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Old 08-16-2012, 10:10 PM
 
31,372 posts, read 32,966,768 times
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I was watching Neal DeGrasse Tyson narrate Nova's latest episode of scienceNOW where he presents the most recent research on animal intelligence. During the program Tyson introduces us to a Border Collie who recognizes 1000 individual names, dolphins that create new tricks to perform with other dolphins when asked and a parrot with remarkable language skills. He also raises some important issues, if animals do think, is it right for humans to judge their thought processes by our standards, and if we can't communicate with mammals that demonstrate high levels of intelligence, who knows what they think of us.

Could at sometime in the future we humans find the Rossetta Stone for animal communication and in so doing find out that their are other sentient beings on our planet who have rights that we should come to respect? If and when we do will we look back at man's treatment of other species as we look back today on human slavery? I don't know the answers, but I have a lot of questions.

NOVA | How Smart Are Animals?
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Old 08-16-2012, 10:54 PM
 
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Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think ("reason") from the ability to feel ("sentience"). In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences (described by some thinkers as "qualia"). For Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care. The concept is central to the philosophy of animal rights, because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, which entails certain rights. In science fiction, non-human characters described as "sentient" typically have similar abilities, qualities and rights as human beings.[citation needed]
Sentience - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



The only sentient being on planet Earth is Mankind. My vote for the first person to make first contact with an Earth bound sentient race like say the pirana would be the OP...
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Old 08-17-2012, 07:58 AM
 
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Mankind isn't sentient. Just go over to the politics forum to see what I mean.

I have, somewhere in my mess of stuff, some Kirlean photography I did years ago that indicates that PLANTS may have more sentience than we give them credit for. Even if you don't want to accept that, tropisms and self-defense mechanisms in plants are well documented, and both require some level of sentience, if only on a cell level.

The idea that animals didn't think was pretty common even into the 1960s. It took Skinner and Pavlov becoming more widely read for people to begin changing their minds, even though the concept is easily verified by personal observation.

Classic "sentience" is really just an extension of tropisms. If your goal is to never cause pain to another living thing, you are on the wrong planet. Pain is a part of existence, and G*d or nature has designed all life to experience pain at some level. You literally cannot survive without creating pain and causing death. If you don't agree with that, all of the other organisms that do will have you for lunch as you try to be kind to them.

The ethos of PETA doesn't belong in the science forum except perhaps as an example of neurosis, paranoia, and other challenges. To equate the organization to the ethics of abolitionists is less apt than equating it to the KKK which ultimately did more for public awareness through lynchings and other anti-social acts than by empathizing.

When a chicken comes up to me and says "I cluck, therefore I am" I'll consider saving it from the stewpot, so that I'll have someone intelligent to commiserate with over the state of humanity.
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Old 08-17-2012, 08:45 AM
 
31,372 posts, read 32,966,768 times
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Originally Posted by plwhit View Post
The only sentient being on planet Earth is Mankind. My vote for the first person to make first contact with an Earth bound sentient race like say the pirana would be the OP...
It never fails to amaze me how people can post a substantiation for their argument that actually disproves their argument.

First sentence from the link

"Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences."
Just a miniscule sampling of current research

ingentaconnect Not by Bread Alone: Symbolic Loss, Trauma, and Recovery in Elepha...

R.I.P. Dumbo | Discovering Animal Behaviour (2012)

In Search of Self: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Personhood - J. Wentzel Van Huyssteen, Erik P. Wiebe - Google Books

Elsevier

Introduction to the Symposium: Animal Consciousness: Historical, Theoretical, and Empirical Perspectives
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Old 08-17-2012, 08:59 AM
 
31,372 posts, read 32,966,768 times
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Originally Posted by harry chickpea View Post
The ethos of PETA doesn't belong in the science forum except perhaps as an example of neurosis, paranoia, and other challenges. To equate the organization to the ethics of abolitionists is less apt than equating it to the KKK which ultimately did more for public awareness through lynchings and other anti-social acts than by empathizing.
The discussion isn't about the ethos of PETA but whether or not our one arrogance blinded us to the scientific evidence regarding the intelligence of the other beings that we share this planet with. Because of the sense human exceptionalism we have ignored by assumption, an area of evolutionary biology that could be of great benefit to the understanding of our own intelligence but that of other species.
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Old 08-17-2012, 10:29 AM
 
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By placing PETA in the thread title, and asking the question you did, you did make it a topic as part of the discussion. I might have chosen a different thread title without the baggage that the organization brings to any discussion.

When you bring up ethics - as in a comparison to abolitionists - and a topic that has obvious animal rights overtones, ignoring the major players in such debates is ignoring the elephant in the room. As I mentioned, Skinner and Pavlov had been exposing issues for years before any such organizations came around. To ignore them and dismiss their research is to ignore another couple of elephants.

The intelligence of other species is no longer in doubt for many of us. The question area is more along the lines of "what level of intelligence is in existence in various species?" Lilly and others have done extensive dolphin research. I've read a bit from his research. Aside from military training, that hasn't gone very far. Having been around the dolphin handlers at a Miami facility, the general consensus I seemed to get was that they are fairly intelligent, but REALLY into sex and social dominance. (Maybe they should run for office? )

I have commented for years that housecats would likely be a great way of studying and categorizing (sorry for the pun) personality traits in humans. As individuals, they have many idiosyncrasies that seem to mimic similar ones in humans, and are easily examined.

When you suggest that evolutionary intelligence might be better understood by working with animal intelligence, I'm not so sure that the gains there would be anything near as large as the gains in understanding social interactions, and reactions to stress. Intelligence seems only peripheral to those aspects of life in some cases.
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