Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness

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Double Retired
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19 Apr 2024, 12:53 pm

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

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Bees play by rolling wooden balls — apparently for fun. The cleaner wrasse fish appears to recognize its own visage in an underwater mirror. Octopuses seem to react to anesthetic drugs and will avoid settings where they likely experienced past pain.

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 has prompted a group of top researchers on animal cognition to publish a new pronouncement that they hope will transform how scientists and society view — and care — for animals.

Nearly 40 researchers signed “The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness,” which was first presented at a conference at New York University on Friday morning. It marks a pivotal moment, as a flood of research on animal cognition collides with debates over how various species ought to be treated.

The declaration says there is “strong scientific support” that birds and mammals have conscious experience, and a “realistic possibility” of consciousness for all vertebrates — including reptiles, amphibians and fish. That possibility extends to many creatures without backbones, it adds, such as insects, decapod crustaceans (including crabs and lobsters) and cephalopod mollusks, like squid, octopus and cuttlefish.

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


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funeralxempire
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19 Apr 2024, 1:51 pm

I feel like no s**t should be the default response. Most people who've interacted with animals have probably concluded they possess their own inner lives and consciousness.


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bee33
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19 Apr 2024, 2:20 pm

Fascinating stuff.



autisticelders
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20 Apr 2024, 8:19 am

this has been the claim for all living things, plants of all sorts as well. lots of papers about it now for many years.


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MagicMeerkat
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23 Apr 2024, 5:11 pm

The real question is do humans experience empathy


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17 Jun 2024, 12:04 pm

"Are animals conscious? How new research is changing minds"

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Charles Darwin enjoys a near god-like status among scientists for his theory of evolution. But his ideas that animals are conscious in the same way humans are have long been shunned. Until now.

"There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery," Darwin wrote.

But his suggestion that animals think and feel was seen as scientific heresy among many, if not most animal behaviour experts.

Attributing consciousness to animals based on their responses was seen as a cardinal sin. The argument went that projecting human traits, feelings, and behaviours onto animals had no scientific basis and there was no way of testing what goes on in animals’ minds.

But if new evidence emerges of animals’ abilities to feel and process what is going on around them, could that mean they are, in fact, conscious?

We now know that bees can count, recognise human faces and learn how to use tools.

Prof Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University of London has worked on many of the major studies of bee intelligence.

"If bees are that intelligent, maybe they can think and feel something, which are the building blocks of consciousness," he says.

Prof Chittka’s experiments showed that bees would modify their behaviour following a traumatic incident and seemed to be able to play, rolling small wooden balls, which he says they appeared to enjoy as an activity.

These results have persuaded one of the most influential and respected scientists in animal research to make this strong, stark and contentious statement:

"Given all the evidence that is on the table, it is quite likely that bees are conscious," he said.

It isn't just bees. Many say that it is now time to think again, with the emergence of new evidence they say marks a "sea change" in thinking on the science of animal consciousness.

They include Prof Jonathan Birch of the London School of Economics.

"We have researchers from different fields starting to dare to ask questions about animal consciousness and explicitly think about how their research might be relevant to those questions," says Prof Birch.

Anyone looking for a eureka moment will be disappointed.

Instead, a steady growth of evidence for a rethink has led to murmurings among the researchers involved. Now, many want a change in scientific thinking in the field.

What has been discovered may not amount to conclusive proof of animal consciousness, but taken together, it is enough to suggest that there is "a realistic possibility" that animals are capable of consciousness, according to Prof Birch.

This applies not only to what are known as higher animals such as apes and dolphins who have reached a more advanced stage of development than other animals. It also applies to simpler creatures, such as snakes, octopuses, crabs, bees and possibly even fruit flies, according to the group, who want funding for more research to determine whether animals are conscious, and if so, to what extent.

But if you're wondering what we even mean by consciousness, you're not alone. It’s something scientists can’t even agree on.


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MoeTrashPanda
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17 Jun 2024, 3:27 pm

Man, I was a vegetarian from 2016-2022, but started eating fish 2022-present... Maybe I need to stop eating fish and go back to full on vegetarian =( I feels bad!


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28 Jun 2024, 10:25 pm

Double Retired wrote:
"Are animals conscious? How new research is changing minds"
Quote:
Charles Darwin enjoys a near god-like status among scientists for his theory of evolution. But his ideas that animals are conscious in the same way humans are have long been shunned. Until now.


Actually the hindu-dharmic concept of ahimsa (do no harm) stems from the long held belief that all living beings have a consciousness. It not only feeds into the indigenous practice of vegetarianism (which predates hinduism in India) but extreme practices by Jains who do not consume food that has been stored overnight, as it possesses a higher concentration of micro-organisms (for example, bacteria, yeast etc.).

Darwin's ideas were used by William James who proposed animals evolved a brain for functional adaptation to the environment and this spawned the behaviouralist school of psychology where animals behaviour could be modelled to humans as animals and humans evolved to adapt to their environment, therefore their brains are naturally similar in terms of functional adaptation.

these ideas leading to ideas about consciousness were of course antithetical to Christian beliefs that only humans have an immortal soul and god gave man license to do what he wished to fish and foul. Further western philosophers, ethicists and "men of science" weren't going to give up using animals as economic means to wealth and power or stop enjoying a nice steak. Hence little credence was paid to animals (or for that matter even plants) having human like responses such as pain or pleasure.



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29 Jun 2024, 2:36 am

"scientists" getting dummer and dummer

was there another possibility ? only in religion, probably

back to the fuutuur :mrgreen:



LittleBeach
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29 Jun 2024, 8:05 am

This is one of the reasons I find the theory of evolution so hard to get my head around. At what point of the evolutionary tree did consciousness evolve, and why? Where do you draw the line between conscious and not conscious?(Not saying that the theory of evolution is wrong, just that the emergence of consciousness is very hard to imagine)



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29 Jun 2024, 7:54 pm

LittleBeach wrote:
This is one of the reasons I find the theory of evolution so hard to get my head around. At what point of the evolutionary tree did consciousness evolve, and why? Where do you draw the line between conscious and not conscious?(Not saying that the theory of evolution is wrong, just that the emergence of consciousness is very hard to imagine)

Consciousness in the context of science is a neural based experience. So it's likely anything with a neural net is likely to experience pleasure or pain. Beyond that (plants and bacteria) more speculation. However, plants do react to being in the vicinity of animals/humans experiencing pain or even other plants getting cut. So yeah, where do you draw the line?



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29 Jun 2024, 8:43 pm

Double Retired wrote:
"Scientists push new paradigm of animal consciousness, saying even insects may be sentient"
Quote:
Bees play by rolling wooden balls — apparently for fun. The cleaner wrasse fish appears to recognize its own visage in an underwater mirror. Octopuses seem to react to anesthetic drugs and will avoid settings where they likely experienced past pain.

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 has prompted a group of top researchers on animal cognition to publish a new pronouncement that they hope will transform how scientists and society view — and care — for animals.

Nearly 40 researchers signed “The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness,” which was first presented at a conference at New York University on Friday morning. It marks a pivotal moment, as a flood of research on animal cognition collides with debates over how various species ought to be treated.

The declaration says there is “strong scientific support” that birds and mammals have conscious experience, and a “realistic possibility” of consciousness for all vertebrates — including reptiles, amphibians and fish. That possibility extends to many creatures without backbones, it adds, such as insects, decapod crustaceans (including crabs and lobsters) and cephalopod mollusks, like squid, octopus and cuttlefish.

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


More good reasons for laboratory meat, as that is not sentient and tastes just as good as the real thing...plus less likely to get diseses from meat that comes from sterile lab. But I can imagine even crabs having some awareness...one of my brothers had some hermit crabs and they would be a bit friendly and also jumping spiders seem quite aware. I even had one that was seeming to play with me because it crawled onto the arm of a chair I was sitting on, then when I looked at it it bungeed away, only to appear on the other chair arm and when I looked at it again it jumped back over to the other side I sort of felt like I had a spider pet for a while cause it still just hung out after a few rounds of hopping to each chair arm. Also there was a jumping spider that showed up in one of my windows, I tried to catch it and put it outside but every time it could see me coming with the cup before I even moved so evaded capture every time. So then I looked on the internet of how I could put the spider outside, and apparently with jumping spiders for sure if they got in they can get back out when they want. So then I just left it alone and it did leave eventually. Mostly I was worried it was trapped because otherwise it was a cool spider and I didn't mind it staying for a while, but just didn't want it to starve.

Also I have been looking at a subreddit called r/spiderbros to sort of desensitize myself to other spiders, as I am cool with jumping spiders and big spiders like tarantulas but a lot of others creep me out still. But people will post cuteish pictures of spiders and it kind of helps seeing even the more creepy ones are still animals and maybe the first response should not be to smash it with a shoe or whatever. Like it might be scared of the big giant stomping at it and it can't help that it has 8 legs and looks off-putting to the giants.


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