Re: Are we "special"?

Paul Crowley (
Mon, 02 Dec 96 11:30:06 GMT

In article <01bbdfbc$bc21d480$LocalHost@dan-pc> "Rohinton Collins" writes:

> It is because the question is subjective, and scientific questions must be
> objective for them to be relevant. Philosophical questions on the other
> hand are by definition subjective.

Subjective questions are of the sort: "Do you like Madonna?" or
"Do you like ketchup on your burgers?".

The following is NOT a subjective question:
"Is H.s.s. so unusual that it stands outside the normal range
of species to the extent that aspects of its evolution require
explanations of a unique character?"

> Every species' physiology is distinct by definition, so what?

Agreed. However, in leaning over backwards to avoid "subjectivity"
the professionals (as exemplified by Phillips's original statement)
DENY the outstanding characteristics of our species. Your failure
to understand my next paragraph is symptomatic.

> > Apparently our central nervous system, including our brain, is
> > governed by ~40,000 genes. Each gene is made of about 600
> > codons and each codon of 3 bases. That amounts to
> > 40,000 x 600 x 3 which is 72 million bases. It is in this area
> > that we would differ most from chimpanzees. The major changes
> > in morphology, mostly those that concerned bipedalism, would
> > have happened quickly. It is in the CNS that selection
> > operated over millions of years on millions of mutations to
> > produce the distinctive H.s.s. characteristics.
> What are you trying to say? It is most unclear. If you are trying to say
> that our genome is bigger than other species' then you are most mistaken.
> There is some sea worm . . . .

If there was some animal (say a sea worm) with an extraordinary
organ, we would be anxious to explain its function and evolution.
Howeve, we have in H.s.s. an animal with an extraordinary feature
- its CNS, a vast and complex organ which has evolved with amazing
rapidity; there is nothing else like it in nature; yet there is
almost no attempt to explain its evolution. It is wished out of
existence. We happily discuss evolution of muscles, bones, jaws
and teeth, even though these probably involve no more than a few
thousand genes. Yet we have an organ that required the selection
of *millions* of beneficial genetic mutations - and we ignore it.

> > Another way of looking at our "special" nature is that of Prof
> > Frank Tipler: We've good reason to believe that life is common
> > throughout the galaxy and the universe. If _intelligent_ life
> > was present, it would be here already. Since it is not, we
> > should accept that we are alone; and the likelihood of
> > intelligence developing on any one planet is *astronomically*
> > low.

> If you do the maths, there are statistically very many worlds which could
> support life. The likelihood of life evolving on these worlds is high,
> given enough time (a few billion years). You could argue that sentient
> life, which does not automatically imply space-going life, may evolve
> sooner or later. But given the limitation of no known way of traveling
> faster than the speed of light, it is not surprising that aliens have not
> visited the earth.

Try to get November 23rd issue of New Scientist (UK). It has
a lead article on this topic. Frank Tipler suggests that
Darwinian imperatives require that the first intelligent
species will colonise the whole galaxy in about 300 Myr.
It could do this by travelling within the speed of light and
stopping off at each inhibitable planet for about one hundred
years at a time - to allow for the renewal of resources and
duplication of space ships, etc. 300 Myr is nothing in
relation to the life of the universe. So if there was
intelligent life out there - it would be here.