Re: Are we "special"?

Susan S. Chin (
Mon, 2 Dec 1996 07:01:26 GMT

In article <> "Phillip Bigelow" writes:
: > Also note one other thing in my list: not a *single* question regarding
: > how "special" our hominid lineage is. That is because, philosophically,
: > I don't believe that our lineage is that "special" in the first place.
: [from thread: "An alternative to ST and AAT"]

Paul Crowley ( wrote:
: Why can't this question be scientific rather than
: philosophical? While it has nearly always been posed and
: answered in a philosophical sense, I can see no reason why it
: should not be a scientific one.

Well, scientifically, the human lineage is the only one of the Hominoids
which stood up on two feet. This is a unique form of locomotion among
Primates. Perhaps describing this as "special" implies a value judgement
in terms of the importance of human evolution versus that of the rest of the
natural world. Afterall, if other living things didn't evolve, we
wouldn't be here today to talk about it.

: Much will hang on the answer. If we conclude that we are
: "special" then we will be asking a very different range of
: questions about human evolution. We will want to explain
: the origin of those features that make us "special".

I definitely think the uniquely hominid form of locomotion needs much
research, and that this area is key to understanding human evolution and
why today, we are the most successful Hominoids.

: Phillip has opted for a particular philosophical stance - in
: line with the whole profession. I suggest that he (and it) may
: well be utterly wrong, and that this is the source of much of
: the deep unhappiness that many laymen feel about the answers
: (or more precisely, the lack of answers) produced by the
: profession. In a sense, we all know that we are "special",
: whereas the profession has, almost perversely, decided
: otherwise and is determined not to provide the answers we all
: want.

Anthropologists have at times had to justify the importance of their
subject matter. Frankly, we're interested in human evolution because
we're human. No apologies needed. No value judgements need enter into
this either.