There is no dog owner who does not believe his dog understands it. Such people are simply convinced that dogs are almost the same as humans, it just so happens that they have four legs, are furred and speak another language. Just try to tell one such person that his pet has no emotions and is a completely unconscious being.
Unlike pet owners, many scientists (at least the part that probably doesn’t have pets) are mentophobic. It is a term coined by Harvard biologist Donald Griffin, which denotes the practice of criticizing non-human beings as creatures lacking any consciousness. Griffin, on the other hand, does not claim that animals have as sophisticated and developed consciousness as humans have, but he believes that animals do possess some consciousness.
The assumption that animals are conscious beings capable of feeling negative sensations and emotions is certainly the central theme of those concerned with protecting animal rights. Cognitive science theories and techniques certainly promise some new discoveries in this direction. Evidence for the existence of conscious and unconscious cognitive processes in humans has inspired an increasing number of scientists to search for similar processes in animals. These and these ventures logically open up a series of new questions of ethics and morality in the treatment of our small or large, hairy or smooth earthly neighbors.
One day in the 1960s, while shaving in front of a bathroom mirror, psychologist Gordon Gallup wondered what would happen if we put our pet in front of a mirror.
The Gallup invented what is called a mirror test, whereby primates previously exposed to their own contours in the mirror, as they would be painted over the eyebrows or on the ear, would still be able to recognize their reflection in the mirror. Then, in 75% of cases, two primate species, chimpanzees and orangutans, passed the mirror test – touching the colored spots on their face – which for Gallup was evidence of his claim that these species were actually self-aware.
For animals for wanting some things while fearing others, the Harvard biologist, the already mentioned Donald Griffin, has already been trying to prove for two decades, who at the time of this experiment thought it didn’t make much sense to think that only two primate species that passed this test , show a tendency for self-awareness, but other monkeys, and probably other animals, must have this trait. In recent years, developmental scientists have exposed many animals to this test and have shown that, in addition to monkeys, elephants, dolphins, killer whales, as well as crows and scrubs are recognized in the mirror. What’s interesting, as claimed by Daniel Povinelli, a cognitive scientist at Louisiana University, is that even young children who are exposed to this test up to a certain age, in many cases, fail to pass it.
Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness
In July this year, the issue of animal awareness was addressed in detail by a group of scientists gathered at the University of Cambridge at the first annual Francis Creek Memorial Conference. Crick, one of only two scientists to explain the structure of DNA, devoted the last years of his career to the study of consciousness, and in 1994 published a book on it, “Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul.”
The Declaration, signed by three eminent neuroscientists: David Edelman of the California Neuroscience Institute, Philip Lou of Stanford University and Kristof Koch of the University of California Institute of Technology, concludes that “nonhuman beings have a neuroanatomical, neurochemical and neurophysiological background for conscious states, and the capacity to perform deliberate behavior. Accordingly, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing a neurological background that generates consciousness. Non-human beings, including all mammals and birds, but other creatures such as octopuses, also possess a neurological background. ” Since scientists themselves do not agree on what the definition of “consciousness” is, so this declaration does not exactly state that “animals are conscious beings,” but the authors basically agree that it mentally supplements the physical, so what whatever the “consciousness” is, it must have a neurological background – some parts of the brain that “do the job”. The point of this declaration is, in fact, whatever these parts are, they are also possessed by animals.
In his recently published book Why Animals Are Important: Animal Awareness, Animal Protection and Human Well-Being, Merrien Stemp Doukins of Oxford University argues that it is not yet safe to say that animals are conscious and that we must remain skeptical. Doukins believes that it is actually harmful to animals that social well-being is created on the assumption that animals possess “consciousness.”
Controversial views on this topic will certainly follow, but the question is whether this declaration will actually contribute to any significant change? What exactly will these scientists, and those who agree with the Declaration, do about the “consciousness” of animals?
Let us hope that the Declaration will help in the fight for the protection of animals, especially those waiting in their cages for medical or other research to be carried out. There are over 50 million such animals annually. In fact, a more accurate figure cannot even be obtained, since mice, rats, birds and cold-blooded animals – which make up 95% of animals over which various experiments are carried out – are not at all protected by the Animal Protection Act, so they remain unregistered. But they do not ignore all legislative science. The Lisbon Declaration of the European Union, which has been in force since 1 December 2009, recognizes animals as sentient beings and calls on the Member States to “pay full attention and take into account the social needs of animals” in agriculture, fisheries, transport, research and development and spatial policies.
Animals are obviously not smart as humans: they can’t make cars and organize themselves in political parties, but they can show faithfulness, play ball, feel guilty and tremble in fear of you when you overturn the bin for survival rubbish. But some animals will be able to help you in trouble and even save your life.