Re: Are we "special"?

Doug (
Thu, 05 Dec 1996 13:59:52 -0500

Thomas Clarke wrote:
> Here are three statements:
> 1. Human beings are animals subject to evolution.
> [Nothing special there]
> 2. Human beings uniquely among animals have language and culture.
> [unique = special?]
> 3. The evolutionary circumstances of human beings are non-special.
> (ordinary, common),
> It seems to me that 3 together with 1 implies that 2 is false.
> If the evolutionary circumstances leading to humans were common,
> then animals with characteristics like humans would have commonly
> evolved.
> So one or more of 1, 2 and 3 must be false.
> I do not doubt 1.
> The truth of 2 is pretty obvious [no non-holocene artifactual pyramids]
> [There could have been the equivalent of Australopithecines or
> pre-sapiens Hominids undetected in the fossil record, I admit,
> but the linguistic status of these is unknown.]
> I conclude that 3 is false, that the evolutionary circumstances
> of human beings are special.
> Of course, as some have pointed out, the specialness of 3 may be
> pretty trivial.
> Tom Clarke

Looks like #1 and #3 are not exclusive of one another and
may be combined. Since humans are part of a superset
called 'animals' subject to a 'process' (evolution) effecting
all members of the superset. Thus, the process is non-special
to any member of the supergroup.

#2 says, IMO:

1. that if a 'group' had language but NO culture,
they are non-special. I have trouble with that one.

2. that if a 'group' had culture but NO language,
they are non-special. I don't have trouble with that one.

Thus, if a process that is not unique to a supergroup and
operates on a subset of that supergroup, how can that
subset claim to be unique by a non-unique process???

The comments and opinions stated herein are mine alone,
and do not reflect those of my employer.