Well, I certainly don't qualify as a scientist, but as I'm working on a Master of Science I'll try and impersonate one.
Animals do have speech, just not human speech.
Animals do make progress and learn, and pass down their knowledge from one generation to the next.
Animals do have knowledge of relations.
Maybe animals have knowledge of immaterial things. How is anyone to know for certain?
A prime example of at least the first three points would be dolphins and whales.
If someone were to make these statements to me in the course of a debate, I'd want to have them substantiate the claims.
Some animals do communicate. There are several examples of which I can think in addition to dolphins and whales.
Animals learn. Behavioral modification by reinforcement or consequences are powerful in animals and sometimes even in humans.
There's a pretty significant difference between that and abstract thought and the ability to communicate or understand such abstract thoughts. I've seen some articles from time to time dealing with apes or chimpazees claiming that such a concept has been demonstrated. There's usually some element of behavioral reinforcement involved which to my mind would make it questionable. Again, I'd have to look a lot closer at it before I'd debate it, but that's my initial reaction there. Passing down knowledge from one generation to another is a stretch as proof of this. Instinct perhaps is what she is talking about? Certainly behavioral reinforcement and punishement is used to reinforce things from one generation to another. Abstract, collective knowledge building and progressing from generation to generation is quite a different thing.
I'm not sure what she means by relationships. Long term matings perhaps?
Postulating that animals have knowledge of immaterial things, in the absence of communication on an abstract level is pretty much a stretch and I'd push that point, in terms of demonstrating the claim and then examining the studies for possible elements that could contribute to the appearance. Parrots can certainly be trained to say abstract things for instance, but that doesn't mean they are self-generated or comprehending statements.
Dolphins and whales do have a fairly complex method of communication, that to my knowledge (which is admittedly limited) relate to distress, food source, etc. In other words association of certain noises with certain conditions.
There's certainly a tendency at times to attribute human characteristics to animals. A wise old owl for example. A fox as clever etc.
If she's coming from a post-modernistic, new-age type position, which I think is what you're describing she may be looking at animals in a pantheistic type way which attributes a spark of "god" to all living things and coming from there.
I'd concede the obvious points but contest the demonstration of abstract thought as unprovable and unlikely in the absence of direct evidence. Science can't make an absolute statement in that area, so be wary of expressing an absolute based on Science alone. Of course, I think the Scripture has some things to say in that regard, which I would be more inclined to rely upon in the final analysis, in term of the image of God and souls, etc.
Hope this helps.
I hope some of our resident scientists with better resources than me can add some things and perhaps we both can learn some more.
Dogmatism is the comfortable intellectual framework of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is more decadent than the worst sexual sin. ~ Dan Allender