The New Scientist reviewer is unsure that we are ready for such a radical message. Unsure? At one time, it would have been “not science!”:
Behavioral ecologist Lars Chittka’s book, The Mind of a Bee (Princeton University Press, 2022), is a fascinating detailed description of bee behavior that will cure us of believing that the insect world is devoid of intelligence or sensation. Indeed, in a 2018 essay with Catherine Wilson, Chittka offers many research findings in a shorter format. It’s only in Chapter 11, toward the book’s end, that he makes a controversial claim:
“From the very start, early in evolution, nervous systems were inseparable from movable bodies with sensors, and developed in order to integrate perception and action. The challenges of survival and self-replication (reproduction) that a moving organism faces are most efficiently met when brain and body are intimately connected, enabling the organism to know itself as distinct from non-self and to predict at least the immediate future, in part from knowing its own intentions. In this view, an elementary form of consciousness may have come into being at the roots, not at the endpoint, of animal life. – Lars Chittka, The Mind of a Bee, Princeton University Press, 2022 pp. 208-209” …
What, exactly, does “consciousness” or “feel and think” mean when applied to a bee? This usage is no remote outpost. Renowned USC neuroscientist Antonio Damasio tells us that viruses are “intelligent.” Similarly, University of Chicago biochemist James Shapiro tells us in a scholarly paper that all living cells are “cognitive.” But what do they mean? Intelligent or cognitive as in humans? Dogs? Bees? Are we talking about a universal standard or are these the intuitions of seminal thinkers?
The difference matters: Panpsychism (everything is conscious) and, for that matter, insect rights, can advance a great deal in public perception, unimpeded by the risks that attend clear and rigorous terminology. The very fact that formerly materialist New Scientist treats it sympathetically underlines the transformation.Denyse O’Leary, “What does it mean to say bees “feel and think”?” at Mind Matters News (August 11, 2022)
Panpsychism is winning over materialism in science. What changes will that portend?
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Can insects be conscious? Let’s look at bees first. Consciousness does not seem to reside in the neocortex so complex behavior in bees has raised the question for biologists and philosophers alike. Bees can rival mammals in problem-solving intelligence. They can also want things, which gives them a rudimentary form of consciousness.