The Mirror Test

In 1970, psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. developed the Mirror Test, an attempt to gauge self-awareness in non-humans. To date, very few have actually ‘passed’ the exam: the great apes (this includes humans), Asian elephants, dolphins, orcas, and the Eurasian magpie. The test operates on the slippery assumption that recognizing ones own reflection somehow suggests a certain level of conscious awareness, i.e. intelligence. While this might measure a certain degree of intelligence, it ultimately begs a larger question: Given that humanity willingly engages in a laundry list of highly destructive activities that are a direct threat to the natural environment, and therefore a threat to all life on earth - global deforestation, hydraulic fracturing, rampant air/soil/water pollution, reckless farming practices (monoculture, overgrazing, pesticide drift, etc), genetically modified foods, drilling/mining/fracking for oil/coal/natural gas, and overfishing the world’s oceans to name only a select few - how can we humans, the inventors of this supposed ‘test,’ consider ourselves to be consciously aware, let alone intelligent?

Acrylic on watercolor board, 30" x 20." 2015


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