By Michael Hanlon
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Additional resources for 10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet): A Guide to the Scientific Wilderness
We can monitor the animal’s brain and its blood chemistry, detecting the presence of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and note that its physical responses are identical to those of people. Yet can we be 100% sure that the animal is actually experiencing pain in the same way as a human being? Of course not. It is quite possible to imagine a computer program or a robot designed to mimic the outward signs of pain, yet clearly there is no suffering to be had. ’, or something like that, whenever I press, say, the letter ‘Q’.
Instead, we all have our own personal time (in fact each independently moving point in space–time has its own personal time; my left foot’s is slightly different from why is time so weird? 47 that of my head). If you take Einstein’s ideas about time to their logical conclusion (as indeed he did) you must throw away all ideas about ‘rivers’ and indeed of pasts, presents and futures. Plato would have approved. One can plot an object’s movements through space–time as one can through the three spatial dimensions.
Science, for once, took what can be seen as the traditional view. René Descartes famously asserted that all animals were is fido a zombie? 25 automata, true zombies whose responses to things like pain were simply programmed reflexes. He believed that only humans displayed sufficiently complex and refined behaviour to indicate the presence of a dualistic ‘soul’, a ghost in the machine necessary for consciousness. This idea was persuasive and it persuades still. An animal in pain, certainly a mammal or a bird which is in pain, appears to be suffering in the same way that a human who is in pain suffers.
10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet): A Guide to the Scientific Wilderness by Michael Hanlon