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← Consciousness Comes from DNA

Wilfred C. Lyon's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Wilfred C. Lyon

I was around at the University of Michigan when the "Worm Runner's Digest" was around. It was there discovered that learning could be transferred via DNA from planaria to planaria. These are quite low level animals. Learning IS DNA dependent.

Also, having grown up in a rural environment with many sorts of barnyard animals, I never questioned the consciousness of these animals, they WERE conscious. I don't have controlled test data like the mirror test, but a lowly bovine (canine, swine,etc) that can respond to their name and ignore the other names is somehow conscious of themselves.

In particular, we had one younger heifer who was not depolled (dehorned) and she became the leader of the herd, not through using her horns as fighting tools, but as tools to be manipulated with cleverness for the use of the herd. We had the usual pin-in-the-hole door handle/locks. We had a bolt screwed into the pin as a handle to help move the pin out of the hole. She learned by observation and then trial that she could hook a horn on the bolt and move the pin out of the slot. Thereby gaining free access to the barn, and its contents at her will, not always ours. After learning that trick, she learned to open the door between the manger and the hay/grain area. This was a door with a simple bent nail latch, swing it out of the way and the door would open, swing it back down and the door would rest against it and the jamb and the door would stay closed. She could not reach the nail, but repeatedly tried to hook the "imaginary bolt". This bumped the door back and forth on the nail and jamb. Eventually the nail would swing out of the way bit by bit, the door would open and she and the herd would have access to the hay. The grain was storred in a steel barrel to keep vermin out and had a steel top with a lip suitable for a barrel band. We didn't have the band and didn't need it for the usual vermin. She learned to get her horn between the barrel and the top and flip the top off, gaining accress to the grain.

This does not prove awareness of self, however, she was one of the few bovines that "knew" her name. There was more intelligence there than usual, and the herd and she was aware of her position as the leader.

One of my daughters kept rabbits. These animals (the rabbits, not my daughters) are not noted for their great intelligence. But my observation of them was that they were keenly aware of each other and each other's well being, even when kept in separate pens. This specicies specific awareness, as I said, was very keen, notable when one of them died, all were upset and seemed to mourn. This does not necessarily denote self awareness, but when I was left with only the last two, a male and female long time pen mates, who were by then quite old and one died, the other went from relative youth (compared to the other) and good health, to death in less than two weeks. I felt that it was entirely from an awareness of being alone, i.e., some form of self awareness.

I conclusion, I think that when we begin to examine self-awareness, we will indeed find a continuum down the evolutionary species chain. The challenge is understanding what to test and how to test. The intelligence is there on their part, it has simply been lacking on our part due in large measure to our own belief.

Sat, 12 May 2007 10:11:00 UTC | #37269