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Studying Animal Minds to Understand Ourselves


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#1    ambelamba

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 12:34 AM

Actually I do.

I believe that at least mammals share basic cognitive processes. Maybe it's just me but I think studying animal psychology to understand human mind is practically useless in scriptural worldview.

But I think whoever created us made everything in same principle, including humans. There are patterns everywhere and I don't think it's just coincidental, and I believe that the truth is more complicated than the conventional religions explain. Or just like Buddhism teaches, studying the origin of things might not be important at all.

Anyway, I think studying animal behaviors gives us a valuable insight to our own nature and behaviors.

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#2    Ashotep

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 12:43 AM

Maybe up to a certain point.


#3    and then

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 01:44 AM

On a purely physical level I guess.  But I have never heard of any proof that animals are self aware.  If they are then I think it would be very sad for them.

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#4    redhen

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 04:21 AM

View Postand then, on 25 March 2013 - 01:44 AM, said:

On a purely physical level I guess.  But I have never heard of any proof that animals are self aware.  If they are then I think it would be very sad for them.

Here's a list of non-human animals that are self-aware;

Ethology is a mature field of science. Is it really surprising to find that other species share the same emotions and behaviour that we do? Darwin wrote about these similarities in 1872, and much progress has been made since then. Likewise, our morality is built on eons of evolution in other species.


#5    Mr Walker

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 01:10 PM

View Postredhen, on 25 March 2013 - 04:21 AM, said:

Here's a list of non-human animals that are self-aware;

Ethology is a mature field of science. Is it really surprising to find that other species share the same emotions and behaviour that we do? Darwin wrote about these similarities in 1872, and much progress has been made since then. Likewise, our morality is built on eons of evolution in other species.
As you are aware i disagree with this assumption. Without human level self awareness and language, including symbolic and intellectuall awarenesses which other animals do not possess, they cannot have similar   "emotions". We do share basic biological reponses an d some conditionings but these are not emotions as humans understand an experince them. As primates we share quite a few things with other primates.

But we are a grand canyon away form other animals in terms of cognitive and thus emotional awareness The separation in evolutionalry terms is at least 100000 years on the timetable of human evolution. No  non human animal has ever proven to dispay levels of awareness greater than a four year old child for example, and most human children pass the mirror test before they turn 2. That most certainly does not represent the scope or nature of adult human potential and ability. While the four year old can, and will, learn adult human level emotional responses, other animals simply lack the capacity to do so even as adults.

Darwin understood how animal behaviour is a conditioned  and evolved response, but adult humans are not limited to conditioned responses, either biological or environmental. Because we can think as we do including logical and imaginative thought, we have a multitude of other options available to us. We learn some of these and they can be relearned and discarded. We have choices  in our emotional responses and repertoire, that no other animal has and thus repsonsibilities that no other animals have. Our  morality has little if anything at al to do with evolved properties Human morality is a construct reliant on language, symbolism, and levels of sapience unique to humans. We are capable of the sophistication of thought required to construct and hold such moralities, only because we have the language skills required for such internal thought processes.

They rely on non physical, artificial  and intellectual/mental constructs and ideas which other animals do not and cannot possess due to a lack of sohisticated language skills. Without sophisticated language an entity simply cannot develop sophisticated thought processes.

As no other animal displays a language anywhere near approaching the sophistication of human language, we can KNOW that other animals can't  form or hold the same type of emotions that humans do.
So, in summary. A handful of animals may have the same self awreness as a pre- two year old human being. A study of such humans will indicate that they do not possess full human emotional range and responses either, and certainly not the speech capacity and thought process to aquire them. The difference is, that they will grow into these abilities. Other animals will not, until they evolve further.

Edited by Mr Walker, 25 March 2013 - 01:23 PM.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#6    Sherapy

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 03:35 PM

View PostMr Walker, on 25 March 2013 - 01:10 PM, said:

As you are aware i disagree with this assumption. Without human level self awareness and language, including symbolic and intellectuall awarenesses which other animals do not possess, they cannot have similar   "emotions". We do share basic biological reponses an d some conditionings but these are not emotions as humans understand an experince them. As primates we share quite a few things with other primates.

But we are a grand canyon away form other animals in terms of cognitive and thus emotional awareness The separation in evolutionalry terms is at least 100000 years on the timetable of human evolution. No  non human animal has ever proven to dispay levels of awareness greater than a four year old child for example, and most human children pass the mirror test before they turn 2. That most certainly does not represent the scope or nature of adult human potential and ability. While the four year old can, and will, learn adult human level emotional responses, other animals simply lack the capacity to do so even as adults.

Darwin understood how animal behaviour is a conditioned  and evolved response, but adult humans are not limited to conditioned responses, either biological or environmental. Because we can think as we do including logical and imaginative thought, we have a multitude of other options available to us. We learn some of these and they can be relearned and discarded. We have choices  in our emotional responses and repertoire, that no other animal has and thus repsonsibilities that no other animals have. Our  morality has little if anything at al to do with evolved properties Human morality is a construct reliant on language, symbolism, and levels of sapience unique to humans. We are capable of the sophistication of thought required to construct and hold such moralities, only because we have the language skills required for such internal thought processes.

They rely on non physical, artificial  and intellectual/mental constructs and ideas which other animals do not and cannot possess due to a lack of sohisticated language skills. Without sophisticated language an entity simply cannot develop sophisticated thought processes.

As no other animal displays a language anywhere near approaching the sophistication of human language, we can KNOW that other animals can't  form or hold the same type of emotions that humans do.
So, in summary. A handful of animals may have the same self awreness as a pre- two year old human being. A study of such humans will indicate that they do not possess full human emotional range and responses either, and certainly not the speech capacity and thought process to aquire them. The difference is, that they will grow into these abilities. Other animals will not, until they evolve further.


Mw, there  is a whole field on this subject it is called Ethology, you might be surprised to learn at how much animals have in common with humans.


http://plato.stanfor...s/moral-animal/
"But which capacities mark out all and only humans as the kinds of beings that can be wronged? A number of candidate capacities have been proposed—developing family ties, solving social problems, expressing emotions, starting wars, having sex for pleasure, using language, or thinking abstractly, are just a few. As it turns out, none of these activities is uncontroversially unique to human. Both scholarly and popular work on animal behavior suggests that many of the activities that are thought to be distinct to humans occurs in non-humans. For example, many species of non-humans develop long lasting kinship ties—orangutan mothers stay with their young for eight to ten years and while they eventually part company, they continue to maintain their relationships. Less solitary animals, such as chimpanzees, baboons, wolves, and elephants maintain extended family units built upon complex individual relationships, for long periods of time. Meerkats in the Kalahari desert are known to sacrifice their own safety by staying with sick or injured family members so that the fatally ill will not die alone. All animals living in socially complex groups must solve various problems that inevitably arise in such groups. Canids and primates are particularly adept at it, yet even chickens and horses are known to recognize large numbers of individuals in their social hierarchies and to maneuver within them. One of the ways that non-human animals negotiate their social environments is by being particularly attentive to the emotional states of others around them. When a conspecific is angry, it is a good idea to get out of his way. Animals that develop life-long bonds are known to suffer terribly from the death of their partners. Some are even said to die of sorrow. Darwin reported this in The Descent of Man: “So intense is the grief of female monkeys for the loss of their young, that it invariably caused the death of certain kinds.” Jane Goodall's report of the death of the healthy 8 year old chimpanzee Flint just three weeks after the death of his mother Flo also suggests that sorrow can have a devastating effect on non-human animals. (see Goodall 2000, p. 140-141 in Bekoff 2000). Coyotes, elephants and killer whales are also among the species for which profound effects of grief have been reported (Bekoff 2000) and many dog owners can provide similar accounts. While the lives of many, perhaps most, non-humans in the wild are consumed with struggle for survival, aggression and battle, there are some non-humans whose lives are characterized by expressions of joy, playfulness, and a great deal of sex (Woods, 2010). Recent studies in cognitive ethology have suggested that some non-humans engage in manipulative and deceptive activity, can construct “cognitive maps” for navigation, and some non-humans appear to understand symbolic representation and are able to use language.[1] It appears then that most of the capacities that are thought to distinguish humans as morally considerable beings, have been observed, often in less elaborate form, in the non-human world. Because human behavior and cognition share deep roots with the behavior and cognition of other animals, approaches that try to find sharp behavioral or cognitive boundaries between humans and other animals remain controversial. For this reason, attempts to establish human uniqueness by identifying certain capacities, like those discussed in this paragraph and perhaps others, are not the most promising when it comes to thinking hard about the moral status of animals."

Edited by Sherapy, 25 March 2013 - 03:36 PM.




#7    J. K.

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 03:49 PM

There is some sort of thinking capacity going on.  One of my cats, who likes to escape out of the house, has learned to hide under a table by the door when I come in with groceries, knowing there will be an opportunity to dart out.  Also, my roommate says my dogs start whining at the door just before I turn the corner onto our cul-de-sac.  Some animals do have something going on upstairs.

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#8    Purplos

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 04:41 PM

I certainly think that animals have some thought processes, emotions, etc. that are like humans, but I really don't get the point of studying them.

If you want to know about human behavior, get out in the world and start interacting with people with an open but analytical mind. Same with animals. You could probably learn more about a dog, or a man, or whatever, by hanging out with them for an afternoon than you could by reading studies.

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#9    GreenmansGod

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 08:30 PM

A brain is a brain. I think there is a lot we can learn from our kindred about ourselves.

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#10    Mr Walker

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 11:50 PM

View PostSherapy, on 25 March 2013 - 03:35 PM, said:

Mw, there  is a whole field on this subject it is called Ethology, you might be surprised to learn at how much animals have in common with humans.


http://plato.stanfor...s/moral-animal/
"But which capacities mark out all and only humans as the kinds of beings that can be wronged? A number of candidate capacities have been proposed—developing family ties, solving social problems, expressing emotions, starting wars, having sex for pleasure, using language, or thinking abstractly, are just a few. As it turns out, none of these activities is uncontroversially unique to human. Both scholarly and popular work on animal behavior suggests that many of the activities that are thought to be distinct to humans occurs in non-humans. For example, many species of non-humans develop long lasting kinship ties—orangutan mothers stay with their young for eight to ten years and while they eventually part company, they continue to maintain their relationships. Less solitary animals, such as chimpanzees, baboons, wolves, and elephants maintain extended family units built upon complex individual relationships, for long periods of time. Meerkats in the Kalahari desert are known to sacrifice their own safety by staying with sick or injured family members so that the fatally ill will not die alone. All animals living in socially complex groups must solve various problems that inevitably arise in such groups. Canids and primates are particularly adept at it, yet even chickens and horses are known to recognize large numbers of individuals in their social hierarchies and to maneuver within them. One of the ways that non-human animals negotiate their social environments is by being particularly attentive to the emotional states of others around them. When a conspecific is angry, it is a good idea to get out of his way. Animals that develop life-long bonds are known to suffer terribly from the death of their partners. Some are even said to die of sorrow. Darwin reported this in The Descent of Man: “So intense is the grief of female monkeys for the loss of their young, that it invariably caused the death of certain kinds.” Jane Goodall's report of the death of the healthy 8 year old chimpanzee Flint just three weeks after the death of his mother Flo also suggests that sorrow can have a devastating effect on non-human animals. (see Goodall 2000, p. 140-141 in Bekoff 2000). Coyotes, elephants and killer whales are also among the species for which profound effects of grief have been reported (Bekoff 2000) and many dog owners can provide similar accounts. While the lives of many, perhaps most, non-humans in the wild are consumed with struggle for survival, aggression and battle, there are some non-humans whose lives are characterized by expressions of joy, playfulness, and a great deal of sex (Woods, 2010). Recent studies in cognitive ethology have suggested that some non-humans engage in manipulative and deceptive activity, can construct “cognitive maps” for navigation, and some non-humans appear to understand symbolic representation and are able to use language.[1] It appears then that most of the capacities that are thought to distinguish humans as morally considerable beings, have been observed, often in less elaborate form, in the non-human world. Because human behavior and cognition share deep roots with the behavior and cognition of other animals, approaches that try to find sharp behavioral or cognitive boundaries between humans and other animals remain controversial. For this reason, attempts to establish human uniqueness by identifying certain capacities, like those discussed in this paragraph and perhaps others, are not the most promising when it comes to thinking hard about the moral status of animals."
I have bben reading many disciplines on this issue for years, because the development of human thought/cognitve process, and also speech, has always been an interest of mine form early childhood, and was part of my university studies.

There are biological and "sociological" ie learned, drivers found in common in other animals, especially other primates, and human beings; BUT, thought and language at human level are inextricably entwined. It is the ability to think in speech form and form abstract /symbolic concepts based on speech symbols, which gives humans both an intellectual /self realised component to all their emotions, AND thus  anabilty to choose, control, and adapt both their emotional responses and the physiological component of those ressonses.

  Other animals simply can not do this, and no scientist really say that they can because there is no scientific evidence tha tthey can.. Science looks at the "animalistic"  nature and behaviour of humans which is a part of our evolutionary history, and common ground with all animals.

But when humans became self aware, (probably over 100000 years ago) developed language and hence the ability for abstract and conceptual thought, they became very different to any other species.

We must recognise and understand that, to do justice to  ourselves, and to take responsibility for our role as carers and protectors of the earth's biosphere and ecosystem. No other animal can do so.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#11    Mr Walker

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 11:58 PM

View PostDarkwind, on 25 March 2013 - 08:30 PM, said:

A brain is a brain. I think there is a lot we can learn from our kindred about ourselves.
I agree. All knowledge advances us, and this is very true.

But i would point out that, while we can learn a huge amount from other animals (and from a study of ourselves ) what other animlas can intellectually learn from us (or from each other) is very limited. We can condition them, but teach them symbolic and abstract ideas? Only very rarely. It is not the human brain which distinguishes us but our evolved capacity to use it, and especially the combination of speech and opposable thumbs which has made humans different.

There is considerable evidence that the ability to manipulate objects using fine motor skills has also helped humans, and to a lesser extent other primates, evolve more sophisticated thinking abilities, because such manipulation both requires and encourages associated cognitive development and evolution.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.




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