Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Next Step in Our Moral Evolution

These latest findings are part of growing literature of research proving that not only are animals as emotionally complex as human beings, but possess a wide range of higher order cognitive processes as well. Popularly, however, humans have viewed animals as being not much more than biologically motivated creatures of habit, using mere instinct where our logic wins out.

As neuroscientist Jak Panksepp has shown, all mammals share at least seven different emotional systems. As he writes,

There is a rapidly growing movement, outside of academic disciplines, to recognize and value the emotions of other animals, but much of that is based on well-reasoned beliefs and fascinating anecdotes rather than on well-collected scientific facts.

He goes on to present data representing a variety of such facts: the sadness, panic, grief, anger and play systems inherent in all mammalian creatures. In one of the more intriguing stories in his book, Panksepp found that petting a rat as you would a cat or dog incites him to bite you. No surprise there. Using special microphones, though, he found that if you flipped a rodent over and tickled his belly, he would begin laughing.

- More Here

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