Friday, August 31, 2012

Cambridge: Animals as Conscious as Humans

I'm about a month late to the show; summer is the season of the slowest transmission of academic information for reasons that are probably obvious, but:

"...the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates."


What else is there really to say but, "It's about damn time"?  This is less of a scientific breakthrough and more of a political one: the stuff brought up in this conference has been basic knowledge for quite a long time.  That's a good thing: it means that it's actually going to get around to public knowledge rather than get holed up in some journal somewhere that no layman will ever hear of let alone read - especially since Stephen Hawking attended the signing, and it was also featured on 60 Minutes.

So, it's a little early now, but what can we expect to get from this?  First of all, probably a slower rate of advancement in neuroscience and medicine in general.  This sounds like a bad thing, and it may be, but it will be as a result of more stringent regulations on animal testing.

Then again, it may also more strongly suggest that animal testing is more valid, meaning you will get the same level of advancement for fewer tests.  Wherever you go there are always people saying that you can't go off of just a few animal trials because animals aren't the same as humans.  This is obviously still true, but when it comes to psych and some areas of neurosci that don't explicitly involve the neocortex, we may start being able to get more for less.

Most importantly, we'll get public acknowledgment of the worth of animals as individuals.  It's unfortunate how many people you can come across today who don't believe animals really have thoughts and feelings; these tend to be people who either were never close at all to their pets or didn't have pets at all, in my experience, which is a growing percentage of the population with continued urbanization.

As I noted before, this conference is geared primarily as a social and philosophical change rather than a scientific one, so this, I think, is where we'll start to see the most change.  It will come slowly, and perhaps I'm jumping the gun just a little here, but I would hazard that the global and inevitably successful anti-anthrocentrist movement has already begun.  As it progresses, we'll see not only changes in the way people see animals, but the way we see the natural world at large: suddenly our non-human neighbors become far more important, and conservation becomes an issue.  Environmental decline could slow as a result.  Social things too, of course: with the acknowledgment of animal consciousness, animal intelligence is only a couple steps away, and with that the rights of zoophiles.

All this from one conference?  No.  But it's a start.  I like to be optimistic, because in my experience if you publicly assume that something is going to happen, people around you believe so as well and change their behaviour accordingly, so as far as I'm concerned this is just a big step towards all of these big transformations of society and academia.  Spread the word; save the world.

I don't know when my next post will be, but the moral of the story is that if you have some news or something otherwise fascinating for me to write about, I will drop everything to do so.  Good work, "lovingpegasister".


  1. peacelovingpegasisterSeptember 1, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Speaking of animal testing for human medicine, it may end up being a thing of the past:

    You're welcome :3

    1. I did know about that. Unfortunately that's only a small portion of all the animal trials out there, especially those that actually determine whether the treatments in question work, but it is a start.

  2. peacelovingpegasisterSeptember 2, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I really hope things change for the better concerning animal welfare, which is more important right now to me then animal rights imo. It makes me wish there were more zoosexual animal welfare activists, animals really need that.

    1. I would think that all zoophiles by definition are strongly for animal welfare. They may just not be so open about saying they are zoophilic animal welfare activists.

  3. Scientism ahoy!

    What is it like to be a bat?

  4. "perhaps I'm jumping the gun just a little here"

    Just a little bit.

  5. Just thought I'd let you know: a man in Florida who ethically had sex with his miniature donkey was unjustly arrested and had his donkey confiscated in September 2012. Here are two links to this zoosexual discrimination:

    This kind of incident just shows how zoosexual people's rights are being trampled on by the state. In addition, the reason he was arrested was because a guy named "James" was spying on him and snitched (reported him) to the local authorities.

    1. I am a little sad that he was reported as wanting Doodle back "because she cost $500" and was only interested in her because he's a misanthrope, but it is an interesting story, and the comments on the news article are doubly interesting. If I can find time I'll see if I can't do up a blog post on it. Thank you for sharing!