Intelligent Design

Animal and Human Mind: Darwinists Want it Both Ways

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The cover story of the current (March 2008)issue of National Geographic is “Inside Animal Minds.”
It is an interesting, persuasive, and I’m sure quite unintentional argument against the Darwinist position that mind is an illusory epiphenomenon of the material brain.

The article presents truly interesting examples of studies involving dogs, elephants, fish, primates, sheep, octopus, dolphins, and birds purportedly showing that these animals have real minds and are not just behavioristic, deterministic biological machines.
The article further credits Darwin with the original insight that “earthworms are cognitive beings”

The examples they cite do make a good case that animals have real minds, not just a set of biologically and environmentally encoded behavior, and argues against “behaviorism, which regards animals as little more than machines.”
It asks the really excellent question: “But if animals are simply machines, how can the appearance of human intelligence be explained?” (page 48)

Note that this statement strongly implies (unintentionally I’m sure) that humans are not simply machines and that human intelligence cannot be explained by evolution from behavioristic/deterministic animals.

The whole point of the article is that animals have minds that are not qualitatively different from humans, and therefore it’s reasonable and consistent with evolutionary theory that humans evolved from animals.

These animals act like they possess at least an element of free will. Though that phrase is not explicit in the article, it is strongly implicit: “I’m never sure what he’ll do,” exudes the trainer of the famous parrot Alex, after proclaiming how humanlike the bird’s behavior is.

The Geographic expresses brief puzzlement that even though birds’ minds demonstrate humanlike characteristics; “…we don’t have a recently shared ancestry with birds. Their evolutionary history is very different; our last common ancestor with all birds was a reptile that lived over 300 million years ago.”
But not to worry. Darwinists are quickly reassured that “evolution can invent similar forms of advanced intelligence more than once.”
Once again we are taught that evolution can do anything. Even repeatedly invent advanced intelligence. Wow.

But even that astonishing claim isn’t the most remarkable thing about this article.

The part I found most interesting is the strongly implied assumption that human minds are not just deterministic epiphenomena of brains. If they were, there would obviously be no need for this article arguing that animal minds are not just deterministic epiphenomena of brains. This is a very significant argument and implied admission of the reality of mind.

it seems the evolutionists are now trying to have it both ways on the subject of mind:

On the one hand, Darwinists have long argued that human mind can’t be separate from the material brain, otherwise materialistic evolution couldn’t explain it.
On the other hand, this article now argues that animal minds are not deterministic machines, because “if animals are simply machines, how can the appearance of human intelligence be explained?”

By trying to have it both ways, they’ve painted themselves into a corner:
If these many animal studies truly do show that animals possess real minds, implying real free will, pure materialism is going to have a difficult time explaining them. That’s why Darwinists are usually so hell-bent on denying the reality of mind.
But if humans truly are simply complex behavioristic machines, how will the Darwinists explain these animal studies showing that even animals have real minds?

I wonder how carefully National Geographic thought this one through.

11 Replies to “Animal and Human Mind: Darwinists Want it Both Ways

  1. 1

    This fascinating and exquisitely written entry has the unfortunate epiphenomenon (word of the day) that I now want to read the
    National Geographic article. Normally, this would entail buying the magazine. But I think I will just get a copy from the library instead, as I am sick of supporting such organizations.

    Excellent entry, dacook! Take a look at my blog to see an upcoming entry on how the Darwinian crusaders at the N.S.C.E can dish it out, but
    just can’t take it.

  2. 2
    gpuccio says:

    OK, epiphenomenon it be, I think I’ll buy it.

  3. 3
    russ says:

    The real intent of this article seems to be not that animals are amazing, but that humans are not special in a “created in God’s image” sort of way. Both Darwinism and “we’re no better than animals” are arguments for this worldview, which is part and parcel of political correctness. Unfortunately, those arguments seem to have clashed with one another in this National Geographic piece.

  4. 4

    “these animals have real minds and are not just behavioristic, deterministic biological machines.
    The article further credits Darwin with the original insight that “earthworms are cognitive beings”

    The examples they cite do make a good case that animals have real minds, not just a set of biologically and environmentally encoded behavior, and argues against “behaviorism, which regards animals as little more than machines.”
    It asks the really excellent question: “But if animals are simply machines, how can the appearance of human intelligence be explained?” (page 48)

    Fascinating. I have always personally felt that many if not even most of the creatues we share Earth with–regardless of what one might feel about animal ‘rights'(that concept being difficult due to being an intellectual and philosophical term), have conceptual abilities that go far beyond our understanding of what is often called “blind sight.” Blind sight being both a medical term and a philosophical one where the brains and eyes of animals (and people who’ve been in bad accidents in some cases) actually “see” the world but don’t comprehend it much beyond imagery for bare survival. All else is genes and behavior encoding.

    Of course, N.G. will follow up sometime to remkind us that the “myth” of free will is but mere illusion and that even if present would certainly have had to evolve.

    Some things will die a hard death. It was not all that long ago–(Oct. 2002. pg34), that writing in Discover magazine Steven Pinker mocks the notion that much of anything stands outside the programming of our genes.

    Teenagers behaving badly, marriages gone awry, men behaving badly in mixed company, kids getting into trouble at school and not learning their lessons?

    Pinker says there is no blank slate “tabulas rasa.” Not that the proprietors of that phase ever thought that something was not there to be altered. But Pinker means by this that everything in life is on autopilot. Everything. Thus is gone in one fell swoop the older notions about “negative sociolization” amongm, say, peers of teens that mom and dad might worry about. Pinker says not to sweat it. It has nothing to do with parentage. Nor is whether your kids will go to Harvard or State U. Or even finish high school or use drugs or become lottory tix addicts or smoke. Let them have their pals. From studies of various cultures and identical twins even separated at birth with one living with a biker gang and another attending liberal prep schools having similar intonations and attitudes on sundry items like the death penalty and conservation , it seems the genes are the helmsmen for us all–not out upbringing.

    It makes no difference. All is hardwired.

    Pinker says that to deny or challenge this is to “dendy” human nature. Surely that exists, of course, and people and cultures the world over have too many similarities to dispell that some things might be encoded. Now of course he’s correct that for much of the last century “sociolization” just like today’s “it’s all in the genes” has been the buzzword in advocating common goals to improvements in the public schools and even tax policy and why some nations rule economically and others cower. And the notion that all persons have eqaul talent and ability if only for certain social interactions is of course always in defiance of common sense.

    But Pinker has decided to swing this pendulum the other direction to see if it sticks.

    I don’t see how. If animals can think things “through”, and Koko felt true sadness over the loss of a kitten and didn’t just “ape” things out in imitation of Penny Patterson, then surely we have two extremes of thinking here that miss the one ingredient that Darwinists so far have brushed aside as some kind of illusion or “emergent” property of evolution–free will.

    Interestingly it must be pointed out that Free Will is a topic that is castigated by both the hardwire gene notion that little can be done to correct your own kids before they end up either at Harvard or the electric chait, vs. the notion that nothing comes in the mind except what your society inculcates from birth.

    Neither can be the total case.

  5. 5

    Pinker says that to deny or challenge this is to “dendy” human nature.

    meant to say “to DENY” human nature.

  6. 6

    And now….the problem with animal thinking, and “rights”…

    (you knew this had to happen)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciesism

    Your brothers, the apes.

  7. 7
    Daniel King says:

    Your brothers, the apes.

    Very, very distant cousins?

  8. 8

    Daniel:

    Well, your metaphorical brother.

    Like Q says in Star Trek

    “all those funny little primate faces you have on earth”

    A primate that for all practical purposes might as well have kids and a mortgage with a swingset in the backyard, complains about the weather and taxes, and has “rights”…..

  9. 9
    Daniel King says:

    What’s the problem, SWT?

    Don’t like the fact that you are related to those beasts?

    Or do you think that you are not related to them?

  10. 10

    Well, Mr. King:

    That’s not really the problem.
    We are partially related to everything that walks the earth.

    The real issue is the notion of “rights”–

    Where are those thick lines of demarcation?

    “Rights”, like morals, are an intellectual and philosophical set of assumptions about how we should live and treat one another. That “other” traditionally filled in by the role of humans. Not creatures that merely look human in some manner.

    These notions did not evolve any more than mortgage financing. They are creations of mind. Or IF they evolved as mere social convention or adaptive survivability for the genes then they are no more meaning that the fact that other species have barbs, teeth, and stingers to make ends meet.

    Fortunately, while the law and common sense can sometimes look counterintuitive on some things, they finally got their bearings on this one:

    http://wakepedia.blogspot.com/.....ciest.html

  11. 11
    Daniel King says:

    Well, Mr Tolbert,

    You and your species are in charge, so you can make whatever rules you like.

    “Where are those thick lines of demarcation?”

    Indeed.

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