From Evolution News & Views:
What can we hope to learn about animal minds?
Consciousness (a mind) perceives and acts on information. But there are at least two — more basic and probably unconscious qualities — that distinguish life from non-life, and seem to act by processing information: self-preservation and adaptability.
Life forms constantly try to preserve themselves in a living state — that is, they try to survive. They adapt their methods as needed, whenever possible. A rock falls from a high cliff and breaks; a cat has somehow learned to relax, turn in mid-air, and land on his feet. Or consider Slijper’s goat and Faith the dog, both of whom, born without forelegs, adapted to a lifestyle that is quite unnatural for their species.
But why do life forms struggle so hard to remain alive when the option of simply dying — ceasing to be a life form at all, and rejoining the chemical seas — is readily available, and eventually inevitable?
Naturalist explanations don’t turn out to be much help with any of this. More.
The tree of intelligence topples, but not where anyone expected
What we know about how animals think
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