Do animals have feelings?


EXCERPT: . . . Jains move through the world in this gentle way because they believe animals are conscious beings that experience, in varying degrees, emotions analogous to human desire, fear, pain, sorrow, and joy. This idea that animals are conscious was long unpopular in the West, but it has lately found favor among scientists who study animal cognition. And not just the obvious cases—primates, dogs, elephants, whales, and others. Scientists are now finding evidence of an inner life in alien-seeming creatures that evolved on ever-more-distant limbs of life’s tree. In recent years, it has become common to flip through a magazine like this one and read about an octopus using its tentacles to twist off a jar’s lid or squirt aquarium water into a postdoc’s face. For many scientists, the resonant mystery is no longer which animals are conscious, but which are not.

No aspect of our world is as mysterious as consciousness, the state of awareness that animates our every waking moment, the sense of being located in a body that exists within a larger world of color, sound, and touch, all of it filtered through our thoughts and imbued by emotion.

Even in a secular age, consciousness retains a mystical sheen. It is alternatively described as the last frontier of science, and as a kind of immaterial magic beyond science’s reckoning. David Chalmers, one of the world’s most respected philosophers on the subject, once told me that consciousness could be a fundamental feature of the universe, like space-time or energy. He said it might be tied to the diaphanous, indeterminate workings of the quantum world, or something nonphysical.

These metaphysical accounts are in play because scientists have yet to furnish a satisfactory explanation of consciousness. We know the body’s sensory systems beam information about the external world into our brain, where it’s processed, sequentially, by increasingly sophisticated neural layers. But we don’t know how those signals are integrated into a smooth, continuous world picture, a flow of moments experienced by a roving locus of attention—a “witness,” as Hindu philosophers call it.

In the West, consciousness was long thought to be a divine gift bestowed solely on humans. Western philosophers historically conceived of nonhuman animals as unfeeling automatons. Even after Darwin demonstrated our kinship with animals, many scientists believed that the evolution of consciousness was a recent event. They thought the first mind sparked awake sometime after we split from chimps and bonobos. In his 1976 book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes argued that it was later still. He said the development of language led us, like Virgil, into the deep cognitive states capable of constructing experiential worlds.

This notion that consciousness was of recent vintage began to change in the decades following the Second World War, when more scientists were systematically studying the behaviors and brain states of Earth’s creatures. Now each year brings a raft of new research papers, which, taken together, suggest that a great many animals are conscious.

It was likely more than half a billion years ago that some sea-floor arms race between predator and prey roused Earth’s first conscious animal. That moment, when the first mind winked into being, was a cosmic event, opening up possibilities not previously contained in nature.

There now appears to exist, alongside the human world, a whole universe of vivid animal experience. Scientists deserve credit for illuminating, if only partially, this new dimension of our reality. But they can’t tell us how to do right by the trillions of minds with which we share the Earth’s surface. That’s a philosophical problem, and like most philosophical problems, it will be with us for a long time to come....

MORE (lengthy details):
After years of interacting with hamsters I have absolutely no doubt hamsters are 'conscious'. As pets they were effectively held prisoner - each dealt with their situation in their own way. My rules (for me and them) included that they should be out of the cage for at a minimum of at least an hour every day - where possible this should at least start at the same time every day. The fact of the hamster waiting by the cage door at the appointed hour I take as reasonable evidence that the hamsters both looked forward to being out of the cage and were able to anticipate an event in the future.

Another rule (for hamsters and me) is that if any food were being prepared in the house they should be offered a hamster sized portion of it - if they liked it they'd be at the bars waiting and if not a portion would be left anyway. By such means does one find that some hamsters are vegan and others love eggs and bacon best of all.

So far all fluffy and empathic - if it looks happy we think its happy. So can a hamster communicate directly with humans without 'empathy' or anthropomorphizing the reaction on either or both sides?

Hamsters don't normally vocalise in our hearing range (another story there) so if your pet hamster starts squawking you can be pretty sure they have a problem. Allow for enough empathy for me to know Hamster wants to be taken out of the cage and for him to jump into my hands to be taken out. So the hot and unhappy hamster is put in a box while we try to find the problem - how did I know the problem was in the cage? - the hamster told me as I held him - he was fine out of the cage - so we had to look in the cage. After a while I noticed something moving in the cage - he wasn't alone in there - he'd got bedlice. More hoovering and cleaning went on in his cage and in the room around him than in a decade before or after.

Now I may well be anthropomorphizing but after that he always seemed to have a sort of 'Very Important Hamster' spring in his step.

Another hamster had a "I will never submit to your rules" policy from the start. Unfortunately she died in circumstances beyond my control before we could negotiate a settlement. Subsequent hamsters had the improved living conditions which she fought for (and maybe less of her fire in them).

Next - birds.
Quote:Another rule (for hamsters and me) is that if any food were being prepared in the house they should be offered a hamster sized portion of it - 

Yep...."Hammy" loved raw hamburger. I think it gave him long life. Having lived past the years to where my daughter's interests changed and hamsters were low on her priority list, the job of looking after the rodent fell to the parents. Thought he'd never die. One day I walked past the cage and he was on the way to his wheel but ½ hour later I walked past the cage again to see Hammy still on his way to the wheel. Little bugger had died in full stride to the wheel. Buried the little guy in a small milk carton beside the house, a full state funeral.

In a predatory world, what purpose does not being aware serve? I think the answer might be that the unaware are very quickly disposed of. Any momentary loss of awareness as in taking an unnecessary risk usually yields the same fate. Consciousness then appears vital to survival of life as a whole and for me it is not a stretch of the imagination to think all animals have it.
Conditioned responses to rewards or threats are not consciousness in any human sense. Instinct just seems so when anthropomorphized.

My dog is very smart, in the sense that she "gets" what I'm teaching her fairly easily. But a large factor in that is consistency on my part and only intermittent rewards. Granted, it helps to have a dog that has a greater attention span than excitability, which in her case, may be from being a sight hound.
Quote:Instinct is innate behavior in response to a situation. Awareness is knowledge and perception of a situation.

Stole the above from internet. I'm just rambling, maybe it's instinct and maybe I'm doing it because I'm aware I'm alive and on an internet forum. So...

Is panic an innate behaviour? I think it fair to say it isn't only humans that display this behavioural response. In a life threatening situation, panic may save you or not IMHO. Risking one's life, is that innate behaviour? Situations may crop up where risking your life is a chance one has to take, if only for survival. I think risk taking completely fits the awareness mode. 

Panic could be the extreme end of having knowledge and perception of a situation, idk. Watched a doc in which a young ibex was being chased by a hungry fox. By the time the engagement ended, I couldn't decide whether the ibex, which had in all likelihood never seen a fox before, had panicked or recognized its life was in danger and needed to deal with it. Can one say it was instinctive for the ibex to find a niche on a rocky ledge inaccessible to the fox? Is instinct innate knowledge?

Take the migrating wildebeest knowing(?) it has to cross crocodile infested water. Tell me it isn't aware of its existence as it stops at the river's bank and ponders its next move. Inevitably forced to cross they start out quite orderly until the crocs appear. Panic ensues and still they go on, instinctively or totally aware that they must take the risk. In this situation risk is probably more of a worthy endeavour since not crossing might lead to starvation. How does the wildebeest know this is paramount to its survival if it isn't aware of itself?

What initiates an instinctive behaviour? Where did fear of death come from? Why fear death if one has no knowledge of its own existence? Is instinct a result of awareness or vice versa?
In my lifetime I've had as pets dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, a tortoise, a raccoon, a parakeet, sea monkeys, a couple of fish, and a praying mantis. I can proclaim with confidence that animals do indeed experience feelings.
(Feb 14, 2019 06:11 PM)Zinjanthropos Wrote: Is panic an innate behaviour? [...] What initiates an instinctive behaviour? Where did fear of death come from? Why fear death if one has no knowledge of its own existence? Is instinct a result of awareness or vice versa?

"Innate" in this instance can translate into biochemical production (those brains have no verbal meanings to attach to the feelings and body behavior, anyway). The wild counterparts of domesticated animals have higher adrenaline levels which make them more fearful, panicky, and cautious/alert. The neural crest cells deficiencies which are behind pets and tame livestock have weaker adrenal glands also causes the variations in fur color, having floppy ears, and other features which would be detrimental if they were instead feral creatures surviving on their own.

On the flip side, though, even many domesticated animals can be made far wilder by rarely or never handling them when young (or of course, also subjecting them to cruel abuse).

Sixty years after it began, Dmitri Belyaev’s silver fox domestication experiment is still shaping the way we think about evolution


(Feb 14, 2019 09:37 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: In my lifetime I've had as pets dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, a tortoise, a raccoon, a parakeet, sea monkeys, a couple of fish, and a preying mantis. I can proclaim with confidence that animals do indeed experience feelings.

The additional factor humans have is being able to think about their own emotions/feelings/perceptions in terms of language and concepts. A kind of meta-consciousness or re-presentation and apprehension of the original experiences as something else.

Werner Herzog: “Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.

Herzog either never had a pet chicken before or had a bad dream once about being a bug wandering around on a poultry range.

Thanks for that. That's my quote for the day on my Facebook page. I got a response saying they thought of Trump. Smile
(Feb 14, 2019 09:37 PM)Magical Realist Wrote: In my lifetime I've had as pets dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, a tortoise, a raccoon, a parakeet, sea monkeys, a couple of fish, and a praying mantis. I can proclaim with confidence that animals do indeed experience feelings.

Anecdotal and subjective.
If you keep moving the bar so whatever an animal does you claim it it falls below the bar that you set for consciousness (and feelings) then you can claim (by your moving bar) that any and all animals fall below the bar you have set to establish 'consciousness'. A dog, most especially some breeds, will pick up cues from their owner and in the nature of dog-human relations will try to please their owner. To test your own dog for evidence of consciousness may require a level of intelligence on the part of the owner that may not be present in every case. It may be that dogs are so inbred that they have nothing left beyond 'please their owner'. So the superior person would look at other animals in other situations for evidence of 'consciousness'.

An example I've quoted before...

With more details...

Seeing the trapped bird my concern ('feeling') was for her situation. One of the gulls was dealing with the 'how to get out' by demonstration but couldn't get the attention of the trapped bird. So.. the bird demonstrates problem solving from past experience - analysis of present situation and evident concern for a family member far beyond the 'chick' stage.

I haven't been attacked by the local birds but I was 'threatened' on one occasion - rather than be pecked, vomitted on and shat on I backed off.

My solution to the bird trying to fly through glass was to whitewash the window but (obviously) I had to whitewash the other windows first so the bird didn't just splat itself on one of the other windows. So I emerged from my window carrying a long pole and a pot of paint. I emerged onto a roof with young chicks on and into a situation where the parents would routinely attack and they didn't. I have heard that seagulls recognise people and they would know me so maybe that's why they didn't attack. So when I whitewashed the final window (the one the bird was trying to fly through) she finally paid attention to the bird giving the 'how to get out' demonstration. I have no reason to doubt that the trapped bird went from a feeling of great distress to one of pleasure as soon as she followed one of her species to freedom - precisely what the avian rescuer intended and (I think) shared. I have no idea what the birds made of the part I played - I only know that they allowed it and for that I like and admire them.

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