Why Are Some Animals So Smart? by Carel Schaik

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Topic: Sciences
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How does Carel Van Schaik define culture?

In reference to Sumartan orangutans Carel Van Schaik makes a conclusion that that the animals that the cultural animals are also intelligent. The scientist explores various opinions considering the forces that serve to stimulate the development and evolution of intelligence among animals.

Van Schaik’s idea is that intelligence in the world of animals is pushed forward not by the need to survive and work hard for the food, but through the social learning (32). According to Van Schaik, social, or cultural inputs are the necessary influences that accompany the growth of an animal’s intelligence. This means that Van Schaik defines culture as the social force promoting intelligence in animals.

Compare that to how Haviland defines culture in Chapter 1 of the textbook. What are the differences?

Haviland defines culture as a set of ideas and perceptions shared by a society and transmitted within it (7). In this understanding, culture is applied when various experiences need to be interpreted; as a result, various conclusions are made. According to Haviland, culture generates behavior and is reflected in it.

The cultural standards used in the society are learned and transmitted from a generation to generation, but not acquired with the help of biological inheritance. Basically, Haviland and Van Schaik view the work of social and cultural forces in opposite directions and this is the main difference between their opinions. Van Schaik understands culture and the moving force of intelligence, while Haviland sees intelligence as the source of culture.

How does the difference between the two different definitions of culture relate to the context of the definition? They define culture for two different kinds of primates. Discuss.

The two definitions take different features of their objects of study as the basics. Haviland studying humans makes a conclusion that intelligence generates culture, which means that intelligence is viewed as a trait initially possessed by humans. Van Schaik that studies a different kind of primates tries to determine the sources of intelligence.

As a result, he concludes that culture is the basic feature that develops through the social learning and serves as a stimulus for the development of the animals’ intelligence. This way, humans are seen as initially intelligent primates and Sumatran orangutans – as initially cultural ones.

What sorts of theoretical tests did Van Schaik conduct in terms of thinking through the problem of how to determine whether or orangutan intelligence in Sumatra was due to biology or culture?

In order to determine if the orangutan intelligence in Sumatra is cultural Van Scheik, first of all, decides to test his hypothesis geographically. This means that if the behavior is cultural, in certain regions it will be uncommon, whereas in the places where it was invented the animals are going to be familiar with the skill.

Secondly, the scientist eliminates the possibility that the behavior is ecological or genetic. Finally, the researcher tests the geographic distribution of the behavior. Its spreading within a certain territory means that the animals pass the knowledge culturally.

Put into your own words the reasons why Van Schaik concluded that the Sumatra orangutans who knew how to extract fatty seeds from the Neesia fruits using modified twigs did so because of their access to cultural knowledge not available to other orangutans.

Van Schaik concludes that a wild orangutan obtains the ability to invent various complicated behaviors are the cultural animals that learn through observation of various experiences and practices. The researcher states that the animal that applied a new behavior had to accumulate the basis of knowledge for this behavior, which obviously came from the animal’s social interactions with others if its kind.

Works Cited

Haviland, William A. Cultural Anthropology.

Van Schaik, Carel. Why Are Some Animals So Smart? Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2006. Print.