Humans don’t mean to be cruel, I’m pretty sure, when they test animals for intelligence. We’re a curious lot, perhaps a bit too self-absorbed, but we want to know how other animals are like us. Of course, we reserve actual thinking for ourselves, given how well we’ve managed to conserve our only environment, but we grant some special spark to our biological kin. So we devise tests for them. Since we can’t get beyond human experience, many of these tests are devised for creatures like us. When animals fail our superiority is reconfirmed. Then it’s back to the lab. I’ve got to wonder how it feels to the subject of the experiment (or is it object?). Some being that has mastered the art of capturing you, perhaps with the aid of alien technology, is trying to get you to understand something that’s only clear from its (the captor’s) viewpoint. You need to suss out that viewpoint and solve the puzzle in the same way.
This makes me think of many forms of religion. We’re born to a lower species (human) as the experimental subjects of gods, or a God, who watch(es) to see how we figure things out. There’s a right answer, of course, but we’re only given hints as to what it is. We’re given toys to play with—some of them dangerous—and we’re allowed to select clowns and buffoons to lead us. We can kill off unthinkable numbers of our own kind and the only clue that we’ve succeeded is some tasty treat at the end. Of course, we have to assume that the intelligence governing this whole farce is much greater than our own. Doesn’t feel so good, does it?
Holism is the ability to see a continuity in all of nature. And nature doesn’t just mean this warm globe on which we find ourselves. It’s vast and mysterious and some parts of it are very cold and others very hot. There are places we cannot go, and others that seem inevitable, given the choices. Like the victims of bullies we don’t think about the larger system, but seek to impose our wills on those who see things differently than we do. Some tote guns while others pack books. All of us will shoo away insects that buzz too close. Most of the animals “beneath” us will simply eat them. Is this all a game? Or is it some kind of experiment where we have to guess the answer, but with only a fraction of the information required?