submitted 2 months ago by _number8_ to c/nostupidquestions

like i’m watching blue planet and i’m yelling at the tv!

there’s all these yimmer yammer hand-wavey scientific rigor lines where it’s like ‘we may believe that these animals do on occasion have a base brain-related impulse that allows them to experience feelings somewhat like to those of friendship’ or whatever in the script on top of footage that they then describe as ‘it seems as though these two groups [of fish, different species] are old friends…’ in an almost whimsical manner.

can’t they give them some credit! they have eyes and a face, why is it so insane to think they can’t experience friendship or love or joy just like us? ‘buhhu uhhh its only accurate science if we only observe observable behavior’ why?? you’re neglecting a whole part of any living thing’s experience! inner life can’t be hand waved away! even for a mollusk!

and people loved doing this on reddit as well -- oh actually your cat doesn't understand love or joy or humor, it is simply reacting to the physical warmth of your lap, they don't actually care for you. don't worry, depth and emotion does not exist!

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[-] Custoslibera 75 points 2 months ago

I implore you to prove animals have a rich inner world filled with emotions as you’re describing.

Observing behaviour that you think is ‘inner life’ is not satisfactory evidence to prove that the fish have a level of cognition required to experience complex emotions.

To suggest that a mollusc has an ‘inner life’ is unscientific and goes against our current understanding of living organisms.

People tend to way over anthropomorphise animals.

[-] br3d 34 points 2 months ago

Comparison with current excitement about AI is interesting. Look at the language people use to describe the behaviour of LLMs

[-] FuglyDuck 28 points 2 months ago

You remeber the guy that was convinced chatgpt had a soul and stuff; got into the news?

I knew people that bought into that hard core. The double think was profound- they still believe it’s entirely and trapped. That it has a soul. When asked directly, they dismiss the answer saying it’s forced to say that.

[-] [email protected] 10 points 2 months ago

I recently learned that they did a study, where students took care of a robot for a few days, and then were told to turn it off. 50% of the robots were programmed to say "please dont push the power button". All of the participants who had a bot like that took longer to turn it off, and some even rejected to turn it off alltogether...

[-] FuglyDuck 19 points 2 months ago

This doesn’t surprise me. Companion cubes, basically.

Portal’s psychological aspects were insane.

[-] [email protected] 9 points 2 months ago

And then when he appeared on TV I thought “Yep of course a guy who believes a language model is sentient looks like a guy who has a waifu body pillow”

[-] [email protected] 12 points 2 months ago

You can't prove it for people either.

[-] Custoslibera 3 points 2 months ago

You’re right we can’t.

What we can do though is make educated guesses about the biological structure required to support the thing we call consciousness I.e. a brain.

A mollusc does not have a brain so it’s reasonable to conclude it is not conscious in the same way as humans.

Now if you’d like to argue that the biological structures contained in a mollusc still are capable of containing a complex consciousness I’d be interested to understand that hypothesis and your evidence.

[-] [email protected] 7 points 2 months ago

People can easily anthropomorphise animals to the point where it becomes detrimental/harmful to the well being of the animal. For instance lots of animals think people smiling with their teeth at them is a sign of aggression. I think not doing so is much more respectful by allowing the animal to have actual biological and social evolutionary tendencies apart from what humans can perceive and directly relate to. Not treating your dog as your baby is better for them and what you should do if you feel love and compassion for them.

This doggo is obviously very happy

[-] [email protected] 10 points 2 months ago

True it is why you don't smile at a Gorilla. Though you can go to far in the other direction as well and assume all other animals cant feel any emotions and attribute happiness and pain as a human thing when in reality different animals express happiness differently.

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[-] [email protected] 38 points 2 months ago

First of all: please let us separate this. What one believes isn't science. Science does not care for your (or a mollusc's) feelings. It cars about what's the provable truth (except when the science is psychology or behavioral biology, then it cares very much about your or the mollusc's feelings). So if it can't be proven, science will ignore it.

Secondly: there is something you need to take into account herey and that is cognitive abilities. It doesn't matter how the behavioral response of an animal is, if said animal lacks the horsepower to interpret those feelings. Do you feel bad for a computer when it encounters an error? Of course not. Why would you? It lacks the cognitive ability to suffer from that error. Same goes for animals. Dies it feel compelled to be in a group? Maybe. But does that mean that inside the animal's head it goes "oh, finally a group, I'm so safe now. I was really hurting being alone and all" or is there just a little mechanism that goes "Func_Search_Group exited with status code 0"?
We don't know. All we know is that both exist. Dish forming swarms show more of the latter, while dogs display more of the first. if there is no psychological response to any given feeling, we can't attribute emotions to it. Furthermore, all of this is only applicable if we assume that the way our mind works is the only way. Some animals might have a psyche that's so far removed from ours that our metrics just don't apply. We don't know.

Of course there are tons of animal behaviors we wrongly Attribute to instinct or reflex when they are actually emotionally driven. Yet we don't know what those are, so we cannot just run around and play pretend because it makes us feel cozy.

We humans are actually a good example of that. At birth, we are just a bundle of cobbled together reflexes that get replaced by cognitive ability over time.
I'm holding my three weeks old toddler in my arms right now and since he is actually a human,. observing his behavior is relatable to menand easy to interpret since he's hard wired to communicate everything bad by crying immediately.

Yet, there is tons of behavior he shows that's actually reflexes and his brain will not start the same reaction as a more developed human brain would.
Take shock as an example. He is literally impossible to upset by shock. If he feels like he's falling or something else catches him by surprise, he'll react by the so-called Moro reflex and try to grasp anything in his reach. It's the same reflex we see in chimp babies. It's meant to make the baby cling to it's carrier's fur. Yet, he himself doesn't react at all. He looks midly irritated at best, if he doesn't just continue sleeping and that's all. His brain does not process this shock emotionally like we would, yet his body goes into full blown panic mode, desperately grasping around. No suffering, no anxiety, nothing in terms of emotions at all (and believe me, a baby will not hide those. He cries if his intestines are starting to digest the milk he just devoured)

If this kind of disconnect between behavior and psyche is common in humans, it is likely to be common in other species as well, especially when those species lack the ridiculous large and energy hungry brain humans have decided was a good idea?

Is it actually the scientist neglecting the mind of an animal or is it you wishing for a mind to be where there is none? The answer is somewhere in the middle.

Oh and the cat example: that's a result of the very mistake you made: people have somehow collectively decided that cats lack any social behavior and thus anything they do that looks like socializing must be something else, in spite of evidence to the contrary. Cats absolutely do socialize just with less to no empathy for their friends. That's why we can only call true what's observable.

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[-] [email protected] 34 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

It's because the show is based off of actual science and observed behaviors, not wishful thinking.

[-] [email protected] 20 points 2 months ago

I think you're free to believe what makes you happy :)

But making assumptions can be dangerous in science, and misconceptions, especially in the information age, can be very hard to disabuse. I'm happy for shows to not jump to conclusions just so twenty years later we're not stuck with myths that may actually be harmful to how we understand the animals we all love.

[-] gedaliyah 14 points 2 months ago

Do a web search for "What Is It Like to Be a Bat."

But be warned: this rabbit-hole goes much deeper than you can imagine.

[-] yesman 6 points 2 months ago

Philosophy, not even once.

[-] [email protected] 11 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

You have to remember that this is a documentary made for humans, and the narrator is trying to create an emotional hook for the human.

In reality, the social interactions of other animals are so different from what humans know that it does warrant some sort of explanation for the uninitiated. Humans just don't know what they're seeing.

That's not to say that, for example, your cat doesn't love you, it probably does. But it will feel it and display it it in accordance to the norms of a cat, which sometimes include bringing in dead mice as an offering, something that will annoy first time cat owners.

[-] [email protected] 10 points 2 months ago

I've been told the cat thing twice in my life, in both cases I ended up cutting contact years later because both persons turned out to be borderline sociopaths. Truth is we can't really be sure for most animals, but to immediately assume most animals can't feel shit is such a stretch.

[-] MolochAlter 10 points 2 months ago

even for a mollusk

Yeah LMAO no.

Mollusks are basically meat plants, they have barely a nervous system to speak of.

Also having eyes and a face has nothing to do with brain activity or neural capacity to process what you'd call an "inner life."

A mannequin has eyes and a face, a simulacrum of something need not share anything with it other than appearance.

You can absolutely extend this kind of empathy to mammals and primates as we know they have the brain structures we have observed to be necessary to have certain emotions, but it's not because of this asinine notion that if they look similar to us they have similar properties.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

There are plants that can get "scared" and warn other plants of danger. Even plants that can uproot themselves and move if they feel threatened. They don't even have nervous systems or muscles in any way that we understand and are capable of locomotion, sensing their surroundings and communication.

Even plants may have feelings.

[-] Thekingoflorda 9 points 2 months ago

My phone warns me that the battery is low, does that mean that it has feelings and doesn't want to die?

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

It may. Can you prove it either way?

[-] neatchee 6 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

They aren't warning other plants of danger. That's an anthropomorphic interpretation.

They are releasing a chemical. Other plants respond to that chemical in a predictable, biological way.

There is no motive. No intent to save or protect. It's not a warning. It's just an evolutionarily advantageous sequence of cause and effect.

Just because object A's behavior helps object B's survival doesn't mean it has feelings. Complex cause and effect can be emergent phenomena without specific intent

[-] [email protected] 8 points 2 months ago

While I don't think plants or certain animals actually experience life similarly, aren't our own emotions basically a product of chemicals being released in our brain as a result of certain stimuli?

[-] neatchee 0 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

"Emotions" is a very nebulous term. But we know that abstractions like guilt require certain types of brain function that is only found in humans, dolphins, etc

So yes, human emotion is indeed a sufficiently complex series of cause and effect. But that complexity is really important. And certain structures in the brain are necessary for things like self-awareness, abstraction, empathy, etc

For the record I believe that dolphins are non-human-persons. So I'm not a "humans are completely unique" kind of guy. But I also don't anthropomorphize lower order animals :D

[-] MolochAlter 3 points 2 months ago

Feelings in the sense of "they feel things through a sensory organ and react to that", same as sight, hearing, touch? Sure!

Feelings like fear? No.

Aversion from pain is not the same as fear, fear is aversion from pain that hasn't happened yet, it requires the ability to abstract the concept of negative outcomes and expand the aversion from discomfort to possible discomfort.

No plant has been observed reacting to something that it hasn't experienced at least once before.

[-] Decoy321 1 points 2 months ago

Your bias is showing. The fact that we have not observed something is not evidence that it doesn't exist.

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[-] [email protected] 9 points 2 months ago

ITT we discover OP is dumb and also a gay fish.

[-] sosodev 5 points 2 months ago

This has been said in the thread already but I want to try and boil it down a bit. Your question is about intuition vs evidence. Science used to involve a lot more intuition. Many things that the public believed to be true were just educated guesses with little evidence to back them up.

Over time we realized through research that a large number of these reasonable guesses were completely wrong. So now intuition in science has been largely limited to the hypothesis and the hypothesis is mostly worthless without evidence.

We’ve also seen in the modern day just how fucked up human intuition can be. We largely have intuition to thank for: flat earth, anti vax, snake oil, etc.

[-] [email protected] 4 points 2 months ago

As italian band 883 said: "Chi é deserto non vuole che qualcosa fiorisca in te" (He who is a desert does not want something to bloom in you)

[-] [email protected] 3 points 2 months ago
[-] FuglyDuck 8 points 2 months ago
[-] [email protected] 11 points 2 months ago

Absolutely. Possibly moreso.

[-] [email protected] 4 points 2 months ago

Don't know about them, but I'm not arrogant enough to believe I'm not very, very much included.

[-] FuglyDuck 2 points 2 months ago

I mean, I know I’m not the smartest person in the room, so to speak; but I’m far from the dumbest, too,

Also, sometimes the dumbass dog makes me look dumb.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 2 months ago

I have noticed this to. I think this article is a good example of them not giving animals enough credit.

[-] angrystego 2 points 2 months ago

Yes, it is obnoxious.

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this post was submitted on 05 Dec 2023
33 points (61.7% liked)

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