Re: Are we "special"?

Tom Clarke (
3 Dec 1996 09:00:37 -0500 (Paul Crowley) writes:

>In article <01bbe064$0bf86440$LocalHost@dan-pc>
> "Rohinton Collins" writes:

>> Paul Crowley <> wrote in article
>> > 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?"
>> It is a non-sensical question however.

>You are not worth replying to, Roh, because you mistake
>assertions for arguments. You have not learnt how to give
>reasons to back up what you want to say. For example, why
>is the above question non-sensical? It is not good enough
>simply to assert. Try to show that it contains an error in
>logic or fact.

>> A feature of hominids may be a *relatively* complex CNS, but this
>> does not make us *special*. This word has no place in scientific
>> argument or this newsgroup.

>Why? Is this assertion based on some superstition?

>> Is an eagle *special*
>> because it can detect movement at several hundred metres? Is an
>> owl *special* because it can see in almost complete darkness?

>We are able to explain ...
>or an eagle's or an owl's eyesight.

In a general way I suppose, there is a continuum of fitness of eyesight,
but the mention of birds makes me think of flight.
Now it seems to me that the status of the evolution of bird flight
is much the same as the status of the evolution of human conscisousness
and language and even bipedalism.

Birds are basically reptiles with feathers and lightened bones etc
(or dinosaurs according to some writers). Once they reached the
threshold of flight, the selective value of feathers and other avian
features is clear. The problem, of course. comes with intermediate
forms. What possible use is being half bird-like to a reptile.
One would think it would only impede its locomotion, having feathers
etc. On could of course speculate about insulation value etc, but
it is speculation at this point in science.

For H.s how the bipedal gait developed, how the big brain evolved are
also problems of the same nature.

FUrthermore, since we are H.s, these problems are special to us,
they are the problems of evolution that we would most like to see

The problem of a dogs sensitive smell is different. An animal with
20x better smell on the way to developing 400x better smell would
have an advantage over a relatively insensitive animal. There is
a continuum with changes resulting in continuously increasing selective

Since evolution cannot suspend the relentless selection for reproductive
success to reach a more desirable end form, the problem is to
figure out what is "special" about being half flighted or half bipedal or
half conscious that enhances reproductive success, or alternatively
to find and support evidence for a "special" environment that
made being half-way a successful reproductive evolutionary strategy.

Tom Clarke

We can dissect the organs,
>study them in detail and compare then with other similar species.
>We have no difficulty about outlining the probable evolution of
>the organ and its probable causes.

>OTOH, we gain little by dissecting our CNS or by making any
>other physical study; there is not much point in comparing it
>with other species; we have not begun to outline its probable
>evolution or the reasons for that evolution.

>> Just because we have a relatively complex CNS, this makes us no
>> more special than the next species.

>It's more than "a relatively complex CNS". The dog's nose or the
>eagle's eyes don't facilitate this internet thingy -- or anything
>*remotely* of that dimension. You are clearly determined to keep
>your own CNS deeply buried in the sand. Try asking some ordinary
>people: "Do humans have anything special that distinguishes them
>from all other animals?". Expect some funny looks, and don't push
>it, or you'll be prescribed mood-altering pills.

>Scientists must begin to worry when they find that some doctrine
>or philosophical belief or tradition has detached them from what
>is understood as plain common sense or from any real connection
>with the rest of the community on an important issue.

>Let's try some focussed Yes/No questions:
> 1) Do you accept that selection operated in the CNS over
> millions of years on millions of mutations to produce the
> distinctive H.s.s. characteristics?

> 2) Do you accept that no account of human evolution can begin to
> be satisfactory unless it addresses the process and cause of
> these mutations?


There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet - Shakespeare