Fruit Flies versus Lobsters

I came across two blog postings today, one that seems to normalize our attitudes toward one animal and another that messes things up.

The first is that lobsters, apparently, don’t feel pain. Well, not pain in the way we’re supposed to think of pain, at least. This, unspoken, suggests that boiling lobsters, for example, is OK because they don’t feel pain. This brings to mind the problem with framing rights along lines of pain. The caveat in these discussions are that lobsters (and arthropods, by extension) do not feel pain like we feel pain. Pain is a human construct. So, in that they do not sense the same thing that we do (because for us, there is emotional component to pain) others (or ignores) the fact that these organism react to stimuli such as, in the case of a lobster, boiling water.

The second was a paper published titled Order in Spontaneous Behavior. It outlines a research project that comes to the conclusion that free-will and spontaneity exist in Fruit Flies (genus Drosophila). Rather than operating “as robots” in “reaction to external stimuli,” it would appear that fruit flies’ different reactions to the same stimulus cannot be explained as a random event. This suggests that there is something else going on in the brain, and that may be a biological origin to what we would call free will.

So what would I suggest we make out of this? Life and living is intrinsically more complicated than we would necessarily believe. If there is the possibility that Fruit Flies exhibit some form of free will, that impacts how I conceptualized what a Fruit Fly was capable of. I would say that it makes more sense believing that non-humans are capable of much more than we currently are able to know and that, that has implications for how I interact with other organisms.

The caution in the Fruit Fly research is this idea of free will and extending it out toward non-humans. As I quickly outline in the case of the Lobster, applying a human construct on another organism to “test” how we should act toward them may lead to a slippery slope where only organisms that are close to humans (and perceive the world like we do) deserve some kind of consideration. I’m not necessarily comfortable with that notion.

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