“Despite these observations, it was not possible to conclude the flies were experiencing fear, Dr. Anderson said.”
“We can only know that by verbal report,” he said. “So we can’t scientifically study feelings in any creature but a human.”
Or, we could simply observe behavior without injecting human thoughts into the minds of the animal (or insect) that we are observing (this requires an immediate-moment manner of analysis) and go on to deduce that the most logical definition of fear is that it is the collapse of a state of attraction. In other words, it’s not elemental, it’s not one of the prime emotions, it is closely related to emotion, but it is not emotion.
And we don’t need the verbal report of the individual to one understand that the balance circuitry is involuntarily invoked whenever the rate of input overwhelms the sensory and processing capacity of the organism. Not to mention that since billions of people worldwide describe that fear and falling are unitary, that’s a pretty substantial”report” if that is what we require. What we need to do is explore through logical analysis the domain of emotion and the relationship of fear to emotion. In contrast treating fear as the provenance of psychology will always prove confounding. An animal (or insect) does not “feel threatened.” This is a human time-centric psychology and is in fact an oxymoron of combining a feeling with a thought (comparing one moment in time with another moment in time), a perspective that becomes more and more challenging as we discover emotional affects in the lower phyla. Rather an animal FEELS sensations of collapse. If these sensations are more intense than the organism can process, this then interrupts a state of attraction without which an organism can’t function and so it attempts to flee that particular frame of reference.
And if we observe that insects conform to these same parameters, this then means that emotion is most likely the universal operating system of consciousness, the most parsimonious explantation for how living beings move about the earth so that their movements as directed by an emotional state of attraction will thereby conform to the movement of energies on earth (thermodynamics and the laws of motion) and in this manner prove adaptive.
While on the surface it may seem open minded to reserve judgment on the nature of fear and what’s going on inside an insect as the scientist quoted is dutifully doing, nonetheless this is not a neutral position. Science is already assuming that fear is an emotion, it is already assuming that emotion is purposive due to intention, it is already assuming that emotion is a neurological phenomenon, and that there are several if not many emotions because these correspond to various neurological structures and neurochemical cocktails, it is already assuming that emotion is a psychology and so is not testing these hidden assumptions while at the same time building its theories and conjectures upon these as its supporting pillars.