If you’re an animal lover, you might want to pick up a copy of the current Time magazine Special called The Animal Mind. The photographs are worth the price, and the written account by Jeffrey Kluger is excellent. The title of the edition suggests a new idea for science: the idea that your cats and your dogs, as well as the birds and squirrels in your backyard, have minds.
Modern science has evolved under the spell of mechanistic materialism, and has taken centuries since René Descartes to finally begin to admit that other living creatures besides humans feel, think, mourn, play, have friendships, and so on—in short, exhibit mental experience.
In 2012, a group of scientists, the physicist Stephen Hawking along with notable neuroscientists, solemnly signed The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness. So, what anybody who has a dog or a cat knows is now officially true: if you kick Rover in the face, he will feel it.
It took four hundred years of “science” to figure that out!
It is of course expedient to not believe that animals feel or think. It’s so much easier to exploit, torture, slaughter, and (yummy) eat them. Still, there are die-hard materialists who don’t believe that animals feel anything. One philosophical freak, Daniel Dennett, has made a career out of arguing that human consciousness is an illusion. And if that’s so, why bother with human rights?
Dennett’s philosophy that reduces all living things to zombies devoid of an inner life provides the perfect rationale for racists, fascists, and corporate capitalists obsessed with acquiring power and wealth. The systematic disregard of the inner reality of other human and non-human life forms is the cornerstone of every species of oppression that humans inflict on others.
The Time magazine special on animal mind may be a sign this horror is changing.