All species—bees, octopuses, ravens, crows, magpies, parrots, tuna, mice, whales, dogs, cats and monkeys—are capable of sophisticated, learned, nonstereotyped behaviors that would be associated with consciousness if a human were to carry out such actions. Precursors of behaviors thought to be unique to people are found in many species. For instance, bees are capable of recognizing specific faces from photographs, can communicate the location and quality of food sources to their sisters via the waggle dance, and can navigate complex mazes with the help of cues they store in short-term memory (for instance, “after arriving at a fork, take the exit marked by the color at the entrance”). Bees can fly several kilometers and return to their hive, a remarkable navigational performance. And a scent blown into the hive can trigger a return to the site where the bees previously encountered this odor.
None other than Charles Darwin, in the last book he published, in the year preceding his death, set out to learn how far earthworms “acted consciously and how much mental power they displayed.” Studying their feeding and sexual behaviors for several decades—Darwin was after all a naturalist with uncanny powers of observation—he concluded that there was no absolute threshold between lower and higher animals, including humans, that assigned higher mental powers to one but not to the other.
klo 20:47 | 2.11.2014