May 17, 2004 • Posted in Science Papers
Greek, R. & Greek, J. (2005). Written for Project R&R.
The foundation of the animal rights movement and the motivation behind the efforts of groups that promote animals’ rights (AR) such as NEAVS is the premise that animals such as chimpanzees are sentient. Sentient is variously defined as: having sense perception; conscious; experiencing sensation or feeling; responsive to or conscious of sense impressions; aware; finely sensitive in perception or feeling; able to experience physical and possibly emotional feelings; having the capacity to receive sensations; able to perceive.
Among the reasons the AR movement believes chimpanzees and other animals are sentient are the observed similarities in the central nervous systems of humans and other animals. (These similarities are what scientists refer to as gross similarities or similarities on the gross level. Gross meaning: of general aspects or broad distinctions; large; broad; or general.)
Humans have the anatomy (for example the presence of neural tracts in the brain) and physiology (for example the presence of various chemicals) that scientists have discovered are sufficient for the sensation of pain and other sensations. Humans also exhibit behavior consistent with the experience of pain; they try to escape from pain-causing stimuli. These things, taken together, provide evidence that humans can feel pain, hence are sentient. They also provide evidence that animals classified as vertebrates, and perhaps other groups of animals, can feel pain as well. The subjective experiences of members of different species may not be exactly the same but then neither do any two humans respond exactly the same to painful stimuli. For example, some people will have a high pain threshold while others will have a low pain threshold. Men typically describe the pain associated with a heart attack differently than women.