The Instigator
aalmond
Pro (for)
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The Contender
GregVCross
Con (against)
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0 Points

Animals Are Conscious Beings

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/12/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,221 times Debate No: 52315
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (6)
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aalmond

Pro

I must challenge the comment you made in the "History and Debate of Animal Rights" discussion. One of your comments read, "I am for animal testing because people are people and they are conscious being and animals aren't and therefore I don't really care about animals that aren't human beings." I have to disagree with your stance. All mammals contain a central nervous system, allowing them to feel pain, for their neurological receptors will send synapses to their brain just as the Homo sapian nervous system does. The definition of the term, "conscious" is ambiguous, perhaps yours is different than mine. In my mind, a conscious being is one that feels. Feeling pain, obviously, but also emotion. For example, mother pigs, when their young is taken away from them, will scream and cry out, an indication of their dismay. Though this next example is, perhaps, less concrete, I will try to the best of my ability to relay my thoughts. The videos depicting animals in the process of being tested on will often show their face. One of the most valuable body parts used for seeing an individual's emotional state is one's eyes. The eyes of an experimentation animal are both crying for help in a frantic and desperate kind of way, but also displaying the animal's lack of hope and unhappiness. These examples are indications that animals are, in fact, conscious, so that characteristic should not be a defining factor in man's reasoning to test on them.
GregVCross

Con

Yes my definition of conscious in this context seems very different from yours. Just as a reference for any readers I think it is good to include: http://www.thefreedictionary.com.... When I wrote that animals are not conscious I was referring to this definition of the word: 4. (Psychology)
a. denoting or relating to a part of the human mind that is aware of a person's self, environment, and mental activity and that to a certain extent determines his choices of action.

I think they key readily observable distinction that delineates man from other animals is the comprehension and use Natural Language(http://en.wikipedia.org...). It seem impossible for a being to truly think in fundamentally the same way that humans do without the ability to use Natural Language. It seems impossible for a mind to be fully aware of itself in relation to not itself with out a full grasp of Natural language. Therefore based on the definitions above I think it is fair to say animals lack that type of consciousness.
Debate Round No. 1
aalmond

Pro

You claim Homo sapiens are the only species with the ability to relay information through various exchanges such as physical movements or behaviors, as that is the basis of all language or forms of communication, but has man not studied enough of animals' behaviors to conclude that they do communicate via sound and body language, even sense of smell? For example, a study done by Paula Stockley examined scent communication in mice. It was discovered that the various scents picked up in a female's urine told the opposing female (they were both competing for a mate) that she was now entering her territory, and that she had the reproductive rights. Also, the well known method of communication using an animal's (specifically a dog's) body language can be found in Stanley Coren's documentary, "Animal Communication: How to Speak to a Dog". This documentary highlights the various uses and techniques of body language in dogs.
Now, I do realize you used the term, "Natural language" as a deciding factor in whether or not an organism is conscious. However, I wish to contradict your notion that animals do not have the ability to use Natural language. According to your source, one of a Natural language's definitions reads: "(a language) that any cognitively normal human infant is able to learn...-". One can consider Hungarian, a language, along with countless others, that a dog (specifically Canis lupus familiars) is fully able to understand, a Natural language, as it is one that an infant is fully capable of learning, along with the fact that its development can be credited to practice as opposed to prescription, as per your source. The reason why I use Hungarian as an example is due to the fact that a study using 37 different Hungarian dog owners that tested both their dogs' social and verbal understanding of familiar and unfamiliar words. The study, done by Eotvos Lorand University, concluded that, even uses of unknown synonyms and usage of two words in a single command did not, for the most part, phase the dogs. From this evidence, the conclusion that can be drawn is one that looks favorably upon canines' abilities to understand Natural language. These findings indicate that animals' consciousness, though currently being studied, is much more developed than humans could imagine.
GregVCross

Con

You wrote: "You claim Homo sapiens are the only species with the ability to relay information through various exchanges such as physical movements or behaviors, as that is the basis of all language or forms of communication, but has man not studied enough of animals' behaviors to conclude that they do communicate via sound and body language, even sense of smell?"

This is not my claim. I am not claiming other animals don't use language. They use animal language. They have never been shown to use natural, or human, language. Natural Language utilizes complex rules of grammar and syntax to convey complex meanings and concepts that are unconveyable without those two things.

I can be certain that animals have not yet developed use of natural language, or at least they have only recently done so on an evolutionary time scale, or they have but they are at an evolutionary dead end for complex tool creation. All that is necessary for animals to evolve into conscious beings is natural language and complex tools. I wished to develop and delve into why I think it is only possible to find the combination of complex tool use and natural language use in an non-conscious intelligent animal. Unfortunately I have run out of time so I will leave you with a hint of where I will be taking the argument next round. My sincerest apologies. Have a wikipedia excerpt:

"Approaches to the origin of language can be divided according to their underlying assumptions. "Continuity theories" are based on the idea that language is so complex that one cannot imagine it simply appearing from nothing in its final form: it must have evolved from earlier pre-linguistic systems among our primate ancestors. "Discontinuity theories" are based on the opposite idea â€" that language is a unique trait so it cannot be compared to anything found among non-humans and must therefore have appeared fairly suddenly during the course of human evolution. Another contrast is between theories that see language mostly as an innate faculty that is largely genetically encoded, and those that see it as a system that is mainly cultural â€" that is, learned through social interaction.[5]"

I disagree with most every political position of his, but Noam Chomsky is clearly a brilliant man and cognitive scientist.

"Noam Chomsky is a prominent proponent of discontinuity theory. Chomsky argues that a single chance mutation occurred in one individual on the order of 100,000 years ago, instantaneously installing the language faculty (a component of the mind-brain) in "perfect" or "near-perfect" form.[6] According to this view, language's emergence was much like the formation of a crystal; digital infinity was the seed crystal in a super-saturated primate brain, on the verge of blossoming into the human mind, by physical law, once a single small, but crucial, keystone was added by evolution.[7][8] It thus follows from this theory that language did appear rather suddenly within the history of human evolution."

http://en.wikipedia.org...

Debate Round No. 2
aalmond

Pro

In Con's argument, he claimed, "All that is necessary for animals to evolve into conscious beings is natural language and complex tools." However, in the first round of the debate, he wrote, "It seems impossible for a mind to be fully aware of itself in relation to not itself with out a full grasp of Natural language [and only Natural language]." Con also used the definition, "4. (Psychology)
a. denoting or relating to a part of the human mind that is aware of a person's self, environment, and mental activity and that to a certain extent determines his choices of action." in order to explain his definition of the term "conscious". In no way does this definition speak of ability to make complex tools as a means of deciding whether or not a being is conscious. Since his future claim in the second round of the argument was not supported at all, the argument is invalid, in my opinion.

We are debating whether animals, other than Homo sapiens, are conscious or not. One of Con's arguments was the fact that the use and understanding of Natural language was essential in determining whether a being possesses consciousness. I would like to ask Con this, do you consider those diagnosed with Persistent Vegetative State as conscious beings, or are they too considered unconscious and therefore it is allowable to experiment on them? The individuals diagnosed with PVS fulfill Con's factors in being labeled as unconscious. For example, in The New England Journal of Medicine's article, "Medical Aspects of the Persistent Vegetative State", it can be read, "The vegetative state is a clinical condition of complete unawareness of the self and the environment, accompanied by sleep-wake cycles with either complete or partial preservation of hypothalamic and brain-stem autonomic functions." I believe Con's definition included the wording "relating to a part of the human mind that is aware of a person's self, environment...-" In conclusion, Con will either submit to being in agreement that he approves of those diagnosed with PVS being experimented on, as per his argument that animals, which humans are considered, can be tested on if they are not conscious, or Con can agree that animals, just like those in Persistent Vegetative State, should not be tested on because they are conscious and can feel pain and emotion.
GregVCross

Con

I wrote "All that is necessary for animals to evolve into conscious beings is natural language and complex tools." That is not what I should have said. What I should have said is that natural language and complex tool construction are the two clear traits that distinguish man from other and that I think that those traits evolved roughly concurrently with each other and consciousness. I concede that non-human animals are conscious in that they are aware of their self and environment,but I contend that they are not aware of their thought processes. I think that to begin to analyze and understand one's thought processes requires thinking that uses the grammar and syntax of natural language. If one's thought processes are not complex and adaptable enough to handle natural language, then it seems unlikely they are capable of representing the complexity of their own processes. To think about ones thoughts one needs to model one's thought processes. This is not a very well formed argument but I am running out of time so I will leave it as is. Thanks for the fun and interesting debate. I would love to revisit it with you or someone else sometime soon. Cheers!
Debate Round No. 3
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by GregVCross 3 years ago
GregVCross
I'll invite the friends I have on here to vote. Send people friend invites and ask them to vote, if you want.
Posted by aalmond 3 years ago
aalmond
How do we get people to vote on this?
Posted by aalmond 3 years ago
aalmond
The article I used to support my argument can be found in this link:

Medical Aspects of the Persistent Vegetative State:
http://www.nejm.org...
Posted by aalmond 3 years ago
aalmond
The scientific journals I used to support my argument can be found in these links:

Paula Stockley, Scent Communication in Mice:
http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org...

Stanley Coren's documentary, "Animal Communication: How to Speak to a Dog":
https://www.youtube.com...

Eotvos Lorand University, Domestic Dogs Understanding Human Verbal Communication:
https://familydogproject.elte.hu...
Posted by aalmond 3 years ago
aalmond
GregVCross, of course you can! I'll actually do the same, so our sources will both be found in the same place. I am looking forward to your next argument in this debate.
Posted by GregVCross 3 years ago
GregVCross
Is it ok if I put my links in the comments. I have many I want to share. This is leading me deep into a discussion of the evolution man and the origin's of natural language.
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