Human evolution News

All together now, one, two, three—what separates us from other animals?

Spread the love

It’s the gap, it’s the gap, it’s the gap gap gap … it’s the gap, it’s the gap, it’s the gap gap gap …*

The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals In a New Scientist review of psych prof Thomas Suddendorf’s The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals, we learn:

Or how about the controversial mirror self-recognition test? Chimps, orang-utans and gorillas recognise themselves in a mirror and so pass this test. Monkeys, such as baboons, capuchins and macaques, fail. There’s also shaky evidence that dolphins, elephants and even magpies pass the test.

The so-called rich interpretation says that those who pass the test are self-aware. The lean version says that the test tells us little: “any animal that manages to avoid bumping into things, or biting itself in a fight” has the ability to distinguish self from non-self. Suddendorf lays out the arguments, but favours neither.

Regardless of interpretation, he says, the fact that humans and some primates pass, while others fail, tells us something. “The potential for mirror self-recognition evolved between 18 and 14 million years ago in the shared ancestor of hominids… We do not know what this creature looked like, but it is likely to have known what it looked like.”

Fascinating, but neither here nor there when it comes to explaining the gap. …

From the publisher (Basic Books):

In The Gap, psychologist Thomas Suddendorf provides a definitive account of the mental qualities that separate humans from other animals, as well as how these differences arose. Drawing on two decades of research on apes, children, and human evolution, he surveys the abilities most often cited as uniquely human—language, intelligence, morality, culture, theory of mind, and mental time travel—and finds that two traits account for most of the ways in which our minds appear so distinct: Namely, our open-ended ability to imagine and reflect on scenarios, and our insatiable drive to link our minds together. These two traits explain how our species was able to amplify qualities that we inherited in parallel with our animal counterparts; transforming animal communication into language, memory into mental time travel, sociality into mind reading, problem solving into abstract reasoning, traditions into culture, and empathy into morality.

Is this news? Have animsl behaviourists seriously thought animals did this stuff?

Suddendorf concludes with the provocative suggestion that our unrivalled status may be our own creation—and that the gap is growing wider not so much because we are becoming smarter but because we are killing off our closest intelligent animal relatives.

He argues for a long series of not-quite-humans that we supposedly killed off.

Is it possible we also created them, in our own heads?

*Note: Sung to the tune of the William Tell overture, known locally as The Lone Ranger.

Follow UD News at Twitter!

3 Replies to “All together now, one, two, three—what separates us from other animals?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    “I’ll believe in evolution when I see monkeys build space-ships to send other monkeys to the moon!”
    – attributed to a ‘Backwoods’ Farmer

    Although it is usual to focus on mind as to what so dramatically demarcates us from apes, as even Wallace himself noted:

    New Thoughts on Evolution (1910)
    Views of Professor Alfred Russel Wallace, O.M., F.R.S.
    “Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.”
    Alfred Russel Wallace – An interview by Harold Begbie printed on page four of The Daily Chronicle (London) issues of 3 November and 4 November 1910.

    “Either mathematics is too big for the human mind or the human mind is more than a machine”
    – Kurt Godel

    Although that is the usual route taken to point out the dramatic difference between us and chimps, I would like to reiterate some physical differences between us and chimps that I’ve listed over the past few days. These physical differences are far larger, and thus are far more difficult for Darwinian explanations, than I was originally led to believe. First, it turns out that the much ballyhooed DNA similarity is far less than 99% we were originally led to believe by Darwinists,,

    Human Origins(?) by Brian Thomas, M.S. – December 20, 2013
    Excerpt: Three major pillars supporting a human-chimp link crashed in 2013.
    1. Genetic similarity (70% instead of 98%)
    2. beta-globin pseudogene (functional instead of leftover junk)
    3. Chromosome 2 fusion site (encodes a functional feature within an important gene instead of a being a fusion site)
    All three key genetic pillars of human evolution (for Darwinists) turned out to be specious—overstatements based on ignorance of genetic function.

    Moreover, the anatomical differences are far greater than Darwinists had originally misled me to believe:

    Although humans and chimpanzees are rather similar in the structure of the thorax and arms, they differ substantially not only in brain size but also in the anatomy of the pelvis, foot, and jaws, as well as in relative lengths of limbs and digits (38).
    Humans and chimpanzees also differ significantly in many other anatomical respects, to the extent that nearly every bone in the body of a chimpanzee is readily distinguishable in shape or size from its human counterpart (38).
    Associated with these anatomical differences there are, of course, major differences in posture (see cover picture), mode of locomotion, methods of procuring food, and means of communication. Because of these major differences in anatomy and way of life, biologists place the two species not just in separate genera but in separate families (39). So it appears that molecular and organismal methods of evaluating the chimpanzee human difference yield quite different conclusions (40).”

    King and Wilson went on to suggest that the morphological and behavioral between humans and apes,, must be due to variations in their genomic regulatory systems.
    David Berlinski – The Devil’s Delusion – Page 162&163
    Evolution at Two Levels in Humans and Chimpanzees Mary-Claire King; A. C. Wilson – 1975

    The Red Ape – Cornelius Hunter – August 2009
    Excerpt: “There remains, however, a paradoxical problem lurking within the wealth of DNA data: our morphology and physiology have very little, if anything, uniquely in common with chimpanzees to corroborate a unique common ancestor. Most of the characters we do share with chimpanzees also occur in other primates, and in sexual biology and reproduction we could hardly be more different. It would be an understatement to think of this as an evolutionary puzzle.”

    Mona Lisa smile: The morphological enigma of human and great ape evolution – 2006
    Excerpt: The quality and scope of published documentation and verification of morphological features suggests there is very little in morphology to support a unique common ancestor for humans and chimpanzees.,,,

    In fact so great are the anatomical differences between humans and chimps that a Darwinist actually proposed that a chimp and pig mated with each other and that is what ultimately gave rise to humans:

    A chimp-pig hybrid origin for humans? – July 3, 2013
    Excerpt: Dr. Eugene McCarthy,, has amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that human origins can be best explained by hybridization between pigs and chimpanzees. Extraordinary theories require extraordinary evidence and McCarthy does not disappoint. Rather than relying on genetic sequence comparisons, he instead offers extensive anatomical comparisons, each of which may be individually assailable, but startling when taken together.,,,
    The list of anatomical specializations we may have gained from porcine philandering is too long to detail here. Suffice it to say, similarities in the face, skin and organ microstructure alone is hard to explain away. A short list of differential features, for example, would include, multipyramidal kidney structure, presence of dermal melanocytes, melanoma, absence of a primate baculum (penis bone), surface lipid and carbohydrate composition of cell membranes, vocal cord structure, laryngeal sacs, diverticuli of the fetal stomach, intestinal “valves of Kerkring,” heart chamber symmetry, skin and cranial vasculature and method of cooling, and tooth structure. Other features occasionally seen in humans, like bicornuate uteruses and supernumerary nipples, would also be difficult to incorporate into a purely primate tree.

    Moreover, Physorg published a subsequent article showing that the pig-chimp hybrid theory for human origins is much harder to shoot down than Darwinists had first supposed it would be:

    Human hybrids: a closer look at the theory and evidence – July 25, 2013
    Excerpt: There was considerable fallout, both positive and negative, from our first story covering the radical pig-chimp hybrid theory put forth by Dr. Eugene McCarthy,,,By and large, those coming out against the theory had surprisingly little science to offer in their sometimes personal attacks against McCarthy.
    ,,,Under the alternative hypothesis (humans are not pig-chimp hybrids), the assumption is that humans and chimpanzees are equally distant from pigs. You would therefore expect chimp traits not seen in humans to be present in pigs at about the same rate as are human traits not found in chimps. However, when he searched the literature for traits that distinguish humans and chimps, and compiled a lengthy list of such traits, he found that it was always humans who were similar to pigs with respect to these traits. This finding is inconsistent with the possibility that humans are not pig-chimp hybrids, that is, it rejects that hypothesis.,,,

    The obvious question for me is, of course, since Darwinists are having such a hard time proving that we did not come from pig-chimp (PIMP) hybrids, what makes Darwinists so sure that we evolved from apes or anything else in the first place? The empirical evidence certainly does not give any indication that it is possible:

    Response to John Wise – October 2010
    Excerpt: A technique called “saturation mutagenesis”1,2 has been used to produce every possible developmental mutation in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster),3,4,5 roundworms (Caenorhabditis elegans),6,7 and zebrafish (Danio rerio),8,9,10 and the same technique is now being applied to mice (Mus musculus).11,12 None of the evidence from these and numerous other studies of developmental mutations supports the neo-Darwinian dogma that DNA mutations can lead to new organs or body plans–because none of the observed developmental mutations benefit the organism.

    Verse and Music;

    Genesis 1:24-25
    Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good,,,

    Nickelback – Lullaby

  2. 2

    But if the mirror test is such a no-brainer, why did a tenured Harvard prof get fired last year for faking his “monkey sees himself in the mirror” data?

    That is, first we set up a criterion, and then we fake data to show the criterion is banished.

    I smell a rat.

  3. 3
    Barb says:

    From the OP:

    Drawing on two decades of research on apes, children, and human evolution, he surveys the abilities most often cited as uniquely human—language, intelligence, morality, culture, theory of mind, and mental time travel—and finds that two traits account for most of the ways in which our minds appear so distinct:

    I’d say that language is one of the biggest gaps between humans and animals. Humans have specialized areas of the brain that enable communication. What we want to say appears to be organized by the region of the left brain hemisphere known as Wernicke’s area. This communicates with Broca’s area, which applies grammatical rules. Impulses next arrive at nearby motor areas that control facial muscles and help us form appropriate words. Additionally, these areas connect with the brain’s visual system so that we can read; with the hearing system so that we can hear, understand, and respond to what others tell us; and, not to be neglected, with our memory bank to store worthwhile thoughts. “What really sets humans apart from other animals,” comments the study guide Journey to the Centres of the Brain, “is their ability to learn an astonishing variety of skills, facts and rules, not just about physical things in the world around them, but especially about other people and what makes them tick.”

    The actual information needed to ask the simple question, “How are you today?” is stored in a part of your brain’s frontal lobe called Broca’s area, which some consider to be your speech center. Nobel laureate neuroscientist Sir John Eccles wrote: “No area corresponding to the . . . speech area of Broca has been recognized in apes.” Even if some similar areas are found in animals, the fact is that scientists cannot get apes to produce more than a few crude speech sounds. You, though, can produce complicated language. To do so, you put words together according to the grammar of your language. Broca’s area helps you do that, both in speaking and in writing.

    Of course, you cannot exercise the miracle of speech unless you know at least one language and understand what its words mean. This involves another special part of your brain, known as Wernicke’s area. Here, billions of neurons discern the meaning of spoken or written words. Wernicke’s area helps you to make sense of statements and to comprehend what you hear or read; thus you can learn information and can respond sensibly.

    Intelligence is another. Scientists have often compared the brain to a machine such as a computer or switchboard. But these are limited by the fixed mechanisms and electrical systems that are installed or designed in them. A human brain, on the other hand, is a more flexible biological mechanism or system. The axiom “use it or lose it” definitely applies to the brain. Two main factors as to how to keep the brain pliable and flexible are (1) what enters it through our five senses and (2) what we choose to think about.

    Improvements (such as having feelings of happiness or wellness) result largely from one’s making good use of a part of the cerebral cortex located in the front of the head. Most neurons in the outer layer of the brain, the cerebral cortex, are not linked directly to muscles and sensory organs. For example, consider the billions of neurons that make up the frontal lobe. Brain scans prove that the frontal lobe becomes active when you think of a word or call up memories. The front part of the brain plays a special role in your being you.

    “The prefrontal cortex . . . is most involved with elaboration of thought, intelligence, motivation, and personality. It associates experiences necessary for the production of abstract ideas, judgment, persistence, planning, concern for others, and conscience. . . . It is the elaboration of this region that sets human beings apart from other animals.” (Marieb’s Human Anatomy and Physiology) We certainly see evidence of this distinction in what humans have accomplished in fields such as mathematics, philosophy, and justice, which primarily involve the prefrontal cortex.

    Why do humans have a large, flexible prefrontal cortex, which contributes to higher mental functions, whereas in animals this area is rudimentary or nonexistent? The contrast is so great that biologists who claim that we evolved speak of the “mysterious explosion in brain size.” Professor of Biology Richard F. Thompson, noting the extraordinary expansion of our cerebral cortex, admits: “As yet we have no very clear understanding of why this happened.” Could the reason lie in man’s having been created with this peerless brain capacity?

Leave a Reply