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Scientists Declare: Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Heliotrope View Post
    Here's a third party observation.


    OP: Here's a thing! What do you think?

    Poster: I think--

    OP: YOU'RE ATTACKING ME FOR MY BELIEFS BECAUSE I'M VEGAN AREN'T YOU.

    Poster #2: Here's my thoughts, and I think you might be overreacti--

    OP: I'M SHOWING YOU HOW I DON'T OVERREACT BY QUOTING A LOT OF THINGS AND BEING EXTREMELY DEFENSIVE THE ENTIRE TIME!

    Posters: ...
    Your oversimplification of the OP's position and lack of contribution to the thread makes me wonder why you even bothered to post. I could see why the OP thought the other posters were perhaps assuming things about her, seeing as right off the bat they focused on diet and this is something the OP might be sensitive about because of her lifestyle. However, the OP did ask if the research changes the way we feel about animals, so I believe talking about diet is fair. Though, it seems the topic has been derailed from the impact of these scientific studies to the more dangerous waters of people's emotional stances on animal welfare. Not saying emotions aren't relevant to the conversation, but it seems (to me) that people are ignoring the credibility of the research in favor of arguing about what they THINK the OP is trying to convey.

    Anyway, on topic, I have seen similar research over the years and I think it is a fascinating thing to study, though I agree with Tiberias that that using the word "consciousness" is murky at best. Is it referring to having emotions, self-awareness, or maybe something else? Maybe all three? From the research it seems like the definition is leaning towards the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors, but some further definition in this area would certainly help in figuring out how the research is valuable. What I am curious to see is whether this is an indication of current evolution, or just something that has always existed and modern research techniques are just now helping to discover the extent of this "consciousness".

    Personally, this does not change how I view animals because I have always been an advocate for the humane treatment of animals. I am excited though because I think this line of research will lead to more focused experimentation which will possibly lead to discoveries which will further our understanding of animal intelligence. As for legislation, I generally hate government interference is most aspects of life, but I don’t see why anyone would be against laws that protect animals from being tortured. (Or rather, punish those that torture animals, because laws rarely actually prevent anything.) Not that I am calling for meat to be outlawed, or government to regulate our food, but some of the ways companies treat animals before slaughter are really barbaric. The issue is not about governing what people can and can’t eat (because I believe that is wrong) it is about running businesses ethically, and not needlessly subjecting millions of animals to agony before death - especially animals that exhibit “consciousness”.

    "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."
    - Mahatma Gandhi

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    • #17
      Originally posted by Ocean View Post
      Anyway, on topic, I have seen similar research over the years and I think it is a fascinating thing to study, though I agree with Tiberias that that using the word "consciousness" is murky at best. Is it referring to having emotions, self-awareness, or maybe something else? Maybe all three? From the research it seems like the definition is leaning towards the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors, but some further definition in this area would certainly help in figuring out how the research is valuable. What I am curious to see is whether this is an indication of current evolution, or just something that has always existed and modern research techniques are just now helping to discover the extent of this "consciousness".

      Personally, this does not change how I view animals because I have always been an advocate for the humane treatment of animals. I am excited though because I think this line of research will lead to more focused experimentation which will possibly lead to discoveries which will further our understanding of animal intelligence. As for legislation, I generally hate government interference is most aspects of life, but I don’t see why anyone would be against laws that protect animals from being tortured. (Or rather, punish those that torture animals, because laws rarely actually prevent anything.) Not that I am calling for meat to be outlawed, or government to regulate our food, but some of the ways companies treat animals before slaughter are really barbaric. The issue is not about governing what people can and can’t eat (because I believe that is wrong) it is about running businesses ethically, and not needlessly subjecting millions of animals to agony before death - especially animals that exhibit “consciousness”.
      First of all, thank you for this response. It is exactly what I was hoping for.

      As far as a definition regarding consciousness is concerned I do know that some have put forward a definition for it recently.
      The Beloit College Biochemistry, for example. Though it is heavily influenced by Dennett and I am not sure that is the way to go:

      http://chemistry.beloit.edu/Ordman/c...11/1rocdef.htm

      We also have Christof Koch who apparently put forward four definitions in his latest book. Unfortunately I only have access to Wikipedia and not the actual book at this time, Wiki says the four definitions "can be summarized as follows: Consciousness is the inner mental life that we lose each night when we fall into dreamless sleep, consciousness can be measured with the Glasgow Coma Scale that assesses the reactions of patients, an active cortico-thalamic complex is necessary for consciousness in humans, and put philosophically, consciousness is what it is like to feel something."

      In either case, traditionally consciousness is subjectivity, awareness, wakefulness, the ability to experience and feel, and a sense of selfhood as well as the executive control system of the mind.

      There are a myriad of studies out there that look into these things; everything from rats showing empathy, elephants having self-awareness, chickens exhibiting facial recognition as a way to distinguish between other chickens to bovine exhibiting exhilaration when they learn something new. What we have going on right now is science picking up the slack where a lot of philosophers are still stuck arguing different versions of Descartes vs Montaigne ad naseum. I am almost temped to agree with Hawking when he states that philosophers has not kept up with the rest of the world, and scientists are more likely to provide answers to philosophical questions than philosophers.

      I am working towards going back to school to study a varying number of topics that could lead to me providing a consultant role for businesses in HOW to run their operations ethically from a bio-ethics standpoint. I don't have any interest in legislation regarding food, as I have previously said. My main concern is ethical treatment based, not only on philosophy, but built on a scientific base. The legislation I would hope for would not only be good for the animals, but even for the people working in slaughterhouses. A lot of rapports even from Australian pig farms indicate substance abuse in the form of alcohol being very prevalent in the workers who are responsible for the post slaughter care, for example. They have been reported as starting to drink, on the job, as early as 07:20 am. The people who do work in these environments need to be taken better care of as well, if people who work in these places start drinking in the morning and keep drinking throughout the day to dull something within them they probably are more likely to further disassociate and act cruelly to the animals around them.

      As you said, it is not about governing what people can and cannot eat. It's about making sure that companies are running their businesses in a way that takes ethics into consideration because right now a lot of countries have loopholes and companies that blatantly disregard rules. I think the punishment for disregarding the rights animals do have legally so far needs to be far graver, even for companies.
      Previously known as Njorun Alma


      "A mind of the calibre of mine cannot derive its nutriment from cows." - George Bernard Shaw

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      • #18
        I am glad that a definition for consciousness is being worked on. I figured there was because of the direction technology and scientific discovery has been heading, but it is nice to see progress. Thanks for sharing the link! I agree with you as well, at this rate is looks like scientists will provide clearer answers when it comes to philosophical questions than philosophers.

        Yes, I have read about slaughterhouse workers who are horrified by their own methods, work in terrible conditions, or turn to drugs/alcohol to make their own job bearable... it's not just animals that an ethically run food industry would help - it's people too. Just googling "slaughterhouse workers" brings up a slew of gruesome articles describing the conditions workers are subjected to, and the psychological effects of their work. It's awful.

        I think it is great that you are working towards going back to school, I wish you luck in your endeavors!

        "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."
        - Mahatma Gandhi

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        • #19
          I actually believe this is a cool topic. Thanks for posting these links.
          :boing:The only thing that sucks around here is a straw.:boing:

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          • #20
            I've long suspected this. It doesn't change much for me, just cements my suspicions as a belief.
            ......with liberty and justice for all;
            For all means for all without exceptions!

            What is more valuable than liberty? Nothing, not even my own life. As without liberty, is life really worth living?

            "those who would give up a little liberty, to gain a little security, deserve neither, and will lose both." -Benjamin Franklin

            "Don't Tread on Me" - Forgot

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            • #21
              Wow! This thread got a little heated didn't it?
              As to my thoughts on the issue, I eat meat and I love animals. I have worked with animals in my personal life and professional life and have no doubt that animals are conscious. Now, that is my belief based on my experiences not a dictate.
              In brief, I'm glad to see science researching this subject as it bring humanity back to nature and humbles our propensity to believe we are superior. We will have to wait and see if this research changes anything for it touches on many aspects that are closely held by society as well as individuals.

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              • #22
                It is somewhat misleading...
                Dolphins and Elephants are close...
                The Elephant brain is very similiar to the human brain but it lacks certain pathways of inter-connectivity.
                Many birds are intelligent... and can recognize themselves in a mirror test but aren't able to really have a sense of self beyond recognition of their physical vessel...
                meaning they would never ask if they are a brain in a vat or what the nature of their existence is. They are intelligent to know that the thing in the mirror is them but not so much as to know what they are, or what the meaning of their identity is...

                Do they have the capability of a human? Sure, if that human is 6 years old. Many birds have an intelligence comparable to a toddler or young child... however the human brain is no where close to being fully developed at that point in time. A child can recognize themselves in a mirror yet still not be mature enough to begin asking the deeper questions of existence.

                The mirror test shows a threshold though, it does show an awareness of self... but it's the first glimpse of that awareness, a superficial one...

                Give that bird a black mirror.
                Tsalagi Nvwoti Didahnvwesgi Ale Didahnesesgi
                (Cherokee medicine practitioner of left and right hand paths)
                anikutani.stfu-kthx.net - The Anikutani Tradition

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