A thought experiment by philosopher and mathematician David Berlinski echoes something Michael Egnor noted recently: Not only are human beings unique but we are unique despite being animals in nature. Here’s the thought experiment:
Open access: Abstract: In eukaryotic cells, with the exception of the specialized genomes of mitochondria and plastids, all genetic information is sequestered within the nucleus. This arrangement imposes constraints on how the information can be tailored for different cellular regions, particularly in cells with complex morphologies like neurons. Although messenger RNAs (mRNAs), and the proteins Read More…
Egnor: Dr. Pepperberg could have been more forthright: Parrots can’t do statistics. No animal (except man) can do statistics, because statistical reasoning is abstract and only human beings are capable of abstract thought. Parrots think concretely—they think of particular things and relations between particular things, but they cannot think without particular things—they can’t think abstractly.
These people read too much Darwin and his followers. The lioness has not read any of those sources, as it happens.
One reader hails this as the best title ever for a science paper: Where there are girls, there are cats (Elsevier). Then the paper was abruptly removed.
It will be interesting to see what impact the retractions have on claims about the evolution of animal behavior.
In a pop science outlet, no less. What? Weren’t chimpanzees learning to talk just last year or something? It’s almost like some people want to take language seriously now.
If human intelligence is an accidental outcropping of the animal world, a sufficiently diligent researcher may expect to find the same intelligence in many other animals. But, so the argument runs, we are too prejudiced to see it.
“The researchers point out that, although the kind of coordination shown in the present study may rely on more simple mechanisms than full, conscious cooperation, … ” Surely no one thinks that dogs or wolves have a theory of co-operation?
It all sounded like perfect schoolbook Darwinism. Until someone made a issue of the fact that the foxes were the descendants of already-tame foxes in Prince Edward Island (province) in Canada.
“Even back then … these animals were probably doing a lot of the things that animals still do today.” Right. So when did Big Evolution happen?
A working definition of intelligence defeats us for the same reasons as a working definition of beauty defeats us. Once abstractions become instantiated, they are laden with particulars. That does NOT mean that the idea is without meaning.
Naturalists need to pretend that great apes and dolphins think abstractly.
A controversy in animal psychology centers on whether or not an animal can recognize itself in a mirror. But a number of scientists are beginning to doubt that the mirror test shows animal self-awareness.
Doubtless, maintaining orderly ranks helped the trilobites survive but at half a billion years ago, they did not have a long time to learn the behavior. Once again, the behavior seems to have been there from the beginning.