ANIMALS--More Human-Like than We Admit?

Both of my parents were animal lovers. So I was fortunate to grow up in house where there was always some animal/s around. And I think it is safe to say that having all those years to observe them, I know just a little bit more about animals and their behavior than the average, non-animal-owning person does.

Animals seem to possess the full range of (so-called) human emotions. I know because I’ve seen it in them: happiness, sadness, love, hate, anger–and even humor , believe it or not.

When I was still 13 we got our albino Briard, “Tiffany”. She was a very fun-loving dog. She used to tease our Siamese cat “Chi Chi”. When Tiffany couldn’t get a rise out of Chi Chi, she would deliberately poke her with her nose, and then look for a reaction! No one in my family taught her that, she just figured it out on her own. We had another dog, “Sandy”, that Tiffany was very good friends with. Whenever one got up and left the room, the other one would always follow. Tragically, Sandy slipped into a diabetic coma and died in 1988. My father carried her limp body up our stairs to the waiting car outside, and Tiffany saw what was going on. Tiffany’s ordinarily joyful expression left her, possibly for the first time ever. And she stared at the scene. She remained depressed for a little while, but she got over it. And she made new friends with the other animals we later got.

Now we have another Siamese cat, “Jasmine”. We got her in 1999, and I swear she has many nuturing qualities to her. Even though she and our other male cat “Pumpernickel” are fixed, they sleep close to one another! And each time our dog “Joy” tries to tease Pumpernickel, Jasmine intervenes–by kissing Joy! One time Joy was relieving herself, and Jasmine ran up to her, grabbed her head, kissed her and quickly ran away! Very strange.

So then, if animals have all of the emotions that we do and perhaps some of the same reasoning abilities, what is the greater implication of all of this? Should they be given the same rights as we? Or if not given the same rights immediately, should that be the ulimate goal–to “enfranchise” them just like women and other minorities were slowly enfranchized in this country.

I for one honestly don’t know the answer to these questions.

:confused: :confused: :confused:

(BTW, I finally figured out how to “cut” and “paste”. Highlight what you want, press “Ctrl” and “C”. Place the cursor where you want the material. Then press “Ctrl” and “V” and Voila! it is where you want it to be. That’s how I moved this text. Neat, isn’t it? And to think, 20 yrs. ago it was the Rubiks Cube that amused us. How far we’ve come. TTFN;j )

You want to give animals the vote? And I thought the 2000 election was bad… :wink:

Except women weren’t actually a minority!! :wink:

This animal question is a freakily difficult one. Like you I have seen animals display all these “emotions”. Many can be explained in terms of natural behaviour though. Eg playfighting - practising for the real-life hunt.

I don’t think animals have intellectual intelligence in terms of abstract ideas etc. I personally wouldn’t campaign to get my cat suffrage!

One must be careful when interpreting animal behaviour; at times it’s hard enough to correctly interpret the actions of our fellow humans and we certainly can fall into the trap of anthropomorphism(sp?); considering penguins to be comical little men and so on (not that I’m accusing the OP of this).

Certainly anyone that denies that animals possess some or many common characteristics with humans is burying their head in the sand (often because of an agenda such as biblical literalism etc), but I think it would be safer to say that humans are animals that share some of their characteristics with other animals.

Just wanted to emphasize mangetout’s last sentence. Humans are but one species. Arguing that other species are like us seems like looking through the wrong end of the telescope. (And we haven’t even addressed communication by plants …)

Now, do these shared attributes reflect that we are all the product of natural selection, or the hand of an intelligent designer? :wink:

Or both :smiley:

Somebody wants to give animal the vote. :rolleyes:
It’s bad enough that the football fans are allowed to…


Great topic! It’s a tricky one though. As pointed out by Mangetout, the emotions that we percieve animals to have could damn well be a trick of perception. We have learned to infer what others may be feeling based on the way their face changes. It’s built into the way we percieve. The problem is, just because we recognize what looks like happiness in an animal, does not mean that they are feeling anything remotely like human happiness. Just like we can see a face in the clouds when there is no real face, we can see emotions in animals where there are none.

Look to Cecil’s current column on cats purring on the front page. Many people assume that if a cat is purring it is happy. Such is not neccesarily the case, as Cecil points out.

Tricks of perception aside, the discussion of animal rights and intelligence fascinates me. Humans have consistently placed themselves at the top of reality only to get knocked down again and again (i.e. the sun does NOT revolve around the Earth). It seems clear to me that humans are a part of a tapestry of life, not above it.

Our constitution states that we hold certain truths to be self evident. But these truths only apply to other humans. Why? We cannot kill other humans, but we kill millions of animals on a daily basis. I am fairly convinced that you can trace back my ancestry to lesser evolved primates, and probably eventually all the way back to bacteria. This is true for all living things. We are ALL animals. There are just different levels of skill sets.

So why are we so special? Why are our lives more valuable than any other on the planet? Why do we get the right to life, liberty and happiness, while we take these things away from all other living things on the planet at will?

Hard questions. For the religious, it’s a little easier. Humans have a soul - animals don’t. There is no evidence for this view, so I disgard it until proper proof is presented.

So what separates us?

Language? Chimps have been shown to have rudimentary language.

Tool use? Again, primates have been known to use tools (sticks) to solve problems (hot to get ants). So we aint so special there either.

Higher intelligence? How do you define intelligence? Should there be a scale? Once a species reaches a certain level of inteligence should the protections of the bill of rights be extended? Who sets the bar? We have a hard enough time defining HUMAN intelligence.

Dennis Leary has an interesting response. I’m paraphrasing from memory here:

There is alot more to say here, but I’m kinda busy . I’ll end with this. Suppose science found a way to raise the intellingence of almost any animal in the world to close to that of a human. Would we be obligated to do so? Should we set out and give the gift of knowledge to all living things (the forbidden fruit comes to mind - so does “Flowers for Algernon”)? Or would it be immoral to tamper with “natural” progression?

DaLovin’ Dj

First of all, we do not kill animals at will. We are far, far more free with the taking of animal’s lives than we are with human’s, but we’re willing to take anyone/thing’s life under certain circumstances (e.g., self defense), and we have laws against taking anyone/thing’s life under others (e.g., we don’t maliciously torture, maim, and kill without purpose, including animals with laws against animal cruelty). Generally, we kill animals for a purpose–food, clothing, raw materials for industrial processes, etc. Even recreational hunters typically consume their kill.

That animals exhibit primitive language and tool-use doesn’t settle the issue, because we obviously have far greater skills in those abilities; one could argue that chimps are lower on the scale-of-being than humans just because they’re so primitive at both. There’s a prima facie scale of intelligence, and thus moral status, based on our criteria of worthiness, which is the only criteria we have, barring holy books.

Also, enfranchising animals is already happening to a degree: we’ve been gradually extending rights to animals in the form of animal cruelty laws, the endangered species act, etc. While they won’t be complaining about butterfly ballots anytime soon, humanity is enlarging the moral community beyond our species as appropriate–namely, articulating our moral obligations to animals as constraints upon our own behaviour that are consistent with out general moral philosophy.

I find humans to be much more tasty than animals.

Mammals have all the same emotions as we do, though they are not as complex in some aspects.

Different emotions are attributed to different portions of the brain. Mammals have the same components as we do, just different proportions. Reptiles don’t really have love as we know it as they have no biological reason to snuggle or care for each other, but they do feel anger, fear, and lust. I’m not sure how birds fit into this, nor the few reptiles that do show signs of social behavior.

Have you got a cite for all of this? I was under the understanding that we don’t fully understand human emotions and complex brain function yet. Sure, we can tell you that if we slice a certain part of the human brain, certain things will no longer function. That’s alot different from understanding the mechanical nature of emotions.

I have always read any news piece I can find on research into the human brain. Truly, there has been some amazing research in the last few years. They can control a robotic arm with a monkey’s brain for crying out loud. Still, I didn’t think we had the knowledge to say things like "Lust looks like this mechanically. If we see this occur in a brain, we know lust occured. " The science ain’t that exact yet.

Just because we see a brain that looks and behaves similarly in another animal does not mean that that animal percieves that brain activity in a similar fashion to us. Hell, we can barely understand one another’s perception sometimes (let alone prove it exists), never mind a whole other species.

DaLovin’ Dj

The only human trait my cat has demonstrated is stupidity.

My cats demonstrate, IMO, that they like living with me because in the 12 years that they have lived in my house, they have never gone off to live somewhere else. I live in a rural area, they go outside whenever they want to, and they always come back.

Some people will say that they only come back because they’re fed, but these are feral animals that have no problem catching game or cats that ‘belonged’ to other neighbors but for whatever reason showed up at my house so I’d let them inside to sleep. Two of my previous cats were owned by neighbors but showed up on my porch meowing. I let them in. Neighbors came, asked for cat back. I gave cat back. Next day, cat was at my house again. So I guess if they have any ‘human like’ quality, they seem to have chosen me, with whatever level of ‘chosen’ their brains can handle.

Has everyone read Carl Sagan’s/Ann Druyan’s (sp) “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors”? Therein they present many examples of how other animals share many, if not all, traits with humans…just to varying degrees.

I would say at the least, animals deserve some respect, consideration, & sympathy…a bit of forethought before we complete our bulldozing and repaving of the planet (excuse the exaggeration).

Deserving of human rights? No*. But it seems that some level of animal rights is warranted…if not out of respect for whatever level of consciousness they possess, then out of a respect for other life as we expect our lives to be respected.

  • well, maybe on a fundamental level like “life, liberty, and the pursuit of catnip” but not on a “right to an attorney, right to vote, etc.” level.

Yeah, we gotta eat, but I think there needs to be a line somewhere between such basic survival and extremes such as torturing or exterminating other species. Now where do we draw that line(s)?

side note: Many laws already exist to protect animals and plants for their sake (not ours). Enforcement is another matter.

Until another spieces of animal can create Eine Kleine Nachtmusik or paint The Last Supper or develop calculus, sends rockets to the moon and generally strive to understand the world around them better then I will ocntnue to think as animals as being lesser than humans. Take a cat from 500 years ago and it would be pretty much the equivalent of a cat today. I suppose a conversation between the two would go like this…

“So what has happened the last 500 years?”
“I don’t know, all I know is I sleep and eat and sleep and sometimes I get to stalk and I have no clue what happened either before I got here or what is happening outside. And frankly I don’t really care or want to know.”
“Hmm, me neither.”

Take a human from 500 years ago and he would be, well 500 years behind. Human curiosity extends well beyond that of other animals. And that curiosity is what gives us modern medicine and science and art and culture (and yes all the bad things humans are known for, War etc.).

Can a human’s metabolism ‘fix’ nitrogen from the atmosphere (like bacteria) and as a result, support most other life on Earth…including our life? Which achievement is greater?

Take a human from today and put him/her on a desert island and he/she would be like a human from, well 5,000 years ago (but with more knowledge if educated…if not educated at all then maybe something like 50,000 years ago).

Does that make us ‘better’ or ‘different’?
Don’t worry…I’m mostly just needling you. I agree that overall, we humans have a lot more going for us than other species. I just get concerned when I see value judgements against other species (or races, etc.) that could lead to a “therefore we can do whatever we want” mindset. Not that you necessarily have that mindset…but some people do.

This may be a bit of an oversimplification, but the human brain can be divided into three layers.

The innermost layer (the r-complex) controls the primitive drives that deal directly with self-preservation – pain, lust, and fear. We share the r-complex with all mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The middle layer (the limbic system) is associated with complex emotions such as anger, love, joy, sadness, and hatred. It’s also where memories are stored. We share the limbic system with all other mammals.

The outer layer (the cerebral cortex) deals with those functions that we consider uniquely human – reason, tool-use, language, art, and music. All mammals have a cerebral cortex, but ours is by far the most complex. Some of the more “advanced” mammals like chimps and dolphins come fairly close though.

So judging by brain anatomy, mammals are emotionally similar to humans but they have a limited ability to think logically, use tools, or communicate beyond simple signals.

Sounds right to me.

Devilman Palmer:

Thanks for your summary concerning the structure and function of the brain. Still, I do not think what you state (even though it may be correct) proves that animals have emotions. I think this statement is a little misleading:

Just because an area of the brain is associated with a particular emotion does not mean that it is the only cause of that emotion. We can tell, through the use of brain scans, that certain parts of the brain are active when people claim to be feeling a certain emotion. This does not however give us a mechanical understanding of what exactly emotion is, it only describes one effect of emotions.

It gets difficult quickly. Before you can say animals have emotions, you must define what an emotion is. What is the technical definition of emotions? What is love? What is hatred? What is anger? Can you describe any of these things without referring to other emotions? Can you show me the act of someone feeling love and where it starts? Soon we get into questions about the nature of perception . . .

The problem is, emotions could be an emergent property of a complex system (the human body) that include, but may not be limited to, brain function in the areas you describe. I remember reading an article years ago in Discover where a scientist theorized that there really is no such thing as an individual. He said that perception was just an illusion caused by the brains various workings. Perception is just a neat trick. Detractors feel that such a view is cold and detatched - nevermind incorrect. “There is something more to humans then the sum of our parts.” “I am an individual.” Soon we get into religion/metaphysical issues . . . It is truly a great question:

“What is emotion?”

And one that has not, in my opinion, been solved.

Until you can describe exactly how emotions (and therefore perception) come to exist, you cannot be sure that animals experience them - even if they have similar equipment in many ways.

Now, that said, I would tend to think you will probably end up being right once the science advances enough. Animals certainly seem to have emotions to me. My point is that we do not know yet. The puzzle is no trivial one. We shouldn’t claim to know the answer when finding the true answer actually requires finding out alot more about what it really means to be human.

DaLovin’ Dj

Just to illustrate my point about what we do and don’t know about brain function check out this article. It concerns an experiment that found out a certain part of the brain is involved with feelings of disappointment when money is lost while gambling:

Now this is a statement that is true. Now just because an animal has a similar area of the brain, does not mean that that area is enough to create emotions. Intellecutal honesty requires admission of the fact that these questions are not yet solved. I quote the article further:

As Tucker points out, just because we can tell an area of the brain (in this case the medial frontal cortex) is associated with a certain process, does not mean we fully understand the circuitry and it’s functions. We have “clues”, but the picture is far from complete. Certainly we do not understand brain function well enough to say whether or not animals experience emotions.

The brain is an incredibly complex device, and our understanding of it is just getting out of it’s infancy. We have a long way to go.

DaLovin’ Dj