Consciousness in Both Human and Non-Human Animals

When I was a graduate student being accused of anthropomorphism was a condemning indictment. If I said that it was clear to me that my dog clearly had consciousness I would have been accused of projecting my human attributes on the dog, something that an objective scientist would never do. It struck me that if I imposed the same standards for consciousness on my fellow humans as I was supposed to impose on non-humans, I would not have been able to conclude that my fellow humans were conscious! Fortunately, as a result of advances in neuroscience and imaging techniques that view has changed. The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness has been published

http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

It begins as follows:

On this day of July 7, 2012, a prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists and computational neuroscientists gathered at the University of Cambridge to reassess the neurobiological substrates of conscious experience and related behaviors in human and non-human animals. While comparative research on this topic is naturally hampered by the inability of non-human animals, and often humans, to clearly and readily communicate about their internal states, the following observation can be stated unequivocally:”

The declaration concludes:

The absence of neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

I have long thought that dogs were man’s best friend, rather than men being man’s best friend, because dogs had the neurological substrates for love and loyalty, but were lacking a neocortex that allowed for rationalization and deviousness. So I find the conclusions of these distinguished scientists reassuring. I also feel good about my friends who had parrots, who had similar convictions. And I was glad to see that octupuses were included as what I have read about their behaviors indicates that they are highly intelligent and have consciousness.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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