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consciousness

David B. Hedrick davidbhedrick at icx.net
Tue May 27 00:05:50 EST 1997


Eugene: 

	Posts like yours make my piles bleed.  I will be specific.

> > Running to the dictionaries is the not the way to answer scientific or
> > philosophical questions.  Our language is inherently biased, and checking
> > literal definitions is not going to get us anywhere in debates such
> > as these.  

The dictionary is the first place to check.  The most boring and
pointless arguement is one where the difference is in the use of words -
a semantic arguement.  If you are using a word in other than it's normal
usage, it is up to you to point that out.  

Actually, the quality of the discussion would be greatly improved if you
would bother to actually look up the word.  

> > As I stated in my first post, I believe that it is
> > inherently impossible to define consciousness (at least for now).  It is
> > only by being aware of our own consciousness that we come to understand
> > what it is.

If you can't define it, how do you know that animals have it?  You have
taken a political position, and are now attempting to marshal supporting
arguements.  This is a fine thing, the responsibility of every citizen. 
But your approach of taking a position and then supporting it is more
religion than science, and hardly appropriate for this newsgroup.  

> > Saying that we interpret animal behavior in "human terms" is itself
> > biased.  What I (and others) are saying is that these characteristics are
> > not unique to our own species.  In other words, they are not "human
> > terms", they in fact are "animal terms", which we humans happen to share
> > due to the fact that we are animals.  What others have done is to assume
> > that they apply only to humans, labeled them "human terms", and then
> > claimed that it is silly to assume that other animals possess "human
> > characteristics".

Well, come on.  An example of anthropomophizing animals would be saying
that my pet crawfish likes to eat earthworms.  Now, if I see you eating
earthworms and ask you, as I probably would, whether you liked eating
earthworms, you could give me an answer.  I could also watch your
expression and behavior while you were eating earthworms and compare
that to the expressions and behaviors of other people, and to my own
experience of eating things I did and did not like.  So, the human terms
in this case includes not only me watching you eat earthworms, but a
lifetime of conversation and observation of other people, and my own
experiences.  These human terms are our shared and individual
experiences.  The crawfish certainly jumps for the earthworm, but then a
flame will jump to the paper when it gets warmed.  Is the flame
conscious?  Does it like paper?  Nice piece of sophistry, but that is
all.  

> > As far as animals such as worms are concerned, it should be pointed out
> > that the differences between humans and rats are infinitesimal when
> > compared to the differences between rats and worms.  It is a mistake to
> > lump worms together with animals like rats, and view humans as somehow
> > "separate" from them when discussing consciousness.  

(the above only kept for context)

> > It is far more
> > reasonable to believe that rats are just as conscious as human beings,

I missed any supporting arguement for this.  Proof by assertion?  

> > but that worms are not (or that both worms and rats are just as
> > conscious as human beings) than it is to believe that rats are somehow
> > "less conscious" than humans due to comparisons with worms.  

Why couldn't there be degrees of consciousness?  Are not you less
conscious when you are asleep or beaten unconscious?  (notice the word -
unconscious)  

-- 
		~DBH

Technical writing, literature search, and data analysis at the interface
of chemistry and biology. 

	davidbhedrick at icx.com

	David B. Hedrick
	P.O. Box 16082
	Knoxville, TN 37996



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