The Instigator
Rubikx
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Gabe1e
Pro (for)
Winning
6 Points

Animals are sentient

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Gabe1e
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/1/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,787 times Debate No: 66145
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (2)

 

Rubikx

Con

I recently had a short argument with another DDO member on whether or not animals are sentient. I will be taking the position that animals are not sentient and that we are the only sentient beings on earth.

Rules for the debate:
1) no trolling
2) no forfeiting
3) no plagiarizing
4) try to keep this from being a religious debate, although it is closely linked to religious ideals I don't want it from being a God vs Atheism debate.
5) If you break these rules it is an automatic forfeit.
6) First round is acceptance only
Thank you and good luck.
Gabe1e

Pro

Accepted.
Debate Round No. 1
Rubikx

Con

First of all I would like to define sentient. Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Or in other words be self aware. There are plenty of cases of animals behaving in human like ways. One of the most famous would be Koko the gorilla who learned sign language. Some would say that the ability to learn and speak and language must mean that Koko is sentient. However, this is no more then repetition for the sake of reward. There has been tons of research on this topic and is called operant conditioning. It is basically like a extremely complicated trick. For example I can train a dog to roll over, walk on its back legs, do a flip, etc. But this does not mean the dog knows what its doing is a back flip. It is repeating a motion for the sake of a reward. This is exactly what Koko achieved, with the main difference being that what Koko did was extremely complicated. Koko learned a series of patterns that resulted in a reward. Obviously this is only one example, however it can be applied to the whole animal kingdom. Animals are not self aware. Their brains can be described as a computer, a computer is given a problem and can solve the problem given a certain set of rules. An animal is given the problem (ie. finding food) and it solves that problem through a set of extremely varied instructions (i.e. hunting for food or asking for it using sign language).
Gabe1e

Pro

I would like to thank my opponent for a respectful debate.

Rebuttals:

"First of all I would like to define sentient. Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Or in other words be self aware."

I agree on this definition.

Self-aware:
When an individual can identify, process, store information about the self, and has knowledge of one's own mental states they are defined to have self-awareness. [1]

Koko learned sign language from a tutor. If you tried to teach it to another animal, it would fail. Koko can identify the sign language, process it, and store it in her brain. This matches all the definitions of self awareness. [2]

"Animals are not self aware. Their brains can be described as a computer, a computer is given a problem and can solve the problem given a certain set of rules. An animal is given the problem (ie. finding food) and it solves that problem through a set of extremely varied instructions (i.e. hunting for food or asking for it using sign language)."

But animals are not used to learning sign language, they are used to hunting for survival. It is not common to go to the zoo and see an ape that can juggle, or a gorilla that can use sign language, or a chimp that can write words, because it isn't natural for the animal itself.

Arguments:

Mirror Test [3]

This "mirror test" is a test, where they put a 80 inch mirror in a room with another animal, to see how it will act with it's own reflection. If the animal does ANYTHING to the mirror (for example, attack it, bark at it, or threaten it) they fail. The objective is to see if they know it is themselves in the mirror. MANY animals have passed it, including bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, killer whales, dolphins, even elephants. This can prove that animals are self-aware because they can see themselves in the mirror, and recognize it is them, and not another animal.

Mark Test [4]

Other parts of the mirror test include the mark test where they put the animal to sleep, then but a very strange mark which is difficult to see on the animal's body. When they look into the mirror, if they point to the mark or even look at the mark on themselves, this can prove that they are self-aware, because it shows they know what they look like and what they perceive themselves as.

The Brain

The brain of the animals are not so different from human's, some are smaller, some are bigger, but they all basically have the same shape. They also have most of the same parts that human's have, so shouldn't they have no problem doing what human's do, which is being self-aware? (http://scienceblogs.com...)

Cites:

[1]- http://en.wikipedia.org...

[2]- http://en.wikipedia.org...(gorilla)

[3]- http://en.wikipedia.org...;

[4]- http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
Rubikx

Con

Alright, I'm glad we can agree on our definition of sentience.

Rebuttals:
"Koko learned sign language from a tutor. If you tried to teach it to another animal, it would fail".
This is true to some extent. If you tried teaching sign language to a dolphin it just couldn't do it. Despite the fact that they are intelligent animals, dolphins just can't do it. If I can once again use the analogy of a computer. If you use a computer you can very quickly store all of the words or symbols required for languages. In fact, it could do it much faster and better then a gorilla or even a human could. But this does not mean the computer is self aware. Several incredibly advanced chatbots have been created that can almost pass as human. But they are not self aware, when you get down to it they are simply algorithms that choose words based off of the input given. It is the same with a gorilla it learned patterns over time but it is not consciously aware of what those symbols mean.

"But animals are not used to learning sign language, they are used to hunting for survival. It is not common to go to the zoo and see an ape that can juggle, or a gorilla that can use sign language, or a chimp that can write words, because it isn't natural for the animal itself.".
This is true, gorilla's do not naturally learn sign language. However, the same can be said for humans. A child raised without ever hearing language will make sounds in an attempt to speak. It is a part of human nature to speak. However, it is not natural for us to read and write. We invented it but it is not part of our nature. Essentially it is the same between humans and Koko. We are given an object, finding food, and we achieve it by getting the food our selves, asking for it using speech or writing to someone to ask them to do it for us. Just like the gorilla Koko. Koko learned to speak sign language even though it isn't part of its nature, this does not mean Koko is sentient. All it means is that Koko is intelligent enough to store the level of information required, but not intelligent enough to be self-aware.

Mirror/Mark Test [1]
Alright, so there is certainly some merit to the mirror test. On the other hand, there has been research to suggest that the mirror test provides false negatives. Using the mark test on human children has shown that they repeatedly fail it up until 15 -18 months. Even humans at a certain age are not self-aware. We later achieve it, but has babies we are basically animals and we rely on instinct and other humans to keep us alive.

Self-recognition vs. Self-Awareness [2]
There has also been research to suggest that there is a significant difference between self-recognition and self-awareness. The two are certainly linked. A self-aware human is almost always capable of self-recognition (with the exception of those who's sensory organs have been damaged in such a way that they are incapable of using them). However, a creature capable of self-recognition isn't necessarily capable of self-awareness. Using the mirror test an animal can recognize itself in the mirror, so it has achieved self-recognition. However, this does not mean it is self-aware. Using the computer as an example once again, a computer could recognize a picture of itself (assuming it has some sort of distinguishing feature and it has an image of what it looks like), but the computer does not actually aware. It compares the image it is given with the image that it is told it looks like and decides whether or not they are the same thing. As I said earlier babies repeatedly fail the mirror test up until a certain point in their development. But once they can recognize themselves in a mirror there is no evidence to suggest that they are actually conscious. At a young age humans are essentially animals. The mirror test can be an indicator of self-recognition, however it is rarely a indicator of self-awareness.

The Brain [3]
So the human brain isn't all though different from most animals. It is slightly, some parts are larger, smaller or more complex then animals. However, not by much. The main difference between the human brain and animal brains is the size ratio. The human brain has one of the largest brain to body mass ratio. There are of coarse animals with a higher ratio, but their brains are too small to support the kind of intelligence humans have. Because of this we are much more intelligent then all of the other animals on the planet.

While many of the indicators of self-awareness have been achieved by animals (language, tools, social structures)

[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org...

[2]
http://psycnet.apa.org...?
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...

[3]
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://realtruth.org...
Gabe1e

Pro

Thank you, Con.

"So the human brain isn't all though different from most animals. It is slightly, some parts are larger, smaller or more complex then animals. However, not by much. The main difference between the human brain and animal brains is the size ratio. The human brain has one of the largest brain to body mass ratio. There are of coarse animals with a higher ratio, but their brains are too small to support the kind of intelligence humans have. Because of this we are much more intelligent then all of the other animals on the planet."

Actually, this is not true, many animals have bigger brain to body mass ratios. [1] Humans are ranked 5th on the list.

1. Small Ants
2. Horse
3. Elephant
4. Lion
5. Human

And one of these animals are not that bigger than a human. The lion. As a matter of fact, a lion's average height is only 120 cm, which is only 3 feet 11 inches(at shoulder) [2]. If they were on their hind legs, they would be about 7 feet. Some humans are this tall, for example, Yao Ming, who is even taller than this, is 7 foot 6. [3] Not to mention a horse is on here, which is slightly bigger than a lion.

"There has also been research to suggest that there is a significant difference between self-recognition and self-awareness. The two are certainly linked. A self-aware human is almost always capable of self-recognition (with the exception of those who's sensory organs have been damaged in such a way that they are incapable of using them). However, a creature capable of self-recognition isn't necessarily capable of self-awareness. Using the mirror test an animal can recognize itself in the mirror, so it has achieved self-recognition. However, this does not mean it is self-aware. Using the computer as an example once again, a computer could recognize a picture of itself (assuming it has some sort of distinguishing feature and it has an image of what it looks like), but the computer does not actually aware. It compares the image it is given with the image that it is told it looks like and decides whether or not they are the same thing. As I said earlier babies repeatedly fail the mirror test up until a certain point in their development. But once they can recognize themselves in a mirror there is no evidence to suggest that they are actually conscious. At a young age humans are essentially animals. The mirror test can be an indicator of self-recognition, however it is rarely a indicator of self-awareness."

But, I thought the definition of self-aware, "When an individual can identify, process, store information about the self, and has knowledge of one's own mental states they are defined to have self-awareness." meant the same as self-recognition basically. It has it's own knowledge of it being there. Also, we are not talking about computers, they are not living, and they do not have a brain, so of course they can't be self-aware, if they are not living, and don't have a brain.. they do not have feelings. Computers just can't feel anything, they are machines. According to this, these are the things to become self-aware, or to classify something as self-aware. [4]

Self Awareness
is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.

As you can see, computer(s) have NONE of these things.

"This is true to some extent. If you tried teaching sign language to a dolphin it just couldn't do it. Despite the fact that they are intelligent animals, dolphins just can't do it. If I can once again use the analogy of a computer. If you use a computer you can very quickly store all of the words or symbols required for languages. In fact, it could do it much faster and better then a gorilla or even a human could. But this does not mean the computer is self aware. Several incredibly advanced chatbots have been created that can almost pass as human. But they are not self aware, when you get down to it they are simply algorithms that choose words based off of the input given. It is the same with a gorilla it learned patterns over time but it is not consciously aware of what those symbols mean."

As I said before, a computer does not have a brain, it is also not even living, it cannot be self-aware. They do not have feeling, as said before. Also, of course it would be faster than a gorilla/human. Look at the brain (http://biau.org...) compared to the parts in a computer, which are man-made, and not natural. (http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com...) not to mention the parts in the circuit board, which contain over thousands.

Of course a dolphin could not do it, they have no fingers to learn sign language.

"Alright, so there is certainly some merit to the mirror test. On the other hand, there has been research to suggest that the mirror test provides false negatives. Using the mark test on human children has shown that they repeatedly fail it up until 15 -18 months. Even humans at a certain age are not self-aware. We later achieve it, but has babies we are basically animals and we rely on instinct and other humans to keep us alive."

You just said that young children act like animals, but this does not support the results shown in the mirror tests. Also, comparing them to animals is invalid, because animals can hunt and survive by themselves, babies obviously cannot without the help of older humans. Animals can actually keep themselves alive.

Cites:

[1]- http://en.wikipedia.org...

[2]- https://www.google.com...

[3]- https://www.google.com...

[4]- http://www.pathwaytohappiness.com...


Debate Round No. 3
Rubikx

Con

Alright, thank you for your argument. It is rare to see an opponent who actually cites their work.

Rebuttals:

The human brain:
All right, so I did a bit more research, and it turns out I was wrong. While it is true that there are animals that have a higher brain to body mass ratio, I discovered that there are more significant changes between the human brain and our nearest rivals in intellect among the animal kingdom. The major difference is that our cerebral cortex, the part of the brain many scientists say is what makes us us, is three to four times larger then any primate (or other animal our size)[2]. That is a huge difference when we are talking about the ability to be aware. Its this huge cerebral cortex that puts us much farther ahead from any other animal and gives us the ability of consciousness.

Yes, the definition of self-aware is, "When an individual can identify, process, store information about the self, and has knowledge of one's own mental states they are defined to have self-awareness.".
What i'm saying is that animals are capable of identifying and processing information, but it is not about its mental states, and that is not the same as self-recognition. I do know that computers are not alive, in fact thats part of the reason I chose to use a computer in my analogy. If a man-made non living machine is capable of passing tests designed to find sentience then how can we say that those tests truly work? While it is true that tests like the Turing test [1] have not yet been passed, we are moving closer and closer to that goal. There is no indication that animals (or computers) have sentience based off of the fact that they can recognize themselves in a mirror. Self-recognition is different the self-awareness.

"Of course a dolphin could not do it, they have no fingers to learn sign language."
Yes, I know that they don't have fingers. I chose the dolphin because they are a famously intelligent animal. Part of the reason that Koko was chosen was because Koko was smart, but a significant factor was also because Koko had fingers. There has been research to suggest dolphins are smarter then most species of primates. The only draw back is that they don't have the capabilities to speak or convey language. I realize choosing the dolphin may have been a poor choice of animal, however they main point of my argument was that there are more intelligent animals then gorillas and so the ability to convey language isn't necessarily a mark of sentience and/or a large intellect.

Arguments:

While it is true that speaking a language can be a sign of sentience, there is a difference between learning a language and speaking a language. What I mean is a computer (or gorilla) can speak a language in that it can learn patterns and repeat those patterns back to the human. Whereas learning a language is actually knowing what those words mean. A computer chatbot can repeat back quasi logical answers to a human to create a conversation, but it has not actually learned how to speak english. The computer was taught patterns, it received those patterns from the human, and it responded in regulation to its program. It is similar with Koko, Koko was taught patterns, saw those patterns and responded based off of the patterns it had memorized.

If I may use another analogy, I would like to convey this idea in another way. As suggested by my username "Rubikx", I am fond of Rubik's cubes. Now a Rubik's cube, when you really break it down, is just patterns. Speed cubers can solve them in less then 10 seconds because they have memorized these patterns [3]. They are then given the cubes and based off the patterns they memorized they can solve the cube. Once again, it is the same with Koko. Koko was taught patterns. If Koko had learned sign language simply by watching a person doing sign language over a long period of time, then I would say that Koko would be sentient. But Koko wasn't, it was taught specific hand gestures to respond to specific other patterns.

Cites:

[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org...
http://www.theguardian.com...
[2]
http://www.appsychology.com...
[3]
http://en.wikipedia.org...'s_Cube
Gabe1e

Pro

I know, most debaters just state opinions or facts that aren't true, because they don't cite.

"Self-recognition is different the self-awareness."

You say that humans are self aware at a certain age, and they can recognize themselves in the mirror easily. Some animals can recognize themselves in the mirror easily, too. So at a certain age, it seems animals should be self aware, too. If both can pass it, they should both be self aware. Self-recognition is one of the key factors in self-awareness, so it is not logical to say they are different, because they have many similiarities.

The Brain

Yes, you were wrong. I believe you are wrong again, because you talk about the cerebral cortex, and how it is way bigger in humans than animals. I have two pictures here, one is a dog brain, and one is a human brain. Now please take notice that dogs have not passed the test once, many breeds have failed.
Dog's brain:
(http://upload.wikimedia.org...'s_brain.JPG)
Human's brain:
(http://www.fda.gov...)

As you can see, the two brains are VERY alike. I had a hard time knowing if it was actually a human brain or not, but I have confirmed it is a dog's brain in the link name.

"While it is true that speaking a language can be a sign of sentience, there is a difference between learning a language and speaking a language. What I mean is a computer (or gorilla) can speak a language in that it can learn patterns and repeat those patterns back to the human. Whereas learning a language is actually knowing what those words mean. A computer chatbot can repeat back quasi logical answers to a human to create a conversation, but it has not actually learned how to speak english. The computer was taught patterns, it received those patterns from the human, and it responded in regulation to its program. It is similar with Koko, Koko was taught patterns, saw those patterns and responded based off of the patterns it had memorized."

It's different, however. Koko is not made out of this stuff: (http://everystockphoto.s3.amazonaws.com...)
A gorilla has about the same inside parts as a human, which is why some of us believe in evolution. [1] Koko's mind interepts it, not a machine, and as I stated before, computer's cannot feel. They are not self-aware.

"If I may use another analogy, I would like to convey this idea in another way. As suggested by my username "Rubikx", I am fond of Rubik's cubes. Now a Rubik's cube, when you really break it down, is just patterns. Speed cubers can solve them in less then 10 seconds because they have memorized these patterns [3]. They are then given the cubes and based off the patterns they memorized they can solve the cube. Once again, it is the same with Koko. Koko was taught patterns. If Koko had learned sign language simply by watching a person doing sign language over a long period of time, then I would say that Koko would be sentient. But Koko wasn't, it was taught specific hand gestures to respond to specific other patterns."

Now this statement is very broad. You say that you memorize Rubikx cube's, which is true. You memorize the patterns. Now, my grandmother who is 86, (unfortunately I can't cite her) has learned sign language and said it has included years old memorizing. I have memorization from Spanish, and I am a little rusty because it takes many years of practice. Sign LANGUAGE and learning another language are similiar, because you do have to memorize it. Who's to say Koko hasn't memorized it like humans? We could ask her in sign language, but I can't find that or visit her.

Conclusion

Based of the data, I believe that I have proved animals are sentient/self-aware, but if you feel my opponent has done a better job, feel free to vote for him. It was an excellent debate, I have learned a lot from my research on this, and I hope to debate about this in the future. I believe animals are sentient because of their brain similiarities, [2] brain to mass ratio being the order it is, (1. Small Ants, 2. Horse, 3. Elephant, 4. Lion, 5. Human) and animals recognizing themselves using the mirror test, and mark test. [3]

Thank you for a great debate, Con.

Cites:

[1]- http://media-1.web.britannica.com...

[2]- http://scienceblogs.com...

[3]- http://en.wikipedia.org...


Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by dhardage 2 years ago
dhardage
There is constant research into animal communication and researchers have determined that whales and dolphins actually have names, among other things. We can figure out human languages because we know how a human thinks. We are not ceteceans so we can't really fathom how they think since their entire world view is different from ours. I think in time we will and I predict we will be amazed, but that's just an opinion. As far as other species, we know a great deal about their communications too but it's not a high priority branch of research so it's not funded like weapon development or something that will make money.
Posted by DebatorPro 2 years ago
DebatorPro
But if animals do have languages shouldn't we have been able to figure out what their saying?? I mean we can figure out what other languages mean by studying them over a long period of time. So with all of the research that is devoted to animals we should be able to at least understand what they are saying.
Posted by dhardage 2 years ago
dhardage
DebatorPro, animals have complex societies with rules and rituals. Gorilla troupes, baboons, chimpanzees, dolphins, whales, all have languages and societal organizations. What they don't have are large societies with the need for cities and other such accoutrement. There is already an ape with all that and there is no real niche for another group.
Posted by GenXMayhem 2 years ago
GenXMayhem
Hmmm... This one will be interesting, I suppose it really all depends on whether you consider what animals do is based on intelligence or instinct. I personally am leaning a little more towards Con however I'm looking forward to the counter arguments. I issue this challenge to both contenders: Convince me!
Posted by DebatorPro 2 years ago
DebatorPro
I can't really see how animals can be sentient. I mean if they are then how come they haven't created language or developed complex societies?
Posted by dhardage 2 years ago
dhardage
I believe that some animals are sentient. Ceteceans and higher apes have shown that they can recognize their reflections as themselves instead of another creature. Parrots have shown the reasoning ability of a 4-year-old human. Elephants show love, grief, and other emotions associated with self awareness. Many animals communicate and some on a level that is equivalent or nearly equivalent to human language. That said, I cannot believe an earthworm is aware of anything but the most rudimentary of sensory data. Complexity is part of the key to becoming aware and we share this planet with a number of very complex organisms besides one another.
Posted by TheNamesFizzy 2 years ago
TheNamesFizzy
This is a very cool topic. I will watch this debate.
Posted by cheyennebodie 2 years ago
cheyennebodie
The main difference is we can choose and speak words. Words have the ability to create an environment. Animals cannot do that. If you have seen one robins nest you have seen them all. They are programmed and we are given freedom to choose.Life or death, right or wrong, blessing or the curse.Faith words or fear words.

We are individuals. That is why the founding fathers put " the pursuit of happiness" as a God given right. Each of us have a different pursuit. As long as government does not herd us into whatever pursuit THEY they think we should have.
Posted by Rubikx 2 years ago
Rubikx
alright sounds good. I almost always do 3 days just in case of unexpected occurrences. Good luck for whatever it is and I look forward to your argument.
Posted by Gabe1e 2 years ago
Gabe1e
My argument might take a while, I have a family dispute, don't worry, I won't forfeit.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Jzyehoshua 2 years ago
Jzyehoshua
RubikxGabe1eTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Interesting arguments by both sides but I noticed Pro started winning about Round 3 with rebuttals, particularly on brain to body mass ratios. Con made some interesting arguments but relied too heavily on opinionated assertions to convince me, particularly in the early rounds.
Vote Placed by gomergcc 2 years ago
gomergcc
RubikxGabe1eTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Con was not able to meet the there Bop. While they showed some animals are not sentient there Bop was that all are not, and only humans are. Shame on both for using Wikipedia that much :(