Re: Are we "special"?

Thomas Clarke (
11 Dec 1996 16:13:28 GMT

In article <> Phillip Bigelow <> writes:
> Thomas Clarke wrote:

> > So the word "special" is a red-flag indicating creationism?

> Substitute "creationism" with "philosophical beliefs OR creationism".

What's wrong with philosophy anyway? Provided it is dealing with the
subject at hand. In this case the philosopical view that man has
special or unique characteristics could guide research in directions,
trying to find explanations for those characteristics, that would
not otherwise be addressed.

Sure the slope is slippery, but if you don't cross the occassional
glacier you can't get up the mountain.

> Yes. In PA, to me it is a red-flag. I can't speak for anyone else.
> I prefer the more succinct words: derived, apomorphy, plesiomorphy, etc.
> These words don't carry so much biased weight as does "special"
> or "unique".

Succinct? "Special" is shorter than all but "derived" and
"derived" has an entirely different meaning. :-)

As some one else on this thread pointed out in an almost trivial
sense all species are unique. All species are currently
the result of unique evolutionary factors. All are apomorphic
is some respects and plesiomorphic in others.

Show me a species plesiomorphic with respect to H.s in language
ability, then I'll drop any claim to human uniqueness.

> I fully realize that many pop-authors have based *entire* books
> on the flawed idea that humans are unique animals.

We are unique animals. All animals are (trivially) unique.

> Hell, Elaine
> Morgan wrote two books using such a premise (and I have read them
> both). So I realize that I am fighting an up-hill battle with you
> on this topic.

Only two of them?
Now when did I mention Elaine Morgan in this thread?
I do have an open mind, the unique environment which I think
had to exist could just have been Africa east of the rift valley.
I'm kind of fond of ice, myself, for the later stages of hominid

> > Do you have a list of red-flag words you could post, or
> > provide a pointer for words that should be avoided?

> Well, don't let me stop you from using your own choice of words!
> You can use any terminology you wish to describe the evolution of
> hominids. That doesn't mean I will always enthusiastically agree with
> your usage.

Well, if I take you as a typical "professional' paleontologist,
I want to use words that have some hope of communicating what I
mean. Apparently if the wrong words are used communication is much
reduced when word usage rather than reality becomes the issue.

> I was just pointing out that Paul and Ed Conrad appear
> to share the same premise about humans. Otherwise, they wouldn't
> use the same word.

Now, how can you maintain that in _ALL_ senses of the word, humans
are just "typical" animals?
That is as silly a position as that huminids got the way they are
through devine intervention.

Granted humans evolved just like any other animal (point 1 in my
logical argument). In this sense they are typical or ordinary.

However, we are conversing over the internet which is hardly a
typical activity for an animal (my point 2).

What word should I use to distinguish this ability of humans from
the lack of that ability in non-human animals?

> The fact that they are at opposite ends of
> the evolution-creationism debate is not relavent to the point that
> I was making.

I guess you don't like awe. Aren't you ever awestruck by any of
the facts of nature?

Tom Clarke