Agustin Fuentes explores the common ancestry between humans and apes by examining characteristics that the two share. Conversely, Fuentes draws upon anthropological evidence to examine the ways in which the hominin lineage underwent changes during the Pleistocene that led to the emergence of a distinct human niche. Fuentes concludes that these divergent traits — along with the distinctive space humans inhabit — give humans the ability to drastically change the environment, other animals, and themselves. Initially featured as the XLIV Journal of Anthropological Research Distinguished Lecture, the article explains why these evolutionary differences are still relevant today.
Throughout the article, Fuentes asserts that humans are distinctive, not unique.
No. Humans are unique. Get over it.
Humans are classified as mammals and as primates. Both humans and apes belong to a group of primates known as the Hominoidea. As hominoids, humans and apes exhibit a range of similarities, including complex social relationships, large brains, and the capability to utilize tools.
Aw, not this again. Many mammals not closely related to humans have complex social relationships and the capacity to use tools. And the relationship between intelligence and brain size or even type is not systematic.
More to the point, how do people get away with implying the contrary time after time in journal papers without any correction from within the discipline? How do their efforts at explaining things away help us understand?
“The human baseline of creative cooperation, the ability to think, communicate, and collaborate with increasing prowess, transformed us into beings who invented the technologies that support domestication, economies, large-scale societies, warfare, and broad-scale peace. This collaborative and imaginative capacity for creativity also drove the development of religious beliefs and ethical systems, and even the production of artwork. Such capacities fueled and facilitated our ability to compete in more deadly ways. Today humans deploy many of the same capacities that enabled our success as a species to kill/control other humans and manipulate the planet to the brink of ecological devastation,” Fuentes writes.
Right. And how’d that happen? Is Fuentes arguing for ecology, social co-operation, fluke, or another of the many one-offs commonly cited as the cause? Apart from clearly proposing a cause, his observations, as quoted, are just recited truisms accompanied by a useful timeline. Save the timeline.
“Today we are reshaping the entire world, the globe, the way in which our earth exists. We are also, at more than 7 billion strong, changing the very social landscape of the human experience. We know that inequality and insecurities have broad-scale individual life-history impacts, changing the way in which people experience the world, and changing the ways in which our children grow, or don’t. We created a new niche, and now we have to live with and in it, and so does pretty much everything else on the planet.” Paper. (paywall) – Agustin Fuentes. How Humans and Apes Are Different, and Why It Matters. Journal of Anthropological Research, 2018; 74 (2): 151 DOI: 10.1086/697150 More.
In short, we are unique.
At present, a kind of neurosis seems to afflict researchers in this area by which they ask us to believe (and, of course, the obedient naturalist faithful do believe) obviously untrue claims about apes. For emotional reasons, it would seem, they need to minimize the distance between humans and apes. Their output is not a happy moment for rational thinking.
See also: PBS: Apes’ inability to use symbolic language may just be “nurture”
Are IQ tests “unfair” to apes?
Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?
Are apes entering the Stone Age?