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    Demonstrating that snakes experience emotions

    Good discussion from Intrepid Exotics...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TFO3iOOOCY
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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    BPnet Veteran BeansTheDerp's Avatar
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    Re: Demonstrating that snakes experience emotions

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    Good discussion from Intrepid Exotics...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TFO3iOOOCY

    Such a wonderful video, I love how gentle and considerate he is with the snakes and how calm his voice is. Is it alright if I post one or two other videos on the matter?
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    Re: Demonstrating that snakes experience emotions

    Quote Originally Posted by BeansTheDerp View Post
    ...Is it alright if I post one or two other videos on the matter?
    Of course, please do- & if they relate to this topic, you may as well keep them in this thread for the benefit of discussion.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
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  7. #4
    BPnet Veteran Malum Argenteum's Avatar
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    Can I disagree?

    He doesn't 'demonstrate' that snakes have emotions. He simply postulates his conclusion. He presents a calm snake, and then a skittish one that calms down with time and handling, and assumes the conclusion is apparent. This is the most troubling part of the video, in my opinion. He's preaching to the choir, to use one metaphor; he's begging the question, to point out the formal error in reasoning.

    That 'demonstration' doesn't establish anything about internal states, and might be explained much more simply in terms of reduced stress responses. Stress hormone levels such as cortisol/corticosterone modulate "fear" responses, but this doesn't necessarily entail a corresponding mental state since animals such as corals use the same chemicals when "stressed" (and I don't think it is reasonable to suppose that corals have emotions).

    He also states that people who responded to his question basically all thought snakes have emotions. That's a public opinion poll, which tells only what people think (or better: what they claim to think) and may or may not reflect reality. Consider those polls about how many people think the earth is 6000 years old, or the like; no fact about geologic history can be inferred from them.

    As far as I know, there aren't sufficient structural anatomical homologues in reptile brains that would support emotions in at all the same way that they're supported in animals we're pretty sure have emotions, so again if snakes have 'emotions' that word means something pretty different than we mean in humans. It would be like supposing snakes could fly, even though they don't have wings or any structure that we know assists flying in all the animals we think can fly. Someone might assert that snakes fly by some unknown mechanism such as blowing air out of their cloacas and steering with their tongues, but that would take quite a lot of solid evidence.

    Snakes of course respond to pain, and to situations that we categorize as stressful, but even if those experiences involve some sort of conscious state, emotion is something over and above that.

    Another hurdle to get over is formulating even a possible evolutionary explanation. It is hard to imagine a case that could be made that there's an adaptive advantage to emotion in animals such as snakes. There are very clear disadvantages that must be outweighed by reproductive benefits. Emotion is both physiologically costly (calories to run the brain structures -- real bad in an animal that has erratic food intake and depends on a low metabolic rate to survive) and has adaptive downsides (pretty much every boneheaded thing humans do that is driven by emotion). Unless there are serious adaptive benefits -- a good example is the social bonding needed to make human and similar animals' reproductive patterns work well -- emotions won't evolve. I don't see any reason to think that emotion would be adaptive in snakes, certainly not adaptive enough to outweigh the costs.

    One sort of anecdotal test that I personally use to try to figure out the mental states of animals is to see whether they remember stressful experiences. Mammals (at least cats and sheep, the non-human animals I pay the most attention to; sheep do it more clearly, which is interesting) do. But snakes are different. When I hold a snake down to give it an injection, it freaks out like it is going to either die or kill me. But five seconds after I release it, it is fine. My vet (former, now a zoo vet) pointed out to me some time ago that snakes don't hold grudges over passing offenses, and I think that's true (of course chronic stressors will have much more lasting effects, but that's likely explainable purely physiologically). But emotions of the sort humans are familiar with have connections with memory that make our experiences in this regard very different.

    Anyway, just some friendly food for thought. I won't push this, but some might find it useful to consider some problems with the idea.

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    Re: Demonstrating that snakes experience emotions

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    Of course, please do- & if they relate to this topic, you may as well keep them in this thread for the benefit of discussion.

    Do reptiles have emotions: https://youtu.be/-CzKh8bBjkY?si=j6F4c0II7NMtm8vY

    Snake intelligence: https://youtu.be/LlUBSbOOCGI?si=3XR0OvFWvTCXx9sJ
    Last edited by BeansTheDerp; 03-02-2024 at 10:54 PM.
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    I knew this would get a rise out of someone. But that's okay. Whether or not we all agree on this, it's a view that nonetheless might help to soften up the "snake-haters" out there.

    And as far as members here, some of us enjoy a little anthropomorphism now & then.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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    BPnet Veteran Malum Argenteum's Avatar
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    Re: Demonstrating that snakes experience emotions

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    I knew this would get a rise out of someone. But that's okay. Whether or not we all agree on this, it's a view that nonetheless might help to soften up the "snake-haters" out there.

    And as far as members here, some of us enjoy a little anthropomorphism now & then.
    I think disagreement is the main thing that moves animal care forward, since that's how we learn and how change comes about. We just need to disagree productively, which I'm totally up for. I'm really glad this community is up for it too.

    As much as I really dislike the snakes in hats sorts of photos all over the internet, they are kind of a good PR thing for snakes too. Maybe this is something like that, I don't know.

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    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    And the science side of things is good for snakes too, but it's just not everyone's cup o' tea. Just looking to get a conversation going.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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    Re: Demonstrating that snakes experience emotions

    Quote Originally Posted by Malum Argenteum View Post
    ...

    ...some might find it useful to consider some problems with the idea.
    Yep...some problems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    And the science side of things is good for snakes too, but it's just not everyone's cup o' tea. Just looking to get a conversation going.
    One has to be careful using that word today...

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    Re: Demonstrating that snakes experience emotions

    I don't know about emotions, but they don't form emotional attachments, at least not with their keepers. I'm as nice and can be to my Children's python and he tried to eat me.

    I get the anthropomorphism. It helps us bond with out pets and I do it too. But, one of the things that drew me to keeping snakes is how different they are from us. I remember a presentation I attended as a young man where the keeper, showing off a cobra, told us that, despite the fact that he had raised it from an egg, it would not hesitate to kill him. To me, that's indicative of a creature whose emotional make up, if any, is totally alien to mine, and I find that fascinating.
    Last edited by Homebody; 03-03-2024 at 12:21 PM.
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