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Animal cognition, animal mind. How intelligent are they? How does it compare with the human mind?
Animal cognition, the subject of the animal mind, has come to the forefront in scientific research. Is it a link between the brain and the human mind? What, if any, is the profound relationship between animals and humans?
(Mind-Body Problem Solved, Chapter 5)
In bygone years, many thinkers considered animals as automatons, each individual a robot replica of its progenitor. Times have changed and scientific research has established, without a doubt, animals, including fish, birds, and insects, possess cognitive capacities. Here’s what the Thinking Animals United organization writes about animal cognition.
This involves the processing of information, problem solving: How the perceptual system (auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory) receives data from the world it inhabits (including data from other individuals), and, with its species-specific neurobiology, uses its brain to process and act on that information.
In this book, Mind-Body Problem Solved, The Explanation will define what a mind is and why humans have minds, their purpose. At the same time, we cannot ignore animal cognition. We’ve all witnessed videos of animals expressing human emotions and feelings. Anyone who owns a pet knows how attached an animal can get to its owner-companion. How the animal can feel what you’re feeling and react in consequence. Horses, dogs, donkeys, dolphins are hugely successful therapeutic animals. It’s far from having human company, but much better than being alone. How does the human mind-body problem play out with animal cognition?
Once again, I’m going to leave you in the hands of some capable experts, through their quotes, to establish the reality of animal cognition. No explanation of the mind-body problem would be complete without a valid explanation of what some are calling animal mind.
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.
Yes, animal mind is a new dimension of reality. Anderson passes it off to philosophers. But they can’t answer, hence it will be with us for a long time to come. Human reasoning cannot solve this problem. The Explanation will take you into unchartered waters and give you the solution in this book Mind-Body Problem Solved.
But Eastern thinkers have long been haunted by its implications — especially the Jains, who have taken animal consciousness seriously as a moral matter for nearly 3,000 years.
Mammals in general are widely thought to be conscious, because they share our relatively large brain size, and also have a cerebral cortex, the place where our most complex feats of cognition seem to take place.
If these behaviors add up to consciousness, it means one of two things: Either consciousness evolved twice, at least, across the long course of evolutionary history, or it evolved sometime before birds and mammals went on their separate evolutionary journeys. Both scenarios would give us reason to believe that nature can knit molecules into waking minds more easily than previously guessed. This would mean that all across the planet, animals large and small are constantly generating vivid experiences that bear some relationship to our own.
Scientists have sometimes seemed to judge fish for their refusal to join our exodus out of the water and into the atmosphere’s more ethereal realm of gases. Their inability to see far in their murky environment is sometimes thought to be a cognitive impairment. But new evidence indicates that fish have minds rich with memories; some are able to recall associations from more than 10 days earlier.
Wasps, like bees and ants, are hymenopterans, an order of animals that displays strikingly sophisticated behaviors. Ants build body-to-body bridges that allow whole colonies to cross gaps in their terrain. Lab-bound honeybees can learn to recognize abstract concepts, including “similar to,” “different from,” and “zero.” Honeybees also learn from one another. If one picks up a novel nectar-extraction technique, surrounding bees may mimic the behavior, causing it to cascade across the colony, or even through generations.
The first animals to direct themselves through three-dimensional space would have encountered a new set of problems whose solution may have been the evolution of consciousness. Take the black wasp. As it hovered above the bougainvillea’s tissue-thin petals, a great deal of information — sunlight, sound vibrations, floral scents — rushed into its fibrous exoskull. But these information streams arrived in its brain at different times. To form an accurate and continuous account of the external world, the wasp needed to sync these signals. And it needed to correct any errors introduced by its own movements, a difficult trick given that some of its sensors are mounted on body parts that are themselves mobile, not least its swiveling head.
As Singh and I talked, the crow grew bored with us and turned back to the window, as though to inspect its faint reflection. In 2008, a magpie — a member of crows’ extended family of corvids, or “feathered apes” — became the first non-mammal to pass the “mirror test.” The magpie’s neck was marked with a bright dot in a place that could be seen only in a mirror. When the magpie caught sight of its reflection, it immediately tried to check its neck.
The animal experiences, their incredible capacities are fact. However, please note that all the talk about how this state came to be is filled with thought to be, may have been, and a recognition of the immense coordination problems black wasps must overcome to sync hovering over a flower. As true as the hovering is as far from an explanation is how a black wasp came to do this task.
In Animal Minds, Donald R. Griffin takes us on a guided tour of the recent explosion of scientific research on animal mentality.
Are animals consciously aware of anything, or are they merely living machines, incapable of conscious thoughts or emotional feelings? How can we tell? Such questions have long fascinated Griffin, who has been a pioneer at the forefront of research in animal cognition for decades, and is recognized as one of the leading behavioral ecologists of the twentieth century.
With this new edition of his classic book, which he has completely revised and updated, Griffin moves beyond considerations of animal cognition to argue that scientists can and should investigate questions of animal consciousness. Using examples from studies of species ranging from chimpanzees and dolphins to birds and honeybees, he demonstrates how communication among animals can serve as a “window” into what animals think and feel, just as human speech and nonverbal communication tell us most of what we know about the thoughts and feelings of other people.
Even when they don’t communicate about it, animals respond with sometimes surprising versatility to new situations for which neither their genes nor their previous experiences have prepared them, and Griffin discusses what these behaviors can tell us about animal minds. He also reviews the latest research in cognitive neuroscience, which has revealed startling similarities in the neural mechanisms underlying brain functioning in both humans and other animals. Finally, in four chapters greatly expanded for this edition, Griffin considers the latest scientific research on animal consciousness, pro and con, and explores its profound philosophical and ethical implications.
Animals are the closest beings to humans in the way we live and act. Did our minds start within the animal kingdom? How similar is animal and human thinking? What explains the similarities and differences? Major questions science, philosophy, and religions cannot answer satisfactorily.
Animal Cognition verse Human Mind
Once we’ve established, without a doubt, the existence and reality of animal intelligence, their capacity to make decisions and adaptations, we need to compare this to our human capacities. And the fact is animal cognition comes up very short of the human mind.
I’ve used this phrase to embody this chasm, fittingly, as the Winter Olympics are underway in Beijing.
Animals will run off with all the Olympic medals while humans will garner all the Nobel prizes. Animals have the physical advantage, but humans outdo them 100 to 0 when it comes to mental phenomena.
Once again, I will not spend time elaborating further on animal cognition, not on the vast impassible chasm that separates animals from humans. The reason is that information is available in Inventory of the Universe, written to address this specific issue. Please read the following chapters in Parts 6 and 10.
6 Animal Ability
- Animal Ability
- Climbers and Swimmers
- Tool Makers
- Home Builders
10 The Human/Animal Dilemma
- The Human/Animal Dilemma
- Amazing Animals and Less Amazing Humans
- Animal Senses
- Animal Bodies
- Animal Movement
- Animals’ Survival in Extreme Conditions
- Animal Stages of Life and Sociability
- Animal Accomplishments
- Animal and Human Intelligence
- What Is an Animal? What Is a Human?
- Final Notions, Concepts, and Ideas for Thought
The questions around animal cognition are real. The Explanation will address the existence of these facts. It will explain the mechanism behind the makings of each species’ survival, protection, hunting skills, and associated body development. How are animals so perfectly adapted, both to their environment and their capacity to survive there? What is behind their intelligence? Animal cognition is an exciting and challenging subject.
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