Five Proof Points That the Birds and Bees are Conscious
Five Proof Points That the Birds and Bees are Conscious
Whether focused on ourselves or the stars, humanity sometimes undervalues the beauty and intelligence of our very own blue planet. As science uncovers the complexities of the birds and bees, and their innate emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills, ancient philosophies about the universal intelligence of all matter come to life.
Animals are Emotionally and Socially Complex
G.A. Bradshaw, who established the field of trans-species psychology, uncovered the emotional and social complexities of elephants in extensive research. Her research, and the work of many others, has established a movement to understand and protect all sentient beings, in recognition of their consciousness and the impact of humans on animals and Earth. Here are five points to consider when contemplating animal consciousness. Make up your own mind, as animals surely will.
1. Animals Sense Danger
Animals sense danger, from attacks by other animals to natural disasters. A telltale indicator of a hurricane or earthquake is actually the silence of disappearance of the animal kingdom, notably birds. Theories abound on this topic, but generally include documentation of the multitudinous variations of sensory input and output animals experience; for example, whales hear a much wider spectrum of sound than humankind.
How Animals Anticipate Danger
2. Plants and Animals Understand Inequity
In “inequity aversion tests, “psychological tests that measure the ability of animals to detect unfairness and to gauge their response. These tests, conducted on primates and corvids, show a hardwired sense of fairness. Some animals even protest when they are treated unfairly. Another notable phenomena is cross-species fostering and the animal kingdom’s propensity for compassion.
The Smartest Animals
3. Animals Experience Stress and Trauma
Much like humans, and often at the hand of humans through habitat loss and capture, animals experience stress, anxiety, distrust, and even post-traumatic stress disorders. Elephants are often cited in studies on the impacts of trauma. If they can experience these negative traits, surely they also experience love, joy, trust, and ease.
Lek Chailert on The Elephant Sanctuary
4. Plants, Insects, and Animals Can Solve Problems
From dolphins to octopuses, the animal kingdom is intelligent (not to mention, essential to human survival). They can solve problems, learn, emulate, and express themselves. In a recent experiment, bees were filmed moving a ball in order to reach nectar. Here is the sting: the bees emulated this action after watching a puppet bee. So with this new understanding, teach a man to fish now becomes teach a bee to roll.
5. Animals Pick Up on Human Energy
This proof point is obvious, especially if you have pets. Pet owners often note that their animals know when they are sad, happy, or anxious. This is not a figment of human imagination, but a documented fact. Even the most aloof cat intuitively picks up on human energies. Animals may even carry or emulate human energy, hence the belief that pets take on the characteristics of their owners.
Our Innate Connection with Animals
Recognition of Nonhuman Consciousness
The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness states that “the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.” While this may seem obvious to many, traditional science is only now officially researching and recognizing the consciousness of animals. Even Darwin recognized the lucidity of animals: “We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.”
What About Nonhuman Rights?
Several groups are actively working towards a future where animal consciousness is recognized and even celebrated. The Nonhuman Rights Project is a civil rights organization that has filed lawsuits on behalf of sentient beings, particularly chimpanzees. They are working to “achieve actual LEGAL rights for members of species other than our own. Our mission is to change the legal status of appropriate nonhuman animals from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty.” Sentience Politics holds a conference focused on reducing the suffering of all sentience beings.
Did You Psychically Inherit Society's Learned Behavior?
The scientific community is often very rigid in its process and not always open to radical ideas. Rightfully so, that is the nature of science – strict scrutiny and skepticism. But what if it is limiting itself in this approach, in the sense that it has taken on some of the same parochial propensities of religion? Science is supposedly the antithesis of religion and meant to question everything with the goal of new discovery. While it is necessary to maintain skepticism to prevent charlatans from diluting the scientific process, there should be a certain level of tolerance for new ideas.
Rupert Sheldrake is one of those scientists that his community has largely shunned as a heretic. Despite studying at Harvard and graduating from Cambridge with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, the scientific community has dismissed his radical ideas as nonsensical and blasphemous. Sheldrake admittedly started his career in science as an atheist, but eventually had an epiphany about our consciousness that changed his outlook.
Sheldrake has proposed an idea he calls, morphic resonance. Essentially, the idea is that there is a collective consciousness within species that can impact disparate groups of organisms without them having to come into contact with each other. A sort of telepathic connectedness that can influence behavior and can be passed down through immediate generations.
The idea of learned behavior being inherited, or Lamarckian Inheritance, has been shown to be a pretty promising theory, if not proven. Although unsurprisingly, the scientific community doesn’t all agree on this. Regardless, this idea is fundamental in Sheldrake’s theory.
The evidence comes from a study in the 1920s, where rats were tested by being placed in a water maze they had to escape from. The rats were electrically shocked when they chose one of two exits deemed to be the wrong exit. They eventually learned which exit was the correct one over a trial of several hundred tests. As they got better, their offspring were tested, and immediately showed quicker rates of improvement compared to their parents.
This was evidence of Lamarckian Inheritance, the learned behavior of the parent rat was passed on to their progeny. What was more astonishing, according to Sheldrake, was that when these experiments were conducted in labs in other countries and on the other side of the world, rats that had no contact with the original study, essentially picked up where the improved rats left off.