Camp Statement: Subjective experience, language, and consciousness can be completely explained in terms of abilities we share with the simplest of creatures,
I completely agree. Unfortunately the statement goes downhill from here.
Camp Statement: specifically the ability to detect, react to, and associate (DRA) various aspects of the world.
Hmmm.there is a sophisticated science that has developed a conceptually clean, useful vocabulary that has been adopted by many, and is the basis of the only real natural science of behavior there has ever been (ethology showed promise, but its conceptual missteps were too great to be overcome), but the author(s) of this statement appear oblivious to it. Why invent this new terminology of "detection" and "reaction," when there is an existing science with which you could make contact? The simplest kind of behavior is, perhaps, the unconditioned elicited response. The unconditioned elicited response is an analytical unit composed of a class of eliciting stimuli and a class of responses. Errthere's your "detection" and "reaction," but the analysis of this analytical unit was, from the beginning, extremely sophisticated. To this day there are not that many people who are familiar with the sort of careful conceptual analysis of the notions "stimulus" and "response" that was put forth in Skinner's "The Generic Nature of the Concepts of Stimulus and Response." In any event, the unconditioned elicited response is a functionally-defined, analytical unit that is a (but not "the") starting point for the analysis of "learning" and, thus, a starting point for the analysis of the sorts of behavioral observations that have traditionally been discussed in terms of an alleged "mind." The term "associate" and the notion of associationism date at least from Aristotle, but it was, of course, Pavlov that began the systematic exploration of the effects of arranging certain kinds of relationships among stimuli. The analysis of classical conditioning is now quite complex and sophisticated and, as with the very definition of unconditioned elicited behavior, is not well understood by the general public or even by most professionals who are, in one way or another, concerned with the sorts of behavior said to require a "mind." Although many who study Pavlovian conditioning have jumped on the cognitive "science" bandwagon, the alleged cognitive processes allegedly going on are largely superfluous to an analysis that forgoes, for the time being, any attempt at mediationism in order to pursue, directly, relations between experimental arrangements and their behavioral effects. That strategy is, of course, the foundation of the experimental analysis of behavior, nowadays simply referred to as "behavior analysis." In addition to elicited behavior, there is another kind of behavior that is not closely tied (at least at first) to some antecedent stimulus. Such behavior occurs spontaneously (from a behavioral-level standpoint) and is often modifiable by its consequences*. Such behavior is called "operant" behavior a term coined by B.F. Skinner, who founded behavior analysis and the philosophy called "radical behaviorism." The fundamental analytical unit of operant behavior is the "operant" or "operant response class." An operant response class is, like conditioned and unconditioned elicited responses, functionally defined. Whereas elicited behavior is a functionally-defined correlation between a class of stimuli and a class of responses whose occurrence depends on the presentation of the stimuli, an operant is defined, for starters anyway, in terms of all responses that have a particular effect on the environment. In the laboratory, the consequence that defines an operant is generally the closure of a switch mounted on a lever or behind a piece of Plexiglas (i.e., a "pigeon key"), and a response is defined as any thing the animal does that closes the switch. Certain sorts of events (food-delivery, for example) can then be made contingent on these responses, and if the arrangement of such contingencies causes an increase in the frequency of occurrence of members of the response class, the event is called a "reinforcer." When these two-term contingencies are made to function only in the presence of a particular stimulus, and not in its absence, the stimulus exerts control, in conjunction with other variables, over the probability of the response. This is referred to as "stimulus control" and the stimulus a "discriminative stimulus."
I have been somewhat long-winded above for a reason; to the extent that "detection," "reaction," and "association" have some overlap with the basic notions that characterize behavior analysis, then, to some extent, one set of terminology is redundant and fails to direct a listener's attention to the relevant data. I would hold that "detection," etc. are not only redundant, they also lack the sort of sophisticated conceptual analysis that surrounds the terms employed by behavior analysis, an undeniably successful natural science of behavior. Finally, before I turn to other aspects of the camp statement, I would say that, contrary to popular belief, the theoretical speculations of Skinner and others are quite cogent; the only people that think, for example, that Chomsky's "review" of Skinner's "Verbal Behavior" was LEGITIMATELY devastating (for there is no doubt that it was enormously influential) are those that have not read the book (as Chomsky did not!).
*Ultimately, I would argue that behavior should be classified by its locus in a two dimensional space where the axes are "elicitability" and "modifiability."
Camp Statement: With these three innate abilities, an organism can begin to form de facto categories (some things are food or a mate; some aren't), develop expectations, and learn. We can see such capabilities in numerous other animals, but there is no need to assume at this point that they have any self-awareness or are anything more than a contiguous collection of chemical reactions, which happen, by evolutionary 'selection', to all work in a coordinated way to further 'their' collective survival. Thoughts are not yet 'about,' or 'directed toward,' anything. Intentionality is an interpretation in the eye of an observer and without language there isn't one. Communication learning, associations of certain sounds with certain DRA experiences, is seen in several animal species. Human language is different in degree but not kind. A language is not shared words/syntax, it is shared or, rather, convergent, experiences which are associated with those words/syntax and which give them their meaning. Just as a vervet monkey learns what to do and emit when it detects an eagle as opposed to a snake, a child learns which detections (hunger, color) to associate with the sounds such as 'I am hungry' or 'I see red.' As previous linguistic associations are applied to new experiences, children are capable of uttering intelligible phrases which they may have never heard before. An organism's subjective experience is also explained in terms of detection, reaction, association, and language. Consciousness--the information that an entity or monad can process about itself and the world--is a continuum with bacteria (or chemical reactions like rust) at one end and human self-awareness at the other.
There is much to be praised in the above. However, like the terminology resulting in the acronym DRA, it seems to be a somewhat preliminary discussion of topics that have been written about for more than a century, and have been systematized during the more than 70 year history of behavior analysis. Indeed, to some extent, it seems like an attempt to treat behavioral phenomena from the same perspective as behavior analysis but to shun its sophisticated concepts and rich empirical data base. Surely the author(s) of this camp statement must be aware, at some level, of behavior analysis. [And, incidentally, you can see much of its history of research, as well as theoretical and conceptual issues, here: http://seab.envmed.rochester.edu/jeab/ ]. That is most puzzling to me. Having said all that, however, I must say that much of what is said in the camp statement seems naÃ¯ve, hasty, and needlessly idiosyncratic (i.e., "monads," really?). Further, I would ask the adherents of this position to consider the brilliant theoretical and conceptual analyzes offered by Skinner concerning verbal response classes and, in particular, the relation of these analyzes to the topic of "self-awareness." The behavior of humans is certainly understandable as a continuous with other organisms, but there is much that, in humans, achieves a level of complexity that is unmatched by other organisms. In particular, much of the so-called "communication" among non-humans has little relevance to human verbal behavior. In most non-humans, "communication" involves elicited behavior that functions as eliciting stimuli in conspecifics. Human verbal behavior can be viewed as operant behavior in which the reinforcer is mediated through the actions of listeners, and this is the starting point of Skinner's "Verbal Behavior." Self-awareness, then, is viewed as arising when a verbal community arranges contingencies that bring our verbal behavior under stimulus control of other aspects of our behavior. So, differences in "human language" and the "communication systems" of other species are, in fact different in kind, although operant behavior is present in all birds, mammals, bony fishes, and some reptiles, as well as some invertebrates**. Further, "self-awareness" does not follow from species membership, or so the argument goes. Its emergence depends on the arrangement of contingencies that "force" that awareness; it happens when our own behavior becomes discriminative stimuli for verbal responses.
Finally, I am not naÃ¯ve, and I do not think that this little piece can convince the (two?) members of this camp to abandon the concepts of DRA but, admittedly, that is an ultimate goal. However, I think that the initial sentence of the camp statement is something that I agree with; the aspects of behavior said to require a mind is built out of behavioral processes that humans have in common with many organisms. What if that was the basis of the camp statement, but the particulars of what those behavioral processes are take a lower level? That would not be the most satisfying to me, however, and as I suggested, "detection and reaction" are simply subsumed by the notion of unconditioned elicited responses. Anyway, there is much more that I could say, but I have been too long-winded already.
** This is not to say that it is necessarily present in all vertebrates - I'm not sure that there are convincing evidence for operant conditioning in amphibians.