Other animals are exceptionally good at identifying and reacting to predators, rivals and friends. They never act as if they believe that rivers or trees are inhabited by spirits who are watching. In all these ways, other animals continually demonstrate their working knowledge that they live in a world brimming with other minds as well as their knowledge of those minds' boundaries. their understanding seems more acute, pragmatic and frankly, better than ours at distinguishing real from fake. So, I wonder, do humans really have a better developed Theory of Mind than other animals? ...Children talk to dolls for years, half believing or firmly believing that the doll hears and feels and is a worthy confidante. Many adults pray to statues, fervently believing that they're listening. ...All of this indicates a common human inability to distinguish conscious minds from inanimate objects and evidence from nonsense. Children often talk to a fully imaginary friends whom they believe listens and has thoughts. Monotheism might be the adult version. ...In the world's most technologically advanced, most informed societies, a majority people take it for granted that disembodied spirits are watching, judging and acting on them. Most leaders of modern nations trust that a Sky-God can be asked to protect their nation during disasters and conflicts with other nations. All of this is theory of mind gone wild, like an unguided fire hose spraying the whole universe with presumed consciousness. Humans' superior Theory of Mind is in part pathology. The oft repeated line humans are rational beings is probably our most half-true assertion about ourselves. There is in nature an overriding sanity and often in humankind an undermining insanity. We, among all animals, are most frequently irrational, distortional, delusional and worried. Yet, I also wonder, is our pathological ability to generate false beliefs...also the very root of human creativity?
Carl Safina