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Book Summary: If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal – What Animal Intelligence Reveals about Human Stupidity

If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal (2022) takes a playful yet profoundly meaningful look at what makes humans so different from the other animals on the planet. In doing so, it makes a strong case for why the human mind may be dangerously unsuccessful from an evolutionary standpoint.

Book Summary: If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal - What Animal Intelligence Reveals about Human Stupidity

Content Summary

Genres
Introduction
Human cognition may be unique, but it isn’t necessarily advantageous.
Evolution led to new ways of thinking, which came with plenty of downsides.
Our inability to consider long-term consequences is threatening our survival.
Summary
About the author
Table of Contents
Overview
Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award
Video and Podcast

Genres

Psychology, Nature and the Environment, Science and Math, Biological Sciences, Animals, Philosophy, Humor, History, Animal Rights, Biology of Mammals, Philosophy of Ethics and Morality

Introduction

In 2012, a peculiar contest was organized by the British newspaper the Observer. Three teams were pitted against each other to find out who would be better at picking stocks. Each team was given £5,000 and the one with the most money after a year would be declared the winner. The twist? One team consisted of three professional investment managers, another was a group of schoolchildren, and the third was a cat named Orlando.

Can you guess where this is going? That’s right, Orlando, whose technique for picking stocks was based on randomly dropping a toy mouse onto a grid of numbers, came out on top. The cat ended the year with £5,542, the investment managers came in second with £5,176, while the kids came in last with £4,840.

Now, this example is extremely anecdotal, but it does make a point. Human beings like to think we’re far and away the big evolutionary winners when it comes to intelligence. No other animal tops human brain power. Right? Well, as we’ll see, the answer to that question may not be so clear-cut. If we were to judge the winner by how they used their intelligence to create comfort and happiness, or with regard to ensuring their future survival, humans might actually be pretty dumb.

In this summary, you’ll learn

  • why people used to put chicken butts on their snake bites;
  • why our battle against bedbugs was an epic fail; and
  • why we may be doomed with shortsightedness.

Human cognition may be unique, but it isn’t necessarily advantageous.

Why is the sky blue? Why can’t cats and dogs talk? Why are people mean to one another? If you spend enough time around a child who’s just learned to talk, you’re probably familiar with these kinds of why questions. But as we grow older, the questions may change but we don’t stop asking why.

As the author puts it, human beings are a why specialist species, and it’s one of the fundamental things that differentiates human animal thinking from nonhuman animal thinking. Our ability to ask and ponder these questions is generally seen as a positive thing. After all, it’s what makes philosophy, science, and the arts possible. So it must be a good thing, right? Well . . .

Interestingly enough, the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about envying the cows in the field, who went about their day chomping grass and being completely unbothered by such existential questions as the meaning of life. Nietzsche had a good reason for envying the cows, too. The older he got, the more these why questions seemed to take a toll on his psyche. Eventually, he became catatonic and ended up in a mental asylum in Switzerland. Nietzsche isn’t alone, either. The awareness we have of our own mortality has led plenty of people into thoughts of nihilism, depression, hopelessness, and even suicidal despair.

And then there’s the problem of how we use the grand ideas that we come up with. For every invention, work of art, or philosophical breakthrough, there tends to be a devastating downside – the kind that only human beings could come up with.

For example, after Nietzsche died, his anti-Semitic sister began to alter and promote his work as a philosophical justification for what became the genocidal Nazi agenda. This, despite the fact that Nietzsche wrote about how he despised anti-Semitism.

Like asking existentially probing questions, using the ideas that come from such questions to justify mistreatment, killing, or genocide is a uniquely human thing – and a seemingly inevitable one. Time and time again, we’ve used religion, philosophy, and bogus science to justify the horrible things we’ve done to one another.

So let’s ask ourselves, What if Nietzsche were a narwhal? Sure, narwhals may be fascinating marine mammals, but they can’t write symphonies or send other narwhals to the moon, can they? And all research suggests that narwhals, or any other animal aside from humans, aren’t intellectually capable of contemplating their own mortality. But maybe that’s a good thing. Shouldn’t it be considered an advantage that a narwhal will never experience a life-threatening existential crisis?

If you’re not yet convinced, hang in there. In this summary, we’ll look at how our evolution into being why question specialists goes hand-in-hand with being profoundly self-destructive.

Evolution led to new ways of thinking, which came with plenty of downsides.

If you ran to the village doctor after being bitten by a snake, you probably wouldn’t expect the treatment to involve a chicken butt, would you? But then you don’t live in Wales in the year 1000 AD. Just to be clear, men received the treatment of a live cockerel butt being held upon the wound, while women were prescribed a hen’s butt.

This sort of medical treatment may not make any sense today, but it is a good example of where our why specialist thinking took us.

But let’s start at the beginning. Humans didn’t come out of the gate asking why questions. Evidence suggests that we likely spent around 200,000 years doing just fine as a species without asking questions like, Why does the world exist, and Why am I alive? But we can look to some early cave paintings, from around 43,900 years ago, as evidence of when we first started seeking the answers to such questions. The paintings feature half-human half-animal figures and can be seen as humans conjuring up the earliest versions of religious symbolism that would bring valuable meaning to our existential queries.

So, up until this point, we were likely getting by just fine with what are known as learned associations. This is a type of cognitive intelligence that a lot of animals have. We experience something, like the sound a bear makes walking through the forest, and learn to associate that sound with the danger of crossing paths with a deadly bear. If you’ve walked through the woods with a dog by your side, you’ve probably noticed that your four-legged friend is hyperaware of sounds and can quickly make learned associations in order to hunt for prey or steer clear of danger. Learned association serves many animals well and served us just fine for 200,000 years.

For better or worse, once we crossed this threshold and began seeking answers to existential why questions, we developed a talent for imagination and creating causal connections. It was no longer enough to recognize that the stars move across the sky every night, we needed to know why. What’s causing them to move? To answer this question, astronomy was born. Science, medicine, art, philosophy, all these things began to emerge.

But all of this imagination comes with a price. While we used to settle for learning through experience and concerning ourselves with matters of immediate importance, we could now speculate on all kinds of things that may or may not have any immediate or future importance. As a result, our mind is filled with what philosopher Ruth Garrett Millikan calls dead facts. Will your survival or future well-being ever depend on knowing who Luke Skywalker’s real father is? No. It’s a useless dead fact that our brain stores so that we can come up with an infinite number of possible solutions to the next problem we encounter.

Sometimes these solutions result in the Roman aqueducts, sometimes they result in chicken butts. And, in some cases, our why questions, and the pursuit of scientific progress, lead to much more damaging ends. In the nineteenth century, the American physician Samuel Morton popularized the idea that human intelligence could be determined by the shape of someone’s skull. This white doctor suggested that “caucasian” skulls were rounder and bigger, and therefore these people were of higher intelligence. This kind of scientific theory fueled racist beliefs and was used to justify slavery.

So it’s important to consider whether we’ve been using our advanced cognitive abilities to our advantage or ultimate detriment. Are we using our scientific and technological advancements to make lives better or worse? Is it possible that our unique abilities may even be dooming us as a species?

Take lying and bullshitting, for example. This is a uniquely human talent that we quickly developed a knack for along with our other unique cognitive abilities. Animals can be deceptive, but only humans lie.

First of all, yes, bullshitting is now a scientifically accepted term. It’s categorically different from lying in that when someone is bullshitting they don’t really care about things like truth and accuracy. Lying is all about trying to purposefully alter someone’s behavior by making them believe something that isn’t true. Bullshitters, on the other hand, just want what they’re saying to sound believable enough.

What may come as a surprise is that we’re not only excellent at bullshitting, we’ve come to respect it. A researcher recently polled over 100 employees at several large companies. What he found was that employees who were ranked low in terms of honesty and humility were held in high esteem for being “politically skilled.” These bullshitters were also seen as being more competent than the employees with high levels of honesty. You could say that getting others to believe you is seen as being more valuable than being honest and accurate. So, the next time you see bullshitters quickly climbing the ladder at work, you now know why. Humans are not only great at lying – and falling for lies – we’ve likely selected bullshitting as an evolutionary advantageous skill.

Our inability to consider long-term consequences is threatening our survival.

Let us apologize beforehand. But we’d like you to picture, for a moment, the common bedbug. We know, this pesky little bloodsucker isn’t a great image to have in your head, but they are pretty fascinating. For starters, the common bedbug is so thin that it can fit into just about any space that a single piece of paper can fit. And a bedbug knows your behavior. It studies you. Its whole biology is focused on knowing when you’re asleep. It’s attracted to the heat, odor, and the carbon dioxide your body emits. They learn your schedule, know when you’re asleep – be it day or night – they’ll know when to make their move and feed off your blood.

Yeah, it’s gross, but still, that’s pretty smart. They even know how to find great places to hide, like between the pages of the bibles that sit next to hotel room beds. This kind of hiding serves them well in avoiding bug bombs and pesticides. Young bedbugs will even hide out in the old exoskeletons of dead bedbugs as an extra layer of protection until the pesticide gasses have passed.

Humans have gone out of their way to try and kill bedbugs. But in a history filled with epic failures, the battle of humans versus bedbugs is especially remarkable. It also highlights one of the major shortcomings of human intelligence.

In the early twentieth century, bedbugs were everywhere in the US. There was hardly a household that wasn’t infested. Since they were so hard to get rid of, we decided to bring out the big guns. Specifically, DDT. In case you don’t know, DDT was an industrial-strength insecticide widely used in World War II to kill mosquitoes and fend off diseases like malaria and typhoid. Well, DDT was eventually put to use to kill bedbugs in a nationwide spraying campaign.

Not only did this fail to work, but a small number of bedbugs also survived and are now immune to virtually every pesticide. They’ve since spread throughout the country once again – more difficult to kill than ever.

But that’s not the end of the story. All the DDT we sprayed trying to kill the bedbugs ended up going down into the sewers, rivers, and oceans. From there it got into our food. And once DDT settles into human tissue, it doesn’t leave. Instead, it gets passed on to the next generation. The use of DDT was eventually banned in 1972. But by then it was too late. Everyone in the US right now has trace amounts of DDT in their bodies, including children born after the ban. The effects of this chemical on the human body include increased risks for obesity and breast cancer. Turns out we did a better job of poisoning ourselves than getting rid of bedbugs.

This tragic story is just one example of what the author calls prognostic myopia. Humans are constantly making impactful decisions and striving to make changes. But because our minds evolved to focus on immediate concerns, we are ill-suited to consider the long-term effects of those decisions.

There are countless examples of how our prognostic myopia has now become a threat to our very survival on the planet. The decisions to keep using fossil fuels, to keep poisoning our waters, to keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, to ignore the warnings from decades ago, to keep the shareholders happy above all else.

According to the Global Challenges Foundation, there’s a 9.5 percent chance that humans will become extinct within the next 100 years. Another report shows that a child born today is five times more likely to die in a global extinction event than in a car crash. Let that sink in for a moment. That’s kind of crazy, right? And yet, chances are, most of us don’t feel like we’re in any immediate danger, and until that feeling changes, we’ll continue to make the kinds of decisions that will speed up our chance of extinction. That’s human nature.

Prognostic myopia. That’s not something any other animal is capable of. The nonhumans are doing a pretty good job of keeping their species alive. Our ability to ask why and develop sciences and technologies have indeed changed the world. Unfortunately, we’re also amazing at lying, bullshitting, and making terrible decisions. As a result, we often use our great ideas in ways that harm others and endanger our future.

You could argue that living a pleasure-filled life is what any animal on the planet is striving for. What’s troubling is that we have the intelligence and ability to make ourselves – and the other animals of the world – happy and comfortable. We could do it if we wanted to. But instead, we tend to do the opposite.

Right now, there’s a chicken living in Nova Scotia, Canada. This chicken is one of many that the author looks after. It has food, a nice barn for shelter, and plenty of room to run around and socialize. There’s a good chance that today, this chicken is going to have a more pleasure-filled day than the average human on the planet. The chicken, the crocodile, the narwhal, they’re winning at the game of life.

Human cognition has led to the creation of a lot of misery for other humans and a lot of animals. Can we fix that? Can we turn things around so that we’re not steadily increasing our chances of extinction? The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker thinks we can. He sees our problems as solvable and is confident that we can solve them. In his book Straw Dogs, philosopher John Gray is less optimistic. Looking back at our history, he sees a cycle of gains and losses. To think of our societal improvements as permanent, rather than temporary, is another glitch in the human condition.

The author isn’t certain that we can turn things around, but he’s hopeful. His daughter dreams of a world where we restore biodiversity, abolish the animal cruelty of modern farming practices, and begin to live sustainably. It’s a dream worth holding onto.

Summary

The most important thing to remember from all this is:

Human cognition isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. We like to think of ourselves as the most successful species on the planet, but our intelligence may, in fact, be dooming us to extinction. Our evolution has led to unique ways of thinking and seeking answers to a wide range of questions, but this way of thinking has many downsides. In many cases, we’ve used our scientific advancements to justify atrocities. We also lack the ability to consider the future consequences of our immediate actions, which continues to threaten the survival of our species.

About the author

Justin Gregg is a Senior Research Associate with the Dolphin Communication Project and an Adjunct Professor at St. Francis Xavier University where he lectures on animal behavior and cognition. Originally from Vermont, Justin studied the echolocation abilities of wild dolphins in Japan and The Bahamas. 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.

Justin Gregg | Website
Justin Gregg | Twitter @justindgregg
Justin Gregg | Instagram @justindgregg
Justin Gregg | TikTok @justindgregg

Justin Gregg

Table of Contents

Introduction

The human brand of intelligence is really not all that exceptional (from an evolutionary standpoint), and is rarely the best solution for how to live a good life. Animal thinking has a lot to teach humans about how to live well without overthinking things.

Chapter 1: The Why Specialists

The human capacity for causal inference is unsurpassed in the animal kingdom. But animals seem to get by just fine (and sometimes even better) without needing to know why things happen.

Chapter 2: The Fake News Species

Humans are experts are manipulating the thoughts of other humans through lies and deception. Animals, on the other hand, are usually quite honest about their feelings and intentions. But being masters of deception isn’t always as advantageous as it might seem.

Chapter 3: To Be or Not to Be an Ant

Humans have come a long way since a handful of us left the African continent to explore the Earth a few dozen millennia ago. We’re fantastically populous, for a mammalian species. But we aren’t really designed very well for group living. So many other species have hit on solutions for living well in large numbers that could provide lessons for us newfangled city-dwellers.

Chapter 4: The Mystery of the Happy Chicken

Conscious awareness is not limited to the human species; there’s every reason to believe that a myriad of animals—from the pets on our sofas right down to the spiders in our basement—experience the world in ways not dissimilar to a human. From a biological standpoint, however, consciousness isn’t really that big of a deal.

Chapter 5: Angry Gay Ducks

Humans certainly don’t have a monopoly on morality. Other species live by moral codes, too. And when looking at how non-human species deal with problems of right and wrong, or who gets to have sex with whom, or even the best way to fight a war, most species have hit on solutions that call into question the moral superiority of Homo sapiens.

Chapter 6: Death Wisdom

Knowledge of our own mortality is arguably a rather crappy knock-on effect of the human brand of intelligence. Other species might well know something of death but are unlikely to dwell on it the way a human poet or philosopher could. Is this kind of death wisdom a good or a bad thing?

Chapter 7: Prognostic Myopia

Humans excel at predicting and planning for the distant future. No other animal species understand the passage of time like we do. And yet, our minds never evolved to truly feel the future repercussions of our current decisions. Is this skill a benefit or a liability for our species?

Chapter 8: Human Exceptionalism

Human and animal cognition are not really all that different. In the few areas where humans do something truly exceptional when it comes to intelligence, there is every reason to believe that other species are nonetheless doing a better job than us at living a good life with less complex thinking strategies. Humans could learn a lot from the cognitive solutions offered by those species that are less exceptional than we consider ourselves to be.

Epilogue

Does the science of animal minds and animal intelligence leave us with a clear understanding of how animals should be treated? Re-thinking the nature of human intelligence and exceptionalism just might provide us with a few signposts showing us why we should also re-think our relationship to the living creatures with whom we share this planet.

Overview

This funny, “extraordinary and thought-provoking” (The Wall Street Journal) book asks whether we are in fact the superior species. As it turns out, the truth is stranger—and far more interesting—than we have been led to believe.

If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal overturns everything we thought we knew about human intelligence, and asks the question: would humans be better off as narwhals? Or some other, less brainy species? There’s a good argument to be made that humans might be a less successful animal species precisely because of our amazing, complex intelligence.

All our unique gifts like language, math, and science do not make us happier or more “successful” (evolutionarily speaking) than other species. Our intelligence allowed us to split the atom, but we’ve harnessed that knowledge to make machines of war. We are uniquely susceptible to bullshit (though, cuttlefish may be the best liars in the animal kingdom); our bizarre obsession with lawns has contributed to the growing threat of climate change; we are sexually diverse like many species yet stand apart as homophobic; and discriminate among our own as if its natural, which it certainly is not. Is our intelligence more of a curse than a gift?

As scientist Justin Gregg persuasively argues, 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 one feature seemingly unique to humans—our use of language, our rationality, our moral systems, our so-called sophisticated consciousness—and compares it to our animal brethren. Along the way, remarkable tales of animal smarts emerge, as you’ll discover:

  • The house cat who’s better at picking winning stocks than actual fund managers
  • Elephants who love to drink
  • Pigeons who are better than radiologists at spotting cancerous tissue
  • Bumblebees who are geniuses at teaching each other soccer

What emerges is both demystifying and remarkable, and will change how you look at animals, humans, and the meaning of life itself.

Review/Endorsements/Praise/Award

San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller

“A dazzling, delightful read on what animal cognition can teach us about our own mental shortcomings.” – Adam Grant

“I love the book, and everyone should read it.” – Ryan Holiday

“Undeniably entertaining.” – The New York Times

“If Nietzsche Were A Narwhal makes some extraordinary and thought-provoking points. It is not only engagingly written, but its controversial thesis is worth taking seriously… some of the cognitive concepts introduced… are nothing less than brilliant.”―David P. Barash, Wall Street Journal

“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.”
―Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again

“A snappy read: it left me wondering why we don’t respect signals of intelligence from other species—and more deeply consider how our own intelligence works against us.”―Amy Brady, Scientific American

“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.”
―Bill McKibben, bestselling author of The End of Nature and Falter

“Enlightening! If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal is a hilarious and thrilling look at intelligence that asks: are humans really the best? Gregg will dazzle and sweep you off your feet with his detailed exploration of the animal kingdom and its many secrets. This is an absolute must-read.”―Wednesday Martin, bestselling author of Untrue and Primates of Park Avenue

“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. But it’s not a treatise—it’s a pleasure.”―Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words and Becoming Wild

“If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal is a funny, perceptive book that answers questions we’ve been told not to ask. Like many of the great sages, Justin Gregg uses animal stories to treat deep questions of consciousness and justice. The result is a deft field guide to the mixed blessings of intelligence and the real possibility that consciousness (and joy) exist perfectly well without it. “
―William Poundstone, author of How Do You Fight a Horse-Sized Duck?

“A sparkling and witty tour of the many minds we share this planet with. Nietzsche might be surprised to find himself contemplated in the company of beasts from narwhals to slugs — but the fascinating and detailed payoff of the cognitive lives of so many animals is immense.”
―Clive Wynne, author of Dog is Love

“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” ―David Robson, author of The Intelligence Trap and The Expectation Effect

“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.”―Arik Kershenbaum, author of The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy

“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.”―Jonathan Balcombe, author of Super Fly and What a Fish Knows

“I felt dumber after reading this book. Mission accomplished, Justin!”―David Grimm, author of Citizen Canine

“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.”―Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

“A highly original take on the nature of intelligence across life forms. Simultaneously thought-provoking and delightfully humorous, Justin Gregg guides readers into an essential re-thinking of human exceptionalism. This is a welcome upending of all we have been molded to believe about human and other-than-human animal minds.” ―Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Rooted and Mozart’s Starling

“If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal is an unusual, delightful, and entertaining book that will help us achieve a more precise understanding of human nature, counterintuitively by looking at our reflection in light of the clues of conscious behavior expressed by our fellow animals. I loved Dr. Gregg’s book because I learned quite a few interesting things from each chapter. As a scholar, I can offer no higher praise. Highly recommended.”―Oné R. Pagán, author of Drunk Flies and Stoned Dolphins: A Trip Through the World of Animal Intoxication

“If Nietzsche were a Narwhal is a beautiful, thought-provoking and often hilarious exploration of this planet’s different kinds of minds. Justin Gregg points out that while many of the hallmarks of human intelligence are also found, in some form, in animals from insects to narwhals, humans are by all means exceptional. But our intelligence is still constrained by our evolutionary history; we may be too intelligent for own good, and too stupid to look after our planet with a sufficiently long-term planning perspective. Gregg’s magnificent book is a poignant reminder that if we don’t raise our game fast, we might once again cede Earth to the rule of insects and other supposedly less intelligent creatures.”―Lars Chittka, author of The Mind of a Bee

“Gregg’s clever and provocative book is full of irreverent notions and funny anecdotes…undeniably entertaining.”―Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

“Entertaining work of pop science…[If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal] is a lighthearted conceit, and it leads to an enlightening tour of animal behavior…wonderfully accessible and charmingly narrated, this is a fascinating investigation of intellect and cognition.”―Publishers Weekly

“Gregg shows how increased cognitive skills do not necessarily equate to success…This insightful book provides food for thought and lends credence to that notion… A fascinating take on human intelligence.”―Kirkus Book Reviews

“You’ll be laughing and contemplating up a storm in your chaise lounge during this enlightening book that compares the animal kingdom and humans. Dolphin scientist Justin Gregg makes you think about language, mortality, consciousness, and more—opening your eyes to animal parallels. Are we really as smart as we think?” ―Men’s Journal, Best Summer Reads

“A timely, thought-provoking and often sobering book that will make you look at humans, animals and the future of our planet with new eyes.” ―BookPage

“Tackling the topic of intelligence is no small feat. Science writer and researcher Gregg seems up for the challenge, though, relying on a combination of cognitive science, philosophy, and behavioral studies. The science here can be surprising….informative and thought-provoking.”―Booklist

“I love the book, and everyone should read it.”―Ryan Holiday, host of The Daily Stoic podcast and New York Times bestselling author

“Would Nietzsche have been happier— and would the world overall have been a better place— had the philosopher been born some other species other than human? On its face, it sounds like an absurd question. But in If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal, scientist Justin Gregg convincingly argues that the answer is yes— and not only for Nietzsche, but for all of us.”―Undark Magazine

“In the best tradition of “popular science” writing, Gregg, an adjunct professor of biology at St Francis Xavier University…draw[s] on a vast body of research from medicine, animal behaviour, human behaviour, history, social studies and philosophy to explore a provocative question: a certain kind of intelligence separates humans from all other animals, but is it also leading us to annihilation? In seven quick chapters, Gregg unpacks a lot, and the book gets better as it goes along, becoming more and more thought-provoking.”―Money Control

“If Nietzsche Were A Narwhal is a must-read because it explains how we can save the world only if we exist in symbiosis with the thinking, feeling creatures that have had the misfortune of sharing the planet with humans, who turn out not to be as intelligent as they believe themselves to be.” ―Rafia Zakaria, The Baffler

“In often amusing, absurd detail, Gregg demonstrates time and again why animals may have the intellectual upper hand.”―The Globe and Mail

“[Gregg] builds his often hilarious, sometimes unsettling, case against human superiority.”―Genetic Literary Project

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