10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet): A Guide to by M. Hanlon

By M. Hanlon

Contemplating questions corresponding to 'Where did language come from?' and 'Do animals be aware of they exist?', Michael Hanlon explores attainable theories and dispatches a number of the much less most likely ones in his quest to fill the gaping holes that technology is affected by.

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Extra resources for 10 Questions Science Can't Answer (Yet): A Guide to Science's Greatest Mysteries (Macmillan Science)

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Time as a fundamental quantity seems to be intrinsically linked to our conscious perception of the world. The philosopher Derek Parfit, in his seminal 1986 book on personal identity, Reasons and Persons, wrote of ‘the objectivity of temporal becoming’. Time is, he says, linked intimately and extremely weirdly to our notion of continuous personal identity, something to which most of us give little thought, although it is perhaps the key aspect of our existence. 50 10 questions science can’t answer yet The idea that time is just the fourth dimension of space, one which we have a special interaction with through the offices of our conscious minds, is an attractive one.

I think, therefore I am’ was Descartes’ famous summation of what it means to be selfaware, and until recently it has been our ability to ruminate, to live in a mental world apart from the world of the ‘immediate now’ that is assumed to constitute animal thinking, that has separated us from the beasts. That may be about to change. is fido a zombie? 23 Not everyone will be convinced. For, despite these advances, despite the papers in Science and other journals highlighting the case of genius crows and dolphins, despite the reports of extraordinary feats of sign language performed by some captive apes and even the apparently real linguistic abilities of some birds, there remains the whiff of pseudoscience about the whole field of animal cognition.

Perhaps the best way to determine sentience is the presence of abstract thinking. Humans can ‘think about thinking’, a skill called metacognition. It was this skill that was identified in Descartes’s famous aphorism ‘cogito ergo sum’. Knowing what is, literally, on your mind would seem to be a key part of selfawareness. One traditional assumption has been that, lacking a language with which to internalize their thoughts, animals cannot do this. They can think about the pain they are in, but cannot worry about the pain to come.

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