Do Animals Possess Foresight?
Many people believe that humans are just highly evolved animals. Thus, humans do not possess any features that are not manifested–at least to a small degree–in other animals. Consequently, some people, including scientists, conclude that foresight (the ability to travel forward mentally in time and visualize oneself in a future setting) is not unique to humans. Two experimental psychologists at Cambridge University have proposed a new framework for designing experiments to settle the debate about whether or not nonhuman animals possess foresight.1
As the Cambridge psychologists point out, the debate has been needlessly ambiguous due to researchers’ failure to design experiments that would distinguish between an animal’s capacities to engage in mental time travel as opposed to future-oriented capabilities that have nothing to do with mental time travel. An example of the latter would be a matriarch elephant leading her herd to a waterhole based on her past experiences of successful discoveries of waterholes.
Experimental results strongly suggest that advanced birds and mammals certainly do possess future-oriented capabilities but do not have any capacity for true foresight. Apparently, the ability to travel mentally forward in time and visualize oneself in the future is unique to the human species.
The research duo’s proposal can take this conclusion from strong suggestion to a certain result. Doing so will strengthen the scientific case for the Bible’s declaration that among all life on Earth only humans are: (1) spiritual, (2) possess the image of God, and (3) have the capability of seeing into the future (both before and after the grave) and altering their course of action accordingly.
- C. R. Raby and N. S, Clayton, “Prospective Cognition in Animals,” Behavioural Processes 80 (March 2009): 314-24.