The Humanist Cafe
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 – 7:00-8:30 pm
James Bay New Horizons 234 Menzies Street, Victoria
Discussion Topic:

Intelligence or Sentience –  to which do we owe more care and respect?Presenter: Glynne Evans

Moderator: John Pope


Is a gradation of moral obligation justified?
If intelligence, how do we define it? Is a honey bee’s dance any less a form
of intelligence than our own, or a bird’s migration skills or song any different 
in kind from our mastery of language? Why should one be intelligence and 
another described as instinct? 
If sentience, how do we know how much pain and variety of emotion is felt 
by species with which we have little ability to communicate or interpret their
behaviour or mere presentation? And if plant  matter reacts to stimulation,
may that be evidence of sentience?
We are facing the possibility of mass extinction or near extinction. If this 
appears to be inexorably the case, does this change our priorities? Should 
we attempt to preferentially save some species or individuals with particular 
characteristics of their species, whether for hardiness and possibly less of a 
certain kind of sentience, or for intelligence as another form of adaptability? 
How about for sociability, empathy, for vegetarian diet, or ecological non 
Is life worth saving anyway? Are the disruptions of physical atoms in a 
“lifeless” multiverse any less or more matters of pain and pleasure than
those in central nervous systems. Is intelligence of worth beyond a survival 
mechanism or a curiosity for other intelligences? 
Can these questions be addressed by “the man in the street” or  the woman 
in labour as well as it can by philosophers?  (I think they can, regardless of 
the immense difficulty.)