Intelligence in Nature: An Inquiry into Knowledge

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Continuing the journey begun in his acclaimed book The Cosmic Serpent, the noted anthropologist ventures firsthand into both traditional cultures and the most up-todate discoveries of contemporary science to determine nature's secret ways of knowing.

Anthropologist Jeremy Narby has altered how we understand the Shamanic cultures and traditions that have undergone a worldwide revival in recent years. Now, in one of his most extraordinary journeys, Narby travels the globe-from the Amazon Basin to the Far East-to probe what traditional healers and pioneering researchers understand about the intelligence present in all forms of life.

Intelligence in Nature presents overwhelming illustrative evidence that independent intelligence is not unique to humanity alone. Indeed, bacteria, plants, animals, and other forms of nonhuman life display an uncanny penchant for self-deterministic decisions, patterns, and actions.

Narby presents the first in-depth anthropological study of this concept in the West. He not only uncovers a mysterious thread of intelligent behavior within the natural world but also probes the question of what humanity can learn from nature's economy and knowingness in its own search for a saner and more sustainable way of life.

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About the Author:

Jeremy Narby, Ph.D. is the author of The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge. He lives in Switzerland.

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In The Cosmic Serpent, anthropologist Narby hypothesized that Amazonian shamans can "gain access in their visions to information related to DNA" comparable to what molecular biologists know. In this intriguing treatise, he carries his project of syncretizing all forms of knowledge a step further, arguing that animals and plants exhibit intelligence comparable in many ways to that of humans. His shaman friends heartily endorse the idea, regaling him, over a friendly pot of hallucinogenic ayahuasca brew, with conversations they have had in the trance state with animal and plant spirits. For further confirmation, he talks to Western scientists who have done remarkable research on cases of nonhuman intelligence, like bees with abstract reasoning, crows that manufacture standardized tools, pigeons that distinguish between the works of Van Gogh and Chagall about as well as college students do, octopuses that break out of and into their tanks and slime molds that solve mazes. Scientists may find Narby's ongoing efforts to assimilate shamanic mysticism to Western science - he associates, for example, Amazonian legends about humans turning into jaguars with Darwin's theory of evolution - naïve and illogical. But Narby has done his homework - the endnotes themselves make excellent reading - and his well-researched and engagingly presented account of the "braininess" of even literally brainless creatures raises fascinating questions about the boundaries between man and nature.
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9781585423996: Intelligence in Nature: An Inquiry into Knowledge

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ISBN 10:  1585423998 ISBN 13:  9781585423996
Publisher: Tarcher, 2005
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