Wray Herbert: Disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, vs. order linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein’s quip on “disorder” as the key to fresh insight: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Universe Lifespan
This 2011 image provided by CERN shows a real proton-proton collision in which characteristics expected from the presence of a Higgs boson are observed.
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/what-a-mess-chaos-and-cre_b_2726060.html?utm_hp_ref=science

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Chaos fuels creativity?

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One of the most influential ideas about crime prevention to come out in recent years is something called the “broken windows theory.” According to this theory, small acts of deviance — littering, graffiti, broken windows — will, if ignored, escalate into more serious crime. In practice, this theory leads to zero tolerance of public disorder and petty crime. Both theory and practice have been embraced by some big city mayors, most notably Rudy Giuliani, who credited the strategy with significantly cutting serious crime in 1990s New York City.

The idea has been controversial from the start, for many reasons, but it does get some empirical support from psychological science. A growing body of research suggests that the human mind does like order and structure and rules. Indeed, cleanliness and tidiness have been shown to promote legal and moral action, while a messy environment appears to do the opposite.

But this idea may be a little too tidy, and some scientists are beginning to challenge it. If it were that simple, how should we explain the fact that order and disorder are both common states? Why hasn’t the human yearning for order, over the millennia, triumphed over messiness in society?

This was the point of departure for psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota. Vohs wondered if perhaps environmental order and disorder are both functional, activating different, but equally valuable, mindsets. Maybe what we disparage as messiness — maybe this physical state contributes to a varied world, and perhaps it’s variety that’s most important in shaping human thinking and action. She and her colleagues ran a couple experiments to test this provocative idea.

Vohs wanted first off to explore the effects of order and disorder on socially desirable behaviors, so in the first experiment she looked at healthy eating and charitable giving. These are both things that, by common agreement, are good. She recruited volunteers and, unknown to them, had some work in a tidy room and the others in a messy space. They filled out questionnaires that weren’t really relevant to the study, and afterward were given the opportunity to donate privately to charity — specifically, to help pay for toys and books that would be given to children. Then, as they were departing, they were offered the choice of an apple or chocolate.

The results were unambiguous. Those who had been working in an orderly workspace were more generous. Not only were they more likely to donate anything to the kids, collectively they donated more than twice as much money to the charity. They were also more likely to make the healthy food choice.

Okay, so this merely reinforces what’s been known — that an orderly environment leads to desirable and good action. But is there a downside to this mindset? In a second study, Vohs took a different tack and explored contexts in which messiness might lead to a socially desirable outcome. She figured that, since order promotes conventional values, maybe disorder promotes breaking with convention — the essence of creativity.

To study this possibility, she again had volunteers work in either a neat or a messy room. Volunteers completed the same kinds of filler work as before, followed by common a test of creativity. Specifically, they were told to come up with as many as ten new uses for ping pong balls, and their answers were scored by independent judges.

The results confirmed what Vohs had predicted. As described in a forthcoming article in the journal Psychological Science, the volunteers who worked in the untidy room were much more creative overall, and they also produced more “highly creative” ideas. In other words, they were more likely to break away from tradition, order and convention in their thinking. In a third study, those in a messy environment were more likely to select an option labeled “new” over one labeled “classic” — further supporting the link between order and tradition, disorder and novel thinking.

Taken together, these findings challenge the well-entrenched view of order and disorder as too simplistic. It’s misleading to conclude that messiness promotes wild, harmful and morally suspect behavior, or that order leads to honesty and goodness. A more nuanced view would add that disorder also inspires breaking from tradition, which can lead to fresh insight, and that order is linked to playing it safe. Vohs concludes with the example of Albert Einstein, who famously quipped: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

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Counter-intuition counts for a lot  —

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jc-carleson/james-bond-meets-the-bond_b_2742193.html?utm_hp_ref=books

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It’s true that CIA officers have access to tools and resources you corporate types can only daydream about during slow staff meetings — things like drones, wads of foreign currency, and permission to shrug off pesky laws that get in the way.

But before you get all Skyfall-eyed with envy, don’t forget one thing: spies still have to close the deal. And instead of corner-booth business dinners in overpriced steakhouses, they’re selling their wares, so to speak, in combat zones, dark alleys, and less-than-friendly territories a dozen time zones from home.

Working under this kind of pressure teaches CIA officers a thing or two about the world, about people, and about getting the job done. So it shouldn’t be surprising to hear that, though they may operate very differently from their corporate counterparts, spies quickly develop skill sets that translate handily into the business world. Many of these hard-earned lessons, however, contradict long-held business truisms.

Here are just a few of the business tips from the clandestine world that might be counterintuitive to those of you who don’t make it a practice to show up to work in alias.

For even more tips, see my book Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer ($25.95, Portfolio/Penguin Group USA). 

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  • 1. Ditch the pitch

    We’ve all heard the advice — have a 30- to 60-second “elevator pitch” ready to be launched in the direction of whatever unsuspecting potential client or employer happens to be your captive audience between floors.  But be honest with yourself: is any busy executive rushing from point A to point B really going to be receptive to an unsolicited, rapid-fire sales pitch delivered in uncomfortably close proximity? Unlikely.  Instead, spies use chance meetings and small windows of time to glean information from their target that will allow for a more leisurely — and more welcome — approach at a later time.

  • 2. Consensus is overrated

    Of course group buy-in is nice. And unanimous decisions make us feel all warm and fuzzy and discord-free. So if you have the time and energy, consensus-building is a worthwhile, even noble activity.  But CIA officers are often working under timelines that range from Urgent to Dire — circumstances that render group consensus an unobtainable luxury. As such, spies tend to forego the time-consuming quest for the majority — opting instead to seek out and “recruit” the key decision maker or influencer. (p.s., The key decision maker is not necessarily the senior-most executive.)

  • 3. Doubt your instincts

    If you’ve ever claimed to be a better-than-average judge of character, then chances are that you are, in fact, not.  Instead, you’re more likely to be overconfident in your assumptions and biases — a problem that can cause you to make the same mistakes over and over again without even realizing it.  Listen to your instincts, sure. But check them against the evidence before making any important decisions based on your gut. Over time you can develop an understanding of your own biases and correct for them.

  • 4. Keep a lid on it

    The siren song of social media has the business world tweeting and blogging and begging for likes.  That’s great — if it’s working for you. But all too many organizations are spending time and resources maintaining a social media presence without ever stopping to ask whether it’s helping or hurting them. How many times have companies had to apologize for a poorly-worded tweet? And just check out some of the cringe-inducing comments on Oscar Mayer’s Facebook page.   CIA officers? Not tweeting. Not blogging. Not liking. (Until they leave the clandestine service and start writing books, but that’s another story altogether…)

  • 5. Never negotiate

    Any CIA officer who has ever worked with a foreign liaison service knows that even the smallest of concessions can end up causing endless problems when the going gets tough. The second you begin to negotiate, you lose control over the outcome.  Instead, put your efforts into obtaining information about the other side’s bottom line and manipulating the circumstances before you show up at the table so that your one and only offer is accepted.

  • 6. Stop measuring for a minute

    “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Variations on this mantra are oft quoted by executives wed to their spreadsheets, metrics, and forecasts.  But remember that “slam dunk” case for the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?  Quite a few very smart people with access to boatloads of sophisticated data believed in that slam dunk.  But when we finally got to Baghdad and simply asked the right people the right questions, the ground truth was quite different from what the data was telling us. Don’t forget to supplement your number crunching with human intelligence from time to time.

  • 7. Foster a local mindset

    We’re all supposed to “think global” all the time, right? But the best CIA officers are the ones who immerse themselves in the local culture during their assignments. By learning the language, customs, and regional quirks, they build networks in the community that pay off handsomely when it’s time to collect intelligence.  Abstract, global thinking shouldn’t always be valued over local expertise and trust.  

 
 

Counterintuitive Business Tips From Former CIA Officer

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1. Ditch the pitch
We’ve all heard the advice — have a 30- to 60-second “elevator pitch” ready to be launched in the direction of whatever unsuspecting potential client or employer happens to be your captive audience between floors.
But be honest with yourself: is any busy executive rushing from point A to point B really going to be receptive to an unsolicited, rapid-fire sales pitch delivered in uncomfortably close proximity? Unlikely.
Instead, spies use chance meetings and small windows of time to glean information from their target that will allow for a more leisurely — and more welcome — approach at a later time.
 
 
 
 
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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/religion-and-science-_b_2719280.html?utm_hp_ref=science

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Science and religion cannot be reconciled

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Religious apologists, spiritualist gurus, and accommodating atheists have been bombarding us with assertions that science and religion have no reason not to get along. This may be politically convenient, but it’s simply untrue. Science and religion are fundamentally irreconcilable, and they always will be.

Faith is belief in the absence of supportive evidence and even in the light of contrary evidence.  No one disputes that religion is based on faith. Some authors claim that science is also based on faith. They argue that science takes it on faith that the world is rational and that nature can be ordered in an intelligible way.

However, science makes no such assumption on faith. It analyzes observations by applying certain methodological rules and formulates models to describe those observations. It justifies that process by its practical success, not by any logical deduction derived from dubious metaphysical assumptions. We must distinguish faith from trust.  Science has earned our trust by its proven success. Religion has destroyed our trust by its repeated failure.

Using the empirical method, science has eliminated smallpox, flown men to the moon, and discovered DNA. If science did not work, we wouldn’t do it. Relying on faith, religion has brought us inquisitions, holy wars, and intolerance. Religion does not work, but we still do it.

Science and religion are fundamentally incompatible because of their unequivocally opposed epistemologies — the separate assumptions they make concerning what we can know about the world. Every human alive is aware of a world that seems to exist outside the body, the world of sensory experience we call the natural. Science is the systematic study of the observations made of the natural world with our senses and scientific instruments.

By contrast, all major religions teach that humans possess an additional “inner” sense that allows us to access a realm lying beyond the visible world — a divine, transcendent reality we call the supernatural. If it does not involve the transcendent, it is not religion.

No doubt science has its limits. However, that fact that science is limited doesn’t mean that religion or any alternative system of thought can or does provide insight into what lies beyond those limits. For example, science cannot yet show precisely how the universe and life originated naturally, although many plausible scenarios exist. But the fact that science does not at present have a definitive answer to this question does not mean that ancient creation myths such as those in Genesis have any substance, any chance of eventually being verified.

Most of the scientific community in general goes along with the notion that science has nothing to say about the supernatural because the methods of science as they are currently practiced exclude supernatural causes. However, if we truly possess an inner sense telling us about an unobservable reality that matters to us and influences our lives, then we should be able to observe the effects of that reality by scientific means.

If someone’s inner sense were to warn of an impending earthquake unpredicted by science, which then occurred on schedule, we would have evidence for this extrasensory source of knowledge. Claims of “divine prophecies” have been made throughout history, but not one has been conclusively confirmed.

So far we see no evidence that the feelings people experience when they perceive themselves to be in touch with the supernatural correspond to anything outside their heads, and have no reason to rely on those feelings when they occur.  However, if such evidence or reason should show up, then scientists will have to consider it whether they like it or not.

We cannot sweep under the rug the many serious problems brought about by the scientific revolution and the exponential burst in humanity’s ability to exploit Earth’s resources made possible by the accompanying technology. There would be no problems with overpopulation, pollution, global warming, or the threat of nuclear holocaust if science had not made them possible. The growing distrust of science found now in America can be understood by observing the disgraceful examples of scientists employed by oil, food, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies who have contributed to the unnecessary deaths of millions by allowing products to be marketed that these scientists knew full well were unsafe.

But does anyone want to return to the pre-scientific age when human life was nasty, brutish, and short? Even fire was once a new technology.
Unsafe products are more than overshadowed by miracle drugs, foods, and technologies that have made all our lives immeasurably better than those of humans in the not-too-distant past. At least in developed countries, women now rarely die in childbirth and most children grow to adulthood. This was not the case even just a few generations ago. Unlike our ancestors, we lead long, fulfilling lives largely free of pain and drudgery. The aged are so numerous that they are becoming a social problem. All this is the result of scientific developments.

We can solve the problems brought about by the misuse of science only by better use of science and more rational behavior on the part of scientists, politicians, corporations, and citizens in all walks of life. And religion, as it is currently practiced, with its continued focus on closed thinking and ancient mythology, is not doing much to support the goal of a better, safer world. In fact, religion is hindering our attempts to attain that goal.

Today science and religion find themselves in serious conflict. Even moderate believers do not fully accept Darwinian evolution. Although they claim to see no conflict between their faith and evolution, they insist that God still controlled the development of life so humans would evolve, which is not at all what the theory of evolution says. Evolution, as understood by science, has no room for God. Anti-evolution fundamentalists are absolutely right about that.

In another example, greedy corporate interests and unscrupulous politicians are exploiting the antiscience attitudes embedded in popular religion to suppress scientific results on issues of global importance, such as the overpopulation and environmental degradation, that threaten the generations of humanity that will follow ours.

Those who rely on observation and reason to provide an understanding of the world must stop viewing as harmless those who rely instead on superstition and the mythologies in ancient texts passed down from the childhood of our species. For the sake of the future of humanity, we must fight to expunge the fantasies of faith from human thinking.

Religious faith would not be such a negative force in society if it were just about religion. However, the magical thinking that becomes deeply ingrained whenever faith rules over facts warps all areas of life. It produces a frame of mind in which concepts are formulated with deep passion but without the slightest attention paid to the evidence that bears on the concept. Nowhere is this more evident than in America today where the large majority of the public hold on to a whole set of beliefs despite the total lack of evidence to support these beliefs and, indeed, strong evidence that denies them. Magical thinking and blind faith are the worst mental system we can apply under these circumstances. They allow the most outrageous lies to be accepted as facts.

From its very beginning, religion has been a tool used by those in power to retain that power and keep the masses in line. This continues today as religious groups are manipulated to work against believers’ own best interests in health and economic well-being in order to cast doubt on well-established scientific findings. This would not be possible except for the diametrically opposed world-views of science and religion. Science is not going to change its commitment to the truth. We can only hope religion will change its commitment to nonsense.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/universe-lifespan-finite-unstable-higgs-boson_n_2713053.html?utm_hp_ref=science

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Universe Has Finite Lifespan, Higgs Boson Calculations Suggest

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Scientists are still sorting out the details of last year’s discovery of the Higgs boson particle, but add up the numbers and it’s not looking good for the future of the universe, scientists said Monday.

“If you use all the physics that we know now and you do what you think is a straightforward calculation, it’s bad news,” Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist with the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, told reporters.

Lykeen spoke before presenting his research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston.

“It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point billions of years from now it’s all going to get wiped out,” said Lykken, who is also on the science team at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.

Physicists last year announced they had discovered what appears to be a long-sought subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, which is believed to give matter its mass.

Work to study the Higgs’ related particles, necessary for confirmation, is ongoing.

If confirmed, the discovery would help resolve a key puzzle about how the universe came into existence some 13.7 billion years ago – and perhaps how it will end.

“This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now, there’ll be a catastrophe,” Lykken said.

“A little bubble of what you might think of as an ‘alternative’ universe will appear somewhere and then it will expand out and destroy us,” Lykken said, adding that the event will unfold at the speed of light.

Scientists had grappled with the idea of the universe’s long-term stability before the Higgs discovery, but stepped up calculations once its mass began settling in at around 126 billion electron volts – a critical number it turns out for figuring out the fate of the universe.

The calculation requires knowing the mass of the Higgs to within one percent, as well as the precise mass of other related subatomic particles.

“You change any of these parameters to the Standard Model (of particle physics) by a tiny bit and you get a different end of the universe,” Lyyken said.

Earth will likely be long gone before any Higgs boson particles set off an apocalyptic assault on the universe. Physicists expect the sun to burn out in 4.5 billion years or so, and expand, likely engulfing Earth in the process.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-schweitzer/animal-intelligence_b_2707818.html

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Nothing about our biology or evolutionary history makes us special.  We remain a short-lived biological experiment with too little time to know if having a big brain is adaptive.  Sure we have complex language and mathematics, but we also have weapons of mass destruction and the ability to destroy the resources that sustain us.  The jury is out. We should be a bit humble about our position in the biosphere.

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Chimps once again triumph.  Tetsuro Matsuzawa, a researcher at Kyoto University, showed that a chimpanzee named Ayumu clearly out-performed humans on some working memory tests, a category of short-term recall.  What is surprising is that anybody finds this surprising.  We continue to be blinded by our hubris and conceit, so sure are we that human beings are better and above all other animals.  As Ayumu shows, we will continue to be disappointed.  Let’s take a look at the score board.

Intelligence

Without a doubt, human beings possess a level of intelligence, self-consciousness and self-awareness greater by degree than is found in any other animal.  Evidence suggests that no animal besides the human kind is aware of its own mortality, the ultimate expression of self-awareness.   (Elephants might be an exception).  Only humans bury their dead ceremonially.  Chimpanzees do not visit their lawyers to make out a will in anticipation of impending death.  For centuries, philosophers have taken this highly developed sense of self in humans to mean that intelligence does not exist at all in other animals.  Descartes was convinced that animals completely lacked minds, and his influence is felt even today.  Even Stephen Jay Gould, no species-centric chauvinist, concluded that consciousness has been “vouchsafed only to our species in the history of life on earth.”

With all due respect to the late Professor Gould, perhaps one of the greatest evolutionary biologists of our time, and to Descartes, the issue is not so simple.  As with almost all aspects of comparative biology, intelligence, self-consciousness and self-awareness are elements of a continuum, rather than phenomena with sharp boundaries between species.  Intelligence and self-awareness do not belong exclusively in the domain of humankind. 

A rough hierarchy exits among the concepts of “intelligent,” “self-conscious,” and “self-aware.”  One must be intelligent to be self-conscious, and in turn, self-conscious to be self-aware.  So let’s begin with intelligence, the first ingredient in the recipe for self-awareness, in order to explore how these “human” capabilities are distributed throughout the animal kingdom.

Intelligence can be thought of as the ability to learn from experience (acquire and retain new knowledge), and to subsequently apply that new knowledge with flexibility to manipulate or adapt to a changing environment.  Or intelligence can be seen as the ability to create abstract thought, beyond instinct or responses to sensory input.  

The primary difficulty in defining and measuring intelligence precisely is that mental acuity is situationally dependent.  While dolphins are clearly smart you would be severely challenged to teach one to climb a tree.  An animal’s intelligence, or more precisely, its ability to manifest its intelligence, is tightly correlated with its natural environment, and its evolutionary adaptations. 

Intelligence, no matter how we define the concept, is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon.  Animals have diverse adaptations that define the context of intelligence, making interspecies comparisons almost meaningless.  Intelligence is found by degrees across the animal kingdom, and not in some nice neat linear correlation with some other trait like the development of mammary glands.  Being smart seems to be a trait unique to human beings only when we artificially designate our particular suite of characteristics as the definition of intelligence, proving that circular logic is not too intelligent. 

All of the references given here are cited in an extensive bibliography of Beyond Cosmic Dice: Moral Life in a Random World.

Self-consciousness

For most of human history, people were convinced that no animal could be self-conscious, with Descartes representing the poster child of this viewpoint.  Our ability to be conscious of our own existence was seen to endow humans with something special.  Self-consciousness was considered the ultimate expression of humanness.  That is until we learned more about our animal cousins.  Some animals indeed exhibit this most “human” of traits; in fact, self-consciousness is probably widespread in the animal kingdom.

The idea of self-consciousness is not without controversy; the scientific community is not unified in defining the concept.  For example, some scientists use the term “self-conscious” in the sense that others use the term “self-aware” (as I do here): an animal’s thought about thought, in which an animal has a “second order representation” of his own mental state.   That means an animal not only thinks, but also thinks about thinking.  Some scientists call the ability to “think about thinking” self-consciousness, and others call it self-awareness.  This academic parsing is why cocktail parties at a professor’s house can be so stimulating.

But the two concepts of awareness and consciousness are quite distinct, and should not be confused one with the other.  Self-awareness represents a further refinement of self-consciousness.  A simple definition of self-consciousness can be distilled to: understanding that you as an individual are distinct from the external environment, and at the same time recognizing that others are similarly aware of you as an individual.  I can only recognize Ralph as a unique person if I first understand that I too am an individual.  With this meaning then, the ability to recognize other individuals is perhaps the most important indication of an animal being self-conscious.  The notion of self-consciousness is therefore amenable to experimental investigation because we can test for individual recognition.  We have a window into the mind!

In the animal kingdom, individual recognition, and therefore self-consciousness, would most readily be found in highly social animals where survival depends on recognizing dominant individuals, and in turn, dominating those lower in the social hierarchy.   (Remember high school)?  Animals that pair-bond for life, and therefore can recognize a mate among many conspecifics, are also more likely to be self-conscious, at least by the definition given here.

For sticklers of logic, one implication here is that an animal can be self-conscious without being self-aware.  That is, an animal can recognize itself as an individual among other individuals, without knowing anything deeper about its own mental state.  But at the same time, gregarious animals would also have evolutionary pressures to recognize not only the dominant animal in the group as an individual, but also his emotional state and that of others in the hierarchy.  You might get more food if you know when to approach a kill when the big guy is in a good mood.  So while it is possible to be self-conscious without being self-aware, the development of one trait might typically lead to the other.

Self-awareness

Self-awareness is a further refinement of the concept of self-consciousness (while some scientists invert this relationship), in that you not only recognize yourself as an individual relative to others and the physical environment, you are also aware of your own mental state, including your own internal thoughts independent of the external world.  Your thoughts are unavailable to anybody but you until you decide to expose them to the external world either through behavior or some type of communication.  Self-awareness depends on no other creature but you.  You would be self-aware even if you were the last person on earth, with no other sentient being to recognize your presence.  Self-awareness is your brain acknowledging its own existence.

Place a chimpanzee, let’s call him Alessandro, in a room in which he finds a large mirror.  After a brief period in which Alessandro has become familiar with the room and the mirror, anesthetize him.  While he is asleep, paint a dot of yellow paint on Alessandro’s forehead, and gently place him back in the room.   After waking up, most animals will not notice or react to the dot, continuing to treat the reflection in the mirror as another animal.  But Alessandro, and his fellow chimpanzees and orangutans, will recognize the image in the mirror as themselves, touching their foreheads and examining the dot.  That demonstrates that Alessandro knows the forehead in the mirror is his, and that he normally does not have a dot on his head

One could object that this experiment in fact only demonstrates self-consciousness, rather than self-awareness, proving that Alessandro recognizes himself as an individual.  This is a gray area.  We cannot state with certainty from this particular experiment if Alessandro is aware of his own mental state even if the results hint in that direction.  Nevertheless, we have from this and other observations at least an indication that primates like Alessandro might be truly self-aware.  We also have evidence that mammals other than primates share this talent with humans.  Using a modified version of the dot-on-the-forehead procedure, mirror self-recognition has been demonstrated in bottlenose dolphins, magpies and elephants.

Dolphins and porpoises have also demonstrated originality and creativity, both tangential indicators of self-awareness.  An animal can only be creative in context of understanding its own behavior and intent, something that requires a level of self-awareness.  Likewise, the act of creating something new, the capacity for originality, usually requires a deep understanding of one’s own internal representation of the world as it now exits, also a feature of self-awareness.  Animals that clearly demonstrate originality and creativity are likely self-aware, at least to some degree.

At the Makapuu Oceanic Center in Hawaii, trainers working with a female rough-toothed dolphin named Malia praised or fed her fish only for behaviors that had not been previously rewarded.  Within a few days, Malia began performing novel aerial flips, corkscrews, new tail flaps, new twisted breaches, and other never-before-seen behaviors.  Malia learned early on that the trainers were looking for new acts, not repetitions of previously demonstrated talents.  As her repertoire expanded, she needed to create ever more unique combinations of movements to get a reward, which she did with aplomb, performing stunts so unusual that trainers could not have otherwise encouraged the behavior through standard training techniques.  This propensity for originality and creativity (signs of self-awareness) was not a fluke unique to one individual. 

Intelligence, self-consciousness and self-awareness would not seem to be uniquely human.  Ayumu is not impressed. 

Of course humans are unique, as are all species by definition.  But nothing about our biology or evolutionary history makes us special.  We remain a short-lived biological experiment with too little time to know if having a big brain is adaptive.  Sure we have complex language and mathematics, but we also have weapons of mass destruction and the ability to destroy the resources that sustain us.  The jury is out. We should be a bit humble about our position in the biosphere.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/sage-wrary-herbert-we-all-know-that-when-someone-dies-their-agency-dies-too-they-are-no-longer-active-in-the-world-in-the-same-way-they-were-even-children-get-that-when-grandpa-is-gone-he/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/space-faces-causality-and-the-origin-of-religion-sage-jeff-schweitzer/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-evolution-of-religion-god-or-the-group/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/theodicy-suffering-in-the-world-and-the-problem-of-evil-an-afterlife-is-a-cop-out/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/the-choice-is-not-whether-to-have-or-not-have-a-worldview-in-which-you-place-faith-the-only-choice-is-whether-we-are-willing-to-choose-with-intention-clarity-commitment-sage-steven-kala/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/redoubling-science-vs-scripture-purposeless-vs-purposeful-universe/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/physics-are-not-metaphysics-where-science-collides-with-scripture/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/is-popular-religion-derived-from-our-inherent-evil-egotism-or-is-it-a-palliative-to-our-cursed-nature/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/do-more-women-believe-in-god-than-men-do/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/faith-is-consequential-but-it-is-not-about-immortality-faith-is-about-finding-peace-within-oneself/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/we-are-not-immortal-via-a-religious-afterlife-were-no-different-from-other-living-organismsthings/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/psychology-research-suggests-that-belief-in-the-supernatural-acts-as-societal-glue-and-motivates-people-to-follow-the-rules-further-belief-in-the-afterlife-helps-people-grieve-and-staves-off-fears-o/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/dissidence-in-service-to-a-higher-calling/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/philosophy-as-a-conversation-in-which-we-discover-things-about-ourselves-and-others-rather-than-as-an-arbiter-between-the-really-real-and-the-illusory/

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As you consider the truths of changing seasons, and eagerly anticipate Punxsutawney Phil’s early Spring, hear anew the words of Ecclesiastes.

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There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-marble/punxsutawney-phil-seasons_b_2642847.html

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