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Are animals conscious? Sentient?

IndigoChild5559

Loving God and my neighbor as myself.
"Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness, saying even insects may be sentient

....All three of these discoveries came in the last five years — indications that the more scientists test animals, the more they find that many species may have inner lives and be sentient. A surprising range of creatures have shown evidence of conscious thought or experience, including insects, fish and some crustaceans. "


 
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Spice

StewardshipPeaceIntergityCommunityEquality
"Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness, saying even insects may be sentient

All three of these discoveries came in the last five years — indications that the more scientists test animals, the more they find that many species may have inner lives and be sentient. A surprising range of creatures have shown evidence of conscious thought or experience, including insects, fish and some crustaceans. "


I think they have souls, but they've never separated from God, they've never "fallen."
 

IndigoChild5559

Loving God and my neighbor as myself.
I think they have souls, but they've never separated from God, they've never "fallen."
First let's examine what it means to be "fallen." While I do not take Gen 3 to be history, I do think that it comments on human nature.

The essence of the sin in the garden was that they "ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." IOW, at the beginning to the story, they were innocent aka not morally sentient. Their morality would be on par with that of a child, or perhaps a puppy, who knows that chewing up the shoes will get him in trouble, but doesn't really understand why it is wrong to chew up shoes. By the end of the story, they had become morally sentient, "knowing right from wrong."

IRL, the journey into moral sentience happened gradually over a long period of time, but it did happen. And when it happened, there were times when our new moral conscience would come into conflict with our animal instinct. Moral sentience destroyed our harmony with nature, with each other, with ourselves, and with God.

Now let's consider animals. I would like to focus in on chimpanzees, since that is the species with which I am most familiar. While clearly chimps don't have the advanced morality that humans have today, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that they have both a sense of fairness and a sense of empathy, and these two instincts are the foundation of moral thought.

You might thus imagine that the time will soon come (if it hasn't already) when chimps will experience their own Garden of Eden moment, that watershed where they can be said to become morally sentient.
 

Spice

StewardshipPeaceIntergityCommunityEquality
First let's examine what it means to be "fallen." While I do not take Gen 3 to be history, I do think that it comments on human nature.

The essence of the sin in the garden was that they "ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." IOW, at the beginning to the story, they were innocent aka not morally sentient. Their morality would be on par with that of a child, or perhaps a puppy, who knows that chewing up the shoes will get him in trouble, but doesn't really understand why it is wrong to chew up shoes. By the end of the story, they had become morally sentient, "knowing right from wrong."

IRL, the journey into moral sentience happened gradually over a long period of time, but it did happen. And when it happened, there were times when our new moral conscience would come into conflict with our animal instinct. Moral sentience destroyed our harmony with nature, with each other, with ourselves, and with God.

Now let's consider animals. I would like to focus in on chimpanzees, since that is the species with which I am most familiar. While clearly chimps don't have the advanced morality that humans have today, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that they have both a sense of fairness and a sense of empathy, and these two instincts are the foundation of moral thought.

You might thus imagine that the time will soon come (if it hasn't already) when chimps will experience their own Garden of Eden moment, that watershed where they can be said to become morally sentient.
Yes, "the fall" refers to the discovery of moral knowledge, but more importantly, a separation from God, IMO.

Elephants also show amazing empathy. They share in the tending of the young as a family with grandmother's and aunts. They also conduct "funeral services" of sorts when they discover a death.
 

RestlessSoul

Well-Known Member
Humans are animals.


While this is undoubtedly true, and while it is always helpful imo for us to remember that we are animals, we are nevertheless an exceptional species in every way.

Physically, being weak, slow, awkward on land and worse in water, we’re not particularly well equipped to survive at all. Yet we have populated every surface of the globe.

It may not be consciousness which sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, much less setting us above it, but something in the nature of our mind does; and in becoming creatures of thought and of intellect, it’s possible that we have lost as much as we have gained; which, it seems to me, is the true meaning of the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden.
 

IndigoChild5559

Loving God and my neighbor as myself.
Yes, "the fall" refers to the discovery of moral knowledge, but more importantly, a separation from God, IMO.

Elephants also show amazing empathy. They share in the tending of the young as a family with grandmother's and aunts. They also conduct "funeral services" of sorts when they discover a death.
Elephants are astounding. The things we know about them lead me to think they are significantly self aware and thoughtful creatures.
 

Tamino

Active Member
"Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness, saying even insects may be sentient

....All three of these discoveries came in the last five years — indications that the more scientists test animals, the more they find that many species may have inner lives and be sentient. A surprising range of creatures have shown evidence of conscious thought or experience, including insects, fish and some crustaceans. "
As a person with an animist world view, I do not find this shocking or surprising.
But it's good to know that science keeps blurring the line between human and animal... because that line was always an artificial concept, IMHO.

It's really kinda cool. I listened to a podcast about city planning, of all things, and scientist proposed that planners need to be conscious both of their impact over long time periods and their impact on the non- human world. And I was like: "yeah, that's a pretty animist view, is he even aware of that?"
 

IndigoChild5559

Loving God and my neighbor as myself.
As a person with an animist world view, I do not find this shocking or surprising.
But it's good to know that science keeps blurring the line between human and animal... because that line was always an artificial concept, IMHO.

It's really kinda cool. I listened to a podcast about city planning, of all things, and scientist proposed that planners need to be conscious both of their impact over long time periods and their impact on the non- human world. And I was like: "yeah, that's a pretty animist view, is he even aware of that?"
I'm fine with you being animist. I'd like to point out that these views do not necessarily imply animism. The scientists that are proposing this are most likely not animists. But I do see how it would tuck neatly into your religious views. :)
 

Secret Chief

nirvana is samsara
"Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness, saying even insects may be sentient

....All three of these discoveries came in the last five years — indications that the more scientists test animals, the more they find that many species may have inner lives and be sentient. A surprising range of creatures have shown evidence of conscious thought or experience, including insects, fish and some crustaceans. "


For me, I don't find this to be news. In fact, I find it rather depressing that human animals may find it so; ignorance or denial of it presumably helps or enables thinking it is OK to eat (eg) squid and cows. Regarding octopuses, one might consider reading "Other Minds: The Octopus And The Evolution of Intelligent Life" by Peter Godfrey-Smith. An octopus could solve a puzzle more quickly than your average MAGA, but then that is a pretty low bar.
 

Sargonski

Well-Known Member
"Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness, saying even insects may be sentient

....All three of these discoveries came in the last five years — indications that the more scientists test animals, the more they find that many species may have inner lives and be sentient. A surprising range of creatures have shown evidence of conscious thought or experience, including insects, fish and some crustaceans. "
As a person with an animist world view, I do not find this shocking or surprising.
But it's good to know that science keeps blurring the line between human and animal... because that line was always an artificial concept, IMHO.

It's really kinda cool. I listened to a podcast about city planning, of all things, and scientist proposed that planners need to be conscious both of their impact over long time periods and their impact on the non- human world. And I was like: "yeah, that's a pretty animist view, is he even aware of that?"

the wording is kind of funny -- what definition of sentience is being used ? - awareness - response to stimulus -- didn't know this was in doubt for insects ... I can see for trees having some doubt .. we have reponse to stimulus but is a tree really aware ?

KK- now the question of the definition of Sentience is not really the subject matter domain of "Science" per say .. obviously we can use science to prove up that definion once arrived at but Science does not come up with the definition for us.. That is more of a Philosophical question ... similar to when does human life begin ? and then you hear folks say "Science Says" when science says no such thing .. there being 5 diferent scientific Perspectives .. non defacto claiming truth over the others ... the question "What is a human" depends on how we define a human .. in my perspective a single human cell is not a living human .. is a single human cell Sentient ? .. I say this because in my definition of A Human .. if it is not sentient .. and has no capacity for sentience .. a human does not exist.

The question is then when does sentience enter the picture -- ? and now we really have to define what is sentience. .. the most common answer .. is going to be ~ 22 weeks -- around the time when the wiring is complete.. prior to this time the machinery can not capacitate senticence .. awareness - nor is there any ability of the brain to respond to stimulus .. I also call this the same time the soul arrives .. if we want to get metaphysical .. prior to this time the fleshy abode can not capacitate the "I AM" .. as in "I Think therefor I am"

So there are different levels of awareness .. a Human More .. a bug less .. but there is no doubt it is sentient IMO
 

McBell

mantra-chanting henotheistic snake handler

The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness

Which animals have the capacity for conscious experience? While much uncertainty remains, some points of wide agreement have emerged.

First, there is strong scientific support for attributions of conscious experience to other mammals and to birds.

Second, the empirical evidence indicates at least a realistic possibility of conscious experience in all vertebrates (including reptiles, amphibians, and fishes) and many invertebrates (including, at minimum, cephalopod mollusks, decapod crustaceans, and insects).

Third, when there is a realistic possibility of conscious experience in an animal, it is irresponsible to ignore that possibility in decisions affecting that animal. We should consider welfare risks and use the evidence to inform our responses to these risks.



The last ten years have been an exciting time for the science of animal cognition and behavior. Striking new results have hinted at surprisingly rich inner lives in a very wide range of other animals, including many invertebrates, driving renewed debate about animal consciousness. To give just ten key examples:​
Crows can be trained to report what they see. In a 2020 study published in Science, Andreas Nieder and colleagues trained crows to report their visual perceptions using head gestures. The crows were shown either a bright stimulus, a dim stimulus, or no stimulus. The crows generally reported accurately whether they had been shown a stimulus, though they sometimes made mistakes, especially when the stimulus was very dim. Throughout the experiment, researchers measured activity in a brain region thought to be associated with high-level cognition in birds (the NCL). They found that NCL activity tracked whether or not the birds reported seeing a stimulus, not whether or not a stimulus was presented. In other words, the results suggest that brain activity in the NCL is a neuronal correlate of visual experience in crows.​
Octopuses avoid pain and value pain relief in the conditioned place preference test. The “conditioned place preference” test was developed to assess pain in lab rats. In 2021, cephalopod expert Robyn Crook tried it with octopuses. First, Crook allowed octopuses to choose between two chambers within a tank. Next, some octopuses experienced the effects of an injection of acetic acid while in their preferred chamber. These octopuses (but not controls injected with saline solution) developed a lasting aversion to that chamber. Then, octopuses injected with acid experienced the effects of a local anesthetic (lidocaine) in the chamber they initially disfavored. These octopuses (but not controls) developed a lasting preference for the chamber where they experienced the effects of lidocaine. In a rat or a human, we would infer from this pattern that the acid injection caused pain that the lidocaine relieved, so we should be ready to draw the same conclusions about an octopus.​
Cuttlefish remember details of specific past events, including how they experienced them. Many animals can recall past events, including what happened, where it happened, and when it happened. A 2020 study went further, showing that cuttlefish can remember how they experienced an item—for instance, whether they saw it or smelled it—a capacity known as “source memory.” Researchers exposed cuttlefish to either the sight or scent of a crab, fish, or shrimp. They trained the cuttlefish to indicate whether they had seen or smelled each prey animal after a three-hour delay. After the training, the cuttlefish were able to complete the same task with new prey animals, like mussels or snails.​
Cleaner wrasse fish appear to pass a version of the mirror-mark test. Questions of self awareness in animals have long been explored using the “mirror-mark test,” which tests whether an animal, upon seeing a mark on their own body in a mirror, will try to remove that mark. In a surprising series of studies between 2019 and 2023, researchers showed that cleaner wrasse fish can pass the four phases of the test. First, when exposed to a mirror, the fish react aggressively as though they believe they see a rival fish. Second, the aggression fades and the fish begin performing unusual behaviors in front of the mirror, such as swimming upside down. Third, the fish seem to study themselves in the mirror. Finally, after the experimenters place a colored mark on the fish, the fish, on seeing the mark in the mirror, attempt to remove it by scraping against an available surface.​
Garter snakes pass a scent-based version of the mirror-mark test. Determining whether animals can recognize themselves in a mirror may not be an appropriate test of self awareness for all species. Some animals, like snakes, rely primarily on scent or other non-visual cues to navigate their environment. A 2024 study tested self-recognition in snakes by measuring their reactions to cotton pads soaked in various different scents: (1) their own scent, (2) their own scent with a “mark” of a different scent, (3) the “mark” scent alone, (4) the scent of an unknown snake, and (5) the scent of an unknown snake with a “mark.” Garter snakes investigated their own marked scents longer than any other scent. This suggests that the snakes recognize their own scents and notice when their scent has changed.​
Zebrafish show signs of curiosity. Many animal species—including raptors, tortoises, and honeybees—show signs of a desire to seek new information. In 2023, researchers tested for these signs in zebrafish. They found that zebrafish show sustained interest in new objects, but that their interest fades more quickly with the number of new objects they observe. Since zebrafish explore new objects voluntarily and in the absence of any additional reward, they seem to find learning new information intrinsically rewarding.​
Bees show apparent play behavior. While much of the existing research on animal consciousness is focused on pain, researchers are increasingly looking for signs of positive experiences. In a 2022 study, researchers found that bumblebees roll wooden balls around in a manner consistent with five characteristics of play. First, bees rolled the balls because they found it intrinsically rewarding, rather than as a means to an end. Second, the behavior did not serve an apparent function. Third, the bees were not rehearsing a behavior they use for another purpose, like foraging or mating. Fourth, bees rolled balls repeatedly but not in exactly the same way each time. Finally, the behavior increased when the bees were relaxed, indicating that it was a pleasant experience, not a stress-induced one.​
Crayfish display “anxiety-like” states, altered by anti-anxiety drugs. A series of studies between 2014 and 2017 investigated how crayfish respond to stress, exploring the possibility that they might be a useful model of anxiety. Researchers placed crayfish in a maze with both bright and dark pathways. Crayfish have a natural tendency to explore new environments, but they prefer dark to light. When researchers increased stress in the crayfish by administering electrical shocks, the crayfish became significantly more averse to the bright areas of the maze. Benzodiazepines are used in humans to alleviate anxiety, and crayfish given these drugs were once again willing to explore the bright parts of the maze.​
Crabs balance competing motivations to make flexible decisions. A long-term research program by Robert Elwood and colleagues has investigated how hermit crabs and shore crabs make decisions in the face of risk. A 2024 study looked at how shore crabs balance their aversion to bright light against their aversion to electric shock. The crabs normally enter a shelter to escape bright light but may choose the bright light over the shelter if they experienced a shock in that shelter in the past—and their decision depends on how intense the shock was and how bright the light is. Other animals, like rats, iguanas, and bees, also make subtle, memory-dependent trade-offs between competing priorities. These trade-offs suggest the animal has a “common currency” for weighing needs of very different kinds, a currency that does for them what pleasure and pain do for us.​
Fruit flies have active and quiet sleep—and social isolation disrupts their sleep patterns. Drosophila fruit flies have been known for many years to have a form of sleep. Now a new study has found ways of inducing two different kinds of sleep: “quiet” sleep, involving significantly decreased brain activity, and “active” sleep, where brain activity persists despite a lack of outward behavior. Just as slow-wave sleep and REM sleep serve different functions in humans, the researchers hypothesized that quiet and active sleep serve different functions in fruit flies. Quiet sleep seems to slow metabolism and regulate stress, while active sleep seems to support cognitive function. Meanwhile, a 2021 study published in Nature showed that sleep in fruit flies is disrupted by social isolation; flies sleep best when in the presence of other flies.​
What is consciousness? The term has a variety of meanings. The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness focuses on one important meaning, sometimes called “phenomenal consciousness” or “sentience.” The question here is which animals can have subjective experiences. This can include sensory experiences (say, the experience of a particular touch, taste, sight, or smell) as well as experiences that feel good or bad (say, the experience of pleasure, pain, hope, or fear). This sense of the term “consciousness” is what Thomas Nagel had in mind when he famously asked “What is it like to be a bat?”.​
 

Evangelicalhumanist

"Truth" isn't a thing...
Premium Member
What is consciousness? The term has a variety of meanings. The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness focuses on one important meaning, sometimes called “phenomenal consciousness” or “sentience.” The question here is which animals can have subjective experiences. This can include sensory experiences (say, the experience of a particular touch, taste, sight, or smell) as well as experiences that feel good or bad (say, the experience of pleasure, pain, hope, or fear). This sense of the term “consciousness” is what Thomas Nagel had in mind when he famously asked “What is it like to be a bat?”.
Anyone who has ever owned a dog or cat knows beyond doubt that they dream. And dreaming involves experience without phenomena to drive them. That has always seemed to me to demonstrate true consciousness.
 

Debater Slayer

Vipassana
Staff member
Premium Member
It is good to see more light being shed on the consciousness of non-human animals. I don't know to what extent, say, a fly or a crab can experience suffering, but I have always found it safest to assume they do when dealing with them. If they don't (an assumption that this relatively new research seems to undermine), then it couldn't hurt to be cautious just in case. If they do, then taking that as a given can help to reduce suffering (e.g., by quickly killing crabs before cooking them, instead of boiling them alive like some people do).
 

Heyo

Veteran Member
"Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness, saying even insects may be sentient

....All three of these discoveries came in the last five years — indications that the more scientists test animals, the more they find that many species may have inner lives and be sentient. A surprising range of creatures have shown evidence of conscious thought or experience, including insects, fish and some crustaceans. "


That article is playing fast and loose with the words "sentient" and "conscious". They are very different concepts - well, may be different as we still lack a consensus what "conscious" is.
Being sentient is, for the purpose, able to feel pain, for which a nervous system and a rudimentary brain is enough.
For sapience, the brain has to be much more complex, able to remember and to plan ahead.

For consciousness - well. I don't know, as I don't know what consciousness is.
 

Debater Slayer

Vipassana
Staff member
Premium Member
For me, I don't find this to be news. In fact, I find it rather depressing that human animals may find it so; ignorance or denial of it presumably helps or enables thinking it is OK to eat (eg) squid and cows.

The high intelligence of squids unfortunately doesn't seem to be a widely known fact, but the vast majority of meat eaters I have known do recognize that cattle can feel pain, experience emotions, bond with each other and with humans, etc. Acknowledgement of that leads many meat eaters to support more humane farming conditions, but it doesn't seem to lead as frequently to abstinence from eating meat altogether.
 

Mock Turtle

Oh my, did I say that!
Premium Member
I suspect the big difference between humans and all other life is mainly our use of symbolic language. Love to know what our ancestors were thinking about prior to such existing. And it might not be beyond the bounds of credibility as to many other species learning to use symbolic languages in the future.
 
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