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  1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Do Animals Have Emotions?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Link the Writer, Mar 18, 2015.

    So @stevesh and @Gigi_GNR raised an interesting debate subject that basically discusses whether animals are capable of feeling emotions just like we do. Stevesh said we shouldn't feel empathy/love for things that can't love back (like our pets). I'll let their quotes do the rest.

    Discuss! Should humans empathize with animals? Can animals feel emotions?
     
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  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    First of all, intelligence is a sliding scale and all animals sit somewhere along it, with humans at the top. Other species share many of our traits to a greater or lesser degree.

    People get a little flowery about human emotions, most of them have evolved from being a social animal and exist to solidify mutually beneficial relationships. A pack animal like a dog can exhibit exactly these emotional responses when it shares a mutually beneficial relationship with me. To suggest otherwise is to overstate human emotion to a quite silly degree.

    So in conclusion, yes animals can exhibit emotions.
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can humans feel real emotions, absent self-interest, evolutionary conditioning, etc.?

    I mean, babies love their moms... cause their moms feed them and keep them safe. Moms love their babies because we've evolved to have that chemical reaction to helpless little people in order to make sure our genes survive. Etc.

    If you put the "it's all programming/self-interest" filter on animal emotions, why shouldn't you do the same for human emotions?

    Also, what's this about "never love anything that can't love you back"? Has that ever worked for anyone ever? They just decide to stop loving someone who doesn't love them back? Get dumped? Don't worry about it, just decide not to love that person any more! Easy! And also, fictional!
     
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  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    One time when having dinner our cat jumped up onto the one empty chair, and propping himself up on his hind legs and holding himself up with the table, paws over the table cloth 'sat' with us while we ate. He also seemed to get depressed at times, seemed very happy when ever my parents went to Italy for a week and came back - no one can tell me animals don't have emotions if they are above a certain level of intelligence.

    Worms and flies and whatever, ok, maybe they do not have the brain power to have emotions. Cats, dogs, pigs, horses (yes I am an Orwell fan, thank you very much) - I'm convinced they do, because I've lived with them.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    A few decades back there was a fad among biologists to stop assuming the emotional behavior one was witnessing in a non-human animal species was the same emotion we felt as humans. Any and everything suggesting animals experienced human emotions was criticized as anthropomorphizing. It became a biology faux pas.

    The problem is, the fad went much too far, to the point of being so afraid to call a spade a spade some biologists forgot the most basic biology premise, we evolved. We didn't spring into existence, we evolved into existence.

    Not only are there brain structures and chemicals associated with emotions, it includes morality as well. Brain damaged people can exhibit damaged emotional and moral behaviors as well as cognitive. Non-human primates act on an innate sense of fairness, it's not something only humans do. Empathy and joy are the result of brain function. Mothers go through bonding with their newborns the same way animals bond with their kin groups.

    Are all species the same? Of course not. The evolution of animal behavior differs markedly from species to species. Wolves bond with the pack, lions and elephants have maternally bonded packs and the males have different behaviors.

    But that doesn't mean an animal bonding with it's kin differs considerably from a human mother bonding with her infant. Animals clearly have been observed grieving the loss of a close mate or family member.

    One might try to argue bonding is some pre-programed behavior. It is, and it is with humans as well. My dogs met lots of dogs their first year of life. At about one year of age, they began obnoxiously barking at other dogs we'd meet on the trail, except those they'd met before the age of a year. Even when years passed between seeing a dog they recognized, they still would greet that familiar dog as a friend, but they made no new friend dogs after that first year. So yes, there is biology at work there.

    But that doesn't mean we don't do the same, have biological basis to our human bonds. So why would I love my son, but my dogs only be reflexively bonded to other dogs in the pack?

    No, they are clearly experiencing something similar to what I experience. The physiological bonding is only part of the equation.
     
  6. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the two debaters quoted in the OP sounds like he doesn't have a soul.
     
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  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One of the two debaters in the OP avoids the debate forum. We may not get him to expound on his POV at all. ;)
     
  8. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I would be very concerned about having a relationship with a person, if that person couldn't form a relationship with their pet.
     
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  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    So far, we have no dissenting POV.
    :pop:
     
  10. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Animals are the soulless spawn of the devil and they either want to eat me or hump my leg.
     
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  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If dogs are humping you, perhaps your legs are sexy.
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    He didn't specify that it was dogs.

    I'm picturing, like, ALL animals going for him. Birds, turtles, cats, sloths... they all want some of that sexy Chinspinner leg action!
     
  13. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    If Stevesh eats meat, I understand his point of view. Honestly, it would make him sound very un-hypocritical. If he eats animals, he treats them as resources that have a cost/benefit ratio. I don't think it should be any different for pets, if you like eating other animals anyway. Unless only one's own pets have feelings? :rolleyes:

    I'm a vegetarian, so I would never personally understand that point of view of animals as strictly a resource, but I do think it's important to note that @stevesh is being reasonable considering his (likely) already standing behaviour of consuming animals.

    I think his mindset is sound, and far more rational than meat-eaters who say that animals have feelings and emotions similar to humans. Don't take that to mean I have a problem with those people, though, because A: it doesn't affect me one bit (I'm not an animal, after all) and B: I've got far worse anti-logic up my own sleeves:(.
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I'm more of a beard-guy myself.

    That said, here are my two bronze Lincolns:

    We're animals. We're animals just like the dogs, cats, pigs, and horses Lemex talked about (btw, I've read and loved Animal Farm, Lemex.) The only difference is that we've got bigger brains and are capable of far more cognitive thought than Koko the Gorilla could even conceive of even if it were spelled out for her. Elephants have been observed pausing and touching the bones of fellow elephants, for instance. Wild elephants, mind you. As in, elephants who had never been in close contacts with humans. We didn't teach them that.

    I've read stories of dogs who, when their masters have died, would stay at their graves and never move away from that spot. One dog continued visiting a train station expecting his master to return years after the master had passed.

    So clearly there's something at work there, even if it isn't exactly as sharp as we human beings.
     
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  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I have no guilt eating food animals and only believe they should be raised and slaughtered humanely. Humans are no different than other predators in that respect. It doesn't mean one cannot have different attitudes, beliefs, and relationships with different animals.

    As for @stevesh not enjoying pets himself, there's nothing wrong with that. The issue was claiming other people's relationships with their pets were based on the false underlying premise the pet sees the person as anything other than a source of food and shelter.
     
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  16. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, my daughter's in Australia too...
     
  17. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    Yes, I'd even go as far to say that some animals are even more emotional than we are, take elephants for example. Sometimes when it's parter dies the elephant can die of heartbreak. It can't live anymore so it lies down, stops eating and effectively starves to death.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/may/07/5

    There have been examples in the past of dogs dying of "heartbreak" too.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peterwedderburn/100078527/can-a-dog-die-of-a-broken-heart/

    I think it's possible for some animals to feel empathy too:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washoe_(chimpanzee)

     
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  18. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Off-Topic: Yeah, the animals there scare me to bits. For all I know, even a cute fluffy bunny might have some sort of chemical in its fur that makes my skin fall off. Or maybe their dogs have enough biting power to chomp a tree in half. Or...or.... Yeah, only in Australia do animals have all sorts of painful ways of offing your sorry, hairless, bipedal rear.

    @Some_Bloke - Thanks for the links, I had completely forgotten about that. Stories like that had long convinced me that animals do have emotions, just like us. They may not have our brain power, but since when is the ability to perform complicated calculations have anything to do with feeling empathy?
     
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  19. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Food animals? :rofl: Animals are animals— I didn't say that it didn't mean you couldn't have relationships with other animals, just that @stevesh's beliefs are far more consistent. He's [likely] fine with eating them, so he's also fine with dismissing their emotional capabilities. The concept of animals having far more primitive 'feelings' goes hand in hand with eating them. It's a logical stance to have, instead of saying: "Well, dogs are cuter than cows (or food animals), so it must mean they're special." No. Just no. Oh, it's the predatory nature of humans, you say? Predators kill and eat what they can find to survive, like this dude:

    He doesn't think 'ooh, a food animals.' He thinks, 'FOOD! MUANCH!:pop:' Because he eats other animals regardless of their behaviour or cuteness, and out of necessity: even his own kind. That's what predators do.

    You say you believe they should only be raised and slaughtered humanely, but do you strictly support that concept with your wallet, or just like to imagine things?

    I'm not trying to say that your habits are wrong, just that your logic is not pristine here. Nor am I saying that your logic has to be perfect, just that @stevesh's beliefs make more sense and I find it odd that everyone will happily go as far as attacking his writing merit instead of looking at their own inconsistencies first.
     
  20. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    No, it isn't more consistent. In your scenario, if you eat meat it's inconsistent to love a dog (or whatever pet). That's akin to saying you are inconsistent to have a flower garden and a vegetable garden.

    But more than that, you missed the issue of contention.
    His premise was that the dog was reacting to its source of food, not its source of affection. And that's contrary to overwhelming evidence that dogs can form an attachment to humans that is just as emotionally based as a human-human bond.

    As for 'food' animal, I chose that word because 'domestic animal' such as domesticated pigs, chickens and cows would have been confused with domesticated cats and dogs even though the two meanings are actually different things with the same origin.


    You have several issues wrong here.

    Dismissing the emotional experience of animals is not a moral choice, it's an evidence based issue. Either there is evidence animals experience something akin to human love or they are no more than conditioned responders. Evidence has demonstrated and some cited in the thread, animals experience a wide range of emotions from joy to love to depression to a sense of empathy and fairness.

    For the record, I think cows are cute. Those big brown eyes are rather adorable. And if I had a pet cow, I'd have trouble eating it. It's not inconsistent for humans, we evolved as omnivores, we eat meat. Why should that be a moral dilemma for me? Why should it preclude me loving my dogs, I feed them meat too.


    Absolutely I put my money where my mouth is. Not only that, I try to eat only organic humanely raised food.

    All this makes false assumptions about my eating habits. You say my habits and logic are not pristine assuming I don't pay $10/pound for burger and $4-5 for a dozen eggs. But I do pay that much and more when I need to. And I pay for the fair trade label when it is an option. That's the system of certifying the workers were treated fairly from the farm to the factory.

    I understand where you are coming from here, but your logic is not the same logic I am basing my POV on.
     
  21. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess I just find all of this thread's comparisons between animal and human emotions unsettling. Yes, we're omnivoures, evolved to eat everything. We've also evolved to have the most advanced empathy of any other creature, and the intelligence and morals to choose what we eat in circumstances where food is bountiful (as in your admirable choice of fair meat and organic food). If we have that choice and a mind to make it, I don't think falling back on nature as an excuse counts in many situations as good logic anymore. We are almost as empathetic with animals as other humans, but we still eat them because we're omnivoures. Medicine has double our lifespan, but we don't dismiss it because we're humans and humans only naturally evolved to live so long—so we pick and choose what nature to keep and what to lose to the extent that favours convenience. That's where I'm getting hung up, combined with the fact that it's a lot easier to understand someone who thinks all animals are lesser and sacrificeable in an equal way: "A = B, so I'm going go have a steak" Okay, I can work something like that out in my mind.

    Like you said, though, that's ALL besides the point, which is that he's ignoring the evidence of a popular conclusion. I think it IS a moral choice, and still not an evidence-based choice, at that point. If one's definition of love is restricted to human-specific, and not human-like, he's morally choosing to believe that just because a dog can show behaviour that is like human love, does not mean the dog loves as far as he is concerned. The dog's love is simply not good enough, because it may not compare closely enough for him. When he says "the dog doesn't love you" he's expressing his standards, not arguing against evidence, because human love itself is based on core biological needs as well (like security).

    Thanks for your patience.
     
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  22. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Again, people throw the word "love" around like it is divinely imbued. I would argue that love does not exist in the form that a lot of people like to believe it exists. It is a word that expresses a number of emotions; lust, trust, security, familiarity and so on (all of which are "core biological needs" in a social animal which relies upon reciprocal relationships for its survival). Just because someone attaches some rather saccharine, fairy-tale meaning to the word does not add credence to their argument.

    That said, knowing that @stevesh has been dragged into this thread unwillingly and probably has no interest in the debate forums, I shouldn't really be arguing his points.
     
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  23. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Why?

    I think these are non sequiturs. They don't follow.

    I evolved to eat meat. I also evolved as a gregarious species. I also have a sophisticated moral makeup that evolved to be what it is. How does making choices nullify the evolutionary basis underlying those choices? We aren't ants or bees, we didn't evolve into rigid, one size fits all beings.

    Do you enjoy rat meat? While some cultures eat dog meat, would you? Do you like shrimp but not grubs? I'm not understanding why you can't see the normalcy of people differentiating between different animal species.

    Evidence is what it is. Conclusions based on evidence are not more valid because they are popular, they are more valid when there is more evidence supporting those conclusions.

    Humans have a long history of believing they are one thing and animals are another. But the more we learn about biology, the more clear it becomes we are merely steps away from our closest non-human relatives, not leaps and bounds away.

    The arguments have come and faded as we have learned more about our brains and our biology.

    Only humans have language. Nope, that's been disproved.
    Only humans can learn syntax. Nope, that's been disproved.
    Only humans use tools. Nope, that's been disproved.
    Only humans make tools. Nope, that's been disproved.
    Only humans have moral behavior and thought. Nope, that's been disproved.

    Are we different? Of course. Is our moral thought different than our closest relatives? Yes, the same way chimpanzee morality differs considerably from bonobo morality. But the underlying mechanisms for moral belief and behavior turn out to be centered in our brains and other animals have similar brain functions.

    To dismiss a dog bonding with either a human or another dog as some kind of Pavlovian response is naive. Either my bonding with my son was equally Pavlovian, or the dog is experiencing an emotion similar to the one I experience. You cannot find a distinct difference at the biological level, different behavioral patterns, sure, but not something that says my love for a human is qualitatively different from a dog's experience of love.

    @Chinspinner is right to describe it thus:
    But the evidence does not support the conclusion human love is unique in the animal world.
     
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  24. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    Empathy is nothing more than understanding how someone is feeling, is it not? The chimp lost both of her children, one only moments after birth and the caretaker mentioned in the link had a miscarriage. It could be more sympathy than empathy in the chimp's response, but I believe it's empathy.
     
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  25. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    To be fair to the other side, it likely also depends on brain size/capability. Does a roach experience pain? Likely, perhaps. Does a roach feel empathy if it found a dead kin? Likely not.

    However, with chimps and elephants? There have been studies that proves that they feel something. That chimp Some_Bloke mentioned understood the pain of losing a child and was able to empathize with her human caretaker when she miscarried. Think about it. A chimp understood that pain and was able to empathize. That to me is enough to prove that animals can experience some level of emotion.

    Also, let's face it: unless we're taught, we're not going to know. A human child won't know what a miscarraige is unless someone told him/her. For all they would know, a miscarraige would mean 'someone carried our baby off in the wrong basket'. When I was a child (eight, to be exact), I watched the last part of Titanic not understanding the full weight of the tragedy* of the sinking. All I saw was: "Oh cool! A giant ship being swallowed up by the sea!! Must watch!!" As I got older, I learned how to empathize and put myself in the positions of those around me. As such, I could not watch the movie without being disturbed and upset. So perhaps the real question should be: can animals be taught empathy? In this case, I say 'yes'.

    * Everyone not in the lifeboats basically died. Everyone.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2015
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