We can saw boards out of trees and retrieve ore out of the ground which we then blend with coke and heat until liquid iron drips out. Out of that iron we make screws and screwdrivers with which we connect boards to each other to make a chest. In that chest we can transport goods on wagons which drive on rails to their destination.

We can also cultivate and fertilize soil and plant grains that sprout with stems on which corn cobs grow. We harvest and shred these and  we feed them to cows, which are milked by robots. We make yoghurt from the milk  that we spoon from a bowl at breakfast time. 

We make cigar-shaped tubes that people can sit it. To those tubes we add wings and engines that can propel the whole thing through the skies over the oceans  So people from different continents can be together in consulting each other about establishing a better world.

Why can we do all of this and animals cannot?  That's because of our hands which are able to perform all kinds of operations. Our hands make us absolutely unique among the animals.

I could have added many more examples effortlessly.

But hands can't think.   However  we have 86 billion nerve cells in our head, some of which invent all those acts and direct the hands to do all those complicated movements, please note 86 with 9 zeros. The very special feature is that brains, generally speaking, can devise no more than a body can handle.  

A horse can do very little with objects and matter and has therefore also a brain that can devise very little.  

A jackdaw has toes and a beak with which he can manipulate quite nicely, he takes a fat  ball,  that is suspended underneath a branch, with his beak and toes. Its brain can think of a lot more because his attributes are able to implement them. We call him smarter than a horse. 

It therefore comes down to this: only when the body can carry out more complicated manipulations, the brain is able to invent useful new manipulations. 

Now it is clear why we are the smartest animal in the universe because we, of all animals, are the best at manipulating objects and matter with our versatile hands.

See an earlier column “Baseball grip” about how we got those  versatile hands.