The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness
On 7 July 2012, at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, Churchill College, University of Cambridge, UK, a group of prominent cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists and computational neuroscientists gathered to “to reassess the neurobiological substrates of conscious experience and related behaviours in human and non-human animals”. Some of their observations at that meeting were:
The field of Consciousness research is rapidly evolving, which calls for a periodic re-evaluation of previously held preconceptions in this field.
The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures, as subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviours in animals.
Birds appear to offer, in their behaviour, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Magpies in particular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.
The group of scientists concerned then declared the following:
The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK. The signing ceremony was memorialized by CBS 60 Minutes.
In view of the above declaration it is of particular interest to mention that during her classes with students in London, in early 1891, H. P. Blavatsky suggested that:
The many traditions of the Perennial Wisdom affirm the primacy of life or consciousness and the unfolding of its inherent qualities through the long evolutionary process.