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Rlyeh

Are humans special?

241 posts in this topic

Many bird species not only have a lifetime partner but return to the precise nest every year Do you also think that represents a form of sentimentality and chosen behaviour, or do you accpet it is inbuilt into their biology. As to the dogs behaviour. Dogs can scent cadavers deep under ground, and many are trained to do this.They also recognise individual scents from tiny traces and are alsos used for that purpose There is a simple explanation for why a dog might sit by its masters grave. It can still smelll traces of him.

Not being a biologist, I can only guess, but I would say returning to the same nest is an ingrained behaviour passed down from parent to child over generations. But choosing the same partner - don't you think that completley goes against biology/evolution and the need to pass on one's genes?

As for the dogs, yes they have good noses, but if it were merely a case of them smelling their master underground, why don't you hear more examples of dogs doing this? Why aren't graveyards full of dogs wandering around trying to track down the scent of dead humans? Why did Hachiko return to the train station every day for 9 years after his master's death when his master's body clearly wasn't there? Why did Constantine return to the site of the accident that killed his human family for 7 years? They clearly weren't there and any scent would have long dissipated. Why did my cat Tonks mourn for her friend for months and then the night she died, only respond to the mention of his name? Like I said, just because we don't speak their language, doesn't mean they don't have language.

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Human level self awareness is the benchmark by which to compare other forms of awareness WITH human level awareness. We are discussing if we are special and if our rweasoing and awareness is differnt to all other animlas that makes us ipso facto special (unique in fact)

As far as we know. This is the Unsolved Mysteries website after all. Ok, I'll grant you that we are the only living species unique in this respect. But not special, as in from another galaxy.

There is no EVIDENCE for human level altruism in animals. Observation of behaviour and human imputation is not accepetable scientific evidence for anything. Concrete physicla evidence resulting form such an awareness and or brain scans showing identicla brain activity during the commision of an act would constitute evidence As far as I am aware no such evidence exists.

Latest of a string of findings; http://www.livescien...ells-found.html

The abstract with experiment diagrams http://www.nature.co...ll/nn.3287.html

(poor monkeys, why do they have to keep doing these lab experiments just to prove the commonsensical)

I would suggest it cannot, because of other animals inability to form conceptual symbolic and linguistic thought structures required to be altruistic

There's your prejudice again, and your limited sense of the word altruism.

I could give away al my assets to the poor ,but if i was doing so in the hope of getting to some form of heaven, then that would not be an act of altruism.

Agreed.

p.s. looking at other coverage of the same report I see some interesting editing. Some are shortened summaries or highlights but others seem to have a slant. For example this Catholic site printed it almost verbatim but left out these lines near the bottom; "Platt speculates that this region may operate similarly in humans and may encode vicarious experiences when others are happy or sad."

Edited by redhen

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Is the human animal, God's greatest creation?

Looking at this again and seeing the responses this is getting, the topic is really asking people what their belief systems are and how humans are seen in them. However, by saying "God's greatest creation", it seems to imply the context applies to the Yahweh belief system (and sytems derived from it).

In the Yahweh belief system humans are certainly special. As others mentioned, Yahweh created man in his image. Not being an expert, I'm not sure were angels fall in the equation, but I don't think anyone knows. As far as earthly creatures, 'yes' we are the most special in that system. Genesis seems pretty clear about us. Which is why our scientific progress leading us to find exactly how insignificant we are (and how inaccurate those ancient writings are) should be a cause for worry for those religious institutions.

If Yahweh is taken out of the equation, it depends of the belief system. For an atheist, there might be nothing special about any animal. Matter reorganizing itself into a virtually infinite number of ways is bound to find a sentient form - not to say that form is any better than any other. All that species seek is to propagate their gene pool. Bacteria might outlive us.

For most major religions in history humans are considered very special. The epitomy being Karmanauts - the whole universe is created specifically for Karmanaut. As Karmanaut I can corroborate this fact.

Arguing how humans are seen in my belief system with someone with another is the same as comparing apples to oranges.

In the belief system I'm most impartial to, the universe as a simulation (which is still atheistic), there may be nothing special about humans, it's impossible to tell.

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Yes, because we're the only living thing created in his image.

Where does the Bible say we're the only living thing created in his image, besides what is his image?

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Mr Walker

As to the dogs behaviour. Dogs can scent cadavers deep under ground, and many are trained to do this.They also recognise individual scents from tiny traces and are alsos used for that purpose There is a simple explanation for why a dog might sit by its masters grave. It can still smelll traces of him.

Full marks for explaining what isn't in dispute, that the dog has found the right place.

Accepting your explanation, then the dog also knows that the person is dead. So, we are left with what is in dispute: why the dog stations himself or herself. Apparently, you aspire to do this explaining without attributing mental states to the dog, mental states which are fairly comparable with those we know about because we experience them in times of grief or remembrance.

To be perfectly candid, I don't even see any point to the attempt, much less agree that dogs lack mental states, some of them comparable with my own.

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Where does the Bible say we're the only living thing created in his image, besides what is his image?

Not to speak for hillbilly, but I imagine he means the only things on Earth. Interesting to think others look like us elsewhere in the universe though. Could this be a Star Trek universe where everyone looks human-ish?

His "image" has always been historically associate with appearance, but in our modern age that notion seems ridiculous. However, since we're delving in the un-provable, so what if we're supposed to look like him/her/it? Maybe it's the form he/she/it had a billion years ago when he/she/it developed in his/her/it's own world/universe/realm of existence. Since we're talking about magic, why couldn't evolution have been skewed to match the appearance?

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His "image" has always been historically associate with appearance, but in our modern age that notion seems ridiculous.

Theologically it's incompatible with a God who is not male or female but instead a spirit being. Perhaps consider the "image" as a mark of ownership. When the Pharisees asked Jesus whether they should pay taxes Jesus tells them to show him a coin and then asks whose "image" is on it. It was Caesar's image, denoting ownership. If we are in the image of God perhaps it is a statement that God "owns" humans in a way that other animals are not.

Alternatively, consider a statue erected in towns depicting the king or emperor denoting authority and kingship. If we are made in God's image in the same way as a statue is in a king's image, then this image is intended to convey mankind's authority to rule over the land. This is backed up by the Bible when it says "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule....." (Genesis 1:26).

I'm leaning towards the second view, but the first has its merits also. There are other ways to look at it also, but these are the two most theologically consistent suggestions I have found. Just a thought :)

~ Regards, PA

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Theologically it's incompatible with a God who is not male or female but instead a spirit being. Perhaps consider the "image" as a mark of ownership. When the Pharisees asked Jesus whether they should pay taxes Jesus tells them to show him a coin and then asks whose "image" is on it. It was Caesar's image, denoting ownership. If we are in the image of God perhaps it is a statement that God "owns" humans in a way that other animals are not.

Alternatively, consider a statue erected in towns depicting the king or emperor denoting authority and kingship. If we are made in God's image in the same way as a statue is in a king's image, then this image is intended to convey mankind's authority to rule over the land. This is backed up by the Bible when it says "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule....." (Genesis 1:26).

I'm leaning towards the second view, but the first has its merits also. There are other ways to look at it also, but these are the two most theologically consistent suggestions I have found. Just a thought :)

~ Regards, PA

I'm saying that's a fairly modern notion. There are bible verses that talk about his eyes and hair. The context of "created man in his image; male and female he created them" (paraphrasing) seems more likeness to me. The modern urge to find alternate ways to interpret it is because of our more evolved view of the universe.

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I'm saying that's a fairly modern notion. There are bible verses that talk about his eyes and hair. The context of "created man in his image; male and female he created them" (paraphrasing) seems more likeness to me. The modern urge to find alternate ways to interpret it is because of our more evolved view of the universe.

The Hebrews always had a notion of God as a spirit-entity, not human and certainly not male or female (though he is presented with male characteristics). It is theologically impossible that we are created in God's image in a physical sense of two arms and legs, a head, a brain, sexual reproductive organs, etc. So I would argue that the original writers had a different thought in mind. And since I seem to be in a discussion with you on Genesis 1 in another thread, I discussed there the reasons for Genesis 1 being written and would submit the idea that the author intended it to present a theological issue. As the text is written to convey that Yahweh is supreme and different to the gods of other nations, so too is the comment about humans conveying that we are different to other animals. And to take us back to the thread topic, that we are "special" and have been granted authority over the world in which we live.

That's my take on it based on my reading of scripture :tu:

~ Regards, PA

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And to take us back to the thread topic, that we are "special" and have been granted authority over the world in which we live.

~ Regards, PA

You might think that right up until you are face to face with a lion or the eye wall of a hurricane.

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As far as we know. This is the Unsolved Mysteries website after all. Ok, I'll grant you that we are the only living species unique in this respect. But not special, as in from another galaxy.

Latest of a string of findings; http://www.livescien...ells-found.html

The abstract with experiment diagrams http://www.nature.co...ll/nn.3287.html

(poor monkeys, why do they have to keep doing these lab experiments just to prove the commonsensical)

There's your prejudice again, and your limited sense of the word altruism.

Agreed.

p.s. looking at other coverage of the same report I see some interesting editing. Some are shortened summaries or highlights but others seem to have a slant. For example this Catholic site printed it almost verbatim but left out these lines near the bottom; "Platt speculates that this region may operate similarly in humans and may encode vicarious experiences when others are happy or sad."

The brain cell activity is gettng closer to acceptable evidence But unfortunately it doesnt really explain the causation of the behaviour, or the monkeys thought processes, it just shows that one part of the brain fires when an animal gives away food, which does not fire when an animal receives food. We know from modern brain imaging that every thought and every word, as well as every action, causes, or is the consequence of, individualised and identifiable brain activity, so yes giving away food would have a singular brain pattern associated with it, but that doesn't go to, WHY the animal gives away the food.

I agree "my" definitionof altruism limits what can be sen as altruism, but there you are Some modern definitions of altruism include apparent altruistic behaviours. This is, in part, a deliberate and conscious reworking of the traditional definition and understanding of the nature of altruism sometimes motivated by a desire to include animal behaviour in the same category as human behaviours.

Many dictionaries and online definitions, however, still maintain that altruism must include a conscious awareness of, and selfless motivation for, an act. I think these definitions below expalin our differnce of opinion

What is altruism?

Altruism
- the principle or practice of unselfish concern; devotion to the welfare of others.

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What is altruism?

The word
altruism
(noun) means: unselfish concern for the welfare of others without ulterior motive.

what is altruism?

Altruism
- the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

What is altruism

Altruism
:1.Unselfish concern for welfare of others/selflessness.
2.Zoology:Instinctive behavior detrimental to indiv. but contributes 2 species survival.

al·tru·ism (
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n.

1. Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.

2.
Zoology
Instinctive behavior that is detrimental to the individual but favors the survival or spread of that individual's genes, as by benefiting its relatives.

Indeed the last definition includes animal behaviour BUT has nothing to do with human type awareness and sapience. It clearly defines animal altruisitic
acts
as INSTINCTIVE behaviour. As i have been saying all along, this is not human type altruism and does not indicate human level thought patterns, self awareness or sapience.

If you read the wiki pedia article on altruism you clearly see the nature of human altruism. However some behavioural scientists and others argue that, in humans, altruism is an innate instinctive evolved act .

That is clealry untrue when you look at the nature of human cognitive thought, language, self awareness etc.

Self aware sapience creates a unique and inevitable discontinuity from evolved behavioural responses. It allows our mind, via belief phiosophy knolwedge of consequence and time, ethics moralities imagination /extrapolation etc to CREATE our own choices of response to any situation.

It removes the biological, genetic and environmental imperatives from us as determinants of our behaviour, by our awreness of them, and our abilty to chose alternative behaviours via thought. And so, while perhaps made capable by evolved biology, altruism, human love, and hate, are chosen behaviours, thoughts and responses, which can all be modified by cognitive and deliberate will. I do not have to hate the man who kills my brother. I can chose to love him.

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I couldn't resist.

post-7739-0-17927100-1357860252_thumb.jp

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Mr Walker

Full marks for explaining what isn't in dispute, that the dog has found the right place.

Accepting your explanation, then the dog also knows that the person is dead. So, we are left with what is in dispute: why the dog stations himself or herself. Apparently, you aspire to do this explaining without attributing mental states to the dog, mental states which are fairly comparable with those we know about because we experience them in times of grief or remembrance.

To be perfectly candid, I don't even see any point to the attempt, much less agree that dogs lack mental states, some of them comparable with my own.

A "mental state" can mean many things All mammals probably have similar evolved mental abilities, and thus states, up to a certain point, and certain primates even more specific and common abilities and states.

But where language enables; conceptual/ symbolic thought, and greatly incresed sophistication and specialisation of thought, including awreness of time, the difference betwen death and life, and the permanence of death; as well as the nature of cause and effect, the ability to extrapolate etc, then humans begin to separate from all other animlas on earth.

What is "sadness" or "grief" or "suffering" Humans make up these words to describe how THEY feel. And how they feel inevitably includes intellectual emotional responses based on knowledge and understandings. We know this because we can use intellect to moderate our feelings/emotional responses, eliminate them, or alter them at will. We can even effectively moderate our perception of pain by self aware will.

How are these states/abilities similar and different in humans and other animals? Good questions, but an animal lacking human cognitive awareness cannot have truly similar mental states to one which does, because our "mental state" includes a lot of that cognitive awareness as feedback within it, as well as socially conditioned/ learned responses .

Ie children learn how to love, hate, grieve, feel empathy, etc from others through language, as well as behaviour. They learn how they are expected to feel, mentally and physically, and how they are expected to behave. These expectations, because of our shared linguistic abilities, can be quite specific, detailed and powerful. They also become very "cultural specific" in many instances.

I suspect, in part, this explains why human children up to about four years of age are very similar to some advanced non human animals in their; mental states, cognitive awareness, and responses.

No i dont know that an animal can know someone is dead. I am not sure that an animal can understand the nature of death or its basic differnce from life.

This understanding, at an intellectual level, requires quite advanced thought/cognitive awareness. This would explain why some animals care for and hold their young until they begin to decompose. They do NOT recognise the difference between life and death.

We had an orangutan at the adelaide zoo just give birth to a still born baby with the umbilcal cord choking it. She held the baby and would not part with it for some time, until the keepers had to remove it in time to be able to do an autopsy on it.

Did she know it was dead; did she even have a concept for something like death? I dont know, and i doubt anyone knows, but without human level thought, based on human level linguistics, it is probably impossible. What would she eventually have done withe baby when it began to smell and deteriorate.? The zoo keepers explained that, unlike a human, she will not suffer any long term trauma over this event. They know this because this is about the fifth baby she has lost and none have survived until birth

You can bet she is not thinking, "Am i a bad mother, why is god punishing me, should i even try to have another baby I cant stand the thought of another child dieing." She is not even thinking, "What is wrong with me, what can i do to have a healthy child?" And so, no, her mental state is not the same as a human mothers.

Edited by Mr Walker

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I think the question is what is going on in my cat's head when she insist I go to bed and rest when I am danger of falling? I didn't train her to do that, she just does it. Why does the dog who loves her walk and cut it short to get me home before I know I am having an episode with my MS? There is some kind of thought going on in their heads. It might not be words, but they are making a decision for my benefit.

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You might think that right up until you are face to face with a lion or the eye wall of a hurricane.

Since humans invented a fire hardened spear, do you think more humans have been killed by lions, or lions by humans?

How has the relative population of humans and lions changed over time?

Cyclones are more problematic but our intelligence means if we are killed by one it is our choice. For example i willl never be killed by one because i will never visit, or live in, an area at risk.

I could have been killed by a bushfire but that also was my choice based on self aware decisons i had made. After all our fence posts had been burned in a similar fire in the 1970s which my wife and i watched and photographed, as it burned through the same area as the 2005 bushfire. At that time i was living and teaching 250 kilometers away form the area.

So I did a risk evaluation. We had 30 years of wonderful life in the home before it was burned to the ground. I think i made the right decision But I could have chosen to live in an area safe from bushfires also.

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You might think that right up until you are face to face with a lion or the eye wall of a hurricane.

If I wanted to go face-to-face with a lion I'd watch them perform for us at a circus. But I see what you are trying to say. The ability for the planet to kill us does not mean that we are not specially chosen by God. Just putting it out there :tu:

~ Regards, PA

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I agree "my" definitionof altruism limits what can be sen as altruism, but there you are Some modern definitions of altruism include apparent altruistic behaviours. This is, in part, a deliberate and conscious reworking of the traditional definition and understanding of the nature of altruism sometimes motivated by a desire to include animal behaviour in the same category as human behaviours.

A deliberate conspiracy? Anyways, when I hear altruistic, I associate that with act. I can have all the benevolent and charitable thoughts I want, but if I don't act on them, they're just fleeting thoughts.

There's lots of talk these days about mirror neurons. I posted this RSA video before, but Jeremy Rifkin explains mirror neurons and their implications in a very engaging and easy to understand style.

Another engaging but more technical explanation by the neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran at a TED talk.

[media=]

Humans are unique in some respects, but we don't have a monopoly on empathy or altruistic acts.

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A deliberate conspiracy? Anyways, when I hear altruistic, I associate that with act. I can have all the benevolent and charitable thoughts I want, but if I don't act on them, they're just fleeting thoughts.

There's lots of talk these days about mirror neurons. I posted this RSA video before, but Jeremy Rifkin explains mirror neurons and their implications in a very engaging and easy to understand style.

Another engaging but more technical explanation by the neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran at a TED talk.

[media=]

Humans are unique in some respects, but we don't have a monopoly on empathy or altruistic acts.

I'll just have to disagree, but allow that animals display behaviour which humans call altruistic, based on the secondary definition of altruism as a behaviour in animals, but at the same time recognise is not chosen but instinctive.

IMO, as you point out, one must chose a behaviour with altruistic motives for it to BE an act of altruism. We certainly apply this criteria to humans (see the primary definitions of altruism) and its seems disengenuous, illogical, and erroneous to apply a different criteria to animal behaviour.

This is the reverse to having altruistic thoughts but not acting on them. Only humans have the ability to have altruistic thoughts but certainly they also have the capacity not to act on any thought they have; from rape to murder, to charity.

Ps not a deliberate conspiracy, but the alteration of a word from common and traditional english usage to a specific disciplinary meaning. Ie the idea of altruistic acts in animals based on instinctive behaviour. Here true altruistic acts in humans are used as a model, andd when an animal acts in a certain/similar way it is called an altruistic act even thought it is merely a bilogical imperative. I argue an act cannot be altruistic unless it is motivated by conscious altruistic conceptualisation and choice. Nor can love or hate. Animals do not love or hate as humans do, either.

The love I have for my dog is made up of many intellectual components which he can never include in his attitude towards me. He cannot love me in the way that I love him. It is a physical impossibility.

Ps.

Brilliant first video, even though my computer is really getting too old to run those. I could have written it myself, it expresses my opinions so clearly, AND it makes my point perfectly. Humans develop the cognitive ability to feel empathy at about 8 years of age ( i would say it can happen earlier because it did for meperhaps because i was reading by age 2 .) BUT the most self aware non- human animals cognitive development only reaches that of about a 4 year old human.

I would say this makes it impossible for non human animals to achieve human level empathy and hence altruism.

Ps the mirror neuron effect is also important in language. It allows us to share words and connected images as well as abstract thoughts, concepts and symbols

A human mind does not distinguish, for example, between an image of paris hilton and the actual paris hilton, once an image and a name are attached to a single neuron in a human mind; and thus i can say the words "paris hilton" and any other person who already has the name/image stored in their brain, can conjure up an image of paris hilton which is identical, whether they saw her in the flesh or in a picure. This is true for any word /image be it physical or symbolic.

Edited by Mr Walker

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I'll just have to disagree, but allow that animals display behaviour which humans call altruistic, based on the secondary definition of altruism as a behaviour in animals, but at the same time recognise is not chosen but instinctive.

Ok, I will grant that humans can and do sometimes act altruistically only after much contemplation, something we don't see in non-human animals.

Brilliant first video ... it expresses my opinions so clearly, AND it makes my point perfectly. Humans develop the cognitive ability to feel empathy at about 8 years of age BUT the most self aware non- human animals cognitive development only reaches that of about a 4 year old human.

Yeah, not bad for an economist. I think both videos note that humans are both cognitively unique but only differ from other animals (especially other primates) by degrees not by kind. We share many similarities and I'm glad that you said earlier that other species could also evolve to our level given the opportunity and time. I think you and I are not so far apart in this debate.

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Is the human animal, God's greatest creation?

Easy answer,No.

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This is the reverse to having altruistic thoughts but not acting on them. Only humans have the ability to have altruistic thoughts but certainly they also have the capacity not to act on any thought they have; from rape to murder, to charity.

How do you know this? You seem to be basing this on the fact that animals can't speak to us in a way we can understand. That doesn't mean they don't have complex though processes.

Animals do not love or hate as humans do, either.

You should come to my place and watch our cat Crackerjack interact with our cat Merlin. Merlin is the second newest cat we got and Crackerjack HATES him. None of the other cats have any issues with him, so it's not that she senses something inherently wrong with him, i.e. an illness. She just hates him. She doesn't hate any of the other cats, including the newest cat Minou. Crackerjack was the first cat we got, and over the years we added 9 other cats (we're down to 6 now) and she NEVER acted this way towards any of them. What biological advantage would stalking and attacking him have to her? They eat in separate rooms as they are on different food, so it's not that. She is clearly the alpha cat and the others know it, so no reason to keep beating it in to him. Minou actualy challenges her way more than Merlin does, so why is she not attacking her?

And going back to my Tonks & Rye story - why did Tonks mourn for Rye if she didn't love him? She didn't mourn when our cat Artemis died and she got on quite well with him. What biological advantage would mourning the loss of Rye have to her?

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Mr Walker

This understanding, at an intellectual level, requires quite advanced thought/cognitive awareness. This would explain why some animals care for and hold their young until they begin to decompose. They do NOT recognise the difference between life and death.

You seem quite willing to make ambitious inferences from overt behavior, and yet you are correspondingly unwilling to entertain other possible inferences about the behavior.

Coincidentally, IRL (and for me it's winter here and now IRL), a friend's cat died last week. The cat, who was elderly, went outside one night, and didn't return. Conditions were mild enough that a night outside wasn't itself life threatening, and there was shelter available for her. The corpse was found by another cat, in a sheletred location, the next morning (FIW, that cat seemed to understand the difference in his companion's circumstances just fine).

The lady of the house, alerted to the situation by the surviving cat, retrieved the corpse and sat with it in her lap for two hours, in the expressed hope that when warmed, the cat would rise again. Only when the cat was both warm and immobile did the lady give up that hope.

The lady understands life and death. The correct explanation of her behavior is exactly that she DOES recognize the difference between them. Your conclusion about another animal doing the same as the woman stems entirely from your assumption that the other animal cannot hope.

I don't assume that deficit. On the contrary, I am confident that I have witnessed other animals anticipate a favorable outcome of an uncertainty. I have even seen, to my satisfaction, two animals disagree about the favorableness of an ucertainty. So, I don't conclude that animals who display persistence lack understanding of a fundamental and literally vital distinction.

As to your speculations about how a hypothetical human mother, held in captivity by another species for display as a tourist attraction, would react to losing her infant, I wouldn't know how that compares with this Orangutan's interior states. However, there is nothing in your story that suggests any lapse in the Orangutan's understanding of her situation. Human survivors don't always cooperate with local authorities' demands for autoposies of deceased family members, either. So what?

Edited by eight bits
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We need to define what we mean by 'special'.

Is it intelligence (which is a huge subject matter with many subsets)?

Is it abstract and symbolic thought processes?

Is it social and cultural complexity?

Is it complex communication systems (speech and eventually writing)?

Is it life-expectancy?

Is it the ability to use tools?

What exactly?

There are many species who have very complex brains, similar to that of humans. However, the capacity for speech and abstract/symbolic thought-processes have not been found to be as complex in any other species besides human beings. That is essentially what lead to the emergence of myth, religion, science, advanced technology, writing and complex social structure. So we are special in a number of ways...but then many species have gotten/evolved special traits that are mostly unique to them. Taken a weighted average I think human beings have capabilities that far outshine that of a common animal - IMO at least.

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Mr Walker

You seem quite willing to make ambitious inferences from overt behavior, and yet you are correspondingly unwilling to entertain other possible inferences about the behavior.

Coincidentally, IRL (and for me it's winter here and now IRL), a friend's cat died last week. The cat, who was elderly, went outside one night, and didn't return. Conditions were mild enough that a night outside wasn't itself life threatening, and there was shelter available for her. The corpse was found by another cat, in a sheletred location, the next morning (FIW, that cat seemed to understand the difference in his companion's circumstances just fine).

The lady of the house, alerted to the situation by the surviving cat, retrieved the corpse and sat with it in her lap for two hours, in the expressed hope that when warmed, the cat would rise again. Only when the cat was both warm and immobile did the lady give up that hope.

The lady understands life and death. The correct explanation of her behavior is exactly that she DOES recognize the difference between them. Your conclusion about another animal doing the same as the woman stems entirely from your assumption that the other animal cannot hope.

I don't assume that deficit. On the contrary, I am confident that I have witnessed other animals anticipate a favorable outcome of an uncertainty. I have even seen, to my satisfaction, two animals disagree about the favorableness of an ucertainty. So, I don't conclude that animals who display persistence lack understanding of a fundamental and literally vital distinction.

As to your speculations about how a hypothetical human mother, held in captivity by another species for display as a tourist attraction, would react to losing her infant, I wouldn't know how that compares with this Orangutan's interior states. However, there is nothing in your story that suggests any lapse in the Orangutan's understanding of her situation. Human survivors don't always cooperate with local authorities' demands for autoposies of deceased family members, either. So what?

I'm just going with the science. It is not an ambitious inference, but a modern scientific understanding/finding that human level thought is unique to humans, and is so because of our facility with complex language, including abstract and symbolic thought.

Tto me a person who observes animal behaviour and says it is based on human type awareness and cognitive process, is like a person who observes the natural world, and says it must have been created by god becaus ethe ydont understnd the science around evolution.

Modern science makes it clear that human level thought has a direct connection to human level language. We think to the level we can speak and vice versa.

Thus animals do not, and cannot, think in complex symbolic or abstract terms.

I have not read of any scientist who fundamentallydisagrees with this because there is no evidence that animlas can think in such ways.

My main concern is not with the animals, whom I would love to see demonstrate human level cognitive abiities, but with humans who insist on imputing those abilities on animals, and thus claiming a sort of equality between humans and all other animals.

This is demonstrated by humans who argue that, all animals being equal humans should not kill or eat other animals and one who does is equivalent to a murderer ( I read one poster talk about their cat being murdered. A non human/ sapient being can't be murdered because that law only applies to humans, but it demonsratts the way some people begin to think and reason)

A person who truly believes that animals think and feel like humans could, and would, never remove an infant animal from its parents, for example, knowing the trauma that causes humans. We are already seeing laws being passed based on the anthropomorhpisation of animals and thus the wish to treat other animals just as we treat humans.

In reality we must recognise our differences and treat animals with our human characteristics of humaneness, compassion etc.

But we would be wrong to treat animals the same as humans; including compulsory medical interventions, refusal to euthanase, given property and land rights etc., or disallowing humans the right to keep animals as pets because it is equivalent to slavery.

It would also be illogical to stop humans from eating animals because we impute human level sapience on them and thus confer "human" rights to them There may be other very good reasons to be a vegetarian, but eating other animals is not the equivalent of eating another human being.

While a bit old now, this article is typical and illustrative of this point.

While it may be a bit long and complex for some, I am sure you will understand it with ease. You might disagree with it, but it represents modern scientific thinking across multi disciplinary approaches to human /animal levels of awareness and cognition.

http://ase.tufts.edu...rs/rolelang.htm

This site shows how human level thought operates and how it is attached to our language ability. It is a side bar really but illustrates again, modern approaches to the issue.

http://www.sas.upenn...n9.9.07_000.doc

I didnt want to down load this one, but the synopsis looks as if it would make interesting reading.

http://www.thomastso...ge-and-thought/

Ps you mentioned anthropomorphology earlier While again I am sure you are fully aware of its nature implications and dangers This extract briefly summarises some of them

Obviously, the tendency to anthropomorphize is a source of error.

In a new report in Current Directions in Psychological Science, psychological scientists Adam Waytz from Harvard University and Nicholas Epley and John T. Cacioppo from the University of Chicago examine the psychology of anthropomorphism.

Neuroscience research has shown that similar brain regions are involved when we think about the behavior of both humans and of nonhuman entities, suggesting that anthropomorphism may be using similar processes as those used for thinking about other people.

Anthropomorphism carries many important implications. For example, thinking of a nonhuman entity in human ways renders it worthy of moral care and consideration. In addition, anthropomorphized entities become responsible for their own actions — that is, they become deserving of punishment and reward.

Various motivations may also influence anthropomorphism. For example, lacking social connections with other people might motivate lonely individuals to seek out connections from nonhuman items. Anthropomorphism helps us to simplify and make more sense of complicated entities.

http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/03/01/why-do-we-anthropomorphize/11766.html

Edited by Mr Walker

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Mr Walker

I'm just going with the science.

Conclusions about what is possible are robust against evidence, and will faithfully reflect assumptions about what is possible. Yours do. Mine do. That's fine. You and I differ about this, from first principles, just as we do about so many other things.

It will not do, however, to pretend that you are the spokesman for "science" in this discussion.

Nobody here has suggested that other animals use human language, just as nobody has suggested that any human can hear sounds in the 50 KHz range. Species differ. That's why they're called "species." Science has thus had its say, and all agree. The question before us is whether difference implies that some one species dominates all others. This is not at all obvious, nor are the issues raised by the question within the scope of science to arbitrate, however welcome its fact-finding assistance is.

My main concern is not with the animals, whom I would love to see demonstrate human level cognitive abiities,

I am sceptical about theories of "cognitive abilities" as the basis of ethical standing. Such ideas have often been applied within the species, and haven't worked out so well. IMO. By an amazing coincidence, whoever defines the "cognitive abilities" is reliably included in the dominant group. I find that suspicious. Evidently, you do not. That's fine, too.

... a sort of equality between humans and all other animals.

"Equality" is a slippery concept. I have no trouble with the idea that we should treat similar beings similarly, according to their similarities, and different beings differently, according to their differences. I infer that you aren't much opposed to that heuristic principle, either.

Where we differ, then, is what the salient similarities and differences actually are. We reach different conclusions because we make different assumptions, not because there is any impersonal principle that decides this, or some body of evidence that magically interprets itself.

Finally, "anthropomorphization" is a lot like "religiosity." Both words "sound like" they mean holding some particular opinion, when in fact both often refer to holding that opinion mistakenly, without warrant or even because of pathology. That opens a back door to a disreputable and invalid argument, that because an opinion might be wrong, might be held without warrant, or might stem from pathology, one ought not to consider the opinion.

Any opinion at all about an uncertainty might be wrong, that's what "uncertainty" means. Depending on the person, any opinion about an uncertainty might be held without warrant, or pathologically. As you seem to anticipate, I do understand very well the possibility that my opinion about this uncertainty may be wrong. However, as you must also appreciate, I am utterly unimpressed that there is a Greek-rooted name for one way that it might be wrong.

As the lead-in from the blog I quoted earlier notes, "denial" is also an unattractive but entirely possible reason for holding an opinion. Perhaps it's best, then, to leave the clinical lingo at the door, and stay with the merits of the issue itself, rather than speculate about the psychology of the contending advocates.

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