From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Octopus's garden: Painful thoughts

Giant Pacific Octopus  (Public Domain)
Listening to the Beatles, you could swear that all is happy-happy-joy-joy within the octopus's garden under the sea.

It is therefore a very good thing that William Skaggs of Scientific American recently raised this head-scratching questionHow Could We Recognize Pain in an Octopus?

Skaggs, believe it or not, has not been the first to wonder about such things.  He was particularly inspired by a Katherine Harmon blog post titled Do Octopuses Feel Pain?  Skaggs lists Harmon's
"three elements that are involved in feeling pain" - these being nociception ("having mechanisms in the body that are capable of detecting damage and transmuting it into neural signals"), the experience of pain (whatever that means…), and "the ability to communicate pain information from sensation to perception (which sounds a lot like an "experience" of pain).

According to Skaggs, all this verbiage doesn't amount to a pile of seaweed when trying to truly understand an octopus's ouch factor.  After plowing through her other examples of aliens, humanoid-appearing robots and ordinary humans – readers were left making these comments:

If it turns an upset color and starts squirting ink and water at you maybe it's feeling something unpleasant…  just a thought…

This burning question has kept me up nights for years.      


Copyright September 22, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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