Re: Are we "special"?

Rohinton Collins (
4 Dec 1996 22:59:47 GMT

Noel Dickover <> wrote in article

> 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,

Exactly, which gives the question "Are we special?" absolutely no
scientific validity.

> 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.

We may be better than other species at doing this, but we certainly aren't
the only species able to do this. Bees can describe where flowers may be
found by dancing. Many animals can predict events based on past experience.

> 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.

You mean culture?

> 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
> planet.

Every species is 'very different' from every other species on this planet,
especially from its own point of view.

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

What? Gerrit was trying to emphasise the effectors of evolution. Evolution
builds on what its got, it adds with small increments (mutations). It will
find the easiest/smallest mutation in order to get the desired result.