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  • Hodder & Stoughton
  • Hodder & Stoughton

If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity

Justin Gregg

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Popular science

A MYTH-BUSTING EXPOSE OF HOW HUMAN INTELLIGENCE MAY BE MORE A LIABILITY THAN A GIFT AND A REFRESHING NEW WAY TO UNDERSTAND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM AND OUR PLACE ON EARTH.

What if human intelligence is actually more of a liability than a gift? After all, the animal kingdom, in all its diversity, gets by just fine without it. At first glance, human history is full of remarkable feats of intelligence, yet human exceptionalism can be a double-edged sword. With our unique cognitive prowess comes severe consequences, including existential angst, violence, discrimination, and the creation of a world teetering towards climate catastrophe. What if human exceptionalism is more of a curse than a blessing?

As Justin Gregg puts it, there's an evolutionary reason why human intelligence isn't more prevalent in the animal kingdom. Simply put, non-human animals don't need it to be successful. And, miraculously, their success arrives without the added baggage of destroying themselves and the planet in the process.

In seven mind-bending and hilarious chapters, Gregg highlights features seemingly unique to humans - our use of language, our rationality, our moral systems, our so-called sophisticated consciousness - and compares them to our animal brethren. What emerges is both demystifying and remarkable, and will change how you look at animals, humans, and the meaning of life itself.

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Praise for If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity

  • A dazzling, delightful read on what animal cognition can teach us about our own mental shortcomings. You won't just tear through this book in one sitting - you'll probably want to invite Justin Gregg over for dinner to spend more time inside his brilliant mind. This is one of the best debuts I've read in a long time, and I dare you to open it without rethinking some of your basic ideas about intelligence.

  • I defy you not to be interested by this book - it finds a novel way of getting at very deep questions about who we are and what it means, and does so with clear-eyed compassion and a certain humor that softens the conclusion a bit

  • Combining first rate story-telling with the latest research on animal minds and cognitive psychology, If Nietzsche Were A Narwhal is the rare book that will cause readers to think deeply about big questions and moral issues and to laugh out loud on nearly every page. I loved it.

  • If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal is a book full of observations as surprising and off-the-beaten-path as its title. It's scientifically very well informed. It's not a treatise - it's a pleasure.

  • I felt dumber after reading this book. Mission accomplished, Justin!

  • We've heard that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, but have you ever considered that having a human mind is more a bane than a gift? Justin Gregg's delightful and provocative book melds science with anecdote to explore that question. Read it, have your preconceptions challenged, and feel some humility. It might do you good.

  • This is an important book to read if you want to understand animals for what they are - not as cardboard cutouts, or as furry humans. Animal minds aren't in competition with us, although Gregg makes a good case that if they were, they would win hands down. The idea that human intelligence may be nothing more than a failed evolutionary dead end, gives humanity an important challenge to which we must rise.

  • What's it like to be a bat, a bee, or a bed bug? In this enthralling book, Justin Gregg offers a window into the minds of other creatures, and debunks many of the myths of human exceptionalism. He makes the provocative argument that human thinking may be complex, but it is by no means superior - and its unique qualities could even be the cause of our species' ultimate downfall. If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal is both a humbling and awe-inspiring read.

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Justin Gregg

Dr Justin Gregg is a senior research associate with the Dolphin Communication Project and adjunct professor at St. Francis Xavier University where he lectures on animal behaviour and cognition. He received his PhD from the School of Psychology in Trinity College Dublin, having studied dolphin social cognition. As a science writer, he has written for The Wall Street Journal, Aeon Magazine, Scientific America, BBC Focus, Slate, and others, and he regularly lectures on topics related to animal minds. He currently lives in rural Nova Scotia, where he writes about science and contemplates the inner lives of the crows that live near his home.

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