Re: Are we "special"?

Gerrit Hanenburg (
Thu, 05 Dec 1996 22:52:28 GMT (Noel Dickover) wrote:

>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

Sure you can make a case for humans being special. No other animal
accumulates knowledge like we do and no other animal communicates that
knowledge like we do. No other animal maintains libraries, undertakes
extraterrestrial exploration or performs surgery on conspecifics (with
the exception of a case of chimpanzee dentistry in Goodall's "The
Chimpanzees of Gombe" p.548 :-)
Undoubtedly much of that depends on our brains being bigger than
chimpanzee brains, but physiologically they're very similar.