Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


14.2.2  Brain Sentience

Genetic sentience involves a community of organisms that is aware of itself, but whose members are not individually aware. For such lifeforms, automatic behaviors and duty are all. To a social insect, each of its neighbors are virtually indistinguishable and fully interchangeable (within each caste or age grade). There is no sense of individuality; there is no word for "I." And with no sense of self there can be no sense of empathy for the selves of others -- their thoughts, their drives, or their pain.

The brain sentient ET is aware of itself as a unique being different from all others. In the higher lifeforms, many subtle and complex clues are used to distinguish each of perhaps thousands of other local members of the species from the self. These distinctions are achieved without the penalty of genetic overspecialization. Much societal information is not "hard-wired" as in the social insects but rather is learned during childhood and possesses a flexible, or "plastic," nature.

The lowest brain-toting creatures on Earth, such as fishes and amphibians, seem incapable of telling their own offspring apart from members of physically similar species which are their prey (the kids are eaten at birth if the parents happen to be hungry). Reptiles improve on this somewhat.2566 However, it is mainly among the birds and the mammals -- the two animal groups with the most highly evolved brains on this planet -- that familial and social ties begin to be taken seriously. Many birds are known to have complicated pecking orders with dozens of independently identifiable animals in the chain. Among primates, particularly the chimpanzees, orangutans, and, of course, humans, xenologists find a developing or well-developed sense of the self2563 as well as a complex awareness of the individuality of others.

Possible variants of brain sentience, involving the concept of the triune brain. have already been discussed in an earlier section.


Last updated on 6 December 2008