Re: Are we "special"?

Paul Z. Myers (
Fri, 13 Dec 1996 18:29:12 -0500

In article <58rlrm$>, (Thomas
Clarke) wrote:

> In article <> (Paul Z. Myers) writes:
> >In article <58n606$>, wrote:
> >> Something that occurred to me while driving to work in my internal
> >> combustion engined wheeled vehicle:
> >> Darwin's two major works were the "Origin of Species"
> >> and the "Descent of Man".
> >"Origin of Species" is NOT about human evolution.
> I didn't say it was.
> >> From this I would conclude that Darwin recognized something special
> >> about humans.
> >Works by Charles Darwin:
> >Structure and distribution of coral reefs, 1842.
> >A monograph on the sub-class Cirripedia, 1851-54
> >A monograph on the fossil Lepadidae, or, pedunculated cirripedes of Great
> > Britain, 1854.
> >A monograph on the fossil Balanidae and Verrucidae of Great Britain, 1854.
> >On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation
> > of favoured races in the struggle for life, 1859.
> >The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex, 1871.
> >The expression of the emotions in man and animals, 1872.
> >The movements and habits of climbing plants, 1875.
> >The variation of animals and plants under domestication, 1875.
> >The effects of cross and self fertilisation in the vegetable kingdom, 1876.
> >The various contrivances by which orchids are fertilised by insects, 1877.
> >The different forms of flowers on plans of the same species, 1877.
> >The formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms, with
> > observations on their habits, 1881.
> >(I left out the travelogues and geological works)
> I said "major works". By this I meant, and perhaps should have
> explicity stated, book length works that an average educated 20th century
> person is likely to have read.

These ARE major works. Several of these are 2 or 3 volumes long, and went
through several editions during Darwin's lifetime. If we started claiming
that the only valid scientific works were books that the "average educated
20th century person is likely to have read", then isn't that going to
limit us to discussing some number of books vanishingly close to zero?
Most people don't read much real science, I'm afraid.

> >From this I would conclude that Darwin recognized something "special"
> >about barnacles and plants.
> I don't have the data to hand to compare the lengths of the
> works you cite so you may be right that only a small portion of
> Darwin's work dealt with man.
> Perhaps the survival of the two works OoS and DoM says more about
> the intellectual milequ of the last century than about Darwin
> himself.

And that you would say:
> >> From this I would conclude that Darwin recognized something special
> >> about humans.
on the basis of the titles of two books that I doubt you have read, and in
complete ignorance of all of Darwin's other works, says something about
the intellectual millieu in which you are operating.

> I still think man is unique among animals, though.

Biologists won't disagree with that at all. They just have a significantly
greater knowledge and appreciation of the uniqueness of animals other than
man, as well.

Paul Myers Department of Biology Temple University Philadelphia, PA 19122