Why the dolphins are smarter than us—recently revealed

Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, animal advocate and a very funny man, once observed that, “Man 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 reason.”

Adams makes a playful remark about a playful species, but it carries a serious truth. Dolphins, without our presence would be thriving in a healthy environment, but with our presence find their environment threatened along with that of most other species on Earth. Homo sapiens is on the verge of creating the sixth great extinction. All because we have achieved too much—too much technological expertise but not enough smarts to use it wisely.

When we invented intensive agriculture and thus civilization, we set ourselves on a path toward technology that would eventually lead us to wrecking our environment. Throughout most of that history, life has been worse than the old hunger-gatherer lifestyle for the great majority of people and now, after a brief period of high living, it’s about to get a lot worse for us and probably most of our fellow creatures.

Inventing civilization appears to have been the biggest mistake in human history. Unless we radically change our ways, we would have been much smarter to emulate the dolphins and retain our simpler way of life, mucking about in the fields and woods having a good time. The dolphins were right, just as Adams claimed. And we thought he was kidding.