Debate:Animal sentience

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Sentient? You decide.
This discussion was moved here from RationalWiki:Saloon bar.
(originally from User talk:ConservapediaUndergroundResistor)

So, do you think that starfish are sentient? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 11:58, 7 February 2009 (EST)

Yes. Not particuarly intelligent, but sentient and deserving of our respect. --"CURtalk 12:13, 7 February 2009 (EST)
And you claim to be a rationalist? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:15, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Wall.gif ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!
Now, now, now. Be nice. One can be a rationalist and believe that all animals are sentient. They have a central nervous system. The fact that they have no brain merely means that they are extremely stupid- but that has nothing to do with sentience. --"CURtalk 12:20, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Define "sentient". My dictionary defines it as "able to perceive or feel things"; this would apply to a plant, which can certainly "feel" which direction the sun is shining from. This would apply to a computer, which can certainly "perceive" the keys you press on your computer. But you would have no problems with destroying either; your definition of "sentient" is a very silly one, which can be summed up as "anything that's an animal". Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:25, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Merriam Webster: responsive to or conscious of sense impressions <sentient beings>. So CUR's right. ToastToastand marmite 12:28, 7 February 2009 (EST)
(EC) By my definition, sentience is the ability to experience emotions. I certainly think starfish experiance some form of rudimentary emotions. --"CURtalk 12:29, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Why? And why are these emotions discounted if they are experienced by fleas? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:31, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Because if I sucked your blood, you'd have every right to take away my life. --"CURtalk 12:33, 7 February 2009 (EST)
What is wrong with sucking the blood of another creature to live, but not wrong with killing and eating it? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:36, 7 February 2009 (EST)
I have a vendetta against all parasites. Got a problem with it? --"CURtalk 12:37, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Yeah, because it is ridiculous and is based entirely on an irrational "eew" factor. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:39, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Wait - starfish are sentient but a human in a coma isn't? WëäŝëïöïďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 12:38, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Seconded. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:39, 7 February 2009 (EST)
A human in a vegetive state with no chance of ever waking up or experiancing anything is non-sentient. --"CURtalk 12:40, 7 February 2009 (EST)
And a starfish that has no brain to experience things with is? I suspect that people in a PVS will still have reflexes from the undamaged parts of the central nervous system. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:42, 7 February 2009 (EST)
They have a central nervous system. But it appears I misunderstood the nature of the situation the woman was involved in. I was under the impression that her body had merely become a shell. It would appear that I am mistaken. --"CURtalk 12:45, 7 February 2009 (EST)
(ECX2)I don't know for a total fact, but I think that a human in a coma does sense and respond to changes. Just because the person isn't "awake", doesn't mean that their body doesn't do anything. It still regulates itself (I don't know the exact nature of the particular case) for things like body temperature, blood pressure etc. --CPAdmin1 12:52, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Yes, but their central nervous system is not capable of reacting to stimuli. They are not sentient in the same way a plant is not sentient. (By Darwin's hat, even CPAdmin1's in this now!) --"CURtalk 12:54, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Even with brain death, there may still be some responses. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:50, 7 February 2009 (EST)
I do not consider a Venus fly trap to be sentient. --"CURtalk 12:51, 7 February 2009 (EST)
And yet you consider a sponge, an animal, which has no nervous system and is essentially a bag that filters food from seawater, to be sentient. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 12:54, 7 February 2009 (EST)
I think one can safely draw the line at a sponge. --"CURtalk 12:55, 7 February 2009 (EST)
(EC) By the way, CUR, if it weren't for "parasites" you wouldn't be able to live: think of all that intestinal flora/fauna. Not to mention that Mitochondria started out as parasites on the primitive cells. ToastToastand marmite 12:56, 7 February 2009 (EST)

(unident) Someone provide me with evidence that fleas will be useful in the next few million years. Oh, and the intestinal flora/fauna are symbiotes. --"CURtalk 13:02, 7 February 2009 (EST)

But they started out as parasites, and arguably some still are. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:03, 7 February 2009 (EST)
If something does not benefit your body, it has no right to be there. We started out with a dicussion on the right to die. We move to the rights of fleas. I like this place. --"CURtalk 13:04, 7 February 2009 (EST)
But it's OK for cheetahs and wolves to kill and eat other animals, at infiniteish cost to the prey? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:06, 7 February 2009 (EST)
CUR, you're now making arbitrary judgements about "useful" and "beneficial" animals. Doesn't that contradict your argument about all animals being entitled to respect (except parasite)? WëäŝëïöïďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 13:07, 7 February 2009 (EST)
If something is beneficial or useful, it cannot be a parasite. And a parasite is entitled to respect- unless it is sucking my blood or my cat's blood, in which case I treat it the same way a lion trying to eat me (they don't) would be treated. --"CURtalk 13:10, 7 February 2009 (EST)
It's the Schlafly syndrome:"I said it, so it's right" ToastToastand marmite 13:12, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Please go into more detail. --"CURtalk 13:14, 7 February 2009 (EST)
(EC)So lions and other predators also deserve to die? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:12, 7 February 2009 (EST)
So if a lion attacked me I would defend myself. If a parasite was sucking my blood, I would not only defend myself, but not treat with respect. --"CURtalk 13:14, 7 February 2009 (EST)
And lions are also not deserving of respect? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:15, 7 February 2009 (EST)
They are deserving of respect because they actually work for their food, rather than sitting on a body and setting up a drilling station. --"CURtalk 13:17, 7 February 2009 (EST)
So you're basing an ethical statement on emotional, subjective principles as "working for their food"? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:21, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Last time I checked, ethics are based on emotional, subjective principles. --"CURtalk 13:22, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Not really; they are generally based on logical statements built from fairly sound assumptions. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:24, 7 February 2009 (EST)

How do you like those easy edit buttons?[edit]

(unident) So the practice of monogamy uses logical statements. If it did, those have been forgotten. --"CURtalk 13:25, 7 February 2009 (EST)

It is debatable as to the structure which humans evolved with; strict monogamy or harems, but it is deeply rooted in culture, not any rational ethics system. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:27, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Either way, it has become part of ethics. --"CURtalk 13:28, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Point me to a rational system that includes monogamy. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:30, 7 February 2009 (EST)
There is no "rational" and "irrational", only different cultures. The monagamous system adapted by most of the world is simply a decision that most cultures have imposed upon themselves, while polygamous cultures have decided that, for whatever reason, polygamy works, hence the fact it is done that way. ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!

(EC)::::Ethics do not have to be rational. We are human beings- do not forget that. We must be partially irrational. People who are completely rational spend three hours obsessing over which kind of pen to use. --"CURtalk 13:33, 7 February 2009 (EST)

But why should parasites die because you think that they don't do enough work? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:36, 7 February 2009 (EST)
If they are on me or on one of my cats, then yes. --"CURtalk 13:39, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Why? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:42, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Because it is harming them. --"CURtalk 13:43, 7 February 2009 (EST)
And if my cat scratches me, does that give me the right to kill it? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:47, 7 February 2009 (EST)

I look at animals and organisms as being in three relative categories.

  1. Sentient – a sentient organism is one that is aware of its existence, and forms social circles, possibly even to the point of making tools. Sentient organisms, such as Humans, Dolphins, and Chimps, are able to think, and have moved past strictly instinctive behaviour. Humans, obviously, have formed governments, and other complex structures, and chimps demonstrate an awareness of others, even delegating what we could call “names” to members of its group.
  2. Semi-Sentient- although capable of solving simple problems and demonstrating logic, a semi-sentient organism is one that does not seem to demonstrate awareness of its self. An example would be a crow, a very smart bird that attempts to interact with itself in a mirror.
  3. Non-Sentient- Organisms, such as ants, bacteria, and other simple organisms fall into here. These organisms rely almost completely on instinct to survive, living without a broad purpose other than the niche they fill in life. Take an ant, it is in a governmental structure, but at the same time, take the ant out of that delegated structure, and that ant erupts into chaos.

So where does a starfish fall? I would delegate semi-sentient, as it would not be able to acknowledge its own existence, its feeding and sexual behaviours seem to be based entirely on instinct, and while it can solve simple problems (An example would be confining it with pins and the starfish working its way out), it cannot think much further beyond that particular scope.

Now where would I place a vegetative patient? Cruel and heartless though it may sound, due to the reduction in neurological functions, a vegetative human would fall, for the most part, into the semi-sentient category. Does this dictate inferiority? Not one bit, but vegetative humans, while exhibiting basic reactions, and in better cases, minimal problem solving abilities, are for the most part, greatly reduced in the scale of their own functions. (Dammit, here I go getting involved and making a controversial statement) ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!

Part of the debate is clouded by the fact that "sentient" can have two different meanings: 1. Conscious, aware, thinking. 2. Experiencing sensation or feeling. Definition one fits humans, and definitions two fits almost anything alive. We need to decide which one we're going to use.
Another issue is that everything that isn't a plant (and even some plants) is a parasite in some sense - in that it lives off something else.
How far these two issues take us in resolving the question of the vegetative patient I don't know.--Bobbing up 13:25, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Not far. But here's the thing: Sentient can also mean to have emotions. --"CURtalk 13:26, 7 February 2009 (EST)
What emotions has a starfish? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:28, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Pain. --"CURtalk 13:43, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Pain?! I can tell you, I have had quite a couple of situations where I was in a load of pain, and I feel I can subjectivly say that pain is not as much an emotion as a sensation, akin to taste and smell. "Pain" is just signals from nerve receptors firing off that they are in distress, an emotion, although merely a perception of the body, can be triggered by pain, such as distress, fear, or anger, but pain itself is not an emotion. ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!
Okay, I'll think of another one. How about love? --"CURtalk 13:50, 7 February 2009 (EST)
And you know that starfish experience this how? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:51, 7 February 2009 (EST)
And you know they don't how? We end up in the endless cycle of neither having proof to satisfy the other. Therefore, I suggest that we end this conversation and get back to bashing wingnuts. --"CURtalk 13:53, 7 February 2009 (EST)
No; the onus of proof is on you to prove that starfish, with no brain and a very rudimentary nervous system, can feel love. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 13:55, 7 February 2009 (EST)

(unindent)Definitions of "love"

  1. have a great affection or liking for; "I love French food"; "She loves her boss and works hard for him
  2. be enamored or in love with; "She loves her husband deeply"
  3. Love is a lunar impact crater on the far side of the Moon. (nothing to do with this)

However, a starfish does not, to the best of my knowledge, dedicate itself to one particular, or a few particular, starfishes. As per its instinctual basis for survival of the species, it mates when it can, not through attatchment. ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!

Do polygomus cultures love? Yes. --"CURtalk 13:58, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Human emotions and a starfish's urge to mate are two different things. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 14:00, 7 February 2009 (EST)
And you know this how? And we are being distracted from bashing wingnuts. Let's all go bash Ted Nugent. --"CURtalk 14:03, 7 February 2009 (EST)

EZ Edit... 2![edit]

Why yes, I can say that polygamous human cultures love. Having had the time to read up on African societies, I can honestly say that the cultures I have read up on have a strong commitment to eachother. However, this commitment in a starfish is not found, a starfish does not form a permanant (or mostly permanent) bond with another starfish, and to what I know, it will not travel miles across the ocean floor to check in on the significant other. Polygamous cultures do love, but starfish mate to ensure survival of the specie. ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!
CUR, you really don't understand the burden of proof, do you? Z3rotalk 14:06, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Dang. Strike 2. But just because I'm wrong about that one doesn't mean I'm wrong in saying that starfish can feel some rudimentary form of emotions. --"CURtalk 14:08, 7 February 2009 (EST)
With what, CUR, with what? Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 14:09, 7 February 2009 (EST)
With their central nervous system. Rudimentary is the key word here. --"CURtalk 14:11, 7 February 2009 (EST)
All right then. Can I have a link? Could you show me a few sources demonstrating the emotional capacity of Starfishes? Can I ask to see a youtube video of an elated starfish? Can you tell me of experiences you had of a clearly angry starfish? If you can, you have met the burden of proof, if not, we can put to rest the sentientance of starfish. ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!

(unindent) I believe that starfish are sentient. You don't. Let's forget it and bash. . . something else. --"CURtalk 14:16, 7 February 2009 (EST)

(EC)My computer's got a rudimentary nervous system, and it's getting very annoyed with you. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 14:15, 7 February 2009 (EST)

(EC) Look, can people stop with the ad homs? --"CURtalk 14:16, 7 February 2009 (EST)

The only ad homs are in your head, as we are not leveling attacks at you, rather focusing on the issue, and we are asking you to demonstrate that a starfish is capable of emotional presence, or otherwise exhibits behavior beyond instinct. The burden against starfish emotion has been provided in the statement that we have not seen an emotional starfish, and I am skeptical that anyone has. If you have seen something that goes against this viewpoint, then please provide it. ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!
Tell me: does the fact that you haven't seen something mean it does not exist. And I have noticed a lot of ad homs flying around recently. So could we please, in general, stop with the stupid ad homs? --"CURtalk 14:23, 7 February 2009 (EST)
You seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the term ad hom. (ad hominem) Ad hom is the logical fallacy of attacking the source of the argument rather than the argument itself. An ad hom would be this "CUR is saying that starfish are sentient, CUR is stupid, therefore, starfish are not sentient." these people aren't doing that. Theya re attecking your arguments. --CPAdmin1 14:55, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Come back to this discussion when you have actually found out what "burden of proof" means. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 14:25, 7 February 2009 (EST)
I will end the discussion if you concede that you are wrong, or provide an argument against which I can think of no counterargument. Otherwise, no. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 14:38, 7 February 2009 (EST)
I concede that I cannot provide an argument to satisfy you. I do not concede that I am wrong. --"CURtalk 14:40, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Wall.gif that is my third time using that image today. ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!
I am running away from the dicussion. When all else fails, run. — Unsigned, by: ConservapediaUndergroundResistor / talk / contribs
Then consider yourself wrong. Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 14:57, 7 February 2009 (EST)

(Unindent) On winning the audience: You can consider a debate won even if you have not coerced the other to adopt your point of view if any of the following conditions are met:

  1. You have won the audience. - Unknown
  2. Your debate partner cannot make any response, and has admitted to such. - Check
  3. Any further debating would only result in hurt feelings. - Check
  4. Your debate partner is in a logical hole that s/he cannot get out of. - Check

It is for that reason that I am disengaging from this debate. It is over, starfish do not exhibit higher emotions, and unless it can be proved otherwise, that conclusion is solid. Debate over.ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!

*Blows smoke from barrel of reason* Stupid time Phantom Hoover! 15:06, 7 February 2009 (EST)
Not so fast. We have empirical evidence of starfish sentience Exasperate me!Sheesh!Not the most impressive contributor here 16:31, 7 February 2009 (EST)

Wtf.gifĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ My computer has two mowses!

That is officially awesome. I have a much greater respect for all marine life and their ass-kicking capabilities. Sightblinder 17:38, 7 February 2009 (EST)
MOAR STARFISH HITLER! --Purple George!YossieSpring in Fialta 03:54, 8 February 2009 (EST)