensely relieved if you could set my small mind at rest on
> this matter!
> Regards
> David Antwis
> University of Plymouth, UK