In a respectable venue. That’s so rare now. Noticing actual differences is radical in an age when politically correct nonsense is a form of virtue:
Consider language. Chimps need to be taught by dedicated human experts for years before they can learn ten hand signs. The claim that they know American Sign Language (ASL) is false—as people who know ASL have always known it to be. Like all natural human languages, ASL has a complex grammar, which allows phrases to be embedded within other phrases; permits various sentence structures (e.g. subject–object–verb); allows for the coining of new compound words; and permits puns, poetry and all the prodigious opportunities for communicating complex ideas that human language affords. By contrast, chimps are able to join only two words—or sometimes three—to form phrases like banana eat give—and this is a charitable interpretation of their grammar …
There is a parallel irony in those studies of animals that aim to disprove human exceptionalism. Take the wonderful videos of the Caledonian crow combining two twigs to make a compound tool, in order to extract some food from an enclosure. But note that the more effort researchers go to prove animal skill the more they undermine their case. The cameras, the detection devices, the experimental set-up to entrap the crow into using tools in a certain way, the peer-reviewed journals that report on its behavior, the scientific method, the internet via which you watch the video—all of this is necessary to Homo sapiens’ investigation of Corvus moneduloides. But the crow cannot develop any of those things and is unable to investigate Homo sapiens or any other species in the same way. The point is not that only we can use tools: clearly some other species can too. The point is what we do with those tools. This is not a metaphysical question, but simply an empirical fact: we use exceptional tools in exceptional ways. Jamie Milton Freestone, “Human Exceptionalism with a Human Face” at Areo
Of course, Freestone goes on to insulate himself from the Virtuous by claiming that
Humans are particularly exceptional. This is not a spiritual fact, merely a historical one. Indeed, I couldn’t have made this claim 50,000 years ago. Back then, there were not only chimps around to remind us of our evolutionary heritage, but Neanderthals, Homo floresiensis (the hobbit) and Homo erectus. All three of these hominid species were tool-using, fire-using, language-using (probably), clothes-wearing and perhaps even had their own cultural myths about their own species’ exceptional status. But because those branches on the tree of life have been pruned, we are somewhat more exceptional today, simply because our closest relatives are extinct. Jamie Milton Freestone, “Human Exceptionalism with a Human Face” at Areo
He has to know he is talking nonsense here, of course. Any creature that could think like current humans would be classed by us as like us – if octopuses could do so, they would have a special status. They would have special seating at Law of the Sea meetings. But they can’t and don’t. And that is a spiritual – and metaphysical – fact, whether the Virtuous or the raging Woke like it or not.
But if he needs to take cover by emitting rubbish in order to have a career, he also needs to think about what that means.
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See also: At Inference Review: Human language is much more than a system of signals U Maryland linguist: There is an incommensurability between theories of the brain and theories of the mind…
Is the octopus a “second genesis” of intelligence?