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Animal Cognition: Difference Between Humans and Animals

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I disagree with the statement that the difference between humans and animals is the ability to act volitionally.

Monkeys have a sense of morality

Elephants show basic math skills

Ted talk about bonobos

With these findings, it is very hard for me to find a clear line between. Probably the best thing is the ability to allow the evolution of memes. But even that isn't as clear.

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I disagree with the statement that the difference between humans and animals is the ability to act volitionally.

Monkeys have a sense of morality

Elephants show basic math skills

Ted talk about bonobos

With these findings, it is very hard for me to find a clear line between. Probably the best thing is the ability to allow the evolution of memes. But even that isn't as clear.

I think you should think about what your statement(s) imply. Like, applying justice to the immoral.

By your line of thinking, shouldn't we be rounding up that ape that nearly killed that woman who was keeping her as a pet and bringing him to justice? We should also put the "owner" on trial for having a slave since slavery was abolished some time ago in this country. In fact, we need to round up ALL of those animals "in the wild" acting immorally by catching them and putting them on trial for theft, assault, and murder. I think they still have the death penalty in TX. :dough::dough: :dough: :dough: :dough:

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With these findings, it is very hard for me to find a clear line between.

Those findings are horribly unscientific, confused ramblings.

If I were generous, I'd say the first article starts out with a fallacy Ayn Rand called The Frozen Abstraction Fallacy. If I were a little more demanding, I'd say they never even attempt to define or properly explain whatever it is they are trying to prove.

The next paragraph explicitly contradicts the title of the article:

I am not arguing that non-human primates are moral beings but there is enough evidence for the following of social rules to agree that some of the stepping stones toward human morality can be found in other animals

It's funny how the title says monkeys have a sense of morality.

The experiment itself is also not described. Overall, the article has zero scientific value. There wasn't a single observation of fact, valid conclusion or logical deduction contained in it. Just meaningless speculation, and blatant contradictions.

The second article is a fluff-piece on how an elephant can tell the difference between three and five apples. (and thus count to four-and yes, only four. The rest of the experiment is clearly rigged, probably done that way because adding all five and seven apples in uninterrupted succession confused the elephant, failing to "prove" what the student was aiming for.) Either way, that, by itself, means nothing.

So I don't doubt it that those findings haven't helped you to establish any truth about human nature and the difference between humans and animals. How could they, they don't contain any science whatsoever.

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I think you should think about what your statement(s) imply. Like, applying justice to the immoral.

By your line of thinking, shouldn't we be rounding up that ape that nearly killed that woman who was keeping her as a pet and bringing him to justice? We should also put the "owner" on trial for having a slave since slavery was abolished some time ago in this country. In fact, we need to round up ALL of those animals "in the wild" acting immorally by catching them and putting them on trial for theft, assault, and murder. I think they still have the death penalty in TX. :dough::dough: :dough: :dough: :dough:

No. I don't want animals to be treated equal. I'm justing questioning the straight line between animals and humans.

Those findings are horribly unscientific, confused ramblings.

If I were generous, I'd say the first article starts out with a fallacy Ayn Rand called The Frozen Abstraction Fallacy. If I were a little more demanding, I'd say they never even attempt to define or properly explain whatever it is they are trying to prove.

The next paragraph explicitly contradicts the title of the article:

I am not arguing that non-human primates are moral beings but there is enough evidence for the following of social rules to agree that some of the stepping stones toward human morality can be found in other animals

It's funny how the title says monkeys have a sense of morality.

The experiment itself is also not described. Overall, the article has zero scientific value. There wasn't a single observation of fact, valid conclusion or logical deduction contained in it. Just meaningless speculation, and blatant contradictions.

The second article is a fluff-piece on how an elephant can tell the difference between three and five apples. (and thus count to four-and yes, only four. The rest of the experiment is clearly rigged, probably done that way because adding all five and seven apples in uninterrupted succession confused the elephant, failing to "prove" what the student was aiming for.) Either way, that, by itself, means nothing.

So I don't doubt it that those findings haven't helped you to establish any truth about human nature and the difference between humans and animals. How could they, they don't contain any science whatsoever.

I agree. Those articles aren't very good.

I watched a very interesting documentary about bonobos (or chimpanzee) a while back, but i can't find it.

If i remember correctly one could observe:

Self-awareness and empathy.

The ability to learn a language and form sentences (the ape in that documentary even understood 2 human languages: English and Hebrew) to express feelings and needs.

The ability to solved problems by adapting learned concepts to the specific problem.

The ability to make tools and using and changing them for different problems (not exactly on the point but check out this interesting video about crows: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/joshua_..._of_crows.html)

I'm trying to provide sources and will post them then, but I'm not making this up.

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If i remember correctly one could observe:

Self-awareness and empathy.

How exactly did you observe that the animal was self-aware or was feeling empathy?

One has quite a few senses, but none of them are useful for observing another entity's feelings. The only feelings and consciusness I can observe is my own, through introspection.

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How exactly did you observe that the animal was self-aware or was feeling empathy?

One has quite a few senses, but none of them are useful for observing another entity's feelings. The only feelings and consciusness I can observe is my own, through introspection.

The mirror test is used for self-awareness. Of course it is no direct observation, just like most scientific findings. Empathy can be "observed" when an ape kisses or embraces a member of it's group that was being attacked / harassemt by, for example, the dominant male.

Again this could be somehow instinct or a consistence but i think it is more likely that the ape knows that being harrassed causes emotional stress and therefore tries to relieve the stress from it's mate by kisses.

And by your logic one could also not state that humans are self-aware. You can only state that you are self-aware and therefore there is a chance that other humans share that trait, but you can't be sure.. but that doesn't get you anywhere.

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No. I don't want animals to be treated equal. I'm justing questioning the straight line between animals and humans.

So...the argument you've presented goes something like this: "Animals have volition. So do humans. But, human beings are to adhere to reality and be held accountable for their volitional acts, and animals are not."

This is, in essential terms, the hatred of man. THIS is part of why Objectivism is against environmentalism. The constant calls for humans to be treated as less than animals. In fact, humans are really being asked to be treated as less than dirt.

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So...the argument you've presented goes something like this: "Animals have volition. So do humans. But, human beings are to adhere to reality and be held accountable for their volitional acts, and animals are not."

This is, in essential terms, the hatred of man. THIS is part of why Objectivism is against environmentalism. The constant calls for humans to be treated as less than animals. In fact, humans are really being asked to be treated as less than dirt.

NO!

What makes you think i want humans to be treated less than animals? Why do you think I'm "the hatred of man".

I have just not found a morally consistent system that provides solutions for all problems that are important in my point of view. If i had to choose one of those systems, i probably chose objevtivism or something close to it, but since it doesn't not fully satisfy me i'd go without a morally consistent system for now.

I'm merely questioning thinks that doen't seem logical or clear to me and one of these things is the line between humans and animals.

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Empathy can be "observed" when an ape kisses or embraces a member of it's group that was being attacked / harassemt by, for example, the dominant male.

Again this could be somehow instinct or a consistence but i think it is more likely that the ape knows that being harrassed causes emotional stress and therefore tries to relieve the stress from it's mate by kisses.

Why is it more likely? How did you measure that likelihood, and why did you choose to specify that it is between 50 and 100%, rather than name the actual probability of the assumption being true or not.

I'm sorry, but without explaining that (and specifying the margin of error for your calculations), your use of the word "likely" betrays an attempt to "pull one over" the scientific method. (in other words, you are rationalizing, and that's not science)

Empathy can't really be observed, unless the ape managed to communicate it somehow. The problem with that is that it is impossible for an ape to understand the meaning of the word empathy. In fact no one has ever produced an experiment in which an animal proved to have the ability to form abstract concepts. (and I don't just mean abstract as in feelings and empathy, but even the undrstanding of something as simple as triangle vs. rectangle)

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I'm merely questioning thinks that doen't seem logical or clear to me and one of these things is the line between humans and animals.

And what doesn't seem logical about the distinction between man and other animals? So far you've asserted that some higher forms of animals appear to be able to show empathy. My reply to that is: So what? Dogs and cats show affection toward their owners. So do rabbits and some rodents. Clearly some animals are able to engage in low level thought processes. Does that mean they are conceptual beings? Does that mean they possess volitional consciousness? Does that mean they deserve to be granted rights? Hell no it doesn't. When my dog can explain the concepts volitional and consciousness, then I'd be happy to grant him a full set of rights. Until then, he stays on a leash in the back yard.

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I'm merely questioning thinks that doen't seem logical or clear to me and one of these things is the line between humans and animals.
Then you should re-examine the nature of man's consciousness and see what distinguishes man from beast. "Empathy", as it exists in animals, is an emotion, not a form of reason. What animals lack is a rational faculty. Do you understand what that refers to?

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I think there is a misunderstanding here. I'm not saying that it is not possible to find something that separates animals from humans; I was saying that the ability to reason is not it.

I actually made a proposition for a criteria that might be better suited in my first post.

Why is it more likely? How did you measure that likelihood, and why did you choose to specify that it is between 50 and 100%, rather than name the actual probability of the assumption being true or not.

I'm sorry, but without explaining that (and specifying the margin of error for your calculations), your use of the word "likely" betrays an attempt to "pull one over" the scientific method. (in other words, you are rationalizing, and that's not science)

everything in this world is based on likeliness. Even things that are considered facts are just estimates in a way (IE the assumption that humans have empathy). It is just so very likely that we simply take it as fact. And that is why i rather use "it is likely" than "it is". I obviously can't name specific percentage. I was just trusting in my ability to make estimates.

Why i think it is more likely that apes have empathy and don't show this behavior because of instinct? Apes show many abilities that can best be explained with the ability to understand basic concepts. They can solve various problems that they never encountered before. So i don't see why the concept of self and feelings and by that, the concept of empathy should be impossible for them to understand and the observed behavior supports that.

Empathy can't really be observed, unless the ape managed to communicate it somehow. The problem with that is that it is impossible for an ape to understand the meaning of the word empathy. In fact no one has ever produced an experiment in which an animal proved to have the ability to form abstract concepts. (and I don't just mean abstract as in feelings and empathy, but even the undrstanding of something as simple as triangle vs. rectangle)

You might be surprised but i think you are right. I can't think of any abstract concept that an animal can understand. That might be indeed something that distinguishes man from beast (for now :dough:).

But for me, the ability to reason does not contain the ability to understand abstract concepts. Just like intelligence does not allow to formulate the string theory. It is the extend of the ability that matters.

So it might simply be a problem of definition :dough:

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This is a question that I, as someone who is crucially interested both in primate social structure and primate cooperative behavior generally, wrestle with...is the difference between humans and the rest of the animals a matter of degree or kind? crizon, you will find that when Objectivists speak of reason, at least as they apply it to humans, it NECESSARILY includes the ability to form concepts. That's the whole focus of human reason. I don't think anyone here will seriously deny that the higher animals have intelligence, communicate, problem-solve, and in general display some very complex behaviors. Certainly no one will deny that they feel and/or have emotions. The crucial differences come down to conceptual vs. perceptual mentality and volitional consciousness. I think there is some evidence that certain animals in particular circumstances might have volitional consciousness (i.e. they can choose not to think). I cannot find a single instance of concept formation and use yet. Pattern recognition, sure, but that can operate as a fixed action pattern completely driven by genes and I don't think that's anything special.

I think you will find that you need to be very clear about what you are talking about and what evidence you bring to bear. Intuitively plausible scenarios are nice but they are not science in themselves. You cannot be satisfied with what seems to make sense. Far too many scientists themselves fall prey to this mistake (like in most of the papers I've been reading this semester).

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everything in this world is based on likeliness. Even things that are considered facts are just estimates in a way (IE the assumption that humans have empathy). It is just so very likely that we simply take it as fact. And that is why i rather use "it is likely" than "it is". I obviously can't name specific percentage. I was just trusting in my ability to make estimates.

I think that's silly. Silly with relativism on top.

Plus, probability and statistics are just math used to help us estimate a reality too complex to represent fully (as information) and events to complex (in their causality) to predict with 100% certainty. If you leave all that context out and instead borrow, from that field, terms such as "likeliness", to be used in the context of "guessing" or "following your gut", that is not science, or logic, or reason: it is the proverbial "magic" and "revelation" all religion relies on.

It's like someone saying that the World is based on loaded bases. Why would this someone use a baseball (or math) term out of context?

So unless you can name the specific mathematical formulas or statistical methods you employed to make these estimates, your ability to make estimates is zero. You should stop trusting it, and instead you should rely on other people's ability to make estimates, until you learn to make your own. Not that making estimates is a factor in any of this. Statistics is a field rarely used in biology, and almost never used in philosophy. (certainly not in full understanding of what it actually is)

Indeed, I am inclined to agree with you. :dough:

Hehe, that's a low blow.

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No that is not true. Chance is a fundamental principle of the universe and is not a result of a lack of information. Even if you know all information that can be know, you can still not make a 100% prediction about the future.

As far as we know reality is not deterministic.

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Statistics is a field rarely used in biology, and almost never used in philosophy. (certainly not in full understanding of what it actually is)

What is your basis for concluding that statistics is not used in biology? I can almost guarantee you I cannot get a paper published on any original data I may generate currently if I do not have statistics in the paper. Can you tell me one area of biological research that does not require statistics?

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NO!

What makes you think i want humans to be treated less than animals? Why do you think I'm "the hatred of man".

I have just not found a morally consistent system that provides solutions for all problems that are important in my point of view. If i had to choose one of those systems, i probably chose objevtivism or something close to it, but since it doesn't not fully satisfy me i'd go without a morally consistent system for now.

I'm merely questioning thinks that doen't seem logical or clear to me and one of these things is the line between humans and animals.

I'm not saying that you, specifically, represent the hatred of man. I'm just saying that the argument you seem to be hinting at would suggest that man is somehow lesser than other animals because he isn't allowed to "get away with" shirking his moral responsibility that results from having a volitional consciousness while animals - in your own words - aren't to be held to the same standards as humans. It just seems like that argument actually is advocating that animals be allowed to have volition and do whatever they want and forget about the consequences. I mean if they really can choose one act over another, then why aren't we holding them accountable for their actions?

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No that is not true. Chance is a fundamental principle of the universe and is not a result of a lack of information. Even if you know all information that can be know, you can still not make a 100% prediction about the future.

As far as we know reality is not deterministic.

How did you reach such a conclusion, my Humean friend?

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Well i didn't come up with it but the physicists who described quantum mechanics.
But as you presumably know, the Copenhagen interpretation of the facts is just an interpretation; the de Broglie-Bohm theory is causal in nature, as is as well-supported experimentally as the Copenhagen model is.

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Yes. The classical interpretation is the most accepted among physicists. The last thing I remember reading about the different interpretations was, that there are still problems with the Bohm interpretation.

I'm not a physicists so i can't really argue there.. personally i just felt that purposing "hidden values" to save determinism was more or less on the same level as Einsteins "gott w├╝rfelt nicht".

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Just a quick question: how retarded must one be to no longer qualify as being human?

Dead. (Or in a coma permanently brain-dead) And he'd still be "human" (the way a corpse is), just not what we commonly refer to as "a man".

Beyond that, people with disabilities are human beings. Obviously. Socially, the same standards and rights which apply to you and me should apply to them too. If they can't live independently, in a society, they have to be placed in someone's care and treated similarly to children.

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I thought about this whole issue on the train for a while and if i'm correct this issue can't really be debated.

It seem volition is axiomatic and also that volition is described by objectivism in a way that will seperate humans from animals. Therefore the separation is axiomatic.

I still feel that using reality to support this claim can't lead nowhere. Think about the problem of determinism in the mind and reason. You *will* hit a wall there.

and Jake, I don't like the fact that you claim my statement is stupid (such a claim has no room in a diskussion in the first place) and then ignore my response.

Edited by crizon

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