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What Separates Us From The Apes


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Bishop Spong's position on the lack of self-consciousness in hon-human animals seems contradicted by some of Jane Goodall's observations as recorded on TED, in the topic "What separates us from the apes." The types of interactions she describes seem to point to true self-awareness within at least some apes. Wonder if the good Bishop has viewed that particular discussion?

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From what I understand, self-consciousness is also found in dolphins, elephants and maybe other non-human animals.

 

'Theory of Mind' has also been suggested as a/the uniquely human trait. This is what allows us to project a state of mind to others. And, it is what also allows us to conceive of an invisible agent (creator) with intentionality (will).

 

I prefer to think of us as one animal with certain abilities among all animals, each with special abilities.

 

George

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'Theory of Mind' has also been suggested as a/the uniquely human trait.

 

If this were true, it would make me wonder how animals (apparently) know how to judge expressions/intentions, or form bonds with other beings.

 

Of course, I have no idea what creates the human-animal divide -- it seems that whatever ability you can single out in a human, you can also find to a lesser extent in some animals. But we also know that any function of the mind -- language, concepts, etc. -- are not simple. Everything about the structure of our minds seems to be interconnected and layered, no experience being simple (even a 'simple' of experience of pain, for instance). This, it seems plausible to posit, is responsible for novel cognitive abilities and states of mind.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Mike,

 

An example I have read to illustrate ToM is: Suppose you and your dog go out in the morning and see your neighbor pick up her newspaper and then go in her house. You project that she did so because she intends to read it. Your dog would not make that projection of intent.

 

George

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As others note, yes, self-conciousness,one believed to be "the" trait or ability that set humans apart from other animals, has now been pretty much verified to exist in some other animal specie. Anmals have alsobeendemonstratedtobeableto expereince at least some degree of empathy/sympathy for others. For now, 'theory of mind' is the main interest in this, but also, the capacity for language, as well, which involves some pretty complex concepts of using symbols. While there have been a few that have claimed to have demonstrated the capacity for language, mainly in a few cases in which someone achieved through intensive work with a higher ape over many many years, some degree of ability to communicate with that animal in some language-like way, it is not actually clear that is what was actually what was involved or demonstrated.

 

Jenell

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While there have been a few that have claimed to have demonstrated the capacity for language, mainly in a few cases in which someone achieved through intensive work with a higher ape over many many years, some degree of ability to communicate with that animal in some language-like way, it is not actually clear that is what was actually what was involved or demonstrated.

 

Animal language, even after years of careful effort, is so rudimentary compared with that of a 10-year old child acquired effortlessly that there is no real comparison.

 

Someone has proposed that the difference between humans and other animals is the vacuum cleaner. No human is afraid of a vacuum cleaner :).

 

George

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I feel our linear mind is a slave that is never stable, never secure and is always at the mercy of change. The mind cannot rest because it can’t see the whole picture, but when it makes spiritual choices to live by its reason and consciousness as a man over its instinctive, animal, blinding passion then the mind starts to live not only by the linear, earthly, physical life inherited from Adam, but by the harmonious spiritual life that is experienced in Christ consciousness.

 

I don't know about the apes, but when I see the ape, I become the ape in my mind and witness its greatness in consciousness. It would be great if the ape had the same experience with my image and personality.

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Soma wrote: "...The mind cannot rest because it can’t see the whole picture...."

 

You know, i never thought of it in quite that way, but as you articulate it here, that described very accurately how my mental activity "feels" to me so often...as if my mind is, by alternate turns, trying to draw back so as to take in a bigger picture, perhaps as the phrase,trying to take it all in at once, then something catching my attention for a closer look at it, then back out again, to look at the overview, how that one part fits into and relates to all else around it in the big picture, but a frustration, that I cannot draw back far enough to behold all at once ALL of the big picture,take inthe wider view, and that even as I try to, those things visible only close up fade and receed and loose their definiftion....kind of like playing with Google Earth app, you zoom in to see details of the terrain, even individual trees and rocks and cars and houses and even people, but as you draw back out to try to see how that little area, or community, fits into, relates to a larger area, a whole state, or a whole country, you can't see ANYof those local details anymore. So neither way can I see the big picture, all the wide overview, AND the details of the close-up view all at once.

 

And I have the funniest feeling that to anyone that actually reads that rambling paragraph is either going to say, "that's it exactly! That's just how ii is!" OR they are going to scratch their head and wonder if Jenell is going to explain in the morning that she actually must have written that after she had taken her ambien and gone to sleep for the night again, and request an administator make it dissapear. :D

Edited by JenellYB
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Someone has proposed that the difference between humans and other animals is the vacuum cleaner. No human is afraid of a vacuum cleaner :).

 

George

 

Back in the 1940s, my Mum was afraid of my Grandmother's washing machine. I know that's not a vacuum cleaner, however …

 

Returning to the original topic: Bishop Spong has a particular definition of what he means by self-consciousness. From memory it is something along the lines of awareness of self as an individual. I am not sure how we might detect this in other animals. I know my male dog likes to decorate himself with perfumes that I find obnoxious. Is this a form of self-awareness? Thene, there was a lyre bird (he died recently) that nested in the car park at a popular skiing resort. He used to entertain people with his song and dance routine. The more people, the more animated his routine became. Was this a form of self-consciousness? It was not being done for material reward: people did not feed him.

 

—Jim

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In psychology and theories of cognition, self-consciousness involves not only awareness of oneself as an individual (which can actually be a part of simple self-awareness without presence of self-consciousness, and which is easily demonstrated in many kinds of animals) , but also the capacity to reflect upon one's self as both subject and object, and to "take the role of other"....ie, acility to vicariously consider anything from another's point of view, including, but not limited to, how that other may percieve and think about us. This latter is an extremely important element of self-conciousness, since it involves how we can self- monitor and moderate our behaviors according to how we think others might percive us, and thus interact with us in turn.

 

i think that as self-awareness and self-consciousness are defined and described within the field of psychology and cognition is the only way these terms should be used, lest we disintegrate as we have with so many other words and terms into applying and using them in so many ways inconsistent with and contrary to formal definitions, they become essentially meaningless for purposes of discussion and consideration. I will try to find later, when/if I have a chance to dig through my college texts and other resources, something of a more formal definition and description for these terms, what each entails, and difference between them, to post here.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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Jim wrote: Thene, there was a lyre bird (he died recently) that nested in the car park at a popular skiing resort. He used to entertain people with his song and dance routine. The more people, the more animated his routine became. Was this a form of self-consciousness? It was not being done for material reward: people did not feed him.

 

No, this would not demonstrate self consciousness, and yes, the bird was motivated by reward....food is not the only possible reward for animal or human behavior. Just as that lyre bird, many animals learn to enjoy entertaining people, and it can become a very pleasurable form of self-stimulation. Think of how a dog learns to do things to incite human responses of approval and/or excitement or playfulness, that then feeds back to the dog to elevate the dog's own pleasurable mood. Dogs and other animals commonly do the same thing with other animals, especially of their own kind, to incite playfulness, and can also contribute to the animal's sense of safety and well-being, in establishing positive social bonds between them.

 

Jenel;

Edited by JenellYB
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i think that as self-awareness and self-consciousness are defined and described within the field of psychology and cognition is the only way these terms should be used, lest we disintegrate as we have with so many other words and terms into applying and using them in so many ways inconsistent with and contrary to formal definitions, they become essentially meaningless for purposes of discussion and consideration. I will try to find later, when/if I have a chance to dig through my college texts and other resources, something of a more formal definition and description for these terms, what each entails, and difference between them, to post here.

(My emphasis above) Thank you Jenell. I agree with your suggestion that we need to keep definitions clear. This was Bishop Spong's definition: my lay mind was a bit confused. How would you detect self-consciousness, as opposed to self-awareness, in linguistically limited beings? Our dogs respond when either my wife or I is upset. Is this an indication of empathy and therefore of self-consciouness?

 

—Jim

Edited by JimYoungman
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What I do wish is that I had a tail. After having a kid - my first - boy a tail would come in handy.

 

You do have one - it is vestigial, but was more evident while in your mother's womb. It helped propel you about the place back then. In an earlier time, it helped you navigate the trees.

 

NORM

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Jim wrote: Our dogs respond when either my wife or I is upset. Is this an indication of empathy and therefore of self-consciouness?

 

1. is iit empathy? yes no maybe. Many social animals have the ability to recognize distress and other emotional states in not only animals of their own kind, but across species. Thus does, say, a mother recognize and respond to the distress cries and behavior of her pup. This is natural survival instinct. Empathy of this sort is not indicative of self-consciousness, which involved the ability to reflect upon itself as both self and object, and take the role of other.

2. indication of self-consciousness, defintely no. Through both the social instincts noted in #1, recognizing emotional states of others, and also natural need to learn how to read and react to those things observed in others is also social/survival related. You dog doesn't know you are sad, for example, or what you are sad, it only knows that how you act and react to the dog is very much associated with what he can expect from you toward him. This is true even with strange other animals and people, but of course more so with the dog's "own persons." Such adjusting its own state to yours is also part of, in packing animals like dogs, part of the communication and bonding processes within their pack, or family. Think about it, you and your wife and dogs can be just laying around the living room, but if you and or your wife were to suddently get up and be all happy and dancing around about something,the dogs would be right there getting all excited and happy along with you, even though they have no clue why you are doing, and, if you care to try the experiment, you were to be entirely 'faking it.'

 

Btw, I have both many years of extensive experience training and exhibiting animals, mostly dogs and horses, as well as a BS Psychology, with some additional training in Behavioral theories connected to my having served an internship in a research and therapy project several years ago while attending college, doing intensive hands-on behavior modification therapy with young children with autism. Turned out far too physically rough and demanding for me at this age, lol! That work is definitely for strong young people! So this is one of my areas of particular expertise.

 

I don't know when i would find something from one of my texts to copy and put here, and also would not want to risk violating this site's copyright rules, but I think you might find sources if you browse the net, for "self-wareness", "self-consciousness", "cognitive science/psychology" possible "Developmental Psychology", just choose somewhat professional or academic resources, not popular lay ideas about them that may know less that you do already, lol.

 

Jenell

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Btw, Jim, the most simple and common set of "tests" of self-consciousness, that is actually used when making a clinical psychological evaluation of a young child's developmental stage, to indicate it has developed self-consciousness, which human infants are not born with...a child showing positive responses on all these tests is considered to have definitely developed self-consciousness...positive responses to only some of them, or uncertain partial responses indicate self-consiousness has begun to develop, but may not be yet fully developed...in these cases, on the chance the baby was having an off day, distracted, not feeling well, etc, with partial responses, it is reccomended the same tests be performed again on another day.

 

I give details of these tests because knowing what a psychologist would be looking for in testing a child for development of self-conciousness might be the best way to give you an idea what is actually involved in self-consciousness. One notable exception, these tests/results are NOT valid or reliable with children affected by autism.

 

1. Holding the child in front of a mirror, make sure it notices it''s reflected image.

a, Turn the child away from the mirror briefly, and very gently place a small colored 'sticky' dot onto hair onto child's forhead or just above forehead, without it noticing.

b. Turn the child back toward the mirror, does the child notice the "dot" on the mirror image of itself?

c. Does the child reach up to its own forehead to touch the "dot", whether or not it showed response to the "dot" on the image in the mirror. Positive response. Indicative of self'-consciousness development.

 

2. Show child photos and.or video of itself and others. Does the child show recognition of itself in a different reaction to the photos and video of others? Positive response.

 

3. When either watching its own image in the mirror, or viewing them in photos and/or videos, close enough for the child to touch them, does the child touch or point to itself, or even better, particular parts of itself in the images, and then bring hand/finger toward itself or the that same part on itself? Positive response.

 

Jenell

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Thanks for that Jenell. Spurred on by your comments I googled the subject and found an article in Psychology Today by Marc Bekoff that concluded:

So, do any animals, when looking at themselves, hearing themselves, or smelling themselves, exclaim "Wow, that's me"? Do they have a sense of "I-ness?" We really don't know, especially for wild animals. It's time to get out of the armchair and into the field. Speculation doesn't substitute for careful studies of behavior.

 

Some people don't want to acknowledge the possibility of self-awareness in animals because if they do, the borders between humans and other animals become blurred and their narrow, hierarchical, anthropocentric view of the world would be toppled. But Darwin's ideas about continuity, along with empirical data and common sense, caution against the unyielding claim that humans and perhaps a few other animals such as other great apes and cetaceans are the only species in which some sense of self has evolved.

 

—Jim

Edited by JimYoungman
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My dog says to let you all know that in a few million years time, he & his companions the dolphins, elephants, and apes, will be recognised as having slef-consciousness. :D

 

Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror, joining only humans, apes and dolphins as animals that possess this kind of self-awareness, researchers now report.

"This would seem to be a trait common to and independently evolved by animals with large, complex brains, complex social lives and known capacities for empathy and altruism, even though the animals all have very different kinds of brains," researcher Diana Reiss, a senior cognitive research scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Brooklyn, N.Y., told LiveScience.

 

I would say it's just a matter of time before other species on the evolutionary chain, catch up.

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While there is some evidence that other species have some ability to reason as shown by tool usage there is no evidence that they can reason past how to smash open a nut.

 

Again there is evidence to suggest that some language skills can be taught there is no evidence that they will teach each other.

 

It comes down to basic intelligence. A humans brain is developed for thinking and is our evolutionary advantage. An apes brain has other evolutionary advantages that serves it just a well as ours.

 

steve

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First, a bit of an embarrassment for me....not quite sure how or why I managed to do it, quite humbling, actually, and so obvious to me now I've noticed what I've done, been doing here...

 

oh, Lord, do I reallyhave to say this....

 

I've, uh....I seem to have experienced some kind of short circuit in my system...one of those brain poot thing...

 

I've been erroneously interchanging these terms "self-consciousness"and "self-wareness" in these discussions. Me. All about care to use terms correctly and accurately.

 

I think I'm about to go consume a half pound of cheddar cheese and one of those giant bars of Hershey's special dark along with a couple cans of root beer to soothe my shame.

 

jenell

 

 

Post edit...this is getting worse. :( In googling around a bit, I am finding the two terms defined and described indifferent ways indifferent sources, quite different in philosophy from psychology, and less clearly distincted, than as I'm recalling being presented in social and developmental psych. Gonna have to dig in the closet for a couple textbooks. This state of cogntive dissonance is unbearable.

Edited by JenellYB
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I think that Computer Sciencists may have just the right term for this situation. They call it fuzzy logic. :o

 

—Jim

 

Well no, actually in this case of my blundering, it wasn't for any "fuzzy logic", but a glitch in my RAM processing. I wasn't actually confusing these two states of cognitive development, but confusing which term applied to which.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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