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Elephants in the Mirror - Theory of Mind

Through the Wormhole S05E01 Excerpt: Elephants in the Mirror - Theory of Mind - YouTube

Published on Mar 29, 2014
ELEPHANTS POSSESS A THEORY OF MIND (Dolphins, too. See this CNN video:

This is spiritual science. Science can be very spiritual. About that "consciousness" thing. About that thing we call "God." About that thing we call "I." Humans are not alone in our capacity for self-awareness. We are part of a larger family of self-aware social animals that includes elephants and dolphins.

This is a high definition excerpt from The Science Channel's "Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman." ( This six minute excerpt is from Season 5, Episode 1, "Is God an Alien Concept?" This sequence takes us to a research program that studies how elephants behave in front of a giant mirror. Many of the elephants quickly recognize that they are seeing themselves and they move on to examining themselves and looking at body parts they can't normally see. This suggests that they are self-aware in a manner similar to humans. They have the capacity for understanding the concept of the behavior of other elephants as being distinct from their own. They can intelligently coordinate their behavior with other elephants in order to solve problems and accomplish goals they know they are unable to do by themselves.

Perhaps other highly intelligent social creatures attempt to understand things in terms of the intentionality of other beings, seen or unseen? It's built-in to our biological capacity for reason as social creatures. The study of children proves it. We are utilitarian storytellers first. It's built in to our developing brain. Before we know better, we make up stories that explain things as existing for the utility of humans. As children, we see things as having been designed for our use. In the absence of knowledge, we think up purposes that make sense and we go with them until we learn more. The truth comes later when we can afford it, if at all. In the mean time, we confabulate in a way that works for us. It's a mental shorthand to save us energy and time and to maximize our usefulness to ourselves and others. The truth is very expensive in terms of our survival needs. Quick and dirty social reasoning on the fly is more evolutionarily advantageous. It's more useful in a pinch when ignorance reigns.

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