Intelligent Design

How Darwin worship helps animal extinction

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In Clever Critters: 8 Best Non-Human Tool Users, by Brandon Keim (Wired Science, January 16, 2009), we are introduced to best known examples of animal tool use.
The article begins with the requisite Darwin worship, of course:

Much more likely remains to be found: until Jane Goodall watched chimpanzees fishing for termites with sticks, scientists had been reluctant to credit animals with such sophisticated behavior — perhaps because, as Charles Darwin noted, “Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.”
Darwin himself was quite intrigued by animal tool use, suggesting that it allowed them to overcome biological shortcomings. In On the Origin of Species, he noted that elephants snap off tree branches to swat away flies; in honor of Darwin’s interest, elephants are the first on our list of animal tool use.

So that compares with, say, the Canadarm on the Space Shuttle?

Well, the sad reality is better recorded here: “African elephants face extinction by 2020, conservationists warn”.

If I die tonight, the most urgent thing I want to say is this: Putting animals on the same plane as humans not only disses humans but dooms animals.

They don’t stand a chance in a contest.

Look, it was never supposed to be a contest. Pretending that they and we are on equal terms dooms them.

Whatever you may believe about religion, the plain fact is that we must look after them, especially when they are vulnerable. Otherwise, they will die.

Ideologies aimed at pretending that humans are “just evolved animals” are – in my view – bad for the environment.

61 Replies to “How Darwin worship helps animal extinction

  1. 1
    Ludwig says:

    I appreciate Ms. O’Leary’s concern for the preservation of wildlife, but who exactly is asserting that humans and wild animals are “on equal terms”?

    That kind of thinking is not evident in the “Clever Critters” article, as far as I can tell.

    And the “every animal for itself” attitude Ms. O’Leary seems to be criticizing doesn’t necessarily follow from accepting that (1) humans are animals who use tools and (2) other animals use tools as well.

    Maybe I’m just missing some key part of Ms. O’Leary’s rationale.

  2. 2
    critter says:

    Shouldn’t that be: “the same plain” ?

  3. 3
    Ludwig says:

    And, yes. An elephant using sticks to swat flies “compares with” the arm on the space shuttle insofar as they are both examples of animals using tools.

    That’s as far as it goes, of course. There’s a rather massive difference in technological sophistication.

  4. 4
    AmerikanInKananaskis says:

    O’Leary, please try to remain consistent.

    When I first started lurking here, you made a post saying something along the lines of “human activity INCREASES biodiversity”. Then when people pointed out that you didn’t have a sweet clue what you were talking about, the post disappeared into the night.

    Now you’re saying that human activity is responsible for extinction? Are you willing to admit you’ve made an about face?

    Also, you’ve provided precisely ZERO evidence that Darwinism is responsible here. Species were going extinct long before 1859. Of course, your “human activity INCREASES biodiversity” post makes it painfully clear that you are unaware of this. And the reasons for these extinctions had NOTHING to do with treating animals as equals. Quite the opposite. You might want to google the acronym HIPPO as it relates to conservation.

  5. 5
    uoflcard says:

    who exactly is asserting that humans and wild animals are “on equal terms”?

    PETA, for one, who basically says “a horse is a dog is a frog is a boy”. Here is an article about some animal right activists going to COURT to get human rights for a chimpanzee:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl.....malwelfare

    If Hiasl [the chimp] is granted human status, Martin Balluch, of the Association against Animal Factories, who has worked to bring the case, wants him to sue the vivisection laboratory. He said: ‘We argue that he’s a person and he’s capable of owning something himself, as opposed to being owned, and that he can manage his money. This means he can start a court case against Baxter, which at the very least should mean his old age pension is secure.’

    He wants the chimp to sue. I seem to think Richard Dawkins has publicly supported apes having civil rights, but can’t find a link. He is very much in favor of producing a “humanzee”, strictly in order to blur the line between humans and the other animals in the world.

  6. 6
    uoflcard says:

    …on my last post (#5), the final paragraph is not supposed to be in block quotes. Sorry.

    Ludwig:

    Maybe I’m just missing some key part of Ms. O’Leary’s rationale.

    I would say you’re just ignoring what is obvious (the DIFFERENCE in the tools). What is the most sophisticated tool in the animal kingdom (non-human)? A crude fishing pole? Maybe. If not, tell me. Now, what is the most sophisticated man-made tool? Large Hadron Collider?

    It seems like a HUUGE leap of faith to believe that difference is due to varying selective pressures.

  7. 7
    uoflcard says:

    AmericaninKansaskis:

    Now you’re saying that human activity is responsible for extinction? Are you willing to admit you’ve made an about face?

    I believe you have it exactly opposite of what she said.

    Denyse:

    Whatever you may believe about religion, the plain fact is that we must look after them, especially when they are vulnerable. Otherwise, they will die.

    AIK:

    Species were going extinct long before 1859. Of course, your “human activity INCREASES biodiversity” post makes it painfully clear that you are unaware of this. And the reasons for these extinctions had NOTHING to do with treating animals as equals.

    We also weren’t trying to take care of them. We slaughtered many species (Wooly Mammoths, etc.). Now that we know of our responsibility to care for them (i.e. have dominion over them), we should have a different mindset. I don’t see any chimps trying to save endangered species

  8. 8
    David Kellogg says:

    Observation 1: elephants can be said to use tools.
    Observation 2: elephants are endangered.

    Conclusion: “Darwin worship helps animal extinction.”

    What in the world? That makes no sense.

  9. 9
    AmerikanInKananaskis says:

    Huh? She said:

    Putting animals on the same plane as humans not only disses humans but dooms animals. They don’t stand a chance in a contest.

    That is an obvious admission that humans are responsible for the extinction of animals.

    I don’t see any chimps trying to save endangered species.

    Umm, okay. Touché. No, seriously though. What are you talking about? Her post was a call for humans to protect endangered species, and an assignment of blame to humans for destroying them. And an implication that Darwinism is somehow responsible.

  10. 10

    Ludwig @1 wrote:

    I appreciate Ms. O’Leary’s concern for the preservation of wildlife, but who exactly is asserting that humans and wild animals are “on equal terms”?

    Besides the names brought up via Wiki entry on “speciesism”, there’s Peter Singer, Richard Dawkins, and Eric Pianka, along with practically the entirety of PETA, ALF, VHEMT, and all sympathetic organizations and groups.

    And the “every animal for itself” attitude Ms. O’Leary seems to be criticizing doesn’t necessarily follow from accepting that (1) humans are animals who use tools and (2) other animals use tools as well.

    We use tools. Animals use tools. Humans are animals, the only difference being (as you so astutely pointed out)that humans’ tools are much more sophisticated than other animals’.

    So if other animals endanger us with their tools, we will use our tools to purposefully exterminate these other animals, rather than just accidently and haphazardly doing so as in the past.

    I’m surprised you couldn’t make the logical connections necessary to arrive at these conclusions. I guess I shouldn’t have been; unconnected dots and unforeseen consequences are your stock and trade.

  11. 11
    Joseph says:

    Yes, we should look after them.

    Make sure they get nice and meaty.

  12. 12
    uoflcard says:

    Sorry, that last sentence should have been directed at Ludwig, who seemed to imply high similarity between humans/animals while also denying it. That was confusing, yes.

    Also, I see Denyse’s post as a stretch. She does at least state that it’s her opinion. She doesn’t say all extinction is Dawinism’s fault, she just says putting animals and humans on equal terms is bad for animals. I think she needs to expound on this idea a little more, though.

    Here’s my understanding of the theory….Darwinism/Naturalism implies that we are perfectly equal with all life on Earth. We are not “greater” or “more privaledged than them. We put them on equal grounds with us, and we leave them alone. This (somehow – Denyse needs to further explain) contributes to higher rates of extinction, especially endangered species. Perhaps it’s because if we leave endangered species alone, they will probably die. I would agree with that, but I don’t see how Darwinism implies leaving animals completely alone (maybe this could be better explained by Denyse or someone else)

  13. 13
    Ludwig says:

    Angryoldfatman #10:

    So if other animals endanger us with their tools, we will use our tools to purposefully exterminate these other animals, rather than just accidently and haphazardly doing so as in the past.

    Could you please expand on this? I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. Are you being threatened by tool-wielding wild animals?

    unconnected dots and unforeseen consequences are your stock and trade.

    I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I hope we can abide by the new moderation rules and avoid personal attacks.

  14. 14
    uoflcard says:

    I think Darwinism helps animals, because people who are devout Darwinists usually love the animals they study. I think it is bad for humans more than animals. Let’s say Dawkins gets his wish and we completely blur/erase the line between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. So he’s happy because all teachings of God have be expunged from public law, but now what? All animals have equal rights? So a deer that gets hit by a car has to have an ambulance called (or else the driver is held responsible for flying the scene of an accident, manslaugher, and who knows what else). How about that ant you stepped on on the way to work? 150 years in prison for you w/o parole (that was the 100th ant you killed this week!). No one is implying to take it to that ridiculous of a level, but if you blur the first line, where does it stop? Just chimps? Just apes? Mammals? It would be completely arbitrary. Forget mental capacities, because NO other animal on Earth has the mental capacity to understand human rights.

    So IMO, Darwinism actually helps animals, because it usually leads to an increased awareness of animal health and environment. It is probably an inconsistent application of worldview that causes a Darwinist to stop from going all of the way to the scenario I proposed above (or to the only other possibility: No rights for anyone, i.e. the end of civilization). IMO, the #1 reason I can’t be an atheist, besides the lack of faith, is how unlivable the worldview really is when you consider all of its ramifications. While appalled at his beliefs, I at least have some level of respect for atheists like Peter Singer who honestly takes his atheistic worldview to its true, horrific conclusions. Let me emphasize that the respect is for his honesty, and nothing to do with the fact that he thinks it’s okay to kill babies.

  15. 15
    Ludwig says:

    I asked who was putting wild animals “on equal terms” with humans, as Ms. O’Leary used that phrase. I received several responses referring me to PETA, Singer, speciesism, etc.

    I don’t think that’s right, but I can see why there’s a misunderstanding. I think it’s because of confusion over the meaning of the phrase “on equal terms.”

    Animal rights proponents would, arguably, place wild animals “on equal terms” with us in terms of rights. Using that meaning of “on equal terms,” they would, if anything, give wild animals too much protection.

    Ms. O’Leary used the phrase “on equal terms” (as far as I can tell) to imply an attitude something like “they’re equal to us, so they can fend for themselves.” It’s what I characterized as, “every animal for itself.”

    That’s not at all the view of PETA, Singer, etc. They would, if anything, give wild animals too much protection, not too little.

    In other words, no one puts wild animals “on equal terms” with humans under the novel meaning Ms. O’Leary is giving that phrase.

    I think this is a really confused article.

  16. 16
    Joseph says:

    Ludwig,

    According to the theory of evolution we are animals, no more or less “evolved” than any other animal.

  17. 17
    Larry Tanner says:

    Putting animals on the same plane as humans not only disses humans but dooms animals.

    I see this as a fundamentally racist and selfish position because it denies any commonality or connection between humans and other animals.

    While human uniqueness is a wonderful thing that should not be ignored – neither should we deny the uniqueness of other species of living things – I see no reason to draw such hard boundaries between ourselves and other forms of life.

    To establish such boundaries as axiomatic is spurious and reprehensible. Denyse O’Leary’s post reminds me of the anti-abolitionist arguments made by American slave-owners: “Slavery is actually good for the slaves. They like it. It makes them happy.”

    How O’Leary connects a vague notion of “Darwinism” to animal extinction is not explained or supported. Too bad.

  18. 18

    In #16 joseph wrote:

    “According to the theory of evolution we are animals, no more or less “evolved” than any other animal.”

    So obviously the case as to constitute a truism. Your point?

  19. 19

    That is, if you are arguing that this statement:

    “According to the theory of evolution we are animals, no more or less “evolved” than any other animal.”

    means that

    “therefore we should treat all animals exactly the same way we treat humans”

    is to once again fallaciously conflate an “is” statement (the first one) with an “ought” statement (the second one). We’ve been over this road before, joseph; want to do it again?

  20. 20
    Clive Hayden says:

    Allen MacNeill,

    “is to once again fallaciously conflate an “is” statement (the first one) with an “ought” statement (the second one). We’ve been over this road before, joseph; want to do it again?”

    I do, because I never got an answer from you Allen as to exactly what accounts for the “ought” in evolutionary psychology. I posted my question three or four times, and you just ignored it. Please, stoop to explain to me how we, as purely evolved beings, who cannot evoke and ought from an is, know what ought is?

  21. 21
    Ludwig says:

    Allen,

    More to the point of what Ms. O’Leary was trying to get at here, even if “Darwinism” leads us to the conclusion that “we should treat all animals exactly the same way we treat humans,” why would that put them at greater risk of extinction?

    Did she mean to imply about human nature that the more we see other animals as “on equal terms” with us, the more likely we are to exterminate them?

    That’s a pretty grim assessment, and incorrect, I think.

  22. 22
    uoflcard says:

    Ludwig:

    Ms. O’Leary used the phrase “on equal terms” (as far as I can tell) to imply an attitude something like “they’re equal to us, so they can fend for themselves.” It’s what I characterized as, “every animal for itself.”

    That’s not at all the view of PETA, Singer, etc. They would, if anything, give wild animals too much protection, not too little.

    Then we would be in agreement, for the most part. See my post above about an extreme hypothetical of road killing getting ambulances/crime scenes and prosecution for people who step on ants. They stop short of this scenario because it defies everything that makes us human, which, as much as they deny it, actually does exist.

  23. 23
    Ludwig says:

    Uoflcard,

    I’m not even getting to the merits of any particular animal rights argument. I’m just trying to figure out the rationale behind the opening post.

    I know Ms. O’Leary is a respectable grandmother and everything, but this article reflects some exceptionally sloppy reasoning.

  24. 24
    uoflcard says:

    #17 Larry:

    Putting animals on the same plane as humans not only disses humans but dooms animals.

    I see this as a fundamentally racist and selfish position because it denies any commonality or connection between humans and other animals.

    While human uniqueness is a wonderful thing that should not be ignored – neither should we deny the uniqueness of other species of living things – I see no reason to draw such hard boundaries between ourselves and other forms of life.

    To establish such boundaries as axiomatic is spurious and reprehensible. Denyse O’Leary’s post reminds me of the anti-abolitionist arguments made by American slave-owners: “Slavery is actually good for the slaves. They like it. It makes them happy.”

    I really disagree with basically everything you wrote here.

    First, Denyse’s position does not deny “any” commonality or connection, it just states that humans have fundamental differences in several key aspects. Listen to Mozart, gaze at a Michelangelo work, study the LHC, and this is obvious.

    Yes, it is fundamentally “racist”, but not like “I think black people are inferior to me”, more like “I think caterpillars are inferior to me”. So you are not in favor of ANY “racism” between animal groups? I’ll give you a spin off of a scenario that was proposed during the debate about embryonic stem cell research: There is an old building, which you know is full of termites. There is also a baby in there. It is on fire. Do you save the one baby? Or do you grab a piece of wood to save thousands of termites? If there is no difference between the two, the decision should be made on sheer numbers. If you choose the baby, then you are agreeing with Denyse, that there is a

    You equate her view of animals with anti-abolitionist views of slaves. Basically you’re in favor of giving human rights to animals? If not, then the comparison is completely uncalled for. If so, then please explain to me how you think society should work (prosecution for people who hit bugs with their car windshields? Or no rights for anyone – i.e. total anarchy?)

    While human uniqueness is a wonderful thing that should not be ignored – neither should we deny the uniqueness of other species of living things – I see no reason to draw such hard boundaries between ourselves and other forms of life.

    You seem to equate the uniqueness of humans (genius thought, brilliant works of art, the ability to comprehend rights and form civilizations) is the same as the uniqueness among animals (varying physical characteristics and instincts). You say you see no reason to draw a hard boundary between us and other forms of life. If you can’t see the fundamental differences between humans and the rest of biology, I think it is because doing so would violate your worldview. However you believe we aquired our traits of intellect astronomically beyond the capacities of all other organisms in the history of biology (an extremely unique selection pressure history, Image of God, whatever), you are just in denial if you cannot acknowledge their significance. They aren’t just “unique” like every other lifeform was “unique” from one another in form and/or function.

  25. 25
    madsen says:

    uoflcard,

    He [Dawkins] is very much in favor of producing a “humanzee”, strictly in order to blur the line between humans and the other animals in the world.

    Do you have know of a quote by Dawkins where he says he is in favor of actually producing a human-chimp hybrid? I know he has speculated about the possibility as a sort of thought experiment, but he qualifies this by stating:

    “I have not said that I hope any of them [experiments including the chimp-human hybrid] will be realised.”

  26. 26

    Clive, re #20:

    “I never got an answer from you Allen as to exactly what accounts for the “ought” in evolutionary psychology.”

    That’s because there isn’t any “ought” in evolutionary psychology. It’s a purely descriptive field, with some analytic underpinnings. It has absolutely nothing to do with ethics, which are prescriptive, not descriptive/analytic.

    To be as concise as possible, we cannot decide what we “ought” to do by consulting what evolutionary psychology suggests we have an evolved tendency to do.

    Yes, we might discover that what we “ought” to do might be somewhat easier for us to do, compared with a sentient race that evolved from, say, badgers. However, saying that something might be “easy” is once again to say nothing at all about whether we “ought” to do it.

  27. 27

    uoflcard in #24:

    Are you asserting that a natural process, such as evolution, cannot (i.e. by definition) produce humans who have the ability (i.e. the intellectual and emotional capacities) to do things that are qualitatively different from the capacities of all other animals? If so, please cite arguments, with evidence, to support this assertion.

  28. 28
    David Kellogg says:

    I have a question: does “Darwin worship” help animal extinction? The post does not provide a shred of evidence that it does.

  29. 29
    O'Leary says:

    “Yes, it is fundamentally “racist”, but not like “I think black people are inferior to me”, more like “I think caterpillars are inferior to me”.”

    uflcard and all: It’s not a question of “-iority.”

    I (a human of limited gifts) can easily do stuff caterpillars can’t. Never could and never will. And no training would teach them.

    But all humans blessed with normal gifts can do what I can do, and vast numbers can do much better than me.

    The caterpillars’ nature is not such that they would even strive for such achievements. They just want to know the way to the nearest leaves they can devour.

    And their nature is fine as it is. I would not seek to tamper with it. It is an insect nature, and insects are very important on the face of the Earth. Their role must be properly understood.

    But it is not an intelligent nature as a human understands intelligence.

  30. 30
    David Kellogg says:

    To be fair, caterpillars can do stuff that you can’t either. 🙂

  31. 31
    Nakashima says:

    Why is third hand reportage about YouTube videos from Wired from months ago rating an OP, when Mr Vjtorley is citing the primary literature on the same subject in the comments on the Emergence threads? This OP is clearly more op-ed than journalism. Where is the ‘because’? Where is the justification of the opinions stated? The view that humans and elephants and butterflies are all twigs in the great tree of life is bad for elephants and butterflies because … ? Please fill in the blank.

  32. 32
    Larry Tanner says:

    And their nature is fine as it is. I would not seek to tamper with it. It is an insect nature, and insects are very important on the face of the Earth. Their role must be properly understood.

    Well, this may appear politic, yet it still fails to admit any sort of commonality between insect animals, in this case, and human animals.

    They are insects, and we are people. We must have these firm, rigid categories. These boundaries must not be crossed. We cannot allow even the thought that we all breathe, or we all eat, or we communicate, or we feel pain. No, forget all that. Whatever THEY do cannot be at all like what WE do.

    Why? Because WE are special. THEY are not. (Nyah-nyah.)

    Yes, very politic indeed.

    I’ve asked before, but I’ll ask again because of the nasty post that launched this thread: Is UD contributing to the sum of the world’s problems or to its solutions? Threads like this one and the recent few by Barry must lead one to wonder.

  33. 33
    Clive Hayden says:

    Allen,

    “That’s because there isn’t any “ought” in evolutionary psychology. It’s a purely descriptive field, with some analytic underpinnings. It has absolutely nothing to do with ethics, which are prescriptive, not descriptive/analytic.

    To be as concise as possible, we cannot decide what we “ought” to do by consulting what evolutionary psychology suggests we have an evolved tendency to do.”

    Thanks for your replies. I would like to know, since evolutionary psychology cannot explain our sense of “ought” where do you think this comes from? The reason I am asking, I’ve read articles that essentially, when taken together, use evolutionary psychology as an explanation for everything, for all human tendencies, even for our notion of “ought,” morality, religion, polygamy, monogamy, etc. I even read one article that attempts to explain, through evolutionary psychology, why we laugh. If you find my questions about evolutionary psychology incoherent, it could be because I find evolutionary psychology to be incoherent.

  34. 34
    AmerikanInKananaskis says:

    Clive, you’re playing on a little equivocation fallacy, and I think you’re aware of it.

    “There is no ought in evolutionary psychology” means that “the field makes descriptive claims not normative claims”. It DOES NOT mean that evolutionary psychology cannot make descriptive claims about our sense of “ought”.

    Of course, a large helping of evolutionary psychology is pseudoscience, and most evolutionary psychologists reject it. Attempting to knock down evolutionary biology by knocking down evolutionary psychology is about the same as disproving ID by pointing out that the world isn’t 6000 years old.

  35. 35
    Clive Hayden says:

    AmerikanInKananaskis,

    “Of course, a large helping of evolutionary psychology is pseudoscience, and most evolutionary psychologists reject it.”

    What? A large helping of evolutionary psychology is pseudoscience, and most evolutionary psychologists reject it? Who do you think is perpetuating it then? I just read an article today that discussed our “evolved religious sentiments” by discussing agency detection. I realize that an ought cannot be brought from an is. I just want the materialist to admit this too, and then give me an answer for how an ought is when there is no ought to be found in the material. If I were wanting to knock down evolution I would. Don’t invoke any secret motives on my behalf. Evolutionary psychology itself need to be knocked down, if, as I’ve seen it do, it evokes ought from is, or has special pleading, etc. In the world of ideas, I can speak just as authoritatively as anyone else, and so can you. And evolutionary psychology exists as a string of reasoning, albeit bad reasoning, to which anyone can ask questions and seek answers.

    And I’m still waiting on an answer as to what provides our sense of ought from Allen.

  36. 36
    Oramus says:

    Fill in the blank?

    Well er, if the human animal’s extraordinary capabilities and population explosion are ‘natural’ and expected, as a consequence of evolutionary mechanisms, thus resulting in the demise of various animals such as elephants for their ivory (looks good on the coffee table), tigers for their skin,bones and penises (puts hair on some chests I suppose), bears for their bile (I’d like to live longer too, ya know), monkeys for their brains (just ask the Cantonese), countless species of forest life (don’t we know cocoa cultivation is vital to the human brain), then this outcome should ‘naturally’ be expected.

    So I would be curious as to why we should be concerned for elephant survival. Perhaps because they are one of the last living species of dinosaurs?

    I mean, I understand the fainest plausibility of explaining sentimentality in terms of intra-species solidarity but empathy toward other animals would strike me as awkward, from an evolutionary perspective.

    But then again, I can also faintly feel the bud of the ought breaking through the threshold of is.

  37. 37
    Dave Wisker says:

    Hi Oramus,

    I mean, I understand the fainest plausibility of explaining sentimentality in terms of intra-species solidarity but empathy toward other animals would strike me as awkward, from an evolutionary perspective.

    Not if maintaining biodiversity overall (plants and animals) is understood as a contributing factor to our species’ survival.

  38. 38
    Dave Wisker says:

    Sorry for the poor formatting in the previous comment.

  39. 39
    uoflcard says:

    Allen #27

    Are you asserting that a natural process, such as evolution, cannot (i.e. by definition) produce humans who have the ability (i.e. the intellectual and emotional capacities) to do things that are qualitatively different from the capacities of all other animals? If so, please cite arguments, with evidence, to support this assertion.

    That’s not what I was asserting, although I understand how it could come out like that. First, I have a hard time believing RM+NS can produce much of anything that is both useful AND an increase in information/complexity. But conceding that, I still cannot bring myself to believe the imagined natural selection pressures that led us from foraging apes to building Large Hadron Colliders and investigating String Theory.

  40. 40
    jerry says:

    Allen,

    I have a question about evolutionary psychology for you. Is it genetically based? We nearly always refer to evolution as a process about how traits are passed on by reproduction and most often by sexual reproduction. But in the Jablonka and Lamb book on the four dimensions of evolution there is a major section on the passing down of traits through learning from our parents or our peers or other social influences. There are examples of how animals learned a new behavior from another one of their kind and then this behavior became the norm for these animals. Nothing genetic but it was learned behavior that was passed on and thus the behavior of the species changed.

    In other words culture, habits, knowledge is handed down through a process of social interaction and evolves. Is this the evolution of evolutionary psychology or is it based on genetic traits passed on through sexual reproduction based on which of these genetic traits may or may not have had an affect on differential reproduction?

    I have a hard time seeing how behavioral tendencies could be passed down genetically for humans when the species is so widely spread and so varied. It is easy to understand social forces passing on common behavior but is that really evolution.

  41. 41

    In #39 uoflcard wrote:

    “I still cannot bring myself to believe the imagined natural selection pressures that led us from foraging apes to building Large Hadron Colliders and investigating String Theory.”

    Natural selection didn’t specifically produce in us the necessity to build LHCs or investigate string theory. What has evolved in us (via the demographic “sorting” process, the outcome of which we call “natural selection”) is what we could call a “general purpose logical processor” (GPLP) in our minds (which lives in the neural “wiring” our nervous systems). This GPLP conferred enormously increased relative reproductive success on our ancestors, as it allowed them to effectively deal with situations that had never before arisen in the environments of their ancestors.

    In other words, for long-lived animals such as humans and other large vertebrates, having a brain that includes some kind of GPLP can produce a more effective response to changing environmental conditions than have a “hard-wired analogy processor” HWAP. The latter can respond even faster to specific situations than a GPLP, but it cannot respond to genuinely novel situations without being “rewired”, which requires genetic and developmental modifications, which take an immensely long time, relative to the changes faced by the organism.

    Ergo, the ability to invent LGCs and formulate string theory is an epigenetic property of GPLPs, which originally evolved in response to very different situations (but situations the challenges of which were amenable to the output of a GPLP).

    In other words, our relative lack of structural adaptations to specific situations has been more than compensated for by our possession of a adaptation (i.e. GPLPs) that make it possible to adapt ourselves to changing conditions “on the fly” without genetic and neurological “rewiring”.

  42. 42

    Absolutely right Denyse – by reducing mankind to the level of animals it removes all responsibility to care for nature. The general narrative of many nature programmes falls into this fallacy. Telling us that mankind is just an evolved animal, then telling us how wicked we are for behaving like an evolved animal because we exploit nature for survival benefit. Naturalistic science, of which evolution is part, cannot handle values of any kind because it seeks to reduce nature to nothing.
    I have written about this in my book Restoring the Ethics of Creation.

  43. 43

    In #40 jerry asked:

    “Is this the evolution of evolutionary psychology or is it based on genetic traits passed on through sexual reproduction based on which of these genetic traits may or may not have had an affect on differential reproduction?”

    Please see my answer to uoflcard’s question in my previous comment. To expand on it to cover your question, what we inherit genetically is not specific “solutions” to “problems” posed by changes in our environment, but rather the ability to formulate adaptive responses to environmental challenges “on the fly”. This ability is, by definition, epigenetic, in the sense that the abilities it produces are not strictly reducible to either the neurological “wiring” within which the capability “lives”, nor to the genetic and developmental processes that result in the production of such “wiring”.

    This should be obvious to anyone who knows how computer programs work. The wiring in the circuits of a modern digital/programmable computer are arranged in such a way that, using the logic circuits in that wiring, virtually any program can be “run” by the computer to solve virtually any problem. This is what is known as a “universal Turing machine”, and what I referred to in the previous post as a “general purpose logical processor”.

    If you are interested in a much more comprehensive (albeit much more technical) treatment of these issues, the best resource is Genes, Mind, And Culture: The Coevolutionary Process by Charles Lumsden and Edward O. Wilson (2005, 25th anniversary edition), World Scientific Publishing Company, ISBN #9812562745, 496 pages.

    Here’s a brief description of the book:

    “Long considered one of the most provocative and demanding major works on human sociobiology, Genes, Mind, and Culture introduces the concept of gene-culture coevolution….[I]n this volume Lumsden and Wilson provide a much needed facsimile edition of their original (1980) work, together with a major review of progress in the discipline during the ensuing quarter century. They argue compellingly that human nature is neither arbitrary nor predetermined, and identify mechanisms that energize the upward translation from genes to culture. The authors also assess the properties of genetic evolution of mind within emergent cultural patterns. Lumsden and Wilson explore the rich and sophisticated data of developmental psychology and cognitive science in a fashion that, for the first time, aligns these disciplines with human sociobiology. The authors also draw on population genetics, cultural anthropology, and mathematical physics to set human sociobiology on a predictive base, and so trace the main steps that lead from the genes through human consciousness to culture.”

    Warning: This book is like any physics text; it is heavily mathematical. Be prepared to put a lot of time and mental energy into deciphering the mathematical arguments upon which the authors’ theses are based.

    BTW, for those who are curious, I use “quotation marks” to set off words that have different meanings to biologists (i.e. evolutionary biologists, neurobiologists, sociobiologists, etc.) than they do for the general public. They are not intended as “scare quotes”, which are generally used to denote words, the meaning and usefulness of which the author is skeptical.

  44. 44

    In #42 Andrew Sibley asserts:

    “Naturalistic science, of which evolution is part, cannot handle values of any kind because it seeks to reduce nature to nothing. [Emphasis added]”

    I completely disagree, specifically because of the second part of the quotation highlighted above. Natural science doesn’t do anything; natural scientists do things (including doing natural science). Most natural scientists – that is, people who use the empirical method to investigate nature – understand what virtually all philosophers understand: that empirically based descriptions of nature cannot logically be used to formulate nor justify ethical prescriptions. Therefore, natural scientists who understand the limitations of their science do not attempt to derive their ethical prescriptions from their science. They do it the way all rational people formulate their ethics: based on the logic of deontological and teleological moral prescriptions. Personally, I believe that a comprehensive system of ethics requires both deontological principles and teleological justification, and have observed that most ethicists agree with this position. I also very strenuously disagree with any attempt to derive “ought” statements from “is” statements. To do so is to set the stage for very great evil.

  45. 45

    Allen – I was more specifically speaking of metaphysical naturalism. Of course many people who do science within methodological naturalism have their own values that come from outside of science. But not all. Acceptance of evolution by survival (ought) of the fittest (is) breaks Hume’s claim and does indeed lead to moral evil.

    Furthermore, science conducted under methodological naturalism cannot handle values which is why for instance proponents seek to utilise embryonic stem cells because they deny the embryo value.

    But there is nothing wrong in finding a general system of value in nature from faith that informs our duties. But ultimately duties are informed by the utility of love.

  46. 46
    Larry Tanner says:

    Andrew [42] – I can hardly disagree more.

    by reducing mankind to the level of animals it removes all responsibility to care for nature.

    The logic of this statement doesn’t compute. Why would “reducing” mankind remove any responsibility? On the contrary, recognizing our common bonds with other forms of life places an increased burden on us to be responsible in our treatment of all life.

    If your use of language weren’t so offensive, it might be funny: reducing? mankind? level of animals? Please, get over yourself.

    Telling us that mankind is just an evolved animal, then telling us how wicked we are for behaving like an evolved animal because we exploit nature for survival benefit. Naturalistic science, of which evolution is part, cannot handle values of any kind because it seeks to reduce nature to nothing.

    I don’t know where you get your messages. Son of Sam got them from a dog. In any case, first you lament being told you are “wicked,” but then suggest that science cannot handle values. You see where I am going: if science can’t handle any values then it could tell you that your were wicked because wicked is a value – it evaluates your behavior in terms of transgression.

    Apparently, you want to feel good about “exploiting” nature – exploit was your word. Personally, I don;t care if you feel good or guilty, but I think the message of the science is that our actions have consequences. If we exploit the natural world, all of our feeling good will not prevent whatever consequences come from it.

    It’s your choice. If you feel like our planet loses nothing from the extinction of African elephants, then by all means go about your merry way. Maybe some deity will intervene.

  47. 47
    AmerikanInKananaskis says:

    Yes, Clive. You’re right. I meant to type “evolutionary biologists reject it”, not “evolutionary psychologists reject it”.

    I just want the materialist to admit this too, and then give me an answer for how an ought is when there is no ought to be found in the material.

    I’m merely trying to insist on fairness from you, and I don’t think your question makes a lick of sense.

    Have you decided which kind of “ought” evolutionary psychology cannot explain? Are you talking about our innate sense of “ought”, or are you talking about a greater philosophical “ought” (e.g. one derived from the categorical imperative, etc.)? The origin of the former COULD be described by a naturalistic process, but the validity of either CANNOT be described by science. (Although forays into that realm have been made by E.O. Wilson and M. Ruse, etc., it’s generally agreed that this is a commission of the naturalistic fallacy.)

    From what I’ve read you’ve not been clear which “ought” you’re talking about.

  48. 48

    Larry – I am not advocating exploitation of nature, instead I believe in loving stewardship, I am just highlighting the logical inconsistency of those who want their cake and eat it.
    If we are just animals, then why should we not behave just like animals? Not that animals are immoral, but that they are amoral. Humans cannot be at the same moral and amoral. Humans are moral agents, but it cannot come through evolution.

  49. 49

    re post 48 – a clarification – of course some will say that animals do have morals – yes they have cooperative behaviour, but I wouldn’t say that is morality in a human sense.

    The other aspect that animals do not have is the abilty for wisdom and forward planning to the level that humans have in order to care for nature.

  50. 50
    Larry Tanner says:

    Andrew [48] – don’t you see that “loving stewardship” is a euphemism for exploitation and tyranny? The main flaw of the “loving stewardship” model is lack of reciprocity: we subordinate the planet and all of its resources to ourselves and our needs without any real commitment on our part going the other way.

    We are “just animals,” as you say – although I wonder why you use the qualifier “just.” What’s wrong with being what we are?

    And we can behave like animals, or not. We do agree that we have abilities to make decisions and to plan long-range. To behave truly like the animals we are, I think we need to act in the most responsible and intelligent way possible.

    You seem to think that for us, acting like an animal means acting totally selfishly. I disagree because we are the kind of animal that can make reflective choices. I think we should use and develop this ability.

    Your last shot at what can and cannot come through evolution seems unnecessary and uninformed.

  51. 51
    Clive Hayden says:

    Allen,

    “Personally, I believe that a comprehensive system of ethics requires both deontological principles and teleological justification, and have observed that most ethicists agree with this position. I also very strenuously disagree with any attempt to derive “ought” statements from “is” statements. To do so is to set the stage for very great evil.”

    Allen, are these prescriptions something innate in humans, or are they learned? Are we born tabula rasa?

  52. 52
    uoflcard says:

    #41, #43 Allen:

    I don’t know nearly enough about neuroscience or the neurological physiology of humans vs. apes to give a solid critique of your comments about GPLP’s, etc. But here are my initial thoughts:

    – Is there even any neurological evidence of a GPLP in the human brain?

    – I understand why a GPLP would be extremely beneficial, but is there a gradual pathway to a GPLP, or is it just “hit on” (i.e. *poof*, a GPLP). You describe it like it was suddenly discovered by evolution. If not, then were there simpler GPLP’s that built in complexity?

    – Your computer analogy should have plenty of responders on here since there is a large population of UD readers who are computer engineers, programmers, scientists, etc. But here is my non-computer-expert response to it: Yes, the logic circuits can run a virtually infinite number of programs to solve virtually any problem. The question begged by that analogy is what is analogous to computer programs in the human brain? Programs are highly complex, and designed for a specific set of problems. The computer circuit alone does not process the problems. A computer is an effective GPLP, only when combined with the intellect of a human computer programmer. If the brain is/has a GPLP, who/what is programming it?

    I’m sure others could posit better questions than I did.

  53. 53
    David Kellogg says:

    This thread has veered widely from the topic of the original post. Why? Probably because the original post has no support.

  54. 54

    In #48 Andrew Sibley wrote:

    “Humans are moral agents, but it cannot come through evolution.”

    Exactly right, and precisely the point that I have been consistently making here (and elsewhere) every time this subject comes up.

  55. 55
    Ludwig says:

    David Kellog #53 and Allen #55,

    Agreed. It’s embarassing.

  56. 56
    uoflcard says:

    #50 Larry:

    Andrew [48] – don’t you see that “loving stewardship” is a euphemism for exploitation and tyranny? The main flaw of the “loving stewardship” model is lack of reciprocity: we subordinate the planet and all of its resources to ourselves and our needs without any real commitment on our part going the other way.

    True loving stewardship necessarily includes reciprocity. Your definition is a strawman. Loving stewardship by definition cannot lack “any real commitment on our part going the other way”. It wouldn’t be loving stewardship. If someone is claiming to exhibit loving stewardship but displays the qualities you describe, they are just a hypocrite.

    Farmers want nothing more than for their crops and livestock to thrive. It’s popular to hate logging companies for tearing down forests. But no one wants forests to thrive more than logging companies! They spend more resources ensuring the future health of forests than anyone else on Earth, probably combined. There are some issues like protecting isolated habitats for rare or endangered species, but as those are discovered, they are protected.

    When humans selfishly consume all of the natural resources they can without regard for the effect on the environment, it is not loving stewardship. When Native Americans came to this land, they exterminated many magestic species, like the Wooly Mammoth. They did not exert loving stewardship.

    An interesting application of this principle is in the Disney movie The Lion King. Basically, biblical human qualities are exhibited through the lions, who have “loving stewardship” over the animal kingdom. Mufasa’s biblical reign of loving stewardship is then substituted for Scar’s exploitative tyranny, leading to the near destruction of the animal kingdom. That’s not to say I advocate elaborate choreography with wild animals from the Serengeti.

  57. 57
    Larry Tanner says:

    uoflcard [57] – Your point is well taken, but I still see the steward relationship fundamentally defined as dominant/subordinate. It’s not, and never is, a relationship of partners or near-partners.

    Should it be? I’d like to think so ideally.

    But I think the real lesson here is what happens when we question where that dominant/subordinate relationship, even in its more benevolent forms, comes from. Does it have to be this sort of relationship or are there other models we can use that might be more beneficial?

    In my opinion, stewardship and the worldviews that champion it are highly problematic on a number of fronts. The opening post of this thread conveniently ignored this, although I don’t think intentionally or maliciously.

    The topic has run its course for me. Thanks.

  58. 58
    Oramus says:

    Dave,

    I see yr outta the doghouse. Hope not just for exercise. 🙂

    Yr reply below appears to assume some sort of evolutionary competitive restraint mechanism exists in the human species to account for this, correct?

    If so, would this CRM only be found in the human species only or across the biological board?

    Not if maintaining biodiversity overall (plants and animals) is understood as a contributing factor to our species’ survival.

  59. 59
    Oramus says:

    But Larry?!. Wait, waaaait……!

    Phew! Why are humans responsible in any way? What made us the custodians of nature? Did we inadvertently pick the short straw? How does such a feature emerge in just a single species outta countless life forms?

    It would seem more plausible for simpler ‘competitive restraint’ sidewalks to co-emerge rather than a single major evolutionary superhighway.

    The logic of this statement doesn’t compute. Why would “reducing” mankind remove any responsibility? On the contrary, recognizing our common bonds with other forms of life places an increased burden on us to be responsible in our treatment of all life.

  60. 60
    Dave Wisker says:

    Hi Oramus,

    Dave,

    I see yr outta the doghouse. Hope not just for exercise.

    Thanks, but I think the admins may have their reasons. In the interest of full disclosure, I am “KC” over on the ARN discussion forum, and I have guest blogged under my real name on the Panda’s Thumb. So if that means I carry particularly virulent ID critic cooties and must be quarantined in moderation, so be it 😉

    Yr reply below appears to assume some sort of evolutionary competitive restraint mechanism exists in the human species to account for this, correct?

    Well, no, not exactly. I’d simply say we have the capacity for abstract thought and foresight (which has been found in other species, but not to the extent we have), which enables us to assess the situation and make plans to address it.

    If so, would this CRM only be found in the human species only or across the biological board?

    I’d say we are probably the only known species capable of this level of abstraction. But as I said earlier, there is evidence that other species do possess varying capacities for abstract thought and foresight (think of that chimpanzee in the zoo who collected rocks and other objects to be used to throw at zoo visitors later).

  61. 61
    Larry Tanner says:

    Oramus [59] –

    Why are humans responsible in any way? What made us the custodians of nature? Did we inadvertently pick the short straw? How does such a feature emerge in just a single species outta countless life forms?

    Strictly speaking, we are not responsible in any way. Or, we are responsible only insofar as we charge ourselves to be.

    I don’t object to people or societies designating themselves responsible for their manner of treatment for life on Earth.

    As a practical matter, I am not sure we can escape taking responsibility in some manner – even if we wanted to.

    My point, once again, is that in taking responsibility we can adopt a better model than the one of dominant/subordinate “loving stewardship.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “such a feature.” What feature? In any event, this feature and its development are off-topic.

    The OP tried to suggest that some perspective, allegedly derived from a Darwinian TOE, allegedly leads to ultimate harm/extinction for animals.

    The OP is thoroughly incorrect on a surprising number of levels, but I honed in on the part where it ignorantly implied that a dominant/subordinate model was preferable, if not ideal.

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