submitted 1 month ago by MicroWave to c/news

Far more animals than previously thought likely have consciousness, top scientists say in a new declaration — including fish, lobsters and octopus.

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.

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[-] [email protected] 98 points 1 month ago

Considering that as sentient beings ourselves, we don't really even understand sentience, it's kinda bold to assume we've got a monopoly on it.

[-] Wogi 26 points 1 month ago

Similarly I wonder how much of the observation is projection. We don't know what the bee thinks it's getting out of rolling the ball around, we don't know that the fish was actually reacting to seeing itself. At some level we're assuming that's what's going on because it makes sense to us.

[-] [email protected] 14 points 1 month ago

We are limited by our own understanding and imagination, but I don't know any other explanation for silly little nonproductive activities other than "play". Is it because it is play, or is it beyond our understanding? We can't communicate with them, but we can draw parallels between their behaviors and our own natural behaviors.

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[-] wolfeh 58 points 4 weeks ago

What was obvious to most of us as kids (and what was attempted to be beaten out of us as kids) is now being accepted by scientists. Love it.

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[-] Son_of_dad 57 points 1 month ago

I dunno about all that, but I used to have an African fish that would always get the zoomies when I'd come home from work. He'd spit water at me or gravel at the glass to get my attention, and loved playing hide and seek and always brushed up on my hands when I was working on his tank. He never reacted this way to visitors, just me.

[-] [email protected] 12 points 4 weeks ago* (last edited 4 weeks ago)

Exactly this.

And to get to this you need experience, research, and knowledge.

And trying to explain this to humans in general would take several generations in best case scenario (much less actually doing/changing anything with that knowledge).

Usually anything attacking the doctrine of how extra super special & way more unique than other equally unique species are is meet with severe (auto-?)hostility.

Even without our status in question, just the "threat" of something being slightly less/differently inferior to us is immediately attacked by the vast majority.

And once we decide something is inferior to us it takes extra effort to change the popular belief (like racism between humans as well - just designate some human as non-human & they are considered about as much as billions of yeast bacteria as we are baking bread).

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[-] [email protected] 38 points 1 month ago

It seems odd to me that this article is framing octopodes as a surprising inclusion. Aren't they generally known to be some of the most intelligent animals of all?

[-] [email protected] 17 points 1 month ago

Yes and no. It has long been known that they are surprisingly intelligent, but the structure of their nervous system is very strange and decentralized which makes it fairly surprising nonetheless.

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[-] frankgrimeszz 38 points 1 month ago

Wasn’t this already obvious?

[-] FuglyDuck 52 points 1 month ago

We don’t even know what sentience/sapience/whatever is. We have some thoughts, people argue about the definitions, and stuff; but really… it all comes down to… “are they like us”… but we don’t even really know what that means.

So no. It’s not obvious. (Particularly because humans are surprisingly stupid.)

[-] frankgrimeszz 8 points 1 month ago

To people who spend a lot of time around animals or even sea creatures, it may be obvious that they’re more like us than most would assume.

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[-] gibmiser 12 points 1 month ago

Well, maybe, but it sure as he'll isn't convenient.

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[-] [email protected] 10 points 1 month ago

Not to people indoctrinated by Abrahamic religions.

[-] [email protected] 10 points 1 month ago

Denying such things in other animals has been part of a long-standing, mainly Western, push for human exceptionalism

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[-] cmeu 37 points 4 weeks ago

This is self evident to any animal lover

[-] [email protected] 17 points 4 weeks ago

It's self evident to anyone not plagued by speciesism, regardless of their feelings about animals; I don't think we ought to allow that much latitude to opt-out of the obvious moral consequences of this truth.

[-] MataVatnik 15 points 4 weeks ago

This reads like "scientists find that women have emotions and feeling and can feel pain"

[-] [email protected] 27 points 1 month ago

So arrogant are we

[-] SlothMama 27 points 1 month ago

I've always thought this, and thought it strange we assumed other creatures experienced lesser levels of sentience.

[-] [email protected] 8 points 4 weeks ago

Vegans are well aware of this phenomenon.

People will tend to wave away atrocities by saying the victims "can't feel it" or "don't know what's going on."

We see it all the time in things like the treatment of indigenous people and the mutilation of baby's genitals.

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[-] [email protected] 27 points 4 weeks ago

Ofc they are sentient.

I fail to understand why do we will push the 'no expression of the face means no intelligence or emotions bcs most of us communicate that way'.

It always turns out that whatever brain mechanics we think of as our own we later & with minimal research find in other animals as well.

Evolutionary speaking too, same brain centres (with various density and relative size - of which we dont have all that dense brains & and most parts are underdeveloped), it's absolutely unlikely we would have developed something new in a few millions of years (especially given smol & fragmented populations facing extinctions and smol gene pools - tho that could be interpreted the other way too). It's just specialisation, some (advantageous) functions grew, other were optimised to the point of non-existence.

Then again, given how intolerant are we to our own species in terms of our emotional response to slight visual differences (I mean vcompletely evolutionary, uncanny valley thing, the next village of humanoids might have been competing for the same resources, which makes different culture/colours/face shapes = danger, etc), how we choose to ignore compassion (like 'look at that idiot, ofc they have no feelings, not unlike me, the superior being') ... ofc we can't immediately recognise and understand what and how animals are feeling. It takes a lot of time, effort, & empathy (mechanical empathy, like to fully underhand their environment from their pov, and emotional empathy, how they are processing that environment).

And the bigger the difference and habitats, the harder it is (like any sea animal really). Anything non-mammal seems alien to us, no matter the smarts (eg cuttlefish, that can clearly experience psychological trauma on individual and population/cultural level).

And then there are fungi. After that plants. And whatever we choose bacteria to be (like beings, or just a literal matter of environment we live within). Etc :).

[-] gap_betweenus 21 points 4 weeks ago

Insects don't really have brains. The complexity of their ganglia is not really comparable to what we consider a brain and seems rather unlikely that they have anything like our consciousness, just due to the difference in complexity. Does not mean we should treat them like shit, they are living creatures - but also not sure why we need to pretend they are something they are clearly not.

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[-] gedaliyah 26 points 1 month ago

This raises some interesting questions. The premise of these scientists is that consciousness can be quantified empirically. Yet many of the tests described in this article can be passed by machines. Does that mean that the scientists who signed the declaration consider some smart devices to demonstrate consciousness? And what are the implications?

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[-] daltotron 25 points 1 month ago

IS veganism the real solution here, or is the real solution the all-artificial, all-synthetic diet? Me personally, I'm going to down this jug of red 40, and then I think I'll get back to you

[-] [email protected] 19 points 1 month ago

If it ever comes out that plants are sentient and feel pain my moral compass is going to have a bad day.

I'm not even a vegetarian ... but I have tried to eat less meat in recent years, in part because of the cruelty.

[-] [email protected] 15 points 4 weeks ago

I'd say eating plants would still be the lesser of two evils in that case. Animals we kill for food also eat plants, so from a pure quantity of suffering, it's better to not have the middleman there.

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[-] [email protected] 11 points 4 weeks ago

Veganism is the solution, yes.

Future generations will look back on us like we were crazy and barbaric for eating meat.

[-] TIMMAY 13 points 4 weeks ago

I agree that veganism is/could be a good solution moving forward. I strongly disagree that eating meat can be considered barbaric, as it is completely natural and present in every corner of the animal kingdom. Now, how we treat the animals we get that meat from is absolutely barbaric and should be considered so, but I don't think meat eating itself should be villainized, at least in a retrospective sense.

[-] [email protected] 8 points 4 weeks ago

Just because something is natural doesn't mean it isn't barbaric. Male lions will regularly kill cubs to make the mother ready for sex - that's natural but we'd never accept (correctly) a human doing that.

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[-] Gabu 8 points 4 weeks ago

Nah, synthetic food (and eventually discarding our gross meat shells for silicon and metal bodies) is the rightful path. On the way there, veganism is a nice stop-gap for most people.

[-] [email protected] 22 points 4 weeks ago* (last edited 4 weeks ago)

I thought this should be obvious to anyone who's interacted with an animal, ever. But sadly there are a great many people who don't agree there is a 'soul behind the tv screen' as it were with animals more primitive than things like cats and dogs. It can be easy to use to justify human cruelty.

And it's easy for you to say it's obvious and you've thought that all along. You're not the demographic they're trying to inform.

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[-] MilitantAtheist 21 points 4 weeks ago

Be that as it may, wasps can still fuck right off.

[-] [email protected] 19 points 1 month ago

Will we now treat them as well as other clearly sentient animals like pigs?

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[-] [email protected] 18 points 4 weeks ago

In the 17th century, the French philosopher René Descartes argued that animals were merely “material automata” — lacking souls or consciousness.

I believe we're all "material automata." The mistake isn't thinking animals are more primitive than they are, but thinking we are more sophisticated than we are. We're nothing special.

[-] chetradley 18 points 4 weeks ago

The question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?

Jeremy Bentham, 1789

[-] [email protected] 15 points 1 month ago

so it's time to stop masturbating with my dog in the room

[-] [email protected] 23 points 1 month ago

They're conscious, not a prude.

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[-] [email protected] 14 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

I'd be tempted to go and say "no shit," but even the most obvious things have to be proven or tested. How you define consciousness can also change a lot.

[-] [email protected] 12 points 1 month ago

Sometimes I confuse Sentient and Sapient in sentences but they actually don't mean the same thing at all.

[-] joyfullyexisting 12 points 1 month ago

not surprising, I remember watching spider move when I was a kid and thinking they were obviously intelligent. sure they creep me out but I hate killing them for no reason, same with literally any other living thing

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[-] [email protected] 10 points 1 month ago

In my opinion the idea of animal conscious has been fairly well supported for decades at minimum. There was a certain anti-consciousness orthodoxy in the animal behavior field that held back understanding of this topic. But I mean simple observation of animal behavior and the similar nervous structures surely leave animal consciousness the most likely explanation, even if it’s difficult to definitively prove.

A more interesting question in my mind is whether plants are conscious. This is a question that we truly have no idea how to answer.

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[-] FlyingSquid 9 points 1 month ago* (last edited 1 month ago)

Yeah, well I'm still not sorry I put out ant traps.

Edit: The downvoters have clearly never had an ant infestation in their kitchen. It's not a 'live and let live' situation.

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[-] Gabu 8 points 4 weeks ago

No fucking shit... anyone with half a brain and a minimum of empathy already knows that.

Yes, yes, the scientific method doesn't discriminate between what is and isn't obvious, but the headline is, as usual, aimed at people with the intellectual capabilities of a 4 year old.

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this post was submitted on 20 Apr 2024
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