Sentient Animals - Fact or Myth?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Marchosias, Jan 12, 2016.


Sentient Animals - Fact or Myth?

  1. Fact

  2. Myth

  3. Not sure

Results are only viewable after voting.
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  1. I'm sure we all heard storys about how inteligent and intuitive dolphins, parrots and chimpanzees can be, to name just a few of the animals normaly considered "sentient" by some people. But are they realy able to learn, deduce, and understand on that level, or is it just a matter of training and repetition, to condition them to perform tricks and mimic pre-determined human behavior convincingly?

    Personaly, I like to lean more in the direction that its all just conditioning, and not real sentience. But then again, I did read about some monkeys actualy using simple tools to help them do certain tasks, and that is a strong argument in the other direction, and evidence of logical thinking. Or culd it just be evolved instinct, after all? I'm honestly not sure.

  2. I voted not sure, but that's just because it's not a topic I read much on.
    So it's the default position, rather than simply stating yes or no without having any knowledge or backing on it.
  3. Sentience is the ability to feel or perceive things, literally all animals are sentient; sapience is more what you're thinking of.

    As far as we call tell right now, only humans possess full sapience. Some animals come pretty close, but they lack a theory of mind (i.e. the ability to understand that others have thoughts and experiences that are different from their own). Without a theory of mind, I don't think sapience is really possible. Although, I could be wrong, I'm not an expert on the subject.
  4. ... It seems I mixed up Sentience with Intelligence... again. >.<

    And I can't even change my vote now...
  5. I believe that we're still trying to ascertain whether or not several animals come close, specifically: dolphins, gorillas, elephants, and crows. These creatures have proven that they can retain memory, communicate, and overall be educated to a certain degree. At least, they are not just instinctual creatures, like a dog or cat or moose. A murder of crows for example, will remember an individual that has caused them problems in the past, and be specifically spiteful towards the person (like attacking them or shitting on their car).
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  6. I was going to say what Hatsune Candy has already said. Sentience can be defined as responsive to sense impressions. At an extreme, it can be defined as the ability to have subjective experiences. A great many animals evidence the ability to have subjective experiences in multiple studies, so sentient animals are definitely a thing.

    Sapience literally means "wisdom", but we generally accept it as meaning the ability to act with appropriate judgement. There are a number of tests for sapience, but the problem is that we dont' actually have a good definition for it. Do tool-using animals count as sapient (they are capable of identifying a problem, locating supplies, crafting tools, and solving the problem)? What about animals that can recognize themselves in mirrors? What of animals that live in social groups and evidence cooperation or depression? What about the ability to open locked boxes? The ability to invent and play games, perhaps?

    The problem with the question is that when we ask about sentient (or sapient) creatures, we actually mean: animals that think like humans. And without shared experiences and language that's hard to say for certain.

    On a parting note, consider corvids. They can identify themselves in mirrors, solve complex puzzles to open locked boxes, invent games (see the crow who used a jar lid to ski and did it many times), identify and remember enemies, and pass along these identities to later generations. Sounds pretty human-like to me...

    ETA: Seiji mentioned crows while I was typing. Coincidence? Or perhaps he's watching me to steal my ideas...
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  7. Ye, me too. I was like 'of course animals are sentient?' And then realized she probably meant sapient. Hurh hurh.
  8. I was the reverse. I assumed she meant Intelligent, but then realized the poll was saying Sentience.
  9. Lol sory for the mis-understanding. I asumed those 2 words (sentient and sapient) mean more or less the same thing. Blame my shitty English :P

    Aniway I'l open up the poll for re-voting, to allow you to corect the votes.
  10. Glad to see others brought up corvids before I did. They at least have the intelligence of a young child and as @Kehvarl mentioned, they are extremely intuitive and capable of identifying individuals and communicate that with other birds and generations.
  11. Yes, animals possess some level of sapience and obviously possess sentience, dependent on species. They really do. It's part of the reason why we tend to feel more or less empathy for a living thing dependent on how far we can anthropomorphise* it: Because there are "human" characteristics (ex: emotions) that are quite obviously shared with many animals, even if their expressions are not identical. At the same time, it's why nobody (sane) cries over cutting a lawn of grass, or eating apples, or carrots, or other fruits and vegetables.

    This is a fact, or at least as close to a fact as science can get with its current tools. Until we can literally read the mind of an animal, we will never "know" for sure, but we can be pretty damn sure that there is a 98% chance that animals are sentient. :ferret:

    *Anthropomophisation is taking a non-human and giving it distinctly human characteristics, or interpreting the actions and behaviours of a non-human from a purely human-like perspective. Ex: "My dog smiled, therefore she is happy." Dogs can "smile", but it doesn't reflect the same thing as when a human smiles.
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  12. I believe this is undeniably fact.

    To what degree varies by animal.
  13. There have been countless experiments done to see if other animals have the same mental capacity as we humans that sets us above animals that operate on pure instinct. Others have already brought up the animals that have passed most or all of the tests for sapience that we've come up with. Everything seems to point to it being a fact.
  14. I guess all the points you guys maked are sensible, in favor of animal sentience/sapience. But heres one thing that stil makes me skeptical. If some animals realy do demonstrate problem-solving skils and basic logic, how come there is stil no animal to have utilized that sentience creatively? Maked consistent use of tools, developed a structured language, culture, etc? Anything that even remotely looks like civilization, in a sense.

    So I'm stil on the fence, vhether it realy is sapience, or just highly-evolved instinct.
  15. Certain apes do. As for language, Monkey and Apes of different kind have learned to assign and understand our language incredibly well. Even learned to understand the concept of death, as in the word death and what it means. That is pretty damn heavy.
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  16. Wel its not like understanding the concept of death is a sapience-thing. Every living creature has a natural instinct for self-prezervation, and wuld see death as anathema to that. It being sublimed in-to a word makes no diference, the animals wuld stil perceive it as that instinctive negative concept, but wuld just have a convenient word for it.
  17. No. I mean. A gorilla understood when it's pet cat, had died. After its caretaker told him "It is dead" without it being able to see or know the cat was dead any other way. And it grew depressed over it. To understand language to that point, to be able to read into something to that degree. It Is a hallmark for sapience and showcases astounding amounts of intelligence for a non-human creature. It isn't sheer mimicry or instinct anymore.
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  18. Well what that really gets at is a different question: you're not asking "are animals sapient?" now, you're asking "what constitutes sapience?"

    The short answer is it's complicated. Others in the thread have already gone over that, but basically not even the scientific minds who deal with this stuff can agree on a consistent definition with benchmarks that can be sought out in other species. The ones you've brought up can be found to some degree in various species, and a look through relevant Wikipedia pages can lead you to articles in scientific journals and such about it.

    Here's a Wikipedia page listing a variety of observed tool use by animals.

    This page goes over studies done into animal communication, with some being able to communicate fairly complex and detailed information through vocalizations and physical actions. Also consider examples of animals learning sign language, such as Koko the gorilla, that have been able to communicate complex and coherent thoughts after being taught the signs for a lot of words.

    Animal culture is also apparently a thing, though you could debate that depending on your definition of culture.

    None of them are on our level of development in these areas, but they aren't completely devoid of tool use, language, or culture either.

    EDIT: Oh, and on the subject of sign language, Hellis is talking about Koko with the cat thing. Another interesting example of complex thought being communicated through signs is Washoe the chimpanzee, particularly the bit about how she reacted to one of her caretakers telling her that her baby died. She also taught some sign language to another chimp, which other animals have also done and is another thing that shows they aren't just mimicking without understanding.
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  19. Thats one vay of looking at it. The other is that its caretaker has trained that particular gorilla to asociate the phraze vith the concept in advance, specificaly to the cat, and if the gorilla had a emotional atachment to the cat, it wuld naturaly make it sad/depressed, if the phraze was used to describe the cat. I grant, it may be evidence of deduction, but it culd stil be a variation of conditioned, rehearsed response, too.

    The only real test wuld be, if the caretaker has told the gorilla the cat was dead, but did not asociate the phraze with the concept prior to that, leaving the gorilla only vith the general awareness that the phraze means the concept of death, but not specific to the cat, in particular. Then the animal wuld have to make the conection itself, and that wuld be evidence of sapience.
  20. @Marchosias

    I'm a little confused. How would the trainer have trained the gorilla that the cat was dead before the cat actually died? I'm not sure if I'm misunderstanding you somehow, but your ideal test scenario sounds like what actually happened.
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