Coming via the Dream Studies Portal, this site deserves more than just a del.icio.us link: the Center for Interspecies Research. Their opening statement gets right at something I’ve been pondering for a while, a kind of Darwinian blindspot in contemporary science:
We know from the biological sciences that humans have evolved from other animals, and we know from our own direct experience that humans have consciousness. Given these two facts, it makes sense to assume that human consciousness evolved from pre-human consciousness. In other words, other animals are sentient, aware beings just like us. Thus, understanding animal consciousness may help reveal our own origins and the dynamics of our minds.
Actually this isn’t wholly a blindspot. For example, Richard Dawkins admirably puts his money where his mouth is in his support for The Great Ape Project, which aims to extend basic legal rights to our closest cousins.
Still, the specter of Christianity and humanism’s obsession with our “special status” in the scheme of life, and Descarte’s mechanical animals vision, continue to haunt our general paradigm for relating psyche and consciousness to other-than-human life. With brilliant minds like David Abram and Jeremy Narby as advisors, CIR looks very interesting indeed.