Animal seminar at Tel Aviv University

On Monday 16th of June 2014 the seminar Animal behaviour, cognition & welfare will be held in Tel Aviv, Israel. The 1-day seminar is organised by AnimalConcepts in collaboration with the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science and is hosted by Tel Aviv University.

How much do we really know about animal minds? How can we use the tools of science to investigate what is happening in the minds of beings that, with just a handful of exceptions, are incapable of telling us? And perhaps most importantly, how can we use our knowledge of what animals are thinking and feeling in order to improve their lives? Join us for this one day seminar where we explore the modern science of animal behaviour and cognition, and discuss how it is being used to inform policy and practices to improve the welfare of the animals in our care, as well as in the wild.

Israel flyer 2014

Psychologist and philosopher dr. Esteban Rivas will give three lectures about the following subjects: animal cognition, animal language and communication, and animal ethics. Psychologist Sabrina Brando, owner of AnimalConcepts, will talk about captive wildlife research as an enrichment tool. Primatologist and animal behavior and welfare specialist dr. Ori Pomerantz will give a lecture entitled: “Employing cognitive-bias paradigms for the assessment of the animals’ welfare state. For the provisional program click here.

The seminar will be held in English and will take place at the Department of Zoology of Tel Aviv University, Israel. The registration fee is 45 euro and the student fee is 35 euro. For more information and how to register go to the website of AnimalConcepts.

Looking forward to meeting you in Tel Aviv!

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Sign up for the ethics seminar on apes and dolphins!

Saturday 8 February ape expert dr. Esteban Rivas and dolphin expert dr. Justin Gregg will organise the third and last seminar in the Apes & Dolphins Seminar Series at the Free University in Amsterdam. This time the seminar will be wholly dedicated to the moral status of great apes and dolphins. Are they morally special animals? Or maybe they are not? What arguments have philosophers and ethicists brought forward about a possible special moral status of great apes and dolphins? Are they persons? Is their cognitive complexity morally relevant? Is it relevant at all that they are quite similar to human animals? And what arguments have been given against a special status for these animals? Is granting them equality with humans dangerous for our human ethics in itself? Or does picking them out as special animals perpetuate speciesism, at the cost of all other animals?

EthicsSeminar

We will also present a review of the use by humans of great apes and dolphins in animal experimentation, the entertainment industry, and captivity in zoos and dolphinaria. We will present the arguments that have been given for and against such use of these animals. We will also discuss the various campaigns, lawsuits, and political discussions about great apes and dolphins that are taking place, like the Great Ape Project, the Nonhuman Rights Project, the Helsinki Declaration on Cetacean Rights, and the Free Morgan campaign about orca Morgan.

In a general discussion all seminar participants will debate the various moral and political issues raised during the earlier presentations. Register now for this seminar!

Flyer

The seminar will take place from 10.00 to 17.00 hrs on Saturday, 8 February 2014, in the Main Building of the Free University, De Boelelaan 1105, in Amsterdam. Registration costs 50 Euro (30 Euro for students with student ID), and includes lunch, coffee/tea, as well as a goodie-bag .

Preliminary program:


  • Moral thinking about apes, dolphins, and other non-human animals: history and present (by Esteban Rivas)
  • Campaigns, lawsuits, and political discussion concerning how great apes should be treated (by Esteban Rivas)
  • Campaigns, lawsuits, and political discussion concerning how dolphins should be treated (by Justin Gregg)
  • General discussion involving all participants.

Registration: To register for this ethics seminar, simply send an email message to Esteban’s email address:  estebanyes@gmail.com

Follow along with updates and info for the Apes and Dolphins Seminar Series on our Facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/ApesAndDolphinsSeminarSeries

MILogoPartnerEventSmallThe Apes and Dolphins Seminar Series is a Minding Animals Partner Event
More info about Minding Animals at www.mindinganimals.com

 

Join us at the first Animal Lecture in English!

In 2014 the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science is organising for the first time Animal Lectures in English for an international audience. In these lectures psychologist and philosopher dr. Esteban Rivas will present up-to-date reviews of the current scientific state of affairs regarding the consciousness, emotions, and intelligence of nonhuman animals, as well as animal ethics, or how we should relate to other animals.

VignetConsciousness&EmotionsinAnimals

On Saturday 11 January 2014 the first Animal Lecture in English will be held at the Main building of the Free University in Amsterdam. The subject of this lecture is “Consciousness and emotions in animals.” During this lecture dr. Rivas will address the question whether other animals have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things in a phenomenally conscious way? The French philosopher René Descartes claimed that nonhuman animals could not be conscious. Behaviorism in psychology also led to a taboo on the subject of consciousness in general. Even today there are still scholars who do not ascribe consciousness or sentience to animals, often based on the absence of ‘higher’ cognitive abilities and language. In contrast are positions that argue for the presence of consciousness in animals by argueing from analogy, using systematic analyses of the nervous systems and behaviours of animals. Rivas will present the work of Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience, which shows that at least all mammals, and birds too, share a number of brain centers for the same emotional systems. We will also discuss the various emotions of animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? And what similarities exist between humans and other animals with regard to altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming and being under the influence of psychoactive medication and drugs?

At the end of March and in April three other Animal Lectures in the English language will be organised. These are the following:

  • Saturday 29 March: Communiation and language research with animals.
  • Saturday 5 April: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.
  • Saturday 12 April: Introduction to animal ethics.

Click here for more information about the contents of these three Animal Lectures.

Practical information. The Animal Lectures are organized for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The lectures start at 12.30 and end at 16.30 hours. Registration for the Animal Lectures costs 35 euro for each lecture. Students with a student ID card pay 25 euro for each lecture. You can register for all or several of the lectures by sending a message to estebanyes@gmail.com. You will then receive an email message with all practical details, such as payment etc.

See you in Amsterdam!

Third seminar in the Apes & Dolphins Seminar Series: The moral status of great apes and dolphins. Are apes and dolphins morally special?

On Saturday, February 8th, 2014 the third and last seminar in the Apes & Dolphins Seminar Series will take place in Amsterdam. This time the seminar will be dedicated to the moral status of great apes and dolphins. Are apes and dolphins morally special? Or maybe they’re not?

EthicsSeminar

Join ape behavior expert Esteban Rivas from the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science, and dolphin cognition researcher Justin Gregg from the Dolphin Communication Project for a day-long seminar dedicated to the ethics regarding great apes and dolphins and their moral status. Presentations will be given about the moral theories, philosophical arguments, and ethical positions (both past and present) regarding apes and dolphins and how humans should treat them, as well as the various campaigns, lawsuits, and political discussions that are currently taking place regarding apes and dolphins from the various rights, welfare, and conservation approaches. This includes an overview of high-profile campaigns like the Great Ape Project, the Helsinki Declaration on Cetacean Rights, and the Free Morgan campaign. In a general discussion, seminar participants will debate the various moral issues raised during the presentations, and address questions such as: Do great apes and dolphins have a special moral status, different from other animals? Does the intelligence of apes and dolphins warrant their recognition as legal or moral persons, or otherwise influence how they should be treated? What are the moral arguments for and against keeping apes and dolphins in captivity, or using them for military, entertainment, therapeutic, or medical purposes? What obligation do we have to protect apes and dolphins – including their natural environments – based on the “kinds” of beings they are as described in the various ethical philosophies?

The seminar will take place from 10.00 to 17.00 hrs on Saturday, 8 February 2014, in the Main Building of the Free University, De Boelelaan 1105, in Amsterdam. Registration costs 50 Euro (30 Euro for students with student ID), and includes lunch, coffee/tea, as well as a goodie-bag .

Preliminary program:
Moral thinking about apes, dolphins, and other non-human animals: history and present (by Esteban Rivas)
Campaigns, lawsuits, and political discussion concerning how great apes should be treated (by Esteban Rivas)
Campaigns, lawsuits, and political discussion concerning how dolphins should be treated (by Justin Gregg)
General discussion involving all participants.

Registration: To register for this ethics seminar, simply send an email message to Esteban’s email address:  estebanyes@gmail.com

Flyer

Follow along with updates and info for the Apes and Dolphins Seminar Series on our Facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/ApesAndDolphinsSeminarSeries

MILogoPartnerEventSmallThe Apes and Dolphins Seminar Series is a Minding Animals Partner Event
More info about Minding Animals at www.mindinganimals.com

Animal Lectures in Amsterdam

After getting multiple requests for lectures in English, dr. Rivas has decided to organize four English lectures about animals. They will be given on a Saturday afternoon, from 12.30 to 16.30 hours and will be held at the Free University in Amsterdam.

Saturday 11 January:

Animal Lecture 1: Consciousness and emotions in animals.

VignetConsciousness&EmotionsinAnimals

Do animals dream?

Do animals dream?

During this lecture dr. Rivas will address the question whether other animals have the ability to experience things like pain and pleasure. Are animals robots without subjective experiences or do animals experience sensations and other things in a phenomenally conscious way? The French philosopher René Descartes claimed that nonhuman animals could not be conscious. Behaviorism in psychology also led to a taboo on the subject of consciousness in general. Even today there are still scholars who do not ascribe consciousness to animals, often based on the absence of ‘higher’ cognitive abilities and language. In contrast are positions that argue for the presence of consciousness in animals by argueing from analogy, using systematic analyses of the nervous systems and behaviours of animals. Rivas will present the work of Jaak Panksepp on affective neuroscience, which shows that at least all mammals, and birds too, share a number of brain centers for the same emotional systems. I will also discuss the various emotions of animals. Which particular emotions do they have? Pleasure, pain, jealousy, guilt, gratitude? Which animals seem to mourn deceased conspecifics? And what similarities exist between humans and other animals with regard to altered states of consciousness, such as dreaming and being under the influence of psychoactive medication and drugs?

Saturday 29 March:

Animal Lecture 2: Communication and language research with animals.AL2CommunicationLanguageResearchAnimals

The chimpanzee Tatu makes the sign for BLACK.

The chimpanzee Tatu makes the sign for BLACK.

Animal communication takes places in many different ways. At a certain moment in evolution animal communication developed into human language. The question that scientists and philosophers have had for a long time, is whether humans are the only animals with language. In this lecture dr. Rivas will present recent developments in the scientific study of animal communication and he will discuss the results of language research with nonhuman animals. The following subjects will be presented: The characteristics of human language and animal communication. The relationship between language and brain and language development in human children. What referential information about predators is transmitted in the alarm calls of vervet monkeys and prairie dogs? What are the similarities between birdsong and human language? The natural communication of great apes: facial expressions, vocalisations and gestures. Language research with great apes has been taking place for more than a century. First there were attempts to teach them words, after which several projects were successful in teaching signs to great apes. The famous chimpanzee Washoe and the gorilla Koko learned to use more than hundred signs to communicate with humans. The bonobo Kanzi and other apes learned to communicate by means of geometric symbols or lexigrams. But there is also an ape language controversy, because in what way does this use of symbols compare to human language? Dr. Rivas will also present his own study of the language apes. Finally, the results of language research with dolphins, sealions, parrots (the famous parrot Alex), and dogs will be presented.

Saturday 5 April:

Animal Lecture 3: Recent research on the intelligence of dogs.

AL3DogIntelligence

How smart are dogs?

How smart are dogs?

In the past 19 years many new and exciting studies have been carried out on the intelligence or cognition of dogs. Special institutes for intelligence research with dogs have been set up at universities all over the world: the Family Dog Project at the University of Budapest (Adam Miklosi), the department of Comparative and Developmental Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthroplogy at the University of Leipzig (Juliane Kaminski and Michael Tomasello), the Clever Dog Lab at the University of Vienna (Ludwig Huber), and the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in the USA (Brian Hare). During this lecture dr. Rivas will present and discuss the results of all these recent studies with dogs. Central themes are the social and physical intelligence of dogs. Subjects that will be presented are, amongst others: Do dogs understand what humans see, hear or know? What do dogs learn by social observation, is there evidence for imitation in dogs? Do dogs understand human communicative signals, such as pointing and gaze direction? How much evidence exists regarding empathy in dogs? What are the results of language research with dogs? Are dogs able to understand human words? What does dogs’ physical intelligence consists of, what do they know about their physical environment? Are dogs aware that objects keep existing (object permanence), can dogs count? How do they behave in exciting studies such as the magic cup? This lecture will give you a good review of the current state of affairs of our scientific knowledge about the intelligence of dogs. This will probably change your own view of what dogs are capable of in terms of intelligence.

Saturday  12 April:

Animal Lecture 4: Introduction to animal ethics.

AL4AnimalEthics

How can we best relate to other animals?

How can we best relate to other animals?

During this lecture dr. Rivas will give a review of the most important schools of thought in animal ethics. After a short introduction to philosophy and ethics and the history of moral thought about nonhuman animals, the most important current philosophers will be presented: Peter Singer and his utilitarian ethics of animal liberation. Tom Regan, who argues for animal rights from a deontological perspective. Philosophers who argue that the presence of sentience or consciousness is sufficient condition for moral consideration, such as Gary Francione. Philosophers who make a moral distinction between humans and other animals based on the capacity for language (Frey, Carruthers). Feminist animal ethics which looks at animals with the concepts of care and dialogue. And finally, deep ecology, in which humans and other animals are part of the biosphere. Questions that will be discussed are, a.o.: Is having self-consciousness of importance for the way in which an animal should be treated? Are some animals replaceable? When is a position speciesism, discrimination based on species? What are the arguments for equality among all animals? Do all living beings have an inherent value? What should one do if one were in a lifeboat with 3 other humans and 1 dog, and one individual should be thrown overboard in order for the lifeboat not to sink?

Practical information. The Animal Lectures are organized for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The lectures start at 12.30 and end at 16.30 hours. Registration for the Animal Lectures costs 35 euro for each lecture. Students with a student ID card pay 25 euro for each lecture.

Location: Main Building of the Free University, De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam. This location is well accessible both by car and public transport. Free parking is possible at the Gustav Mahlerlaan and the A.J. Ernstlaan.

Registration: You can register by simply sending an email message to estebanyes@gmail.com. You can register for all or several of the lectures. You will then receive an email message with all practical details, such as payment etc.

Second seminar in the Apes & Dolphins Seminar Series: Our cognitive cousins: The intelligence of apes and dolphins

The Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science and the Dolphin Communication Project are organizing the Apes and Dolphins Seminar Series this year in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Join Esteban Rivas and dolphin cognition researcher Justin Gregg for this three part seminar series exploring the scientific and ethical issues surrounding the study of language and intelligence in apes and dolphins.

OurCognitiveCousins

We are pleased to announce the date of the second seminar in the Apes and Dolphins Seminar Series: On Saturday October 26 the seminar about intelligence research with great apes and dolphins will be held at the Free University in Amsterdam. It’s title is Our cognitive cousins: The intelligence of apes and dolphins. Join me and dolphin expert Justin Gregg for a day-long seminar highlighting the amazing scientific discoveries involving the intelligence of apes and dolphins. The seminar will feature lectures covering the study of ape and dolphin cognition, and what scientists have learned about the way these animals use complex thinking to solve problems both in the lab and in the wild. Despite being distantly related on an evolutionary scale, apes and dolphins have evolved similarly complex social systems, abilities to use artificial communication systems, and capacities for self-awareness. This seminar will discuss the current state of the science on ape and dolphin cognition, and compare the nature of their intelligence to that of humans and other animals. Topics will include social cognition, self-awareness, consciousness, problem solving, tool use, social learning and culture, categorization, emotional intelligence, empathy, altruism, theory of mind, comprehension of human communicative signals, etc. The third speaker at the seminar will be dolphin researcher Hilco Jansma, who will present his experiments on self-investigative behaviour with mirrors by dolphins. There will of course be plenty of time for healthy discussions (and debates) throughout the day. This seminar is the second seminar in the Apes and Dolphins Seminar series, a three part seminar series exploring the scientific and ethical issues surrounding the study of language and intelligence in apes and dolphin. The final seminar, focusing on ethics, will take place later in the year. goodiesRegistration costs 50 Euro (30 Euro for students with student ID), and includes lunch, coffee/tea, as well as a goodie-bag . The seminar will take place at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in room HG 2A06. This is located in the Hoofdgebouw (HG), on the second floor of section A, room #6. Information (in English) on getting to the Vrije Universiteit can be found at this link. A PDF map of the campus can be found at this link – note that the Hoofdgebouw on this map is called “main building” in English, and is located at De Boelelaan 1105. To register for the seminar or for more information, send a message to  estebanyes@gmail.com or fill out the below form:

Please register early to avoid disappointment as there is a maximum number of participants. Follow along with updates and info for the Apes and Dolphins Seminar Series on our Facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/ApesAndDolphinsSeminarSeries FlyerCognitiveCousins Download a PDF flyer (for printing) at this link. MILogoPartnerEventSmallThe Apes and Dolphins Seminar Series is a Minding Animals Partner Event
More info about Minding Animals at www.mindinganimals.com

“Communication and language in animals” course for everyone

In the past few years I have given with great success the course “Communication and language in animals. Recent developments in scientific research” at various universities in The Netherlands for the Higher Education for Older People (HOVO), in which I discuss the current scientific state of affairs with regard to the natural communication of all kinds of animals and the results from language research with various animals. At the HOVOs this course was only available for people of 50 years and older. I repeatedly got requests to organize this course also for people younger than 50 and now it’s time to do so. The Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science is organizing this November a 3-day course “Communication and language in animals” for people of all ages.

Description:

The horse Clever Hans, early 20th century Berlin. Hans purportedly could answer many human questions...

The horse Clever Hans, early 20th century Berlin. Hans purportedly could answer many human questions…

Birds sing, dogs bark, and humans talk: everywhere animals are communicating. In the animal kingdom communication takes place in all kinds of ways. At a certain moment in evolution animal communication developed into human language. The question that scientists and philosophers have been asking for generations, is whether humans have a lonely position as the only animals with language. From the beginning of the 20th century many studies have been carried out in which scientists tried to teach all kinds of nonhuman animals (parts of) the human language. Science has also made a lot of progress in the study of the natural communicaton of animals. In this course we will discuss the current state of affairs with regard to research on communication and language in animals. The course will give you a broad overview, in which the communication and language research with nonhuman animals is presented in a critical manner.

Day 1. Saturday 2 November: Communication and human language: Characteristics and definitions. Language development in human children. The alarm calls of vervet monkeys and prairie dogs. The communication and dances of honeybees. The communication of whales and dolphins.

What information about predators do these prairie dogs communicate to each other?

What information about predators do these prairie dogs communicate to each other?

On the first day we will discuss the various kinds of communication that exist. In order to make a proper distinction between animal communication and human language, the characteristics of human language are presented. We discuss the relationship between language and brain and we will look at language acquisition in human children. We will also look at the interpretation of animal communication: only an expression of passions and emotions, or can animals also refer to various things in the outside world? What meaning can be found in the alarm calls of vervet monkeys and prairie dogs? We will also discuss the dances of honeybees, with which bees can transmit information about food locations. Finally, the natural communication of whales and dolphins is presented, including whale song.

Day 2. Saturday 9 November: The natural communication of, and language research with, the great apes: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans.

The chimpanzee Tatu makes the sign for BLACK.

The chimpanzee Tatu makes the sign for BLACK.

How do our closest relatives communicate? In the past few decades our knowledge has increased about the various forms of communication of the great apes. We will discuss the communicative nature of the facial expressions of great apes, their particular vocalizations, and the communicative gestures that great apes naturally use. Next, the language research with great apes is presented. For more than a century, scientists have attempted to teach a human language to great apes in all kinds of, often controversial, studies. Chimpanzees and other apes were used in experiments in order to make them pronounce human spoken words. Later, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans were taught signs with which to communicate with humans. Famous apes like the chimpanzee Washoe and the gorilla Koko learned over a hundred signs. Nevertheless, soon the ape language controversy started, because in what way can we talk about actual language in these apes? We will discuss the methodological pitfalls and mistakes in interpretations and conclusions. I will also present my own study of the apes in language research. Finally, we will also discuss the research with Kanzi and other bonobos who learned to communicate by using geometric symbols (lexigrams).

Day 3. Saturday 16 November: Bird song and bird calls. Language research with dolphins, sealions and parrots. Understanding of human communicative signals by dogs and other domesticated animals. Language research with dogs. Evolution of human language.

Songbirds sing songs, but also have all kinds of calls with which they communicate.

Songbirds sing songs, but also have all kinds of calls with which they communicate.

All bird species have various kinds of calls: to remain in contact with each other, to express emotions, to warn for predators. How do you recognize these calls when you hear them in your garden or outside? Besides using calls, songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds also sing songs with a specific structure and function, which they learn from their parents. What are the similarities between birdsong and human language? Next, we will discuss language research with other animals than apes: Can dolphins and sealions carry out commands that are given by humans in the form of signs? Can parrots communicate with humans by speaking human words? And what do dogs and other domesticated animals understand of our communication, like pointing and gaze direction? Recent studies have shown that some dogs can understand hundreds of human words for all kinds of objects. Finally, we will discuss several theories about the evolution of human language.

After this course you will have a fresh, new look on the ways in which animals communicate and you will have knowledge regarding the question in what way we can talk about language in other animals. Besides surprising information about the animals around us you will also get an impression of the controversies in this field of study.

For whom? The course is meant for people who work with animals professionally, for students, and for anyone interested in animals and eager to broaden their knowledge about them. A specific former education is not required. The course will be given in the Dutch language, but a passive knowledge of English is convenient, given that some of the films that I will show are not subtitled.

Practical information. The course will be given on three Saturdays in November: November 2, 9 and 16. Each day will start at 11 o’clock in the morning and will end at half past 5 in the afternoon. It is recommended that one takes the whole course of three days, but one can also register for 1 or 2 days of the course. The registration fee is 160 euros for the whole course (students with student ID card 100 euros), or 60 euros (40 euros for students) for each separate day. The price includes a (vegan) lunch and coffee and tea.

Location: Madame de Pompadour, Langsom 28 in Amsterdam. This location is very well accessible both by car (there is even free parking!) and by public transport.

You can register by sending a message to estebanyes@gmail.com or by filling out the form below: