Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Again, the Question of Consciousness

The things I read while researching for new articles...

I am astounded to learn that colleges and universities are still teaching that only humans have consciousness and self-awareness. It makes me think that we're not that far removed from the bad old days of Descartes and his stupid notion of "biological machines". (Oh wait--we're not.)

Alright, let's address self-awareness. An idea that I am me and you are not me. I still say that the common act of hiding from, and stalking, prey indicates self-awareness, and an awareness of what the prey perceives.

Kevin Richardson, The Lion Park, South AfricaLet's get a little more personal. That picture is actually Kevin Richardson in South Africa, having a grand old time playing with a couple of lions. Doesn't it show awareness of self and others on the part of the lions that they can do this without tearing into his skin?

On a personal level, I have a cat who just bursts with energy. She loves to go all out in play wrestling. She attacks with teeth and claws, tearing with full abandon. BUT she only does this to me if my hand and/or arm is covered. If my hand and arm are bare, she holds back. She still plays, but never so much as leaves a mark. She knows, and she has proved this over and over, that a covering like a sweater will protect me, and that my bare skin can't stand up to her little weapons. Doesn't this show awareness--and caring--on her part?

Now to get a bit more abstract... Scientists will be glad to tell you of the importance of DNA and how very similar human DNA is to that of other species--even such apparently different species as rats and tigers have DNA that is mostly like ours. And famed scientist Carl Sagan wrote at length to prove that consciousness must arise from DNA. Therefore, wouldn't it be more reasonable to approach animals with the idea that they do have consciousness, awareness, thoughts, feelings, and emotions like ours--easily proved to be true with thoughtful observation--than to postulate some sort of unproven disconnect between humans and every other species on the face of the earth? (I think it's called applying Occam's Razor.)

So why are our colleges and universities teaching that we should ignore our own eyes and ears? Why are they promoting dangerous, unprovable ideas instead of teaching people to actually observe what's real?

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