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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

3. Animal Intelligence and Sociality

Baluska, Frantisek, et al. Memory and Learning in Plants. International: Springer, 2018. As the EartHuman ecosmic revolution from a mechanical sterility to an organic genesis proceeds apace, it also involves a total reconception of the common presence and nature of aware, intelligent, knowing behavior. This work gathers frontier views across a widest expanse of flora and fauna which reveal resourceful, brain-like, cognitive abilities everywhere. Typical chapters are Memory and Learning as Key Competences of Living Organisms by Guenther Witzany, Mycorrhizal Networks Facilitate Tree Communication, Learning and Memory by Suzanne Simard (abstract below), and Inside the Vegetal Mind: on the Cognitive Abilities of Plants by Monica Gagliano.

Mycorrhizal fungal networks linking the roots of trees in forests are increasingly recognized to facilitate inter-tree communication via resource, defense, and kin recognition signaling. These tree behaviors have cognitive qualities such as perception, learning, and memory. I present evidence that the topology of mycorrhizal networks is similar to neural networks, with scale-free patterns and small-world properties that are correlated with local and global efficiencies in intelligence. Viewing this evidence through the lens of tree cognition, microbiome collaborations, and forest intelligence may contribute to a more holistic approach to studying and sustaining arboreal ecosystems. (S. Simard)

Bekoff, Marc. Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues. Zygon. 41/1, 2006. The animal advocate and scholar responds to an American Academy of Religion symposium on his work, whose papers by Graham Harvey, Donna Yarri, Jay McDaniel, and Nancy Howell, are also in this issue. Through anecdote, a defense of anthropomorphism, and evolutionary theory, Bekoff again calls for a rightful, emphatic sense of creaturely sentience.

I argue that cognitive ethology is the unifying science for understanding the subjective, emotional, empathic, and moral lives of animals, because it is essential to know what animals do, think, and feel as they go about their daily routines in the company of their friends and when they are alone. It is also important to learn why both the similarities and differences between humans and other animals have evolved. The more we come to understand other animals, the more we will appreciate them as the amazing beings they are, and the more we will come to understand ourselves. (71)

Bekoff, Marc. Minding Animals. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. A professor of biology at the University of Colorado makes the strong claim that animals indeed qualify as persons and should be treated with due consideration and respect. In so doing, Bekoff gives the field of cognitive ethology a conceptual foundation for its subject of the study of animal minds. Charles Darwin argued for an evolutionary continuity of behavior, emotion and consciousness which a century and a half later is receiving a new articulation through works of this kind.

Bekoff, Marc, et al, eds. The Cognitive Animal. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002. The recent paradigm shift which suggests that animals have mental activity comparable to humans prompts a wide array of papers on such faculties in each kingdom from earthworms to primates.

Bialek, William. On the Dimensionality of Behavior. PNAS. 119/18, 2022. The veteran Princeton systems physicist (search) posts his contribution to an April 2020 virtual Physics of Behavior Workshop. From the quotes one might get a sense of some imminent synthesis between life and laws, if we might ever be able to fully allow and perceive this animate revolution.

There is a growing effort in the “physics of behavior” that aims at complete quantitative characterization of animal movements under more complex, naturalistic conditions. One reaction to the volumes of high-dimensional data is the search for low-dimensional structure. Here I try to define more clearly what we mean by the dimensionality of behavior, where observable behavior may consist of either continuous trajectories or sequences of discrete states. (Abstract excerpt)

The explosion of quantitative data on animal behavior is exciting because these essentially macroscopic behaviors — rather than microscopic mechanisms — are what first strike us as being interesting about living systems. Behaviors have been selected by evolution for their utility, and as we observe them it is difficult not to think of them as purposeful or intelligent. Understanding the phenomena of life means explaining how these behaviors arise, ultimately from interactions among molecules that obey the same laws of physics as in inanimate (and unintelligent) matter. (5)

Bickerton, Derek. Language and Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. A senior linguist argues that evolution ought to be seen as ultimately a process of better cognitive representations of ones external environment in the appropriate “language” code.

It will be apparent that the view of evolution briefly summarized here conflicts in certain respects with views of evolution that are widely held today. Those views have very little to say about representation. Moreover, many of their expounders refuse to speak of any form of consistent development. (101)

Birch, Jonathan, et al. Dimensions of Animal Consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Science. August, 2020. We cite this contribution by London School of Economics and Cambridge University researchers including Nicola Clayton as a current example of how this long denied capacity for aware, knowing sentience is now commonly accepted and attributed to all manner of creatures.

Self-consciousness, or selfhood, is an awareness as distinct from the world outside. It involves registering a difference between self and other: some experiences as representing internal bodily events and others as events in an external world. Any complex, actively mobile animal needs a way of disentangling changes to its sensory input that are due to its own movements from changes due to the outside environs. (9)

Burghardt, Gordon. Ethics and Animal Consciousness. Journal of Social Issues. 65/3, 2009. In an issue on “New Perspectives on Human – Animal Interactions,” the University of Tennessee psychologist reviews a history of moral ambiguity and abuse of creatures, whom have long been relegated as inferior and insensate (along with women, and other out group so designated and denigrated) by men. The paper then wrestles with how might degrees of sentience be present in nonhuman species, a difficulty that could be attributed to the particle physics, dead nature, paradigm unable to admit any inherent cognitive sensibility. For do we not all know that animals are amazingly aware, intelligent, caring personalities, actually people in cat, dolphin, or avian form.

Carere, C. and M. Eens. Unravelling Animal Personalities. Behavior. 142/9-10, 2005. An introduction to a special issue on the realization that our co-inhabitants possess similar qualities, traits and foibles, which are amenable to research study.

Carere, Claudio and Dario Maestripieri, eds. Animal Personalities: Behavior, Physiology, and Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. A major retrospective survey of smart creatures that verifies the presence of constant, familiar behavioral repertoires across species from Drosophilia and cockroaches to apes and humans. Main sections cover Animal Taxa; Genetics, Ecology, and Evolution; Mechanisms of Trait Development; and Implications for Animal Welfare. Typical chapters are The Bold and the Spineless: Invertebrate Personalities by Jennifer Mather and David Logue, Quantitative and Molecular Genetics, Kees van Oers and David Sinn, Ontogeny of Stable Individual Differences: Gene, Environment, and Epigenetic Mechanisms, James Curley and Igor Branchi, and Animal Personality and Conservation Biology by Brian Smith and Daniel Blumstein. Its message might again be the quantified witness of a deep, ancient continuity as if a temporal embryonic ramification.

The study of animal personality is one of the fastest-growing areas of research in behavioral and evolutionary biology. Here Claudio Carere and Dario Maestripieri, along with a host of scholars from fields as diverse as ecology, genetics, endocrinology, neuroscience, and psychology, provide a comprehensive overview of the current research on animal personality. Grouped into thematic sections, chapters approach the topic with empirical and theoretical material and show that to fully understand why personality exists, we must consider the evolutionary processes that give rise to personality, the ecological correlates of personality differences, and the physiological mechanisms underlying personality variation. (Publisher)

Cartmill, Matt and Irene Lofstrom, eds. Animal Consciousness: Historical, Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives. American Zoologist. 40/6, 2000. Researchers on a range of creatures such as parrots and primates affirm the presence of cognitive sentience by degree throughout the animal kingdom.

Cheney, Dorothy and Robert Seyfarth. Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. The title is from Darwin’s 1830s ‘M’ Notebook to wit that an understanding of baboon thought and culture would contribute more than dry British philosophy. The author’s lifetime of field and laboratory work elucidates the individual, gender, and social intelligence of these archetypal primates.

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