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Discovery News reports on “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” which proclaims “that animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are.” This announcement was made at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference in the presence of Stephen Hawking, Christof Koch, David Edelman, Edward Boyden, Philip Low, Irene Pepperberg.

The declaration reads as follows:

“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states,” they write. “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors (emphasis added). Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

(Note on added emphasis: If you’ve never spent time with an animal – domestic or otherwise – visit Kathy Stevens, founder and director of the Catskills Animal Sanctuary, post on Huffington Post. She provides a wonderful list of examples from her experience.)

Discovery emphasizes that “consciousness can emerge in those animals that are very much unlike humans.” The underlying premise: consciousness comes later; it is the effect of a previous cause. This assumption differs with mystics, Buddhists, philosophers, indigenous peoples and (increasingly) theoretical physics who identify consciousness as the underlying state of existence. We, humans and non-humans alike, are instruments.

One does not need scientific evidence to validate personal experience. Scientific evidence is an important contribution to our understanding of the world around us and beyond. It is not, however, the only factor in discerning the state of the Universe. Meditative states, psychedelic experiments + religious ecstasy, interactions with bees all combine with our everyday experience to help us make sense of the mystery of being alive.

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