Re: Are we "special"?

John Waters (
4 Dec 1996 10:12:58 GMT

Paul Z. Myers <> wrote in
> In article
<01bbdfdd$df787300$>, "John
> Waters" <> wrote:
> 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.

JW: I don't think it was so much a question of human
specialness per se, as British specialness. Many people in
Victorian Britain believed that there was some sort of
pecking order with the superior British at the top and
inferior black or yellow races at the bottom. I am not
saying that Darwin believed this sort of thing, but to
maintain credibility in Victorian society, he had to say
the sorts of things which people could readily relate to.

> >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.

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

JW: All other mammals and all other sexual animals have
single-age broods or the equivalent, while the Human
species has multi-age broods. The suggestion of a separate
Phylum was provocative, but it was designed to make people

Instead, it has brought the typical knee-jerk reaction I
was talking about. Instead of considering the issues,
people get on their high horses. The truth won't go away
simply because you don't want to look at it. Indeed, it
will come back to haunt you.

> 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
> has some unique specialization!

JW: Of course, otherwise they wouldn't be a separate
species. But if you can divide the mammalian class into two
groups, where each group has exactly the same set of
attributes in respect of a particular characteristic, then
this is a bit more than speciation. For example, you might
divide mammals into bipedal and non-bipedal species. But in
this case, the non-bipedal species do not all have the same
set of characteristics in terms of locomotion.

Whereas if you divide mammals in terms of their brood
characteristics, humans have multi-age broods and all the
other mammals have single-age broods. Do you see what I
mean, Paul?

However, please notice that I am not saying that humans are
special in anyway. They are different in many ways. They
are the only bipedal mammal. But so what? This is only a
difference in terms of locomotion. And bipedalism has
(quite correctly) been well described by science. They are
the only mammal to rear multi-age broods of young to
maturity. But so what? That is only a difference in terms
of infant rearing characteristic. But science has yet to
describe this particular characteristic. The LBI broods and
SBI broods which I talk of on this newsgroup have no
official scientific existence. They exist in reality, but
not in the world of knowledge.

If you want a definition of the multi-age brood
characteristic, please look at my reply to Michael Daunt.
In you want to see it in action, please look at virtually
any American family. They are virtually all either SBI
broods or LBI broods. Nothing special, even if they are
American ;-) But don't look for a multi-age brood in your
local Zoo.

Thank you for your interest.