Alfred001

Any scientific reason to believe consciousness is uniquely human?

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I'm reading this article

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-08-scientists-kind-human-brain-cell.html

and I hit on this part

Quote

They took sections of the top layer of the cortex, the outermost region of the brain that is responsible for human consciousness and many other functions that we think of as unique to our species. It's much larger, compared to our body size, than in other animals.

This notion that consciousness is uniquely human is one I've heard expressed many times, though usually in more philosophical discussions of consciousness and it's always seemed to be just a guess people make based on intuition. This is a more scientific article (although it again seems that the writer is just guessing), so it made me wonder - is there some scientific reason to believe consciousness is unique to humans?

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Posted (edited)

I don't think that one can answer that with any kind of certainty. We clearly do not fully understand the nature and extend of consciousness in humans, how can we make assessments in other organisms? It is complicated by the fact that there is also not a well-defined concept of consciousness.

From my viewpoint I would think that most biologists would, at best, argue quantitative differences. Especially as in biology few things are rarely and truly unique. Especially in neurobiology there are many models used to explore the biological foundations of consciousness, which would not be useful if it was a uniquely human concept.

Edited by CharonY

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Posted (edited)

If an organism can make a choice, it's conscious. It's just by degree and sophistication that separates different hierarchies of organisms; it's not a present/not present phenomenon. from what I've read, this ability goes down to worms albeit extremely primitively. This is interesting about ants:

Quote

ARE ANTS (HYMENOPTERA, FORMICIDAE) CAPABLE OF SELF RECOGNITION?

ABSTRACT

In front of a mirror, and consequently of their reflection view, ants behaved otherwise than when in front of
nestmates seen through a glass. Seeing nestmates through a glass, ants behaved as usual, i.e. without taking close notice of
them. In front of a mirror, they rapidly moved their head and antennae, to the right and the left, touched the mirror, went
away from it and stopped, cleaning then sometimes their legs and antennae. As long as they could not see themselves in a
mirror, ants with a blue dot painted on their clypeus did not try to remove it. Set in front of a mirror, ants with such a blue dot
on their clypeus tried to clean themselves, while ants with a brown painted dot ‒ of the same color as that of their cuticle ‒ on
their clypeus and ants with a blue dot on their occiput did not clean themselves. Very young ants did not present such
behavior. Contrary to the other kinds of marking, a blue dot on the clypeus induced aggressiveness in nestmates. The front
part of the head is thus an essential species specific character for leading to acceptance. Although further experiments are
required, preferentially on ants and social hymenoptera with an excellent visual perception, our observations suggest that
some ants can recognize themselves when confronted with their reflection view, this potential ability not necessary
implicating some self awareness. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6025/a64f817d6ef770e88449d9c0dea1a7a1c952.pdf

If ants have the possible ability of self-recognition, it would seem reasonable to surmise they have some level of consciousness imo.

It is only "uniquely human" if we define it by criteria which only humans can attain.

Edited by StringJunky

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10 minutes ago, StringJunky said:

This is interesting about ants:

That's amazing. I would have expected social animals to be least likely to be able to self-recognise

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I don't consider consciousness unique to humans. I think consciousness is enhanced by intelligence, and due to high intelligence our consciousness is perceived (by us) as a special human attribute. 

As others have mentioned, you need a comprehensive definition before you can really answer this, one not skewed to humans from the outset. 

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34 minutes ago, Phi for All said:

I don't consider consciousness unique to humans. I think consciousness is enhanced by intelligence, and due to high intelligence our consciousness is perceived (by us) as a special human attribute. 

As others have mentioned, you need a comprehensive definition before you can really answer this, one not skewed to humans from the outset. 

Yes, I think intelligence is a subset of consciousness and the two probably get conflated. We only know what we know and a higher level being would think we weren't clever. Because we don't know of any better, we are arrogant enough to think we are it.

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And what does "consciousness" mean? Being conscious of our surroundings? Being aware of ourselves as individuals? Being aware of our existence in the wider world and in time, and therefore our mortality?

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14 minutes ago, Strange said:

And what does "consciousness" mean? Being conscious of our surroundings? Being aware of ourselves as individuals? Being aware of our existence in the wider world and in time, and therefore our mortality?

As a minimum, I would say it's having input about the surroundings.

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Posted (edited)
24 minutes ago, Strange said:

Being conscious of our surroundings

I would think that's meant with 'consciousness'.

Our consciousness imo is due to the 'communicating' of neurons.

Bacteria and even plants can react sometimes in a +/- conscious way to it's environment due to communicating. That's of course a very diminished form of 'being conscious'.

Edited by Itoero

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20 hours ago, StringJunky said:

If an organism can make a choice, it's conscious. It's just by degree and sophistication that separates different hierarchies of organisms; it's not a present/not present phenomenon. from what I've read, this ability goes down to worms albeit extremely primitively. This is interesting about ants:

If ants have the possible ability of self-recognition, it would seem reasonable to surmise they have some level of consciousness imo.

It is only "uniquely human" if we define it by criteria which only humans can attain.

I couldn't agree more, consciousness "is only 'uniquely human' if we define it by criteria which only humans can attain."  It isn't unique, consciousness is merely the quality or level of awareness suggested or expressed by the behavioral responses of a species to stimuli.

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