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At Mind Matters News: The remarkable deceitfulness of birds — but is it really deceit?


When Clinton Francis, a specialist in bird behavior, challenged student Wren Thompson to find out how many types of birds use deceit in their defences against predators of their nests, he hardly expected to find that the number she was able to discover was 285 …

Deceit strategies are found in a number of different bird groups. Here’s one example:

The birds themselves are not agents making a moral choice to deceive; they are carrying out a behavior pattern they have inherited.

But how did it get started? It’s hardly clear how, in the absence of abstract thought, birds develop a behavior pattern of deception and then pass it on to their offspring.

You may also wish to read: The intelligence birds and bees naturally have — and we don’t. An exploration of the stunning findings in Eric Cassell’s new book, “Animal Algorithms.” Cassell observes that it would take deep thought and sophisticated design techniques to build a robot to accomplish what the bees, ants and termites can do.

It is entirely an assumption that seems "scientific" (or in accordance with certain ancient philosophical teachings) that man is the only animal with the ability to consciously reason and have other attributes of advanced consciousness. The doctrine of human exceptionalism. According to that sort of thinking, the birds' deceitful strategies are and must be entirely instinctual and have nothing to do with any conscious reasoning or mental activity. But we really don't know. Until recently only a few higher animals had been demonstrated by experimental (mirror) tests to have some form of self awareness, like primates, elephants, dolphins, and certain species of birds. There is no doubt in my mind that all vertebrates have some form of basic consciousness and this attribute is shared by at least some invertebrates like octopuses and surprisingly, arthropods like bees. Bearing on all this, it is especially interesting that for instance there is recent research that has shown, by using variations of the standard "mirror test", that at least two species of fish, (wrasse), also have a form of self awareness. And also emotions (see https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000021 ). This seems to upset the applecart when it comes to having a sensible theory that shows a clear evolutionary progression of sophistication of consciousness from very little or none in the most primitive vertebrate forms (fish), invertebrates, to Man. Also, there is the matter of the bees. It turns out they can count, recognise images of human faces and learn simple tool use and abstract concepts. The researcher working with bees for years thinks, based on his observations, that bees have emotions, can plan and imagine things, and can recognise themselves as unique entities distinct from other bees. He draws these conclusions from experiments in his lab with female worker bees. “Whenever a bee gets something right, she gets a sugar reward. That’s how we train them, for example, to recognise human faces.” See article at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jul/16/bees-are-really-highly-intelligent-the-insect-iq-tests-causing-a-buzz-among-scientists . It seems, after all, that according to this research, all levels of evolution in vertebrates and at least in certain invertebrates including mollusca and insects, there is some level of sophistication in consciousness, self awareness and allowing some form of reasoning. I guess the science of this is in a very rudimentary state. doubter

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