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Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 9:59amSanction this postReply
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Machan writes:

It is too paradoxical that while so many animal rights and liberation advocates lament this—indeed, roundly morally condemn human beings for being like other animals—they at the same time deny that we are any different from them. Well, if we aren’t different, then why not accept our cruelties just as the cruelties of the lion, the bear or the fish that devour their young are accepted? Why insist on the equality of non-human and human animals but also treat the human kind as if its life had a moral dimension missing from the lives of non-humans? Or if it isn’t missing, then why not also chide the non-human villains?

Absolutely brilliant! I've always thought the same but haven't seen it put to words that well!  Bravo. 




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Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 1:32pmSanction this postReply
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I agree, Pete. And another ...

Human beings are in fact fundamentally very different from other animals—they can choose between right and wrong, can govern their own conduct, and are not prisoners of their hardwiring, instincts or drives. (If they are, what is wrong with what they are doing to rabbits, rats, etc. anyway?)
Machan is simply tearing it up!

Great reasoning, Tibor.

Ed




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Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 1:43pmSanction this postReply
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And a damn fine book too - Putting Humans First, by Tibor Machan -- that I for one can't recommend too highly.



Post 3

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 10:01pmSanction this postReply
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I've written an article about Magnificent Machan—this is a good opportunity to underscore the sentiment. Bravo, Tibor!

Linz



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Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - 8:45pmSanction this postReply
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Make sure you vary your diet. Don't just eat rabbits; they are too lean. And remember "The Silence of the Lamb Chops?" Great movie. Especially with some chianti and flava beans. "Smack, smack."

--Brant




Post 5

Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 11:53amSanction this postReply
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You people don't understand. We are concerned with animal PAIN. Kill as many as you want as long as you're not torturing them. Would you deny that animals feel pain at all? Factory farm animals are are pumped full of antiobiotics from the day they were born because they are prone to sickness and stuffed into places they can't even walk by the BILLIONS every year. KFC cuts off their beaks (which have nerves). American businesses profit from chinese farms who skin animals alive. Some Americans make foie gras by force feeding ducks with pounds of meat daily until their liver enlarges by a factor of 5. In 2004 the u.s. slaughtered 8.9 billion chickens many of whom were conscious when their throat was slit because companies turn down the electricity that stuns them to save money. Millions of chemicals are put into the eyes and stomachs of animals to make sure they are fit for consumers.



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Post 6

Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 4:20pmSanction this postReply
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Brian,

What in the foregoing post suggests to you that Dr. Machan, or those responding to his post, have no concern about animal pain?

I recommend that you read pp. 18-23 of his book, "Putting Humans First," before making that accusation. It IS a concern and he covers the subject quite nicely without shying away from realities.

But, for you to rattle off a litany of unsubstantiated allegations directed at mostly unnamed American businesses, as you have done, is characteristic of someone doing nothing more than parroting a leftist political tract. I see nothing to suggest that you either have any personal knowledge of such practices or have expended one iota of thought on the matter.

It appears that you gained membership for the sole purpose of leaving this post, If so, I doubt you will even bother to return to read the reactions. But if you do, do yourself a favor, take some time off from acting as a PETA shill and get a good education in critical thinking instead.



Post 7

Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 5:05pmSanction this postReply
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Yes - definitely a Petarded person wandering here...



Post 8

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 11:22amSanction this postReply
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Dr. Machan seems to have a strong following here; I wonder whether rational discussion about this topic is possible.

Dr. Machan's opinions regarding animals seem to be based on the claim: "Human beings are in fact fundamentally very different from other animals—they can choose between right and wrong, can govern their own conduct, and are not prisoners of their hardwiring, instincts or drives."

Apparently, assuming that Dr. Machan is intellectually honest, if his claim could be shown to be erroneous -- was based on a misunderstanding of the facts or else simply a limited understanding of the facts -- Dr. Machan would reverse his position and begin to advocate for the rights of the animals that can choose between right and wrong, can govern their own conduct, and who are no more prisoners of their hardwiring, instincts, or desires, than are humans.

If Dr. Machan's position remained steadfast in light of evidence that suggests his claim is false, then his position would necessarily be irrational and his opinions could be dismissed as nothing other than the rants of a bigot. Experience has taught me that when a specific claim of a "fundamental" difference between humans and other animals is falsified, there is a strong tendency to claim other fundamental differences, and thus the argument goes round and round.

Before offering evidence that Dr. Machan is indeed wrong or misinformed, I would like to know in advance that my above observation regarding the consequences of falsifying his claim is deemed reasonable here among his supporters. If his claims could be cast in serious doubt based on peer reviewed scientific evidence, would even one of his supporters here seriously reconsider their own opinion regarding the relationship between humans and other animal species? 




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Post 9

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 12:32pmSanction this postReply
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Oh my - another Petarded being, with as much respect for truth and facts as an eco-freak...  Sorry charlie, but all the supposed 'peer' reviewed 'evidence' on non-humans having cognitive ability has been so far shown to be just that, suspect and wide opened to many interpretations  - in other words, nowhere conclusive to supporting your views... and no, this is not a belief statement, but one expressing the facts of reality, whether your beliefs hold otherwise or not...

and yes, this issue has come up before, more than once, and been thrashed over from both sides, so it is not as if engaging in anything new..

(Edited by robert malcom on 11/29, 12:34pm)




Post 10

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 1:12pmSanction this postReply
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Rick, I don't know what the precise foundation of Dr. Machan's animal rights position is - I have not read a systematic treatise on the subject from him.  My own view on the matter is premised on the following axioms:

- An objective look at nature shows that lifeforms sustain themselves at the expense of other lifeforms.  Ever since life on earth has existed, this is how things have always been.  In this regard, humans are no different than any other creature - some sort of plant or animal resource must always be available for our consumption in order for us to survive.  We're all part of the same ecosystem. 

- In the same way that a big fish is not immoral for gulping up a small fish, humans are not immoral for eating steak, chicken etc.  If you disagree with that, you can only do so on the grounds that humans are fundamentally different due to our capacity for choice.    

- Force, fraud theft etc prevent humans from fully using their independent mind to achieve to achieve rational values, so 'rights' exist as political principles to enable us to act freely and voluntarilly with one another (trade and cooperation in fact enable humans to flourish instead of merely survive).  Animals are incapable of learning and abiding by a complex moral code, and therefore no concept of 'rights' as understood by humans can be applied to them. 

If you present scientific or philosophical evidence to the contrarty, I would be willing to revise my stance.  But I think these are pretty sturdy foundations...




Post 11

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 4:22pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you for your response Pete.

Yours seems to be a different propostion than Dr. Machan's.

You wrote: "... lifeforms sustain themselves at the expense of other lifeforms ... We're all part of the same ecosystem." I concur.

You wrote: "In the same way that a big fish is not immoral for gulping up a small fish, humans are not immoral for eating steak, chicken etc.  If you disagree with that, you can only do so on the grounds that humans are fundamentally different due to our capacity for choice."

You say: "In the same way that a big fish is not immoral for gulping up a small fish..."  It is not clear to me that the behavior of a fish can be termed moral or immoral. I believe that some human behaviors can be so termed. But there is no scientific evidence one way or the other on which to base a claim about fish. All that can be said with certainty is that some fish have complex behaviors, some of which are species-specific while others seem to be situational and spontaneous.

My moral choices are not generally driven by others' choices. Humans are different from fish just as every species is different from everyother species. But we are clearly not the only species capable of making choices. Our "capacity for choice" is not unique. And of course, there are many examples of many people making choices that we might both agree are immoral. Making immoral choices is unlikely to necessarily eliminate any claim of rights we might make for ourselves or others who have acted such. My morality is not defined by fish behavior.

You wrote: "Animals are incapable of learning and abiding by a complex moral code, and therefore no concept of 'rights' as understood by humans can be applied to them."

Why should the ability to learn and abide by a complex moral code be the gatekeeping characteristic? And what would qualify as a "complex moral code"?

At this point in time, we have little good information concerning the mental details of animals' interactions with each other, so really can't say with certainty why they might act one way or another with each other. In rhesus troupes, interactions between members is strongly influenced by matrilineage; in some large troupes the relationships are complex multi-generational affairs. Fights do break out occasionally with old alliances called into play; it is impossible to explain all the motivational factors or to say what social or 'moral' norm was violated that precipitated the fight. 

Or how would one differentiate between a simple and a complex moral code? The fact that I will not push you out of line or shove you off a bar stool is a fairly simple idea, yet this might be said to show an appreciation of the Golden Rule. Is one simple and one complex?

I'm not sure that I understand your position clearly enough to be able to point to specific papers that might cause you to rethink your position. In the case of Dr. Machan's claims, I can.

(Are you claiming that only humans can and do make choices? Evidence to the contrary abounds.)




Post 12

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 7:15pmSanction this postReply
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Rick,

Please post a link (or a mere expert quote, if that is all you can/will muster) to evidence of animal deliberation. I would like to examine (and discuss with you) this evidence that abounds.

Ed




Post 13

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 - 7:40pmSanction this postReply
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Rick writes:
It is not clear to me that the behavior of a fish can be termed moral or immoral.
My selection of fish was an arbitrary one, and I didn't mean the argument to be 'fish-specific'.  My point is that creatures act according to their nature, and we are no different.  Humans sustain themselves by eating plants and/or animals, depending on their preference.
Why should the ability to learn and abide by a complex moral code be the gatekeeping characteristic?
Rights protect our ability to go about our business peacefully and without undue interference from others.  They therefore exist in a political context.  Animals are absolutely incapable of being independent actors in a political system, and are therefore excluded from any rights afforded by it. 

Are you claiming that only humans can and do make choices?
Animals have on-the-spot reactions based on instinct and/or conditioning.  This is not choice in the special human sense.  Humans have the ability to ponder the pros and cons of any decision.  When someone says they want to "sleep on" an idea, that means they want to take the time to look a situation from a variety of angles before they decide their course of action.  I'm not aware of any animals with this capacity.

Also, the concept of choice is ultimately what allows us to make moral evaluations of other human beings.  We have a choice not to murder someone, we have a choice not to burglarize someone's home etc.  We are able to hold others accountable for these transgressions since these are chosen acts that the transgressor (presumably) knew violated anothers' rights.  To use your barstool example, if you were to push me off the stool, you're guilty of a wrongdoing.  But you would be innocent if you had no choice in the matter, for example if you were mentally ill (and this is why people who are mentally ill to the point of harming innocent others forego certain rights and liberties).  On the other hand, as you correctly pointed out in the fish example, we can't morally judge the actions of animals. 

It is anthropomorphic fallacy to try and apply the concept of human choice onto animals. 

(Edited by Pete on 11/29, 7:43pm)




Post 14

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 10:20amSanction this postReply
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If I accurately understand your claim Pete, it is this:

Choice-making comes in two varieties. One is the thoughtless, input/output variety. You or I might sometimes act without thinking, but all other animals always act without thinking. All animals except for humans are incapable of acting in any manner other than a simple input/output sort of way. This is the fundamental difference between us and all other species that underpins your belief that only humans can have rights.

Have I understood you correctly?




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Post 15

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 11:25amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

 

I am assuming that you are speaking about choice-making in your comment: “Please post a link to evidence of animal deliberation,”

 

As evidence I simply cite the large number of scientists using animals as assays in drug discrimination studies and various psychological studies who begin with the premise that animals make choices. It is the effect on their choice-making that is of interest to these scientists.

 

One example among many: Physiol Behav. 2001 May;73(1-2):111-20.

 

A comparison of food preferences and nutrient composition in captive squirrel monkeys, Saimiri sciureus, and pigtail macaques, Macaca nemestrina.

 

Laska M.

 

I assessed the occurrence of food preferences in captive squirrel monkeys and pigtail macaques and analyzed whether their preferences correlate with nutrient composition. Using a two-alternative choice test, I repeatedly presented six Saimiri sciureus and six Macaca nemestrina with all possible binary combinations of 12 types of food that are part of their diet in captivity. The two species exhibited significantly different rank orders of preference. Correlational analyses revealed that the preference ranking of the squirrel monkeys was significantly positively correlated with total energy content, irrespective of the source of energy as neither total carbohydrate content nor protein or lipid content was significantly correlated with food preference. In contrast, the preference ranking of the pigtail macaques showed a significant positive correlation with total carbohydrate content and with fructose content but not with total energy content of the food items. These results suggest that squirrel monkeys are opportunistic feeders with regard to maximizing net gain of energy, whereas pigtail macaques are not but rather seek to meet their requirements of metabolic energy by preferring foods that are high in carbohydrates.

 

 

The most compelling early evidence in nonhumans of the sort of choice-making that Pete seems to be referring to might be: "ALTRUISTIC" BEHAVIOR IN RHESUS MONKEYS. MASSERMAN JH, WECHKIN S, TERRIS W. Am J Psychiatry. 1964 Dec;121:584-5. 

 

Do you claim that animals other than humans are unable to make choices?  Maybe, time between stimulous and action? Would an extended period suggest that an animal was thinking about its possible actions? What might one look for as evidence of deliberation?

 

  

 

 







Post 16

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 2:39pmSanction this postReply
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Good response, Rick.

I am assuming that you are speaking about choice-making in your comment ...
Right, and my substitution of the word "deliberation" (instead of the broad word: choice) narrowed down and delineated the type of thing that would need be discovered and validated by research -- for us to make coherent, positive claims about the cognitive faculties of animals.

These results suggest that squirrel monkeys are opportunistic feeders with regard to maximizing net gain of energy, whereas pigtail macaques are not but rather seek to meet their requirements of metabolic energy by preferring foods that are high in carbohydrates.
Thanks for including some research, Rick. This summary here highlights something that I feel is important to this discussion: all animals in a given species make the same broad "choices." It is as if natural selection had pre-made their choices for them. Species don't ever choose to live like different species do. Birds of flight don't ever choose to give up on flying and become land dwellers, herd animals never choose to go it alone, etc. In short, the article itself reduces animal choices to what is "natural" for a given species.

The most compelling early evidence in nonhumans of the sort of choice-making that Pete seems to be referring to might be: "ALTRUISTIC" BEHAVIOR IN RHESUS MONKEYS. MASSERMAN JH, WECHKIN S, TERRIS W. Am J Psychiatry. 1964 Dec;121:584-5. 



Not actually. The only semi-durable instance of altruism in primates is meat-sharing. I say semi-durable because meat-sharing, in-and-of-itself, is actually most parsimoniously explained as appeasement (because meat is so scarce, if a chimp doesn't share, he gets attacked -- and it costs him less to share some and eat the rest). Here is some recent research making this same point (and kin selection -- alluded to below -- is best explained by Selfish Gene theory):


Chimpanzees are indifferent to the welfare of unrelated group members. Nature. 2005 Oct 27;437(7063):1357-9.

In contrast, cooperative behaviour in non-human primates is mainly limited to kin and reciprocating partners, and is virtually never extended to unfamiliar individuals. Here we present experimental tests of the existence of other-regarding preferences in non-human primates, and show that chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) do not take advantage of opportunities to deliver benefits to familiar individuals at no material cost to themselves, suggesting that chimpanzee behaviour is not motivated by other-regarding preferences.

 


Evidence to date indicates that animals -- except in situations of kin or symbiotic reciprocity -- are not ever other-regarding (they don't care about the welfare of unrelated members of their own species).


Do you claim that animals other than humans are unable to make choices?
Let me preface by mentioning the worst case of animal "choice" -- which is probably the infanticide "chosen" by male lions, or male bears, when they come across a new female with cubs. And if I held the contention that these lions and bears had actually deliberated and consciously chosen to kill those cute and helpless younglings -- then I'd spend a good part of my free time on hunting expeditions, literally mowing these "immoral" animals all down -- with a friggin' 10-guage elephant gun (or an M-29 Objective Individual Combat Weapon -- if the govt would only let me carry one). I'd bring justice to them, all right -- cold, hard, explosive-round justice. In a round-a-bout answer to your question then, I can't contend that animals are able to make choices (because that makes many of them through-and-through evil). Now, this is perhaps a wrong (purely emotive) way to answer your question -- but it is illuminating of the context and consequences. A better answer would have focused not on consequences, but solely on evidence-based inference. Perhaps I will muster something of that sort sometime soon (though the workload of that task appears daunting to me).
 
Would an extended period suggest that an animal was thinking about its possible actions? What might one look for as evidence of deliberation?
Excellent questions! As to the first, I think the time-course of action-taking could be enlightening, but I don't think that it could ever provide conclusive data of "thinking." As to the second, I'd like PET scans and brain MRIs to be done on animals. We could examine the brain of a human deliberating -- and possibly get a neurological "fingerprint" of particular mental activities. Some of this kind of work has already been done on humans, where "generous" folks' brains lit up in certain regions. There is also talk of utilizing brain scans in court rooms to detect lying, something much more difficult to beat than archaic, skin-galvanization, lie detectors.
 
Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 11/30, 2:44pm)




Post 17

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 8:46pmSanction this postReply
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Ed & Rick - I don't have time to carry on this discussion right now.  Let's reconvene once a new forum is (hopefully) in place...



Post 18

Monday, April 24, 2006 - 11:28amSanction this postReply
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Is Jane Goodall, the Ape Lady, a liar?

Did anyone watch "Inside the Animal Mind" on PBS last Saturday, April 22, 2006? This was a program that investigated consciousness in animals (a topic of interest to Objectivists). At one point it was demonstrated that apes show a marked interest in mirrors and the question was, "are they aware that they are observing themselves", i.e. are they self aware? Jane Goodall remarked that she had observed chimps looking at themselves and if the mirror was "turned upside down the chimps would turn their backs to the mirror and look between their legs at it", as if she and the chimp believed that the image rotated upside down.

Now, I'm always conscious that I may have misinterpreted something and if so I would like to apologise profusely to Ms. Goodall, but that's what I understood from the interview. She apparently had no notion of how a mirror works and made the scenario up in order to promote her agenda of trying to make us feel all warm and fuzzy and minimizing the difference between humans and the lower animals.

If anyone else saw this I would appreciate their observations.

Sam




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Post 19

Monday, April 24, 2006 - 6:30pmSanction this postReply
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Animal (i.e. 'nonhuman' in scientific parlance) cognition does not justify any ideology (including animal rights), nor vice versa. I'll eat steak and research on animals till I die, animal cognition or not. Just because cognition can be found in some animals doesn't follow that they are immediately "equal". Ape cognition is limited to around a 2-3 year old in humans.

I simply don't understand why this is a relevant subject matter; I am far more secure in humanity's (conscious) progress than to be disturbed in any way by the evidence that apes--- at their best--- think at the level of a 2-3 year old. Yeah, animal cognition exists, but not at our level-- that's evidence too. There are neurophysiologic similarities, NOT total equivalence.

Scientists and non-scientists alike who think or fear this equivalence-- which is misplaced, to start with-- are not secure in being human, what being human means and has meant. They have lost sight of human history, human achievement, and scientific progress at the hands of humans. It is humans who are studying animals as a means to higher knowledge, not the other way around.

When I focus on animal cognition, I never think that I am walking on eggshells. Maybe it's because I have taken animal physiology and worked with animals in a physiology lab. We treated the animals with respect given to all things that we know the physiology of. It is in the glory of being human that we are not mindless, cruel, petty, fearful, and unthinking; the students in the lab actively exercised responsibility, knowledge, understanding, self-security, and wisdom. I'll have to thank the PI for that; he was a tough, intelligent, challenging hard-ass but he made you responsible for being a human being. And that includes seeing what you were and what the animals were, with respect for knowledge and context.

I don't mean to be harsh, but I've seen this argument many times at it seems to me like the argument (the argument as it exists *everywhere*) is based less on evidence than on our conceptions of what it is to be human. I don't need to use belittling words to explain animals. It's a smack in the face of being human to try to prove/disprove my human superiority over an ape; and you know, I just can't seem to even start comparing in that way, it's so pointless to me (I actually sat here, at my keyboard, and tried... for 3 minutes.)

Seeing a human being trying to actively assert their superiority over an ape makes me cringe. It's sad to me because they're threatened by an ape's cognition, and have lost sight of context.

Seeing a human being want to equate an ape to themselves makes me cringe. It's sad to me because they're threatened by an ape's cognition, and lost sight of context.

The whole point of my rant? It's not animal cognition. It's human cognition.

Animal cognition takes nothing away from me. I know this because I am entirely without fear when reading research on animal cognition, evolution, or behavioral/brain sciences. The thing about Jane Goodall is that she did the equivalence thing. Her research would only frighten me if my humanity was for the taking.

Anyway, MRIs have been done on nonhumans.

Cerebral volumetric asymmetries in non-human primates: A magnetic resonance imaging study

Sylvian Fissure Asymmetries in Nonhuman Primates Revisited: A Comparative MRI Study

A Comparative MRI Study of the Relationship Between Neuroanatomical Asymmetry and Interhemispheric Connectivity in Primates: Implication for the Evolution of Functional Asymmetries

From hand to mouth in the evolution of language: the influence of vocal behavior on lateralized hand use in manual gestures by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

I just use Google Scholar-- at universities you can probably get more info as colleges usually subscribe to science journals.



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