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Thread: Are Animals Sentient?

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    Default Are Animals Sentient?

    Sentience is generally taken as being self-aware, that is, being aware of yourself as an individual different from others in your group. You can feel/emote, and perceive abstract notions, as well as being able to anticipate and, most importantly, think. This leads to what some say is the ultimate proof of human intelligence - the ability to create, whether it be an atomic bomb or a wonderful piece of art.

    Animals do not seem to think, but seemingly can can feel emotion and the most intelligent may even be aware of themselves as individuals. Cows being led to slaughter have been discovered to be crying, aware of their impending deaths. Chimpanzees can be taught sign language, and have used signs to communicate their feelings. Crows can count. Dolphins recognise themselves in mirrors.

    Do we share the Earth with all its other forms of life, or is it right that we dominate it?

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    Cats are sentient.

    “I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly; you make one quite giddy!”
    “All right,” said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mousey View Post
    Sentience is generally taken as being self-aware, that is, being aware of yourself as an individual different from others in your group. You can feel/emote, and perceive abstract notions, as well as being able to anticipate and, most importantly, think. This leads to what some say is the ultimate proof of human intelligence - the ability to create, whether it be an atomic bomb or a wonderful piece of art.

    Animals do not seem to think, but seemingly can can feel emotion and the most intelligent may even be aware of themselves as individuals. Cows being led to slaughter have been discovered to be crying, aware of their impending deaths. Chimpanzees can be taught sign language, and have used signs to communicate their feelings. Crows can count. Dolphins recognise themselves in mirrors.

    Do we share the Earth with all its other forms of life, or is it right that we dominate it?
    Quite an interesting question posed here, but to answer a part of it, regarding whether or not they anticipate or think, then yes. A famous study carried out by Pavlov proved that dogs would salivate when they heard a bell, as over a period of time, he rang the bell just before he would feed them. This association in the behavioristic approach to psychology is known as operant conditoning. What this proves is that animals can anticipate given that a stimulus (in this case, a bell ringing) is introduced. Another study by Skinner proved that rats are able to think for themselves. See this study below:

    One of his best known inventions is the Skinner box (operant conditioning chamber). It contains one or more levers which an animal can press, one or more stimulus lights and one or more places in which reinforcers like food can be delivered.

    In one of Skinners’ experiments a starved rat was introduced into the box. When the lever was pressed by the rat a small pellet of food was dropped onto a tray. The rat soon learned that when he pressed the lever he would receive some food. In this experiment the lever pressing behavior is reinforced by food.

    If pressing the lever is reinforced (the rat gets food) when a light is on but not when it is off, responses (pressing the lever) continue to be made in the light but seldom, if at all, in the dark. The rat has formed discrimination between light and dark. When one turns on the light, a response occurs, but that is not a Pavlovian conditioned reflex response.

    In this experiment Skinner demonstrated the ideas of "operant conditioning" and "shaping behavior." Unlike Pavlov's "classical conditioning," where an existing behavior (salivating for food) is shaped by associating it with a new stimulus (ringing of a bell or a metronome), operant conditioning is the rewarding of an act that approaches a new desired behavior.

    Skinner applied his findings about animals to human behavior and even developed teaching machines so students could learn bit by bit, uncovering answers for an immediate "reward." Computer-based self-instruction uses many of the principles of Skinner's technique.


    I hope that helps with some of your answer?
    Last edited by samlad; 21-10-10 at 14:24.

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    Maybe it's just me, but why is Pavlov considered a great scientist? Is there anyone who has ever been around a dog and who thinks that they don't know when they're about to be fed?

    “I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly; you make one quite giddy!”
    “All right,” said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

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    Methinks Mousey is beginning to feel pangs of guilt related to his depraved practice of bestiality.

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    Quote Originally Posted by El Gordo View Post
    Maybe it's just me, but why is Pavlov considered a great scientist? Is there anyone who has ever been around a dog and who thinks that they don't know when they're about to be fed?
    Like all good scientists, he discovered this inadvertently as he iniatially abandoned his career in priesthood to study the digestion process in animals as a scientist. This 'find' was considered as a phenomenon at the time, and was only considered to be a Behaviourist approach to psychology once John Watson, father of the Behaviouristic approach, applied this to his own studies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alec Horan View Post
    Methinks Mousey is beginning to feel pangs of guilt related to his depraved practice of bestiality.

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    I had the unfortunate experience of working in an abbatoir for a very short period of time and do believe that the animals led to slaughter do know exactly what's going on. Put me off meat for a long time. I also believe that cats and other animals do have emotions as the very fact that they feel pain and express that hurt is an emotion in itself as is fear. I did study some basic psychology and the theories of Pavlov, operant and classical conditioning and experiments of Milgram on human conditioning and behaviour but at the end of the day I often go by what I see for myself. This leaves me with no doubt at all that animals have feelings and perhaps much more than we really know.

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    In some ways I think animals are very better at judging people in the right way. They have a great sense of a good and bad person. They respond to kindess to with a great deal of kindess back.

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    Yes they're sentient, they're as sentient as you and I are. We are all animals anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by vampirejackie View Post
    In some ways I think animals are very better at judging people in the right way. They have a great sense of a good and bad person. They respond to kindess to with a great deal of kindess back.
    My dog used to always like my sister and mom better than me no matter what I did, and I never could figure out why. That could explain it.

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