Saturday 20 April 2024

Scientists propose that we should regard animals in general as conscious beings

Scientists have suggested that animals in general should be considered as conscious beings (reported in The Times today). The scientists have issued a declaration to that effect. What do they mean? The Times doesn't explain what "conscious being" means. I will presume that one aspect of this description means that the animal has the ability to be self-conscious which means that they have the ability to be aware of the fact that they are a being. The classic test is to look into a mirror and recognise the fact that you are looking at yourself.

Consciousness, according to Jonathan Birch from the London School of Economics, "gives us the ability to locate ourselves in time, to plan for the future, to remember specific events from our past, to make flexible decisions and learn from very sophisticated ways about the world around us."

On the mirror test, Tom Whipple, the science editor of The Times states that, "If you show some fish species a mirror, they will first attack it but then, when that fails, do odd things like swim upside down to see if their reflection follows."

This indicates that these fish species referred to are initially confused by the mirror image and then become aware of it indicating that they are self-conscious. They are conscious beings. It's remarkable if it's true that fish are self-conscious because we kill them in the billions in the cruellest of ways in the oceans annually. People treat fish as objects; inanimate objects actually. It's been found that this can feel pain. Another indication that they are conscious beings.

At the moment there are only a handful of animals that the scientists agree are self-conscious, which would fly in the face of this declaration, if my interpretation of what "conscious beings" means.

In another test, scientists made crayfish anxious. Then they alleviated that anxiety with a tranquilizing drug. They found it worked. So their brain responded to a mind altering drug. This proves that they have a mind.

A lot of scientists and philosophers believe that it is time to create the default position that animals are conscious.

Jonathan Birch from the London School of Economics said: "You've got all these behaviours where in the human case we would very naturally think that this was the sort of behaviour that consciousness enables". He's saying the behaviours of many animals indicate consciousness because they are similar to the behaviours of people.

Jonathan Birch is one of the organisers of "The New York Declaration". Animal sentience is bound up with animal consciousness an animal self-awareness. There's been a lot of research and subsequent information on the Internet about animal sentience. It's a great development because it drives people to an awareness that animals feel pain which in turn promotes animal welfare, the objective of hundreds of millions of animal advocates.

It said that 10 years ago the concept of animal sentience was hardly discussed and not even been founded. Things have changed.

Intelligence and sentience should not be confused as per Jeremy Bentham's argument. All we need to know is that an animal can feel pain and can suffer. If an animal can suffer it is a sentient being.
"The question is not, 'Can they reason? Nor can they talk? [But] can they suffer?
At the moment we believe that it is not possible to know for certain that an animal is conscious or self-aware. Although for mammals and birds it's almost certain that they have a "conscious experience". 

But crows, known for their intelligence, "can adaptively problem-solving, recognise people and even report their own experiences". It is possible, though, to argue that the ability to problem solve does not mean for a certainty that crows are conscious beings.

The above-mentioned declaration has been signed by 38 global experts.

"In the case of octopuses and cuttlefish and things like that, it is primarily behavioural evidence. But it's behavioural evidence pointing to remarkable abilities that no one really thought were there, to do with simulating the future, remembering specific events from the past", said Jonathan Birch.

The declaration, for me, is an indication that humans are moving in the right direction in their relationship with animals; a direction towards better animal welfare and a recognition that animals are sentient and possibly many more are self-aware than previously we thought was the case.

Even bees can be regarded as sentient and conscious beings. A recent test showed they enjoyed playing with a little ball.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are always welcome.

Featured Post

i hate cats

i hate cats, no i hate f**k**g cats is what some people say when they dislike cats. But they nearly always don't explain why. It appe...

Popular posts