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  #1  
Old 11-22-2005, 12:21 PM
Revenant Threshold Revenant Threshold is offline
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A Second Sentient Species on Earth

So, dolphins are apperently smart. So are corvids. So are various monkeys; I'm pretty sure all the Great Apes are now up to tool-using standards. Presumeably (unless we manage to wipe them all out before then), they'll evolve to the point where they have similar mental faculties to us at the moment. So....what happens when the first animal speaks up and demands the rights of a person?


Granted, this would be in hundreds of thousands of years, and we ourselves may have evolved to some further point by then as well. On top of that, any animals that did become sentient to our current level are going to be pretty stupid at first, (by our standards; i'm thinking in terms of neanderthal man here). It'd be pretty easy to take advantage of them. So i'm just interested in what would occur; would slavery become a normal part of society again? Would we just say, alright, Flipper, here's your passport, here's your tax forms, get going?

Oh, a further thought; fundamentalist christians (and some moderates) believe God created us "in his image". Would that mean any animals that become sentient at some point (thanks to foul, ungodly evolution) would be "lesser" in the eyes of these people?
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  #2  
Old 11-22-2005, 12:25 PM
XT XT is offline
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I don't think evolution works in quite the way you seem to be implying. Unless you are saying that humans themselves are going to be the ones tinkering with things to create another sentient species.

BTW, you do realize that in the past there was a time when there were two (or maybe more) sentient species on earth...right?

-XT
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  #3  
Old 11-22-2005, 12:25 PM
What Exit? What Exit? is offline
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Consider finding and reading David Brin's Uplift War series.

In the meantime:
How sure are you some Dolphins are not sentient? The research is on going among professional Scientist.

Jim
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  #4  
Old 11-22-2005, 12:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
I don't think evolution works in quite the way you seem to be implying. Unless you are saying that humans themselves are going to be the ones tinkering with things to create another sentient species.

BTW, you do realize that in the past there was a time when there were two (or maybe more) sentient species on earth...right?

-XT
There is still debate if Neanderthal were actually a seperate species. The Neanderthal may have been a subspecies. It is probable that you are correct however.

From Wiki

Quote:
Both the Neanderthals' place in the human family tree and their relation to modern Europeans has been hotly debated ever since their discovery. They have been classified as a separate species (Homo neanderthalensis) and as a subspecies of Homo sapiens (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) at different times. The consensus has been, based on ongoing DNA research, that they were a separate branch of the genus Homo, and that modern humans are not descended from them (fitting with the single-origin hypothesis). Some recent genetic research has pointed toward the possibility that the gene responsible for red-hair and freckles in modern Europeans had Neanderthal origins (at least partially indicating support for a multiregion origin). In addition to the genetic research, the shapes of the Neanderthal and modern human skulls are significantly different, in ways that make it unlikely that Homo sapiens is descended from Neanderthals.
Jim
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  #5  
Old 11-22-2005, 12:37 PM
Revenant Threshold Revenant Threshold is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
I don't think evolution works in quite the way you seem to be implying. Unless you are saying that humans themselves are going to be the ones tinkering with things to create another sentient species.
I might be wrong - i'm certainly no expert on this. But why couldn't what happened to apes - > humans not happen to random-smart-animal - > random sentient animal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
BTW, you do realize that in the past there was a time when there were two (or maybe more) sentient species on earth...right?
Yep. Cro-Magnon man (I believe they were also homo sapiens) and Homo neanderthal (IIRC) at one point lived at the same time, and it's believed that the Cro-Magnons managed to kill off the neanderthals indirectly because either they were better at using tools, or because they had complex language skills, or they were generally smarter. I doubt though that we'd kill off another sentient species today, though?

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Originally Posted by jrfranchi
How sure are you some Dolphins are not sentient? The research is on going among professional Scientist.
Well, if they are, it finishes the debate. What would we do with a second sentient species? Uhm, fish for it.
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  #6  
Old 11-22-2005, 12:49 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revenant Threshold
But why couldn't what happened to apes - > humans not happen to random-smart-animal - > random sentient animal?
I suppose it could, but the OP almost implies that it's inevitable, which I have doubts about.

Is sentience a dichotomy or a continuum? That is, is there one specific moment at which a species becomes sentient, or does it happen gradually? For that matter, when does an individual human being (i.e. a baby) become sentient?

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Well, if they are, it finishes the debate. What would we do with a second sentient species? Uhm, fish for it.
"So long, and thanks for all the fish"?
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  #7  
Old 11-22-2005, 12:51 PM
XT XT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revenant Threshold
I might be wrong - i'm certainly no expert on this. But why couldn't what happened to apes - > humans not happen to random-smart-animal - > random sentient animal?
You'd have to get one of the boards experts on evolution to answer this correctly I'm sure. My answer would be...what would be the pressure on the random smart animal that would make sentience a survival trait and thus desirable? All species aren't headed for true sentience after all...there is no 'goal' in evolution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrfranchi
There is still debate if Neanderthal were actually a seperate species. The Neanderthal may have been a subspecies. It is probable that you are correct however.
Actually I was thinking more along the lines of australipiticus and early homo species. They were both sentient and both roamed the earth around the same time. I think Neanderthal was a cold weather subspecies that eventually either died out or re-merged with the main branch.

-XT
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  #8  
Old 11-22-2005, 12:56 PM
Ethilrist Ethilrist is offline
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Two sentient races? Jeebus, we're having enough problems dealing with the one!
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  #9  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:06 PM
Revenant Threshold Revenant Threshold is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink
I suppose it could, but the OP almost implies that it's inevitable, which I have doubts about.
Apologies. It's definetly not an inevitability, but it is a possibility. I should have worded the OP better.

Quote:
Is sentience a dichotomy or a continuum? That is, is there one specific moment at which a species becomes sentient, or does it happen gradually? For that matter, when does an individual human being (i.e. a baby) become sentient?
Presumably it would come gradually; We might hear example of a particularly bright individual of that species (which we do today, but not to the level of sentience). That's why I set out in the OP a point at which sentience could not be denied; an animal asking for it's rights. While it's probably true that the animal was sentient before that point, this would be a point at which you could not deny that it had an understanding of what was going on around it, and of itself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
You'd have to get one of the boards experts on evolution to answer this correctly I'm sure. My answer would be...what would be the pressure on the random smart animal that would make sentience a survival trait and thus desirable? All species aren't headed for true sentience after all...there is no 'goal' in evolution.
Evolution does have a goal; survival. That's the point of it. I would argue that the factors that led humans to gain sentience as a survival trait (or indirectly as a "symptom" of a survival trait) could also be the case for other animals.
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  #10  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:13 PM
ultrafilter ultrafilter is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink
Is sentience a dichotomy or a continuum?
Very likely the latter. Some species of monkeys seem to have a limited degree of self-awareness, and human infants don't immediately display the same level.

I think what the OP is asking about is a second species with human or near-human linguistic ability. If you want to know how we would treat them, look at the treatment of black people in the antebellum US. Some would be in favor of giving them no rights, some would be in favor of giving them full rights, and I think most would fall in the middle.
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  #11  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:14 PM
ultrafilter ultrafilter is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revenant Threshold
I would argue that the factors that led humans to gain sentience as a survival trait (or indirectly as a "symptom" of a survival trait) could also be the case for other animals.
Could be, if the necessary genetic variation exists and the selection pressures are just so. But from your OP, I definitely got the impression that you thought it must happen.
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  #12  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:22 PM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Before we can find what we're looking for, or discuss who and who does not have it, we need to be sure we're talking about the same thing.

Do we have an agreed-upon definition of sentience?

I have seen people (not on this board) use "sentience" to describe any multicellular animal with a brain. In this thread it seems to be used differently, to mean "indisputably like us in some way, mentally".

If we're going to claim animals aren't already sentient, we'll have top define it without using any of the following concepts, since we already have evidence of them in many animals:

* tool use
* ability to anticipate the future
* self-awareness in mirrors
* communicating in language
* ability to solve complex problems
* distinct cultures in different populations
* altruism
* murder, rape and organized warfare
* grieving
* play
* sense of object permanence (awareness that "out of sight" is not "out of mind")
* art for personal reasons, not status display or sexual selection

So if we humans have sentience and the nonhuman animals do not, what is this thing we're calling sentience?

Sailboat
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  #13  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:22 PM
What Exit? What Exit? is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
...snip...
Actually I was thinking more along the lines of australipiticus and early homo species. They were both sentient and both roamed the earth around the same time. I think Neanderthal was a cold weather subspecies that eventually either died out or re-merged with the main branch.

-XT
Thank you for the clarification. I am glad I was polite in my question.

Revenant Threshold: I actually do believe that some Cetaceans would qualify as Sentient. I hope that sometime soon we will have proof.
I fear that the Orcas may be among them as this is the only Cetacean known to eat other Cetaceans. That would be used to excuse our own horrible slaughter of these wonderful beings.
Studies of Cetacean intelligence are a tough field and progress is slow. One major break might be when the military releases their studies, but as they were mostly in training and not intelligence testing, I doubt these records will prove much.

ultrafilter: Of course I would be on the very "Liberal" side and be demanding their equal rights when their sentience is proven.


Jim
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  #14  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:35 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revenant Threshold
Evolution does have a goal; survival.
No; survival is incidental; it's a byproduct of evolution.

Evolution has no momentum or direction. Every "improvement"--also a loaded word--in evolution is nothing more than what's left over after everything else dies. And even that's a temporary victory, because even the organism that's best at surviving can't survive for ever. Point being, evolution mostly occurs in the negative space around an organism. The organism itself doesn't drive evolution, the environment does.

And there's nothing in the environment that inherently prefers intelligence over other evolutionary "advances," like flight, or venom sacs. Due to a complex constellation of random environmental stimuli, intelligence improved the survivability of humans. Due to that same constellation of factors, flight did not evolve in humans.

Presuming eventual sentience in birds is like presuming eventual flight in humans. Neither follows logically.
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  #15  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:39 PM
Revenant Threshold Revenant Threshold is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ultrafilter
Could be, if the necessary genetic variation exists and the selection pressures are just so. But from your OP, I definitely got the impression that you thought it must happen.
Apologies - I put my own view into that somewhat, and it appears to have got a bit twisted. I personally think that it's likely, at some point, considering the level of sentience some animals are already at, that a second species will eventually evolve to a similar state as we humans are at now. That's just my opinion. My OP should have been a bit more neutral.

I would agree, though, that it's certainly not just something we can assume will happen; as you pointed out, the factors have to be just right in order for there be a need to evolve a higher level of intelligence, rather than stronger flippers or better eyes or whatever trait that's needed for the species' survival.
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  #16  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:39 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
Actually I was thinking more along the lines of australipiticus and early homo species. They were both sentient and both roamed the earth around the same time. I think Neanderthal was a cold weather subspecies that eventually either died out or re-merged with the main branch.
It's unlikely that any of the Australopithicines were anything more than "upright apes", using "ape" in its lay defintion (chimps, gorillas, etc. but not humans).

Most scientists consider Homo neanderthalensis a distinct species from Homo sapiens. Both species developed at roughly the same time (Neanderthals perhaps a bit earlier), but it's likely that they shared a common ancestor no more recently than 600,000 years ago. There was considerable overlap of Neanderthals and Sapiens in Europe (at least 10k years), and we know next to nothing about how they interacted. There is very little evidence that any interbreeding took place, although absence of evidence is not evidence of abscence.

There are competing hypothesis about how similar or different the Neanderthal brains was from ours, but it certainly would be reasonable to say that they were sentient.

One way to look at it is, if Australopithicines were alive today, you'd almost certainly see them only in a zoo. If Neanderthals were alive today, you'd probably see them walking in the streets.

Fix code --g

Last edited by Gaudere; 11-22-2005 at 04:33 PM..
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  #17  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:48 PM
Revenant Threshold Revenant Threshold is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
No; survival is incidental; it's a byproduct of evolution.

Evolution has no.........in humans. Neither follows logically.
Hmm...Yep, that does make sense. Alright, I agree that survival is just a result, and not the goal, of evolution. Thanks for explaining that.


And re: Sailboat's post, I mentioned the characteristic by which we would measure the sentience of the animal in the OP - they ask for their rights. If you want a more detailed test, I would suggest that we base sentience on what we know; we presume that we, humans, are sentient. Therefore, a species that shows similar abilities in mental terms to ourselves could safely be called sentient also. So some kind of Turing Test might be in order; have a conversation with a dolphin (correctly translated), and see if you can tell the difference between it and a human responding. This would presume that we could translate between the animal's language/languages and our own ones.
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  #18  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:52 PM
DanBlather DanBlather is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
I don't think evolution works in quite the way you seem to be implying. Unless you are saying that humans themselves are going to be the ones tinkering with things to create another sentient species.

BTW, you do realize that in the past there was a time when there were two (or maybe more) sentient species on earth...right?

-XT
The talking snake in the Garden of eden?
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  #19  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:52 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Revenant Threshold
Yep. Cro-Magnon man (I believe they were also homo sapiens) and Homo neanderthal (IIRC) at one point lived at the same time, and it's believed that the Cro-Magnons managed to kill off the neanderthals indirectly because either they were better at using tools, or because they had complex language skills, or they were generally smarter. I doubt though that we'd kill off another sentient species today, though?
IIRC the present evidence is that they - or at least many - were killed and eaten by the Cro-Magnon; Neaderthal bones with butchering marks have been found at Cro-Magnon sites.

In fact there's a theory - that I agree with - that humans systematically killed all our near-human relatives. You will note that nothing with better tool use than chimps survived. Which brings me to this :

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink
Is sentience a dichotomy or a continuum? That is, is there one specific moment at which a species becomes sentient, or does it happen gradually?
My guess is that it's a continuum; it looks like a big leap because our ancestors killed/outcompeted our nearest relatives. I think the biggest single leap is likely not sentience but language.
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  #20  
Old 11-22-2005, 01:59 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Trihs
IIRC the present evidence is that they [Neanderthals] - or at least many - were killed and eaten by the Cro-Magnon..
This is not correct.
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  #21  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:01 PM
What Exit? What Exit? is offline
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Originally Posted by John Mace
This is not correct.
I don't know which of you are correct. I would think somewhere in the middle. It is reasonable that Cro-magnon occasionally ate Neanderthals.
Could one or both of you cite as long as we are in GD?

Jim
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  #22  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:02 PM
XT XT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
Most scientists consider Homo neanderthalensis a distinct species from Homo sapiens. Both species developed at roughly the same time (Neanderthals perhaps a bit earlier), but it's likely that they shared a common ancestor no more recently than 600,000 years ago. There was considerable overlap of Neanderthals and Sapiens in Europe (at least 10k years), and we know next to nothing about how they interacted. There is very little evidence that any interbreeding took place, although absence of evidence is not evidence of abscence.
I thought there were signs of interbreeding between HN and HS (in China perhaps? I don't recall where I read this)...thus wouldn't they be the same species? Only members of the same species can breed viable offspring...least, thats what I recall from my biology classes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
One way to look at it is, if Australopithicines were alive today, you'd almost certainly see them only in a zoo. If Neanderthals were alive today, you'd probably see them walking in the streets.
Perhaps...but I'm unsure of what point you are making here. The Australopiticines were sentient (at least I always heard they are considered that way), same as the early homo variants...and some of them co-existed. So...two separate species were sentient at the same time. Thats all I was trying to say.

-XT
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  #23  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:14 PM
What Exit? What Exit? is offline
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Some cites to show these questions are open to debate:
Neanderthals 'mated with modern humans'
Quote:
A hybrid skeleton showing features of both Neanderthal and early modern humans has been discovered, challenging the theory that our ancestors drove Neanderthals to extinction.
DNA Shows Neandertals Were Not Our Ancestors
Quote:
A team of U.S. and German researchers has extracted mitochondrial DNA from Neandertal bone showing that the Neandertal DNA sequence falls outside the normal variation of modern humans.

"These results indicate that Neandertals did not contribute mitochondrial DNA to modern humans," says Dr. Mark Stoneking, associate professor of anthropology at Penn State. "Neandertals are not our ancestors."
This is science of the far past. There is still much to be learnt and many competing theories. It is essential to maintain an open mind in science.

Jim
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  #24  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:18 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
I thought there were signs of interbreeding between HN and HS (in China perhaps? I don't recall where I read this)...thus wouldn't they be the same species? Only members of the same species can breed viable offspring...least, thats what I recall from my biology classes.
I didn't say "no evidence'", I said "very little". There's a child's skelton found in Portugal that is supposedly a hybrid, but that conclusion is far from universally accepted. There is some evidence of interbreeding, but it is scant. There is also some very significant DNA data that says there was no interbreeding at all. In short, the jury is out, but the evidence available so far says it happend only rarely, if ever.

There were no Neanderthals in China-- they were strictly a European/Levantine species.

Quote:
Perhaps...but I'm unsure of what point you are making here. The Australopiticines were sentient (at least I always heard they are considered that way), same as the early homo variants...and some of them co-existed. So...two separate species were sentient at the same time. Thats all I was trying to say.
There really isn't any evidence that Australopithicines were any more sentient than modern chimps. If chimps are "sentient", then I suppose Australopithicines were, too. Depends on how you define "sentient".

I think we can safely call Neanderthals sentient, and then yes, there certainly was a time when there were two sentient species (including us) on earth. We can also be 100% certain that they interacted in some way-- the only question is, how.
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  #25  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:19 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
This is not correct.
Details please ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrfranchi
I don't know which of you are correct. I would think somewhere in the middle. It is reasonable that Cro-magnon occasionally ate Neanderthals.
Could one or both of you cite as long as we are in GD?
I'm looking; so far all I've found are mentions on message boards; no link to the original studies yet. I will note that there is a great deal of denial about the existance of non-survival cannibalism.
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  #26  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:22 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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BTW, even in Neanderthals and modern humans could interbreed (I'd bet $$ that they could), that would not necessarily make then the same species. There are many, many mammalian species that can interbreed and produce fertile hybrids, yet we still call them distinct species. The biological definition of species is highly subjective.
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  #27  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:25 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrfranchi
I don't know which of you are correct. I would think somewhere in the middle. It is reasonable that Cro-magnon occasionally ate Neanderthals.
Could one or both of you cite as long as we are in GD?
You want me to produce a cite that Cro-Magnons did not eat Neanderthals? No such cite exists. I can also state that no cite exists claiming Cro-Magnons did not eat tigers.

I'm simply saying that I'm familiar with the literature and I've never seen any compelling articles stating that this was a common practice, as der Trihs states. I think it's up to him to produce a cite.
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  #28  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:28 PM
iamthewalrus(:3= iamthewalrus(:3= is offline
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The OP mentioned another sentient species, but there's a much more likely (IMO) chance of sentience arising elsewhere. I think this question is going to be answered rather soon when an artificial intelligence stands up and asks for its rights.
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  #29  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:29 PM
XT XT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
There were no Neanderthals in China-- they were strictly a European/Levantine species.
Er...right. I knew that. Gods know what I was thinking of there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
BTW, even in Neanderthals and modern humans could interbreed (I'd bet $$ that they could), that would not necessarily make then the same species. There are many, many mammalian species that can interbreed and produce fertile hybrids, yet we still call them distinct species. The biological definition of species is highly subjective.
This I didn't know. I always that that this was the boundary between species...the ability to produce viable offspring.

-XT
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  #30  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:34 PM
RTFirefly RTFirefly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lissener
The organism itself doesn't drive evolution, the environment does.

And there's nothing in the environment that inherently prefers intelligence over other evolutionary "advances," like flight, or venom sacs.
I wonder if that's still true. We humans have become a big factor in the environment of practically every species that isn't completely confined to an underground river somehere, and the dominant factor in the environment of most land mammals. Animals that survive in the not-so-'wild' are going to be those that can survive our continual encroachments. That puts a premium on quick adaptability, and species with intelligence have an advantage there.
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  #31  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:35 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
BTW, you do realize that in the past there was a time when there were two (or maybe more) sentient species on earth...right?

-XT
Or more. The recently discovered Homo floresiensis or "hobbit" for example -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_floresiensis. Hard to tell if they were "sentient," but they were tool users, probably much smarter than gorillas or chimpanzees.

For that matter, what about the sasquatch?
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  #32  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mace
You want me to produce a cite that Cro-Magnons did not eat Neanderthals? No such cite exists. I can also state that no cite exists claiming Cro-Magnons did not eat tigers.

I'm simply saying that I'm familiar with the literature and I've never seen any compelling articles stating that this was a common practice, as der Trihs states. I think it's up to him to produce a cite.
There appears to be archeological data that suggest that Cro-Magnons ate Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals. There also appears to be archeological data that suggest that Neanderthals ate Neanderthals. As I said, I think it is somewhere in the middle. I don't think Cro-Magnons ate Neanderthals out of existence. Far more likely we just out-competed them for food and shelter.

I only asked for cites because both of you seemed to be speaking in absolutes on a subject where little is known.

Now I need to provide cites. Darn.

Jim
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  #33  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:38 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
This I didn't know. I always that that this was the boundary between species...the ability to produce viable offspring.
Sheep and goats
Lions and tigers
horses and donkeys
wolves and coyotes
camels and llamas
zebras and horses

to name just a few...

As for the issue of cannibalism, I have no doubt that some Cro-Magnons killed and ate some Neanderthals. In fact, I have no doubt that some Cro-Magnons killed and ate some Cro-Magnons and that some Neanderthals killed and ate some Neanderthals. We are Cro-Magnons, and we know that cannibalism exists in our species.

What I object to is the assertion that anthropologists believe that the demise of the Neanderthals was in any signifant way a product of Cro-Magnons eating them. There may well have been violence between the species, but we really don't know. What evidence there is of any interaction is scant, at best. There are many hypothesis as to why the Neanderthals died out, but no common agreement among scientists.
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  #34  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:42 PM
Schuyler Schuyler is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethilrist
Two sentient races? Jeebus, we're having enough problems dealing with the one!
And I'm afraid that you'll have to back up the claim that there is one sentient species on the planet. (I've got counter-cites at the ready - NASCAR, Britney Spears, gaucho pants, the list goes on.)
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  #35  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:45 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Or more. The recently discovered Homo floresiensis or "hobbit" for example -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_floresiensis. Hard to tell if they were "sentient," but they were tool users, probably much smarter than gorillas or chimpanzees.
Yeah, there were even "regular" Homo erectus populations* alive in Asia up until about 30k years ago. AFAWK, there was a time not long ago when 4 distinct Human (ie, members of the genus Homo) species alive at the same time. It probably wouldn't be a stretch to call any or all of them "sentient".

*thought to be populations from which H. floresiensis derived.
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  #36  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:46 PM
ultrafilter ultrafilter is online now
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Originally Posted by jrfranchi
ultrafilter: Of course I would be on the very "Liberal" side and be demanding their equal rights when their sentience is proven.
I'm all for fair treatment, but what exact rights we give them should depend on how they think. By any reasonable definition, a seven year-old child is sentient, but I don't think many people would argue that they should have the same legal rights as an adult.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailboat
* communicating in language
Cite? If you're thinking of Koko et al., be aware that those examples are extremely controversial.
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  #37  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:49 PM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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Two sentient species. Are we talking about different species of very different ancestry like Star Wars' Gungans & Naboo? or kinda similar & willfully seperate like Tolkein's Elves/Dwarves, or wildly different yet of common decent like T's Elves/Orcs? I throw this out to see if there is an element of depth that should also be considered. Douglas Adams has already given us the Dolphins as an example of a second sentience with values & goals completely opposite our own with regard to wars, buildings, & cars.

My point is twofold. Sentience appears to be the exception rather than the rule, otherwise we'd see more of it. And why should one sentient species necessarily even want to interact with another? The OP asks:
Quote:
what happens when the first animal speaks up and demands the rights of a person
. I think this is a flawed and androcentric supposition because the converse, humans demanding the rights of a porpoise or merman, sounds ridiculous. Humans do what humans do, the other species does what it prefers. Maybe there would be interaction of mutual benefit, or maybe conflict over mutually desired resources. But it doesn't make sense to assume a dolphin would want to have the same rights as a human any more than a Bushman would want the same rights as a Canadian. Mutual respect seems a reasonable compromise as it is just as likely the other species would consider it a great honor for a human to be invited into their society.
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  #38  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:54 PM
What Exit? What Exit? is offline
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Some Cites:
http://www2.roguecc.edu/art/wpeterso...neolithic.html

Quote:
100000BC. Evidence shows Neanderthals practice cannibalism to survive the cold. Brains and marrow have high contents of fat and protein.
http://www.leakeyfoundation.org/news..._x.jsp?id=3342
Quote:
A growing body of evidence, such as piles of human bones with clear signs of human butchery, suggests cannibalism was widespread among ancient cultures. The discovery of this genetic resistance, which shows signs of having spread as a result of natural selection, supports the physical evidence for cannibalism, say the scientists.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/462048.stm
Quote:
Neanderthals were cannibals: Gory evidence uncovered in France reveals that the early humans in the region ate one another.
Cheek muscles from children were filleted out, tendons were sliced and skulls were cracked to remove brains.
http://cas.bellarmine.edu/tietjen/Hu...m_at_moula.htm
Quote:
The inference of Neanderthal cannibalism at Moula-Guercy is based on comparative analysis of hominid and ungulate bone spatial distributions, modifications by stone tools, and skeletal part representations.
Jim
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  #39  
Old 11-22-2005, 02:58 PM
What Exit? What Exit? is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ultrafilter
I'm all for fair treatment, but what exact rights we give them should depend on how they think. By any reasonable definition, a seven year-old child is sentient, but I don't think many people would argue that they should have the same legal rights as an adult.
...snip...
I would settle for the rights of a minor child. I wish to stop the killing and maiming. Once sentience was proven, if we could get them even minor rights it would be a big step forward to stopping the Japanese and others from killing cetaceans.

Jim
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  #40  
Old 11-22-2005, 03:06 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrfranchi
There appears to be archeological data that suggest that Cro-Magnons ate Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals. There also appears to be archeological data that suggest that Neanderthals ate Neanderthals. As I said, I think it is somewhere in the middle. I don't think Cro-Magnons ate Neanderthals out of existence. Far more likely we just out-competed them for food and shelter.

I only asked for cites because both of you seemed to be speaking in absolutes on a subject where little is known.
I wasn't speaking in absolutes about cannibalism :

Quote:
IIRC the present evidence is that they - or at least many - were killed and eaten by the Cro-Magnon; Neaderthal bones with butchering marks have been found at Cro-Magnon sites.
As far as this goes :
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrfranchi
In fact there's a theory - that I agree with - that humans systematically killed all our near-human relatives. You will note that nothing with better tool use than chimps survived. Which brings me to this :
I still think that's the simplest explanation why all our closest rivals are gone. Simple competition wouldn't likely kill them all. Why are they all gone, unless they were hunted down.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrfranchi
Now I need to provide cites. Darn.

Jim
Still looking; still nothing better than third party mentions.
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  #41  
Old 11-22-2005, 03:11 PM
Schuyler Schuyler is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly
I wonder if that's still true. We humans have become a big factor in the environment of practically every species that isn't completely confined to an underground river somehere, and the dominant factor in the environment of most land mammals. Animals that survive in the not-so-'wild' are going to be those that can survive our continual encroachments. That puts a premium on quick adaptability, and species with intelligence have an advantage there.
Contrary to what was contained in my last post, I actually dropped by to comment that it would seem to me unlikely, given human impact and influence on virtually all ecological niches, that another sentient species would be able to evolve. The time-scales to go from chimp, dolphin, raccoon, etc. to sentient versions thereof seem like far too long for insistent environmental pressure to select for intelligence (given human environmental disturbance).

To offer my opinion on the OP, given our human history of treatment both of foreign human cultures and intelligent, near-sentient species, I can't think that all of humanity would embrace our new neighbors. When our Western, developed-world stomachs are full, it's all very well to care for dogs and cats and gerbils. But when people are hungry, then dog, cat, monkey, dolphin, etc. are just another item on the menu.

I guess this also speaks to my point above - any species that is to evolve sentience would have to do it in ecological backwaters, where human existence is also likely to be marginal. A more likely scenario than that species asking for it's rights is that the little guys would ask, "kindly please, don't eat me!!" (Or at least kill me before you go lopping off the top of my head in order to eat my brains.)
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  #42  
Old 11-22-2005, 03:15 PM
What Exit? What Exit? is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Trihs
I wasn't speaking in absolutes about cannibalism :

As far as this goes :
I still think that's the simplest explanation why all our closest rivals are gone. Simple competition wouldn't likely kill them all. Why are they all gone, unless they were hunted down.

Still looking; still nothing better than third party mentions.
Your quotes are little off. You are attributing one to me that was yours.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Trihs
IIRC the present evidence is that they - or at least many - were killed and eaten by the Cro-Magnon; Neaderthal bones with butchering marks have been found at Cro-Magnon sites.
Not my opinion or quote.

Please be careful, I am a little sensitive to words being put in my mouth.

Jim
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  #43  
Old 11-22-2005, 03:21 PM
Der Trihs Der Trihs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jrfranchi
Your quotes are little off. You are attributing one to me that was yours.
Oops, my mistake. I must have cut and pasted your name instead of mine. Sorry.
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  #44  
Old 11-22-2005, 03:25 PM
What Exit? What Exit? is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Trihs
Oops, my mistake. I must have cut and pasted your name instead of mine. Sorry.
No problem, I have just been burnt by this before. I found myself defending a statement I didn't make. Not that your statement is that bad, as I said, I am overly sensitive.
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  #45  
Old 11-22-2005, 03:46 PM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xtisme
BTW, you do realize that in the past there was a time when there were two (or maybe more) sentient species on earth...right?
There's more than two sentient species in my house, counting the cats. "Sentient" means "having the use of senses."
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  #46  
Old 11-22-2005, 04:00 PM
Revenant Threshold Revenant Threshold is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya
My point is twofold. Sentience appears to be the exception rather than the rule, otherwise we'd see more of it. And why should one sentient species necessarily even want to interact with another? The OP asks: . I think this is a flawed and androcentric supposition because the converse, humans demanding the rights of a porpoise or merman, sounds ridiculous. Humans do what humans do, the other species does what it prefers. Maybe there would be interaction of mutual benefit, or maybe conflict over mutually desired resources. But it doesn't make sense to assume a dolphin would want to have the same rights as a human any more than a Bushman would want the same rights as a Canadian. Mutual respect seems a reasonable compromise as it is just as likely the other species would consider it a great honor for a human to be invited into their society.
It's likely that another species would have not only different ideas of what should be "rights" but also in the way that they think. That's why I said:
Quote:
what happens when the first animal speaks up and demands the rights of a person
Person. Not human. Person implies sentience and individuality. A human can be a person, as could a sentient individual of another species. You say that human demanding the same rights as a porpoise or merman sounds ridiculous. I would argue that a human demanding rights based on the fact that they are human is ridiculous; we don't have rights because we are a certain species, we have rights because we are persons. It just so happens that all humans can be classed as "persons" and so the idea of "human rights" sounds obvious. We don't have rights just because we are human; we have them because we're sentient people. As would a merman, or whatever, as long as they're sentient people.

I'd agree that this other species would probably not want or ask for the same rights as humans; I would say, though, that if we class them as being to our level of sentience, we should start off with giving them the same rights as we do, and then work out the details from there.
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  #47  
Old 11-22-2005, 04:09 PM
guizot guizot is offline
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Is there some kind of necessary connection between sentience and demanding rights?
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  #48  
Old 11-22-2005, 04:22 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guizot
Is there some kind of necessary connection between sentience and demanding rights?
There is, in that only a sentient being would be able to formulate the concept or articulate a demand.
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  #49  
Old 11-22-2005, 04:57 PM
Tibby or Not Tibby Tibby or Not Tibby is online now
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My neighbor’s dog, Sam, tells me that he is sentient. He also tells me very bad things. And, apparently he thinks that I am his son.

I would like to know what scientific criteria is currently used to judge sentience in animals. My guess is that the criteria is anthrocentric. Figuring that sentience is ultimately an advanced and abstract manner in which animals process the information they receive from their environment, the complexity of their senses most likely has a lot to do with the manner in which their sentience is expressed. Compared to other high life forms on earth, humans seem to have at least a moderate degree of advancement in all 5 senses, vision being our most relied upon. Most of our advanced cogitation and abstract thinking seems to be primarily vision based. We contemplate future and past events and base most of our symbolic representations in a visual context.
But what about a dog? His primary sense is that of olfaction. He lives in a world not so much of vision, but of smells. I don’t believe we would be able to test for or understand whether a dog has evolved a finely tuned smell-based sentience or not. Dogs may very well contemplate past and future events, and indeed even themselves as complex interactions of odors. They may have developed other smell-based skills and thought processes that we could not begin to comprehend, because our sense of smell is so inferior to theirs. Maybe Fido works out odor-trigonometry problems in his head for enjoyment - we wouldn't know.
I tend to be more liberal with regard to assigning the term sentient to animals. I would not use tool-use as a prerequisite - many animals simply haven’t evolved the morphology to manipulate their environment toward any type of meaningful tool use. (i.e. maybe my cat can conceptualize the blueprint of a house, but without opposable thumbs, he’s not likely to build one). I wouldn’t necessarily include language, because we may not be equipped to properly judge whether another species is using symbolic language or not (i.e. maybe a dog is bilingual: a simple auditory language of barks and a complex language of smell). For me, the label of sentience should be assigned to any creature that thinks of himself as a unique individual separate from his enviroment and has the capacity to contemplate past and future events. It may not be possible at this time to gauge which species qualify using this criteria, but my guess is that it is more than we imagine.
I remember seeing an interesting documentary about Orcas a while back. In one scene, they showed two adult Orcas playing catch with an adult seal, one propelling it out of the water toward the other who would nose it back. This went on for a while until the seal was dead, at which time they abandoned the corpse, since they were not hungry at that time. They really seemed to relish the cruelty of the act. In another scene they showed one of the aforementioned Orcas hunting for food (obviously hungry now). He came across a baby seal who was in distress far from shore. The Orca, very gently, nosed the baby seal safely to shore, then went back out to continue the hunt. Seems like they are pretty complicated creatures.
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  #50  
Old 11-22-2005, 05:15 PM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickJay
There's more than two sentient species in my house, counting the cats. "Sentient" means "having the use of senses."
Housecats are maybe not the greatest example to cite here; at any rate, my mom's cat displays a quality of sublime obliviousness that is usually found only in the mineral kingdom. Granted, it does move toward the sound of an electric can opener, but I'm not entirely convinced that this demonstrates 'sentience' rather than some form of magnetism. (No offense intended, Tibbycat...)

I suspect that the use of the term "sentience" as a synonym for intelligent self-awareness can probably be chalked up to influence from the Star Trek TV series. "Sapience" might possibly be a more usefully descriptive term.
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