Friday, 18 December 2015


On the night he died, Alex told Irene Pepperberg, a professor, "You be good. I love you."

Alex was a parrot.

"Alex could pronounce over 100 words; could count to six; and understood abstract concepts...

"When he wanted to stop his laboratory tests and rest at a window overlooking the garden he would say 'Wanna go tree.'

"When other parrots mispronounced words he would correct them: 'Talk clearly.' 

Animal minds | The Economist

Sounds like parrots have got souls?

Phineas Gage.

Phineas Gage, born in 1823, had an accident which destroyed much of his brain's left frontal lobe.

He changed from being well-behaved to antisocial.

This leads to questions about 'the self' and 'the soul'.

René Descartes, born in 1596, believed that man has a soul which is separate from the body.

Thomas Hobbes, born eight years before Descartes, did not believe in such a 'soul'.

(Psychiatry professor George Makari, in Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind, refers to Phineas Gage. Lost soul | The Economist)

The 'personality' may be temporary. But what about the 'soul'?

Eleanor died. Over the next few days various elephants visited her.

Elephants mourn their dead.

Animal minds | The Economist

One cat has become a Guardian Angel for other sick animals

This cat almost died and now spends her days caring for other animals who are sick.


According to Amit Goswami:

"When the material body dies, the learned tendencies of the subtle body survive as nonlocal memory, and will reincarnate in another physical body in the future.

"In between death and rebirth, we survive as a “soul”, a reservoir of accumulated character aspects or propensities that Easterners describe using the Sanskrit words karma and sanskara."[1]

At 'Under the Tree' we read:

"The Buddha points out we are not the body, not material objects, and not the things to which we become attached.

"The Buddha taught there are things which are 'not self' and 'not soul.'

"A spiritual Self exists that is not equivalent to any material fabrication."


  1. Jack London writes about this in his book 'The Star Rover'


  2. Very interesting. I am convinced animals have souls.

    People often say they don't believe in an immortal soul, per se. Look at it another way:

    Does our immortal Soul believe in us?

    1. Not only do animals have souls but they also have free will. They are as determined as we are. More about this tomorrow.

    2. Animals also have free will, or rather they think they do. We think we have free will too but we don't. I used to argue online with people saying that we did have free will. I had very good arguments and then one day the penny dropped and I realised they were right and we didn't have free will.

      I'm sitting down and I get an urge to eat a cream cake, but as I get up I feel fat and so I sit down again as I would prefer to stay slim and be sexy and dynamic on the dance floor. I think I made a decision but really the urge to stay slim won over the urge to eat a fattening cake.

      So what does the conscious mind do? Well, it can see into the future and remember the past and analyse outcomes, then some urges will fade and others will become stronger.

      I might go to a party and get excited about meeting someone nice. When I get there I see a lovely girl up by the snack bar talking to some people. When they leave I make my way to snack bar to eat something and then start talking to her. After a while I see she likes me and I get the hots. But I didn't choose any of my emotions or desires. And we cannot choose who we love or fancy. These feelings are our instincts at work driving us. We choose none of them.

      I sometimes I think we do have free will, but our egos our not in charge, our feelings are Who we are is not centered in our conscious minds but in our bodies, in our feelings. We don't choose our feelings, but we always do what we want to do, even if we sometimes regret it afterwards. We feel direction, anger, desires, and wants, and freely go with it. We do what we want to do. This feels like free will but it isn't.

      We can be very motivated. I might start a college course and work hard at it. I think I have free will, but what am I hoping to achieve? In the back of my mind I'm hoping to get a good job and then buy a nice flat which I'm going to make it really special and then one day a nice girl night come around and really like it. All these urges, desires, wants and hopes are not chosen. They are instincts at work. So I might hit it off with her and get married. Soon after we want a baby and make the spare room really nice for a toddler. Courting, building a home together, good sex, and then a baby, it's all instinct, not free will.

      So, when two sparrows court, then mate and build a nest, how's that different to us? So, do animals believe they have free will? I believe they do. And they are just as motivated to succeed as we are.

      A fox jumps out at me on the road, it's terrified and darts back into the bushes. Later that evening it snacks on some food it's found in the back yard of a restaurant. Now in every instant it believed it made decisions. Of course its level of consciousness is not like ours, but in its fox world it's making real decisions too. It's mind is evaluating the situation and different urges win through. In this way I have come to believe that all animals think they have free will too. But I'm not sure how sophisticated their believe in free will is. Also, animals don't think in words, they think in pictures.

      This is how far I have got with this right now. I'm trying to imagine how a foxes think in pictures and then see how instinct drives them, and how they are very motivated to achieved things and succeed, just like us. When birds nest and work hard to feed the chicks, is that any different to us when we start a family? When a chick falls out of the nest the parents come down to feed and protect it. If a cat eats it, I bet the adult birds feel terror and then remorse and sadness, although these feelings might not last long as animals have evolved to get up and go quickly after tragedy. But dairy cows remorse having their young taken away from them for months. They really feel sad and terrible about it. If animals have free will, or they think they do, then it changes the whole ball game about how we abuse them.


    4. Fab article Aangirfan, more about free will later. Some scientists say that at a quantum physics level we have free will.

      Our free will, or determination, comes from our feelings rather than our conscious minds and we can't choose our feelings, or wants, desires, needs, etc. These things come from our instincts. Yet we believe we have free choice and we are very motivated, except these desires are instinctual.

      But I can't help but believe I have free will. Is it a face or is it a vase? Perhaps both things are are true at the same time. The world is a mystery. More in this later.

    5. Thanks for taking the time to write all that; I'm glad you did. Good read. Very interesting.

    6. The feeling function is highly evolved in some animals and sensory perception superior to that of humans in many - we are not superior to animals. But we are different (for better or worse). Our cerebral neo-cortex/opposable thumb combo gives us a unique ability to manipulate our environment (some would say trash it) and also self consciousness, an ego and a conscience. The word “conscience” stems from the two Latin words scīre, meaning “to know” or “to understand,” (giving us the root sci and hence science) and “com”, meaning “together with”. So it is a collaboration between human understanding and a higher or more universal knowing or understanding.
      We see choices and we make conscious choices - sometimes based on feelings about what would be pleasing or advantagious to us, sometimes based on what feels is "right" (i.e. conscience-based) and sometimes, when our ego-drive and conscience happen to gel, both. The snag is that we tend to be emotionally myopic and/or somewhat stunted and many of us also have rather poor impulse control. Being in love however and becomming a parent should help us to develop and tone our emotional muscles and also to become more adept at curbing our potentially damaging impulses. Empathy tends to expand as we mature ... or it should. Alternatively, we risk getting stuck in the adolesecent ego stage all our lives (not a good look).
      Unlike people, animals generally don't deviate far from instincts that have guided them for aeons in ways designed (I use that word deliberately) to optimise their chances of survival - and, when their environment changes, they change, quickly, or they die. The idea that random mutations are the sole cause of rapid evolutionary adaptations has never cut it for me. I think what is more likely to happen is that animals and plants find creative solutions to life-threatening problems and that novel adaptations become biologically encoded in their DNA. Recent scientific research suggests that Satellite DNA (Junk DNA!) may have the ability to expand the number of repeating sequences it contains, which means, theoretically, to increase in its information-carrying capacity, or, put another way, to increase consciousness.



  5. I believe this will be of interest to you, regarding ties between LSE, NHS, and Jimmy Savile:

  6. 'Lord Janner is dead'

    A.K.A. a funny thing happened on their way to to the courtroom...