Download e-book for iPad: 10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet): A Guide to the by Michael Hanlon

By Michael Hanlon

ISBN-10: 0230622844

ISBN-13: 9780230622845

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Extra resources for 10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet): A Guide to the Scientific Wilderness

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27 would be hard pressed to find someone taking a hard-line behaviourist view of animal or human consciousness. But what does it mean to be self-aware and, indeed, conscious of anything? After all, it is perfectly possible, as a human being, to perform complex mental processes and not be conscious of them. If you drive to work along the same route every day, the chances are that during most journeys, most of the time, you will be no more conscious of your actions than you are of your heart beating or of your kidneys processing urine.

If we assume, as I think we must, that animals are sentient, aware beings capable of conscious thought and of distinguishing themselves from the rest of the world around them, if animals are not zombies, then the distinction between them and ourselves becomes somewhat arbitrary. As some people have argued, eating them is no different, morally, to cannibalism (indeed it is worse, because at least with cannibalism there is the possibility that the meal can give his or her consent to be eaten). It is certainly uncomfortable for us that the more we learn about animals the more impressive their intellectual capabilities appear to be and the more, biologically, we seem to have in common.

Actually playing, at world-class level, is a spectator sport as much for the players as for the spectators. If humans can be largely unconscious of their actions while playing tennis or driving, then chimpanzees can certainly be unconscious while hunting or grooming. But this does not mean that animals or humans are not self-aware. The question of self-awareness is one of the trickiest in science, but what is of the essence here is whether whatever-it-is is something possessed uniquely by Homo sapiens.

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10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet): A Guide to the Scientific Wilderness by Michael Hanlon

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