Re: Are we "special"?

Noel Dickover (
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 17:50:45 -0500

Thomas Clarke wrote:


> Man was the same species he was today 30,000 years ago.
> So had there been biologists around they could have used the nomenclature
> Home sapiens. However, the species would have just been a rather slim
> hominid with an advanced tool kit and good ability to communicate by sound.
> The same biological species today has much richer behaviors.
> Bare nomenenclature does not capture this.

-nastiness deleted-

Hey Tom,
While it may appear that you and I are more or less on the same side of
this downhill arguement, I think your above post shows where we differ.
Yes we are the same species we were 30,000 years ago. If we were not
special then, I would have to go with the arguement that we are not
special now. I don't think we can just say that because we have
developed neat tools and infinitely complex societies, this makes us

Being a cybernetics guy, I'm a big believer in feedback. Positive
feedback systems can deviate drastically from a current steady state if
given the proper initial kick. To some extent, I think this is what
happened with the formation of "modern" societies. But this is another
discussion, albiet interesting, which probably does not belong in this

My question focusses on examining at whether we were special 30,000
years ago. By special, I mean (as I stated in an earlier response to
Phil Bigelow, for which I still eagerly await a reply, especially for
the cetacean references) our ability to develop flexible and adaptive
social systems. I do tend to buy Franz de Waal and other's beliefs that
other Ape societies are very complex, often involing political
struggles, alliances, backstabbing, etc. Becuase H.S.S.'s ability for
language is largely instinctual, this would have to be hard coded into
our DNA.

So my question really involves an analysis of where we sit in relation
to other species in terms of developing flexible and adaptive (and no, I
am not referring to some stupid pop reference to chaos theory here)
social structures. And yes, I think this trait led to morphological
changes in the genus Homo over time. It is this trait, I believe, that
provided the possibility for complex societies to form at a later date.

Jane Goodall once said that she thought the big difference between
H.S.S. and Chimps involved our ability to discuss past and future
events. This allows us to maintain and modify over time, the knowledge
necessary to adapt to our environment.