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Animal Cognition: Difference Between Humans and Animals

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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.

Even though a bonono may show greater intelligence than many mentally handicapped people, do these people still have greater rights? Is this a birthright? I'm wondering where the line is drawn between man and beast. Do we treat some animals better than humans if they are smarter, or do we treat some humans as animals because they do not display the traits of man? There's also the issue of an intelligence/empathy spectrum within functional humans - does a sociopath, unable to experience emotions in a typical human way, count as human?

I'm playing devil's advocate here (not that I'm religious), but these are legitimate questions.

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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.

Sorry, I just didn't know what Einstein's "gott würfelt nicht" is, and DavidOdden answered you on the other thing just fine.

Plus, I called your statement silly not stupid. I have no idea if it's that way because you haven't thought it through or because you can't. (the latter would imply stupidity)

Even though a bonono may show greater intelligence than many mentally handicapped people

Intelligence has many edfinitions, so let's start by choosing one that's relevant. What do you mean by intelligence?

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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 würfelt nicht".

A lot of the more erroneous aspects of QM can be thrown out on strictly philosophic grounds, like the acausal nature of matter at the sub-atomic level. There necessarily has to be causation for things to interact.

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That's OK. I was in the library today and got another book about quantum mechanics. This one is _way_ better as it discusses philosophic implications, but it is even more disturbing than when i first read about this theory. I think i can give much better responses ones I read it.

Still, your statement about 100% accuracy is highly debatable in modern physics and so are many other things that seemed to be the foundation of our understanding of reality.

einsteins "gott würfel nicht" means "god doesn't throw dice". So I meant the rejection of the implications of quantom theory on determinism based on feelings and not facts.

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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.

1. Axiomatic does not mean arbitrary. It is perceptually ostensive. Even if volitoin were axiomatic, it would not be an arbitrary assertion to realize that there is a very real, evident and massive gap between man and animal. We can debate what causes that gap, but something must describe it.

2. It is unclear how exactly the 3 pieces of evidence you present would lead you to what seems like a "hunch" or "general feeling." Can you articulate it. I've spent a lot of time dealing with dog behavior for instance, and most people don't realize that many seemingly complex mechanisms that in humans have concceptual and/or volitional components can be replicated with simply behavioral queues. Multiple cause and effect sequences that would give the appearance of an emotion are probably not. THe fact that you have found some that exhibit seemingly human traits does not mean that what's going on in their heads is the same thing as what you think. Now obviously, man is an evolved animal so a better generalization might be that what is going on in their heads, probably exists and is a component of what is going on in ours, but it is incomplete. That is the learning and behavioral systems that are present in animals make up sub-systems or building blocks of ours.

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Even though a bonono may show greater intelligence than many mentally handicapped people, do these people still have greater rights? Is this a birthright? I'm wondering where the line is drawn between man and beast. Do we treat some animals better than humans if they are smarter, or do we treat some humans as animals because they do not display the traits of man? There's also the issue of an intelligence/empathy spectrum within functional humans - does a sociopath, unable to experience emotions in a typical human way, count as human?

I'm playing devil's advocate here (not that I'm religious), but these are legitimate questions.

Yes, individual rights are a birthright of being human, because they derive from the requirements of human survival and well-being. It's not a matter of intelligence. The only thing intelligence affects is whether rights can be exercised by the individual who possesses them or by a guardian. As has been said many times in other threads, children's rights are exercised on their behalf by their parents (or other legal guardian), and the mentally handicapped's rights are exercised by their caretakers (with appropriate legal appointment). As for humans who behave as animals and fail to recognize the rights of others, they have forfeited their rights by their voluntary action and yes, it is appropriate to treat them accordingly. In a "state of nature", so to speak, it would be moral to retaliate against anyone who uses force against you, and by extension I would assume it would be moral for anyone to retaliate against initiators-of-force. However, in a lawful society, rational people abdicate their right to use retaliatory force because they recognize the critical value a civil society provides.

Does that make sense?

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Sorry, I just didn't know what Einstein's "gott würfelt nicht" is, and DavidOdden answered you on the other thing just fine.

Plus, I called your statement silly not stupid. I have no idea if it's that way because you haven't thought it through or because you can't. (the latter would imply stupidity)

Intelligence has many edfinitions, so let's start by choosing one that's relevant. What do you mean by intelligence?

Thanks for taking me up on this Jake! :)

I could ask you to perhaps define intelligence as you see it relating to humans, then I'd have a relative marker to define bonobo (for example) intelligence.

My own personal definition of intelligence, which I've not intended for use here but will mention anyway, is the ability to adapt and thrive in a changing environment, but that would make rats smart and apes dumb, so maybe can only be applied to humans relative to each other.

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On your first point:

I agree. For me the gap between humans and animals results in the extend of ability. More precisely in the ability to be the host of memes. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme)

I agree with your second point.. where do you feel i stated something different?

As someone who is currently learning a great deal about cultural transmission and cultural evolution, I should probably warn you that memes and memetics are not theoretically well-regarded by anthropologists, and I think I agree with them. Memes are not adequately defined and it is not at all clear what theoretical work they do. Certainly the analogy gene:biological evolution as meme:cultural evolution should be rejected out of hand.

If you want to learn more about biased cultural transmission as a mode of human learning and adaptation, check out some work by Boyd and Richerson.

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On your first point:

I agree. For me the gap between humans and animals results in the extend of ability. More precisely in the ability to be the host of memes. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme)

I agree with your second point.. where do you feel i stated something different?

I think meme's are not very helpful concepts in the discussion. a) they haven't been defined very well, i.e. they suffer from a very fuzzy definition. If you can tell me what a "unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practice" is, I'd be happy to hear it. what does and does nto qualify as a meme? b ) it still doesnt' discuss underlying mechanism. I would suspect that lack of knowledge about :) results in a) being what it is. But then that makes it a lousy theory. It's a nice concept if you're an empirical anthropologist, but not a philosopher.

If you believed 2 you woudln't have offere those studies as evidence. So I'll ask again, maybe you can articulate for me what you think about those studies shows volition and not a complex sequence of stimulus response behaviors?

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Well i didn't come up with it but the physicists who described quantum mechanics. I read a book about it a while back.

That's not what Ryan meant by the statement. He was instead pointing out that you were making an absolute statment of the non-absoluteness of certainty. How is it that you are able to be certain of it?

It's a tangent, but Objectivism views certainty and the use of statistics a bit differently. And as David pointed out, the interpretation of QM that questions certainty in that way isn't realy the one that is taken seriously.

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These are my own adaptions and i don't know if this correspondes with the "offical theory". I a sense I would describe it as ideas that can and will be transported or communicated from one host to another.

Ideas being solutions to problems or concepts; hosts being live that understands these ideas.

I don't see why the perspective is wrong to see ideas (or memes) competing against each other. And i don't support social darwinism.

But i think that is still not all. I can imagine a species that meets all these criteria and can be even more intelligent than humans but fail to "close the gap" if they don't have the ability to make tools.

So I think the ability to make tools must be a condition.

And yeah this might be useless for philosophy.

About those 3 links: I admitted that they are not very good indeed.. I think the example of the bonobo in later posts is better.

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That's not what Ryan meant by the statement. He was instead pointing out that you were making an absolute statment of the non-absoluteness of certainty. How is it that you are able to be certain of it?

It's a tangent, but Objectivism views certainty and the use of statistics a bit differently. And as David pointed out, the interpretation of QM that questions certainty in that way isn't realy the one that is taken seriously.

Yes my statement probably was not correct, but so is "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."

As i said: I think i can make better ones, once i read the book (and understood it). quantum physics is such a crazy thing..

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einsteins "gott würfel nicht" means "god doesn't throw dice".

Sounds like Einstein was a reasonable man. If one can't see any dice (or any evidence of dice being thrown, or anyone ever creating a true random event in a lab), one should stick to the things one can see: like the good ol' laws of causality. No?

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Thanks for taking me up on this Jake! :lol:

I could ask you to perhaps define intelligence as you see it relating to humans, then I'd have a relative marker to define bonobo (for example) intelligence.

My own personal definition of intelligence, which I've not intended for use here but will mention anyway, is the ability to adapt and thrive in a changing environment, but that would make rats smart and apes dumb, so maybe can only be applied to humans relative to each other.

Here's how Rand defined it:

Ayn Rand Lexicon---Intelligence

Rats are adaptable, not intelligent. The Discovery Channel makes that confusion, but they seem to offer no reason for it. I think they are adaptable mainly due to their physical characteristics, and the way they're wired. Low level "intelligence" in rats, while somewhat interesting, has very little to do with their adaptability. (as far as I could tell from some of those documentaries anyway)

I think the Discovery people are trying to claim nature (the process of evolution) is intelligent, but that's obviously not true. Darwin knew it's not true, I just wish some of these people writing nature documentaries would read him.

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Sounds like Einstein was a reasonable man. If one can't see any dice (or any evidence of dice being thrown, or anyone ever creating a true random event in a lab), one should stick to the things one can see: like the good ol' laws of causality. No?

quoting from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random#In_the...sical_sciences:

According to several standard interpretations of quantum mechanics, microscopic phenomena are objectively random[citation needed]. That is, in an experiment where all causally relevant parameters are controlled, there will still be some aspects of the outcome which vary randomly. An example of such an experiment is placing a single unstable atom in a controlled environment; it cannot be predicted how long it will take for the atom to decay; only the probability of decay within a given time can be calculated.[3] Thus quantum mechanics does not specify the outcome of individual experiments but only the probabilities. Hidden variable theories are inconsistent with the view that nature contains irreducible randomness: such theories posit that in the processes that appear random, properties with a certain statistical distribution are somehow at work "behind the scenes" determining the outcome in each case.

As i said i don't have enough knowledge to say whether that is scientific census right now.. there are more interpretations, but there is a least a reasonable debate about it in science.

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Yes, individual rights are a birthright of being human, because they derive from the requirements of human survival and well-being. It's not a matter of intelligence. The only thing intelligence affects is whether rights can be exercised by the individual who possesses them or by a guardian. As has been said many times in other threads, children's rights are exercised on their behalf by their parents (or other legal guardian), and the mentally handicapped's rights are exercised by their caretakers (with appropriate legal appointment). As for humans who behave as animals and fail to recognize the rights of others, they have forfeited their rights by their voluntary action and yes, it is appropriate to treat them accordingly. In a "state of nature", so to speak, it would be moral to retaliate against anyone who uses force against you, and by extension I would assume it would be moral for anyone to retaliate against initiators-of-force. However, in a lawful society, rational people abdicate their right to use retaliatory force because they recognize the critical value a civil society provides.

Does that make sense?

Sorry, but it only half makes sense (the last half).

What continues to vex me is the point at which a person is intelligent enough to be liable for the choices they make. In your example, children and the mentally handicapped do not qualify; we address the former with an age test and the latter with guardian rights, but what about people who are not legally considered retarded, yet are pretty darn close to it? What about the people above them, and so on?

50% of any population is of below average intelligence, and a another huge chunk is not far above average, leaving a relatively small group of 'superior' and 'very superior' (shrink's terminology) thinkers to handle the innovation.

Where does one draw the line? If a bonobo is able to outperform a human on an IQ test, then why should it not have the right to vote for W? Conversely, why should a stupid (below average) human get the same voting rights as someone in the 99.7th percentile?

To me it seems rather PC to not state the obvious - that most people, most, are too stupid to make the right choices. Why then does a group of people claiming to simply see things as they are (here) not say it as such? or do they?

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Sorry, but it only half makes sense (the last half).

What continues to vex me is the point at which a person is intelligent enough to be liable for the choices they make. In your example, children and the mentally handicapped do not qualify; we address the former with an age test and the latter with guardian rights, but what about people who are not legally considered retarded, yet are pretty darn close to it? What about the people above them, and so on?

50% of any population is of below average intelligence, and a another huge chunk is not far above average, leaving a relatively small group of 'superior' and 'very superior' (shrink's terminology) thinkers to handle the innovation.

Where does one draw the line? If a bonobo is able to outperform a human on an IQ test, then why should it not have the right to vote for W? Conversely, why should a stupid (below average) human get the same voting rights as someone in the 99.7th percentile?

To me it seems rather PC to not state the obvious - that most people, most, are too stupid to make the right choices. Why then does a group of people claiming to simply see things as they are (here) not say it as such? or do they?

Two premises you ought to check - the first is that rights do not apply so much to people as particulars, but to that entire class of entities subsumed under the concept "human" according to the nature which is diagnostic of "human". There is an idea of something called "broken units", particular entities that are members of a class but lack all the characteristics of that class. Imagine a car. Now take off one of the wheels. Even though cars have four wheels, has the thing ceased to be a car because you removed a wheel? No, it's just a three-wheeled car. Similarly you can have a person who is not fully rational, but they are still a person. Human? Check. Rights? Yes. You do not define a concept around its instances of broken units.

The second premise I recommend you check is much more important - the presumption that you or I or anyone who is "gifted" will ever know what is the "right" choice for someone else on our best day and their worst. Nine times out of ten we won't. We lack the context, plain and simple. Yes, it is an objective fact that some people are better decision makers than others, sometimes considerably so. But they still don't get to go around making decisions in all aspects of others' lives, and it's nothing but trouble when they do. The fantasy of the benevolent dictator is just that...a fallacy. Human life only flourishes when we are all free, and the most essential freedom of all is the freedom to make our own decisions.

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Two premises you ought to check - the first is that rights do not apply so much to people as particulars, but to that entire class of entities subsumed under the concept "human" according to the nature which is diagnostic of "human". There is an idea of something called "broken units", particular entities that are members of a class but lack all the characteristics of that class. Imagine a car. Now take off one of the wheels. Even though cars have four wheels, has the thing ceased to be a car because you removed a wheel? No, it's just a three-wheeled car. Similarly you can have a person who is not fully rational, but they are still a person. Human? Check. Rights? Yes. You do not define a concept around its instances of broken units.

The second premise I recommend you check is much more important - the presumption that you or I or anyone who is "gifted" will ever know what is the "right" choice for someone else on our best day and their worst. Nine times out of ten we won't. We lack the context, plain and simple. Yes, it is an objective fact that some people are better decision makers than others, sometimes considerably so. But they still don't get to go around making decisions in all aspects of others' lives, and it's nothing but trouble when they do. The fantasy of the benevolent dictator is just that...a fallacy. Human life only flourishes when we are all free, and the most essential freedom of all is the freedom to make our own decisions.

Part 1: I can't put my finger exactly on why this torments me so, because when I read your words I "feel good" and agree mostly, but there's this religiousness - a meme - that keeps popping up here: a human is a human is a human and has the rights of such no matter how broken. It's as if we are elevated to a spiritual status apart from all life on Earth for no other reason than we have human DNA, even if we are at a lower functional level than said non-human life. Seeing humans as sacred does not sound objective to me - but I'm a total noob to this, and obviously have much to learn.

The second part I look at backwards. Stoopidah (like me) and average people are the majority, and have the majority vote when it comes to many important issues. I would not wish for intelligent folk to micromanage the dumdums, but I would wish that the dumdums didn't always get their way due to sheer numbers.

Look at the USA for example: religion is the norm, with half the people believing in creation. They kick and fight to not go metric, call global warming a contentious issue, invade and murder in the name of corporate profit, and.. well, the list goes on (applies to many countries). I see this as a direct result of a few intelligent yet immoral people steering the herds of voters.

Most people choose not to think, and those who do have little more power than to discuss 'a better way' without achieving much. Like Galt and his mythical comrades, retiring to a secluded spot with a group of like minds may be the only way to escape the inertia of stupidity that is modern society. Perhaps the Moon or Mars?

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If you want to find a line to draw between animals and people, try trading with them using money. No animal will understand what money is and what it represents. All humans will, no matter how young or "stupid" they are. The line can probably be drawn lower than that even: can animals make fire? No. Building random tools is fine and dandy - they have some innate intelligence - but until they can create a bow and arrow or a hatchet out of a bone and some flint, then I think it's safe to say animals do not have rights, nor any concept of them, except the "right" of brute force. Would a bonobo even understand what he's voting for, let alone what the hell a vote is?

Animals are cute, I get it, but trying to elevate them or lower human beings to their level, is absurd. The mob rule that is creeping in today is a matter of philosophy, not intelligence.

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Where does one draw the line? If a bonobo is able to outperform a human on an IQ test, then why should it not have the right to vote for W? Conversely, why should a stupid (below average) human get the same voting rights as someone in the 99.7th percentile?

To me it seems rather PC to not state the obvious - that most people, most, are too stupid to make the right choices. Why then does a group of people claiming to simply see things as they are (here) not say it as such? or do they?

Another premise that you should check. You refer to voting rights several times. This implicitly assumes that what someone votes on affects me in a material way based upon the intelligence of the voter. Constitutional limitations specifically are intended to limit what powers "voters" have by implication.

If you're concerned that populist candidates can sway the masses. I'd say that has less to do with intelligence, than the ideas in play both in the masses and more importantly in their intelligent candidates. It is hardly a function of IQ. Kat correctly points out that the 99th percentile cant be assured of konwing better what is good for the first percentile any more than the other way around.

Thinking of this as a problem of how to design government so it is controlled rather than who to give voting rights to.

The fundamental question as far as where to draw the lines is, can they reasonably be expected to run their own lives.

Edited by KendallJ

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If you want to find a line to draw between animals and people, try trading with them using money. No animal will understand what money is and what it represents. All humans will, no matter how young or "stupid" they are. The line can probably be drawn lower than that even: can animals make fire? No. Building random tools is fine and dandy - they have some innate intelligence - but until they can create a bow and arrow or a hatchet out of a bone and some flint, then I think it's safe to say animals do not have rights, nor any concept of them, except the "right" of brute force. Would a bonobo even understand what he's voting for, let alone what the hell a vote is?

Animals are cute, I get it, but trying to elevate them or lower human beings to their level, is absurd. The mob rule that is creeping in today is a matter of philosophy, not intelligence.

No baby understands what money is and humans did exist without tools. Humans invented fire and bow and arrow so there was a time before that where humans had no fire and no arrows. In fact such tribes were even found. They possesed no music, no ability to make fire or bows.

It is wrong to say that humans alway were dependant on making tools. An explanation for the long distance running in basically every culture might be that it has evolutanary roots.

I other words humans used their ability of long distance running to really run their pray to death. There is still some evidance in tribes that exist today. The principal seems to be that humans don't overheat as easily as some potential pray that is more specialised in sprinting. (IE human follows pray. pray sprints away, stops. human reaches pray. the constant sprint - stop causes overheating while humans can virtually run for days)

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Now it's just getting positively bizzarre. Until a species is able to hold and develop the concept of a "right" which is an abstract concept, rights can't exist for it. Even volitional man has to develop the concept and be capable of understanding what it is to be ablet to act upon the idea. Man was volitional and conceptual long before he had the idea of a right.

Babies don't understand these ideas but you cant think of them as animals. They are volitional/conceptual beings in a develpomental stage. Unlike animals, one can safely say that the average baby will have the ability to understand these things when it is finished developing.

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Part 1: I can't put my finger exactly on why this torments me so, because when I read your words I "feel good" and agree mostly, but there's this religiousness - a meme - that keeps popping up here: a human is a human is a human and has the rights of such no matter how broken. It's as if we are elevated to a spiritual status apart from all life on Earth for no other reason than we have human DNA, even if we are at a lower functional level than said non-human life. Seeing humans as sacred does not sound objective to me - but I'm a total noob to this, and obviously have much to learn.

I think what you may be missing is that humans are different from other animals in that we MUST rely on reason in order to survive as humans. Man must think and choose to act in order to sustain his own existence. Given this requirement for survival, individual rights (which are defined as a man’s freedom of action in a social context) are necessary for man based on his fundamental nature. Neither religion nor man’s spiritual status has anything to do with Objectivism’s justification of individual rights.

From For the New Intellectual: The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational. Any group, any gang, any nation that attempts to negate man’s rights, is wrong, which means: is evil, which means: is anti-life.

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