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June 18, 2011

The Smartest Creatures or the Dumbest? Part I

by Simple Muslimah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

*Thanks are due to the contributor of this post, who ponders whether as Humans we are the most intelligent of creatures and what the answer to that question means for a Muslim.  JazakAllahu khayran.*

If I asked you to name the most intelligent living beings out there, I’d feel pretty confident guessing your answer. Apart from any alien lovers maybe, most people would answer ‘Humans’ without any hesitation. It’s easy to see why; I can’t think of any microorganisms, plants or animals who have constructed an architectural wonder, found a cure for a crippling medical illness, gone into space or achieved any other similarly lauded feat. Considering Humans have done all that and more, they’re not a bad choice of answer.

 If I asked you to name the least intelligent beings out there, I wouldn’t feel half as confident guessing your response. Maybe you’d say a flower, a bug, a goldfish or even grunt with contempt while naming a contemporary politician for that particular category! The possibilities are seemingly endless, except perhaps one: Humans. That’s how I’d answer though.

 Didn’t I just suggest humans are the most intelligent creatures?

 Am I now trying to suggest they are the least intelligent?

 Isn’t that a paradox – how can they be both?

Carry on reading and I’ll explain, inshaAllah :).

As infants our parents are invaluable to us.  They help us utter our first word, hold our hands until we can stand on our own, teach us how to eat properly, dress properly and the list goes on.  A little later in life we go to school to further our knowledge.  Many of us go on to university and then employment, continually broadening the horizons of what we know and what we can do.  So this journey continues until one day we find ourselves under the ground, having dirt thrown at us as a final rite of death.

All of our experiences up until that point in the grave help us learn the ins-and-outs of this world. In other words we learn to live and survive in this world from other people. If our parents were to throw us away after our birth we would die in a matter of days if not hours.  We do not enter this world with an embedded knowledge of how to survive in it upon leaving our mother’s womb.  Neither are we smart enough to figure out the meaning of this world by ourselves.  Our innate wisdom at birth is almost zero. And this is the reason why I could argue that humans are the most stupid creatures in this world upon entering it.

Unlike a human baby, a baby elephant can walk merely 30 minutes after its birth without the help of its mother. Who taught it how to walk after it just came out of a womb it had spent two years in? Who taught it to where to suckle the milk of its mother?  How does it even know who its mother is when it just entered this world?

After only 21 days in an egg, a bird comes out knowing who its friends and enemies are.  It knows it better hide from that eagle flying above the nest and it knows very well it can run under the wings of its mother when a cat is approaching.  It even knows how to eat, how to chirp and how to walk.  The contrast with us humans is sharp, who spend years teaching our children these exact things. Who has taught these baby animals how to live moments after being born?

SubhanAllah, even ants are smarter than us!  Ants are geniuses from the moment they are born.  They know from the minute they leave the egg what their job is. They know how to make their paths, build their homes and protect their queen.  They learn this neither from their parents nor from a school of architecture.  Yet they can build a whole colony only from the wisdom they came out of an egg with. Who has given them this vast knowledge?

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