Thought #11. Change your mind.


I love people capable of enjoying and appreciating every moment to the full. There exists a food-related word that goes perfectly well with the act of lingering enjoyment: savour.

This afternoon I was savouring the embrace of a cosy wing chair when I started asking myself about the definition of thought. After a refreshing siesta, I’m back in front of the computer, determined to type in something aesthetically attractive about thinking and thoughts, brains and minds.

Obviously, thought is the act of thinking. To us, human beings, the brain seems to be the closest thing to a magic wand that almost every single creature has. As always, there are exceptions that prove the rule, though. Deep-sea sponges, for example, are devoid of brain and have lived for millions of years successfully. Some scientists now accept as true that they once had a brain but discarded it. Apparently, there are not the only animals without the organ controlling thought, memory, feelings, etc.

Seemingly, my mind is wandering again. Let me go back to square one. However, the reader must not expect an organised essay as this is just a memory dump.

“I think, therefore I am.” (Rene Descartes)

“You liar, look at sponges!” (Me)

Well, I wonder Descartes did not know about these new insights into thinking machines, aka “brains”. What appears to be more certain is that the ability to be sentient is not exclusive to human beings. Last year, Sir David Attenborough joined 21 signatories to an open letter calling for the end to cruel brain tests on primates. Mr Attenborough explained that there is enough evidence to conclude that primates not only have feelings but also can suffer, for all intents and purposes, like us. Therefore it is inhuman to treat them as mere animals.

Sooner or later, as expected, the obvious counter-argument to the above objection was raised. More than 400 scientists including two Nobel laureates signed another open letter letting it be known that brain experiments on primates are still useful for many purposes and, in particular, are crucial to medical advances.

I read those news items when they were published. After chewing the issue over since then, I have formed a clear mental picture of the crudely wired chimps. In the cold light of day, I realised how cruel and evil we can become. I can’t just bury my head in the sand. I would call on all scientists to think outside the box in order to come up with an alternative solution.

Being a layman in science, I should not judge experts. It just so happens that I keep going over and over the chimp’s picture in my mind and that is unbearable. I prefer to think back to when I saw a couple of chimps capering around in an Attenborough’s documentary, a vivid savouring memory which is still an intoxicating thought.

In conclusion, should scientists rack their brains, they will surely have second thoughts about torturing our closest ancestors. This way, my mind could be set at rest once and for all. It speaks for itself, to err is human and to change your mind is, more often than not, a wise choice.