Re: Are we "special"?

Phil Nicholls (
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 05:12:47 GMT (Paul Crowley) wrote:

>In article <>
> "Gerrit Hanenburg" writes:
>> (Paul Crowley) wrote:
>> >If you have seen any hypothesis that you think has some value,
>> >please outline it. Because, without exception, every one I've
>> >come across in the literature has been so weak, so unexamined
>> >and so poorly thought through, that I would repeat: "we have not
>> >begun to outline its probable evolution or the reasons for that
>> >evolution".
>> I suggest you read the following papers:
>> Aiello,L.C.and Dunbar,R.I.M.(1993), Neocortex size, group size, and
>> the evolution of language. Current Anthropology 34:184-193.
>> Dunbar,R.I.M.(1992), Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in
>> primates. J.Hum.Evol.20:469-493.
>> Dunbar,R.I.M.(1996), Neocortex size and group size in primates:a test
>> of the hypothesis. J.Hum.Evol.28:287-296.
>> See also Byrne,R.(1995), The Thinking Ape:evolutionary origins of
>> intelligence. Oxford University Press.
>> That probably spares me a waste of time.
>I've read Byrne and some earlier Dunbar. They are so bad
>they send shivers down my spine. Why not try to justify one
>line or the other? Ugh.

Why are they bad, Paul. That is hardly a meaningful critique. What
about Dunbar's work, for example, was bad?

Why not skip trying to justify preconceptions and just test
hypotheses? I guess it depends on whether you are interested in
science or mental masturbation.

>> >More fundamentally, there appears to be something in the
>> >training of PA's that forces them to focus on the strictly
>> >mundane and seems to render them incapable of recognising
>> >complexities of either a physical or philosophical nature.
>> It is generalizations like these that sometimes make me doubt your
>> intellectual capabilities.
>I may not have expressed this well, but there is a tradition
>that goes back to Darwin: " . . human beings are just another
>animal to studied just like a species of nematode worm . . any
>other approach is false and unscientific . . ". Consequently
>the features that make H.s.s. truly distinctive are
>deliberately ignored. Is it any wonder the science is so weak?

What features are ignored, Paul. Brain size? Bipedalism? Language?

Why do some people study humans and primates and others study
nematodes? I know when I got interested in physical anthropology it
was the brain that interested me.

Why do you insist on making these sweeping generalizations about
physical anthropology?

Phil Nicholls
"To ask a question, you must first know
most of the answer." Robert Sheckley