Re: Are we "special"?

Noel Dickover (
Wed, 4 Dec 1996 11:55:29 -0500

In article <581ned$>, says...
> (Paul Crowley) wrote:
> >Our "specialness" is manifest in the extent of our culture by
> >comparison with that of animals, but that may not be a good
> >enough for a scientist. We must be be able to show that we are
> >"special" in our physiology. This is entirely possible.
> Our physiology is basically that of a mammal. If you have studied
> human physiology then you know pretty well how mammals function in
> general. Physiologically we are not very "special".

I think one would have a hard time showing that a human is "special" if
looked at only as a single entity. Understanding that "special" is a
very subjective term, I think that the specialness is completely embedded
in our social structure and language. The fact that we can discuss
events that happened in the past or might happen in the future sets us
apart from almost all other species (last I heard there might be some
questions as to whether certain whale species can do this). This allows
us to adapt to a wide variety of habitats, including possibly in the
future, habitats not located on earth.

Leaving aside the point that an infant would not survive without this
social structure, I think we would find that a human that was raised by
itself would not display a lot of special properties. Physiologically,
we are not very special, but within our social structures, I think its
pretty easy to make the case that we are at a minimum, very different,
(which we interpret to mean very special) from anything else on this

> The major differences between human and chimpanzee brains are relative
> size and the degree of interconnectivity. These differences can in
> principle be the result of differences in developmental timing
> (heterochrony) or allometric relationships.These in their turn can be
> the result of mutations in only a few (regulatory) genes. The
> differences do not require millions of mutations.


Kinda sounds like Bateson's "difference that makes the difference".


Noel Dickover