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Do lower form of creatures have consciousness?

The life of animals or even an ant (may be even bacterias or viruses) looks to perform logical and intelligent acts.
when an ant is collecting food would there be some consciousness or is it a mechanical act done by some cells .In that case what makes this cells creative and intelligent?


  1. No. As I have pointed out many times in YA, consciousness is a “core function of central nervous systems.” http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chica…
    But consciousness comes in two forms: some creatures operate on what, for humans, is the sub-conscious level. They are not aware that they are aware, and so things are done automatically according to nature’s rules. Ants may be conscious in this manner, I don’t know. But bacteria and viruses are not even this form of sub-conscious. They are merely sentient, like a blade of grass that can turn to follow the sun across the sky.
    Natural cause-and-effect is not a form of consciousness. Sentience is not sapience. (Sapience, as in “homo sapiens”. Animals have it to some degree or another; grass does not.)

  2. G
    There is no higher, or lower. We pompous, bumbling world destroying polluters with great unused potential are a small minority in our own bodies.
    Leading research in the field of consciousness shows that the borders are non-existent.

  3. Yes, they must have an awareness, the only essential component of consciousness, as they react to changes in their environment because of their nervous systems. Ants and earthworms probably do not have a self, certainly not a narrative self, in spite of Disney and Nicktoons. But you don’t need a self to function whether it is isolated or in an insect society.
    When you get to bacteria, there is no nervous system at play, which is needed for consciousness. There reactivity to the environment is strictly chemical based.
    I think the source of confusion about consciousness is that it is really an umbrella term that includes a lot of different mental functions. For example, David Gallagher’s post above is confusing consciousness with a sense of self, or intelligence, a common error that people make. But the self, of the sense of the self, are just two components of consciousness that are not even essential. Other components include awareness, memory, attention, creativity, sense of free will (note that I did not say “free will”), sense of agency and ownership, propioceptiveness, emotions, and so on. Most of these processes are largely unconscious but all have a conscious part.
    From an evolutionary viewpoint, it is clear that these functions began with awareness as a base in very simply animal life that have nervous systems, and functionality was added as the complexity of the nervous system increased. As long as you have a functioning nervous system you have awareness, the basis for all consciousness. By the way, awareness does not imply a viewer of the awareness as awareness is a recursive functionality created by the feedback amplification of the nervous system. In fact, to suppose a viewer is to fall into one of the classic homumculus traps of philosophy, which requires an infinte regress.

  4. Bacteria and viruses are like ants and everything does perform ‘survival’ logically. But, the lower animal lacks discrimination or any form of intelligence. There is a swirling mass of plastic in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Alaska that is 2 times the size of Texas. The birds and the fish do not discriminate. They’ll eat it. Then they’ll die. They just do not know.
    People may eat some of those plastic coated fish and get sick with some kind of poisoning and they’ll blame it on mercury and ship exhaust and decrease the factories and sea trade and fill their cabinets with plastic bottles and dishes and forks and knives.
    One McDonald’s sells 6 million hamburgers in styrofoam containers. Multiply that times the number of McDonald’s worldwide and you have?
    We are about to lose our consciousness and we are just like the lower creatures. We just don’t know.

  5. What would be the basis of your measurement? Could you begin a project using this as a premise and attempt to prove the point? It might be worth spending time on – if you have the time.

  6. It is my perspective that all things have ‘awareness’ in at least some basic sense (obviously to varying degrees). The problem we face with consciousness is we do not have a clear definition for exactly what we mean when we say ‘conscious’. Lower animals do not possess the capability for being self-aware as we are, nor are they able to comprehend any form of structured language. However they are capable of adjusting to feedback and (strangely) anticipate future events.
    I would argue that cells are about as aware as computer microchips… they are ‘aware’ of chemical and biological input and react accordingly.
    When you get down to the very core of it… could even action-reaction be considered some primal level of ‘consciousness’? Because that is essentially what it is, ours is just massively more complex than just a simple “if… then” statement.
    In fact, it is possible the entire universe could be made of a single field of awareness/thought/consciousness and all physical properties arise from this unified field. But great question!


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