Tuesday, April 19, 2016

That Old Time Feeling: Animal Consciousness

There is no doubt in my mind that higher animals have a consciousness rather similar to our own. But what about honeybees?

James Gorman, writing in the New York Times, takes up the question in Do Honeybees Feel? Scientists Are Entertaining the Idea

Bees find nectar and tell their hive-mates; flies evade the swatter; and cockroaches seem to do whatever they like wherever they like. But who would believe that insects are conscious, that they are aware of what’s going on, not just little biobots?

Neuroscientists and philosophers apparently. As scientists lean increasingly toward recognizing that nonhuman animals are conscious in one way or another, the question becomes: Where does consciousness end?

Andrew B. Barron, a cognitive scientist, and Colin Klein, a philosopher, at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, propose in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that insects have the capacity for consciousness.

This does not mean that a honeybee thinks, “Why am I not the queen?” or even, “Oh, I like that nectar.” But, Dr. Barron and Dr. Klein wrote in a scientific essay, the honeybee has the capacity to feel something.

I didn't see anything here that hadn't occurred to me, but it was interesting that at least some main stream science is coming around to a rejection of Cartesian dualism on the question.