The thought, now conventional pap, is not especially interesting or insightful, but the process by which Anjana Ahujah arrives at it, at the Financial Times is interesting. If only to show what passes for thinking about evolution these days:
The Neanderthals ran us a close second, becoming extinct only 30,000 years ago and surrendering total dominion to modern man. They are caricatured as brutish and dim-witted.
Yet carvings discovered in a Gibraltar cave suggest that homo neanderthalensis might have possessed the capacity for abstract thought. The appearance of art in the Neanderthal cultural oeuvre, along with evidence that they used feathers for adornment and buried their dead, is forcing a significant reappraisal of our supposedly intellectually inferior evolutionary cousins. More.
The obvious conclusion is that Neanderthals were not really anything like a “separate species,” rather than that the find brings us closer to non-human primates. In this context, see: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents
We further learn:
So humans can no longer claim that our privileged position as the world’s dominant species is earned through a unique cultural sensibility, expressed in art, science and philosophy. We forfeited the monopoly on other capacities long ago – dolphins have rudimentary language, crows can count and last week it was also revealed that cockatoos can teach others how to make and use tools.
Well, not only dolphins but bees have “rudimentary language,” if all one means is the ability to convey set types of information (bee dance). The fundamental problem is, they don’t have much to say. Crows are not the only birds/animals that can count (this is not even news, really). But they cannot go beyond counting because they cannot deal in abstractions. Cockatoos can learn from each other, but so can many animals; canines and felines teach their offspring to hunt, by example. They just don’t originate anything new in the process.
A zoo-dwelling chimp in Sweden was found hoarding stones in the morning to hurl at visitors in the afternoon
And North American squirrels store nuts months in advance of the winter, never mind for use in the afternoon. And then, as with the chimp, nothing else happens.
I’m glad to be starting my series on “Naturalizing the mind” soon at Evolution News & Views, because it provides a way to document the way in which science writers like Ahujah simply and systematically avoid the real problem. It was put to me once like this: You can raise a human baby and a chimpanzee baby together for about two years and then suddenly there is a huge divergence that just keeps growing.
It’s that huge divergence that is unique, and should be of interest—but somehow isn’t. Just look at all the efforts to pretend it isn’t there, this being but one example.
If I had no other reason for thinking that Darwinian naturalism is a decaying idea—in terms of its intellectual heft—articles like the one in FT confirm the suspicion. Obviously questionable statements are accepted because they support that view of life, not because they recommend themselves on any other ground.
Now, the ability of a cultural icon like Darwinism to command assent is a different matter from its intellectual heft. Assent, commanded or otherwise, can persist many decades after the heft is gone, if it suits the needs of a ruling elite. As it seems to do now. – O’Leary for News
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