Re: Are we "special"?

Paul Z. Myers (
Mon, 02 Dec 1996 15:18:47 -0500

In article <01bbdfdd$df787300$>, "John
Waters" <> wrote:

>Paul Crowley <> wrote in article
>> 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,
>> > I don't believe that our lineage is that "special" in
>the first place.
>> [from thread: "An alternative to ST
>and AAT"]
>> Phillip has opted for a particular philosophical stance -
>> 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
>> (or more precisely, the lack of answers) produced by the
>> profession. In a sense, we all know that we are
>> whereas the profession has, almost perversely, decided
>> otherwise and is determined not to provide the answers we
>> want.
>JW: Yes, this is a fascinating aspect of modern science
>isn't it? In many ways it is so precise and meticulous.
>This is particularly true when it is reporting upon minute
>species differences in plants and animals.
>And yet, when the human species enters the frame of
>reference, all that scientific objectivity and impartiality
>seems to fly out of the window. It appears to be a reaction
>to Social Darwinism. The founding father of evolution held
>views about human specialness, which the current scientific
>community finds embarrassing.

Social Darwinism has little to do with Darwin's theories.
It is a contrived aberration, a justification for certain
kinds of behavior that was cobbled up by non-biologists.
And I don't know what you mean by Darwin's views about
human "specialness" -- he actually wrote at great length
about the expression of behaviors we consider human in
other animals.

>As a sort of knee jerk reaction, the anthropological
>community bends over backwards to show that humans are just
>another animal. Just an ordinary sort of primate, nothing
>special. Different, but only very slightly different. In
>fact, hardly different at all. Just a glorified ape really.
>And because of this, a great deal of research is expended
>on the study of Chimpanzees, on the basis that their
>behaviour is virtually the same as ours, only less
>However, as Paul says, a great many human beings feel that
>they are different from apes, in a qualitative way. There
>seems to be a great deal more in common between the
>Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangs and Gibbons, than
>between humans and apes. And many do suspect some sort of
>scientific cover up, to obscure the real differences.
>This is patent nonsense. The scientific community is as
>varied, and competitive, and anarchic as any group of
>people anywhere. And yet??
>Consider the little matter of human multi-age broods of
>young. Apes have single-age broods. In fact, the human
>species is the only species of mammal to rear multi-age
>broods of infants to maturity. Come to that, they are the
>only species of animal to raise multi-age broods to
>maturity. Enough to ensure putting them in a separate
>Phylum, if they were another animal. But they are not. They
>are not allowed to be different. It would be politically

This is it? This is the phenomenal difference that sets us
apart from all other animals?

No, this definitely is not enough of a difference to justify
putting homo in a different phylum, and indicates that you
really don't know much about classification schemes. Are you
arguing that this one trait makes us as different from chimps
as chimps are from insects or jellyfish? That's just plain silly.

It's also irrelevant. It is a consequence of the long period of time
for humans to reach maturity...the alternative would be for humans
to have no more than 1 child every 15 years or so. This long maturation
is an interesting specialization, but practically EVERY organism
has some unique specialization!

<8 paragraphs yammering on about multi-age broods deleted>

Paul Z. Myers
Dept. of Biology
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA 19122 (215) 204-8848