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Which of these animals experiences something?

  1. A. Fish

    0 vote(s)
  2. B. Fish + ant

  3. C. Fish + ant + amoebe

  4. D. None of them

    0 vote(s)
  1. Jan 28, 2006 #1
    Which of http://img227.imageshack.us/img227/5121/fishamoebeen3mp.jpg [Broken] (fish, ant, amoebe) do u think experiences something and thus possesses some form of consciousness, and why do u think so?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2006 #2


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    I voted for all three.
    Every single one of the organisms needs to be able to respond to some input; for example, every one of them is able to orient itself to a food source due to received info.

    This ability to process, evaluate and act upon received data (making the data into "info", if you like) is a core element of any "experience".
    To use the concept of "consciousness" here is, however, rather misplaced.
  4. Jan 29, 2006 #3
    i havent made up my mind yet,
    because i have a problem with the definition of "experiance" and "consciousness".

    if ameba experiances something by getting input and acting on it, i think some AI programs experiance something as well.

    maybe its just a question of how complicated your decision mechanism is...
  5. Jan 29, 2006 #4
    Ditto. I guess this is actually the gist of this question: how can you define consciousness? What qualifies as a mental activity? Is a nervous system required or not? Is simple reaction at the cellular level sufficient? Many questions are raised by this, and there may be no true answer besides a subjective opinion. Well, I'll give it a shot.

    I think consciousness would require some ability to store and use information instead of just reacting to the environment mechanically. If unicellular organisms don't possess such a system then I would not call them conscious. (They don't, do they?)

    Ants do remember where they found food so that would qualify. They can acquire information, process it somehow and change their behaviour accordingly. Fish too. Ok, I'm ready to vote.
  6. Jan 29, 2006 #5
    This is an article about bacteria which i recently read, and according to which bacteria also behave the way u describe fish and ants do ('acquire information, process it, change behaviour'):

    It says that bacteria may have a form of intelligence. Does intelligence need consciousness?
  7. Jan 29, 2006 #6
    Interesting article. But what they describe does not really match the idea of storing information, it mainly describes the pre-existing versatility of various unicellular organisms. We know that many of them can adapt to various conditions, but with the exception of the last paragraph these descriptions don't show any learning. They simply show built-in mechanisms to react to a large set of situations. I don't think each cell actually learns or remembers anything from these experiences.

    The last paragraph is more interesting. It describes something that may be interpreted as learning since the cell is actually transformed in a way that makes it more fit to repeat a previous experience. There is still quite a difference between this and learning in the sense of "storing information". The cell may be transformed, but so are your muscles as you spend time doing manual labour, which makes you more fit for the task when it repeats itself. I don't see bulkier muscles as stored data but enhanced physical potential. I don't equate fitness for a task to consciousness.

    Intelligence is a potential. It can remain unused. Intelligence without any input is probably not conscious of anything since, well, it has nothing to be conscious of. But provide it with some sensory data and I say you have consciousness.

    And then, is consciousness possible without intelligence? I don't think so, because then you only have mechanical reactions, like what I see in unicellular organisms. I consider intelligence to be closely associated with learning abilities. I cannot call something intelligent unless it can learn. And learning requires remembering, storing data.
  8. Feb 22, 2006 #7
    Anti-anxiety: I also think that a bacteria have a free will. Thus I believe in some level of not being afraid of the concept that a virus, like Aids, shall exterminate all of us. That it rather 'wants' to live, in it's own way. And if it totally takes out all it's 'victims', it'll know, on some level, that it'll not be able to live itself.
  9. Feb 22, 2006 #8
    i would have to go with the others on this anything that can respond in anyway no matter how subtle is experiencing something in order to make it respond. you dont need consciousness for this though, for example there are types of flower which respond to sunlight and move their heads to face the sun as it travels across the sky. this is a response to an external stimuli which would clasify as the plant having experienced a change in the photosensitentive data it was recieving and acting accordingly to compensate. however i wouldnt say a flower was conscious as that word generally implies a level of self awarness which comes with being a higher level sentient being.
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