June 13, 2024 at 9:31 am

Why Scientists Are Starting To Believe A Whole Lot Of Animals Have Some Degree Of Consciousness

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

For eons, human beings have considered themselves superior to a majority of animals and insects on the Earth because we’re the only ones who are “conscious.”

By that, we think we’re the only ones who have something in our brains besides base instincts.

Now, scientists are challenging that assumption based on new research.

In fact, they’re arguing that animals from fish and insects to mollusks and arachnids could all have some degree of sentience.

There has been previous research that has claimed that animals like octopuses can feel physical and emotional pain, along with being very smart and able to problem-solve.

Cows, dogs, mice, and elephants have also passed similar “tests” in the past.

Source: Shutterstock

For many, this is evidence they have consciousness.

Now almost 40 researchers have signed The New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness, which makes a strong statement on the extent of animal sentience and implying it could extend to beings like bees and spiders, too.

They concede that uncertainty remains, but think their evidence should be considered in the treatment of all beings going forward.

“The empirical evidence indicates at least a realistic possibility of conscious experience in all vertebrates (includes reptiles, amphibians, and fishes) and many invertebrates (including, at minimum, cephalopod mollusks, decapod crustaceans, and insects).”

For these purposes, they define “consciousness” as an animal’s awareness of themselves and their surroundings. Sentience describes an animals’s capacity to experience and feel things, explains Michaella Pereira Andrade and Tatiana Leite, members of the Wild Animal Initiative’s octopus sentience investigation team.

“Sentience refers to an animal’s ability to have subjective experiences, such as pleasure, pain, fear, and other emotions. While these concepts may be related, sentience pertains explicitly to an animal’s ability to feel the world.”

Philosopher Jonathan Birch says this is forcing scientists to stop dismissing the topic without examining it further.

“What the declaration says is there is sufficient evidence out there such that there’s a realistic possibility of some kinds of conscious experiences in species even quite distinct from humans.”

Other researchers remain skeptical, arguing that nothing that has been observed necessarily means the beings are conscious.

Source: Shutterstock

That said, the declaration strongly disagrees.

“When there is a realistic possibility of conscious experience in an animal, it is irresponsible to ignore that possibility in decisions affecting that animal. We should consider welfare risks and use the evidence to inform our responses to these risks.”

I think there are many humans who have understood this fact instinctively all this time.

But it’s nice to think the powers that be might finally be willing to listen.

Thought that was fascinating? Here’s another story you might like: Why You’ll Never See A Great White Shark In An Aquarium