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Humans are less superior to animals than we think?

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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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19 Replies to “Humans are less superior to animals than we think?

  1. 1
    tkeithlu says:

    Every time someone claims that something is uniquely human the literature gets jammed up with examples from the rest of the animal world. Tool use is a good example. So what’s left? We’re the only animal that evolved fully mental solutions to problems (technology) rather than morphological solutions (teeth, speed). We’re the only species with a grammar that allows infinitely novel messages between us that are immediately understood. That means I’m pecking away at a laptop rather than climbing through a tree looking for breakfast. Why in the world one species (or sequence of species with lots of dead ends) headed off in this weird direction in evolution while all the others did not amazes me.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    It is interesting to note that modern science was brought forth by people who believed in human exceptionalism.,,,

    Founders of Modern Science Who Believe in GOD – Tihomir Dimitrov – (pg. 222)

    podcast – Dr. Michael Egnor: Judeo-Christianity and the Rise of Modern Science – March 2014

    Epistemology – Why Should The Human Comprehend Reality? – Stephen Meyer – video

    In other words, modern science was brought forth by people who had the audacity to believe that we were made in the image of God.

    Genesis 1:26
    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

    “Have you ever noticed that there are two days in which God speaks more than once in Genesis1 ? Day 3 and Day 6. And in Day 3 its making the distinction between the inorganic, the non-living, and the living. And in day 6 what’s it doing? Making the difference between animals and human beings. So let me express myself very carefully.,,, According to Genesis you do not get from the non-living to the living without the words ‘And God said’. According to Genesis you do not get from the animal to the human without the words ‘And God said’.
    John Lennox – video – 54:59 minute mark

    Thus the success, and fruits, of modern science itself is certainly strong evidence supporting the belief that we were made in the image of God,,,

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.

    But to further solidify the case that we were made in God’s image, let’s look at the disparity between us and the animals,,,

    Although the morphological disparity between us and apes is far greater than most people realize,,

    But…in the second section of their paper King and Wilson honestly describe the deficiencies of such reasoning:
    “The molecular similarity between chimpanzees and humans is extraordinary because they differ far more than sibling species in anatomy and way of life. Although humans and chimpanzees are rather similar in the structure of the thorax and arms, they differ substantially not only in brain size but also in the anatomy of the pelvis, foot, and jaws, as well as in relative lengths of limbs and digits (38).
    Humans and chimpanzees also differ significantly in many other anatomical respects, to the extent that nearly every bone in the body of a chimpanzee is readily distinguishable in shape or size from its human counterpart (38).
    Associated with these anatomical differences there are, of course, major differences in posture (see cover picture), mode of locomotion, methods of procuring food, and means of communication. Because of these major differences in anatomy and way of life, biologists place the two species not just in separate genera but in separate families (39). So it appears that molecular and organismal methods of evaluating the chimpanzee human difference yield quite different conclusions (40).”

    King and Wilson went on to suggest that the morphological and behavioral between humans and apes,, must be due to variations in their genomic regulatory systems.
    David Berlinski – The Devil’s Delusion – Page 162&163

    Gene McCarthy claims that the evidence points to humans as actually hybrids of chimps and pigs. Here is a partial list of differences that he provides:

    despite that great disparity in morphology, one of the things that most dramatically separates us from the animals is our ability to process, and create, information,,

    Evolution of the Genus Homo – Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Ian Tattersall, Jeffery H. Schwartz, May 2009
    Excerpt: “Definition of the genus Homo is almost as fraught as the definition of Homo sapiens. We look at the evidence for “early Homo,” finding little morphological basis for extending our genus to any of the 2.5–1.6-myr-old fossil forms assigned to “early Homo” or Homo habilis/rudolfensis.”,,,,
    “Unusual though Homo sapiens may be morphologically, it is undoubtedly our remarkable cognitive qualities that most strikingly demarcate us from all other extant species. They are certainly what give us our strong subjective sense of being qualitatively different. And they are all ultimately traceable to our symbolic capacity. Human beings alone, it seems, mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities. When exactly Homo sapiens acquired this unusual ability is the subject of debate.”

    Darwin’s mistake: explaining the discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds. – 2008
    Excerpt: Over the last quarter century, the dominant tendency in comparative cognitive psychology has been to emphasize the similarities between human and nonhuman minds and to downplay the differences as “one of degree and not of kind” (Darwin 1871).,,, To wit, there is a significant discontinuity in the degree to which human and nonhuman animals are able to approximate the higher-order, systematic, relational capabilities of a physical symbol system (PSS) (Newell 1980). We show that this symbolic-relational discontinuity pervades nearly every domain of cognition and runs much deeper than even the spectacular scaffolding provided by language or culture alone can explain,,,

    Where this exceptional human ability to process, and create, information really gains traction as to providing solid evidence for the belief that we are made in the image of God is that it is now found that reality is information theoretic in its basis. i.e. Reality is not materialistic/naturalistic in its basis.

    “it from bit” Every “it”— every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits. “It from bit” symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has a bottom—a very deep bottom, in most instances, an immaterial source and explanation, that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment—evoked responses, in short all matter and all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe.”
    (Wheeler, John A. (1990), “Information, physics, quantum: The search for links”, in W. Zurek, Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information (Redwood City, California: Addison-Wesley))

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.”
    Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum teleportation:
    per –

    Conversations with William Dembski–The Thesis of Being as Communion – video

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Another place where this exceptional human ability to process, and create, information gains traction as solid evidence for the belief that we are made in the image of God is that life itself is found to be information theoretic in its basis.

    In fact the three Rs, reading, writing, and arithmetic, i.e. the ability to process information, is the very first thing to be taught to children when they enter elementary school. And yet it is information processing, i.e. reading, writing, and arithmetic, that is found to be foundational to life:

    Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer – video clip

    Intelligent design: Why can’t biological information originate through a materialistic process? – Stephen Meyer – video

    John Lennox – Is There Evidence of Something Beyond Nature? (Semiotic Information) – video

    Thus, the belief that we were made in God’s image, besides giving man the proper epistemological basis for the birth of modern science, is now confirmed by the advances of modern science in a rather dramatic fashion.


    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men.

    Supplemental note: It is also interesting to note that atheists never follow their convictions out to the complete end. ,,, Although atheistic materialists are gung-ho to devalue humans to the point of being ‘just another animal’, they never stop to realize the stark implications of their world view if it were played out in its entirety. i.e. Just how do you derive value for any person from a philosophy that maintains transcendent values are illusory?:

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt:,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.

    How much is my body worth?
    Excerpt: The U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils invested many a hard-earned tax dollar in calculating the chemical and mineral composition of the human body,,,,Together, all of the above (chemicals and minerals) amounts to less than one dollar!

    Whereas Theism, particularly Christianity, has no trouble whatsoever figuring out how much humans are worth, since infinite Almighty God has shown us how much we mean to him:

    Verses and Music

    John 3:16
    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    Matthew 16:26
    And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

    MercyMe – Beautiful – music

  4. 4
    Sirius says:

    By the way, whatever happened to the old “opposable thumb” argument? It goes way back. The belief was that if only those ape-like critters had opposable thumbs, they too would have been writing sonnets.

    Can anyone elaborate on the origin of this absurd but influential claim? Was it T.H. Huxley?

  5. 5
    News says:

    I don’t know who originated the claim re opposable thumbs, but it puts the matter back to front. We design tools as we do because we have opposable thumbs. They are of great value in tool use but they don’t *cause* it.

    If we gave a cat opposable thumbs, he would not proceed to design tools. Nor would his opposably thumbed descendants.

    It would be interesting to see whether an opposably thumbed primate that is known to use tools would design better and more sophisticated ones with opposable thumbs. Possibly.

    The primate would hit a brick wall when he could not make use of extensive abstraction in his work. Thumbs just don’t do that kind of work.

    I find Dembski’s approach to intelligence helpful here: See it as the size of search space for a solution.

    The cat’s search space doesn’t include using anything other than his own body. The primate’s search space includes using extensions like sticks and stones, but not abstractions. The engineer’s search space allows him to seek abstractions about abstractions, including imaginary numbers.

    I find this a more satisfactory way of looking at the difference between human and animal intelligence than the sort of thing you find in pop science mags: There we are breathlessly told about a research chimp who “plans ahead,” as if that was some great feat in a world where most animals must take some thought for the morrow, instinctively or otherwise.

  6. 6
    Acartia_bogart says:

    News: “If we gave a cat opposable thumbs, he would not proceed to design tools.”

    You have obviously never met my cat. I have to hide my car keys from him.

  7. 7
    CalvinsBulldog says:

    A species that built rockets capable of landing them on the moon is not as superior as it thinks. After all, moths are known to fly in circles around the moon for hours too.

    Human beings < or = moths.

  8. 8
    Moose Dr says:

    Sirius, “By the way, whatever happened to the old “opposable thumb” argument?”

    The opposable thumb argument has puzzled the heck out of me since the beginning. Has nobody noticed that chimps have opposable thumbs on their hands and their feet? Has nobody noticed that many birds have opposable digits which are fully functional for grasping. Has anyone ever watched a macaw with a stick — very articulate.

    Whoever declared that the key to human superiority was opposable thumbs wasn’t very observant.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Life Got You Down? Just Remember You Got Opposable Thumbs! – music video

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    This is great news! For a long time I was thinking humans were inferior to animals.

  11. 11
    tjguy says:

    So instead of seeing all this as evidence that Neanderthals are humans like us, they choose to interpret it as evidence that humans are not exceptional.

    I wonder why!

    Prior commitment to the evolutionary paradigm wouldn’t have anything to do with that would it?

    We are all bias and interpret the facts in light of our paradigm. Evolutionists like to say it is only creationists who do this, but that’s just not true. They do it too and this is a prime example!

  12. 12
    tjguy says:

    Here is another example of how bias can effect how we interpret the evidence we are presented with. The Pistorius trial. It shows that determining what happened in the past can sometimes be very difficult. It certainly isn’t a matter of precise science. This is a problem for evolutionists who want their ideas to pass as precise science.

    The Oscar Pistorius trial and the role of forensic bias
    * Conflicting interpretations of forensic evidence *

  13. 13
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Humans are less superior to animals than we think?

    Since humans are not inherently superior to other organisms there is little point to this subject.

  14. 14
    Mung says:


    Since humans are not inherently superior to other organisms there is little point to this subject.

    I suppose next you’ll assert that it is a scientific fact, as sure as the fact of evolution, that humans are not inherently superior to other organisms.

    Or were you just offering your own subjective opinion?

  15. 15
    Daniel King says:

    Hi Mung,

    Does it make you happy to think that you’re superior to your fellow human beings and the rest of life on earth?

    Do you need to feel that way?

  16. 16
    Mung says:

    Daniel King:

    Does it make you happy to think that you’re superior to your fellow human beings and the rest of life on earth?

    No, the fact that I am superior is not the source of my happiness. It’s not their fault they are inferior.

    Daniel King:

    Do you need to feel that way?

    How does one “need to feel” a fact?

  17. 17
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Mung: “I suppose next you’ll assert that it is a scientific fact, as sure as the fact of evolution, that humans are not inherently superior to other organisms.”

    That depends on how you define superior. Are we superior because they need us for their continued existence? Sorry, we fail there. Are we superior because we make their lives better. Again, we appear to be a miserable failure. Are we superior because we can exploit them for our benefit? It is true that we can exploit them, but only a fool would think that we are doing it in a sustainable fashion. Are we superior because we can survive without them. Again, we suck at that. We can’t even survive without bacteria and algae.

    I think that humans are remarkable animals, but only as the result of the enlargement of a single organ and what that allows us to do. But bats, dolphins, tintinnids and sponges are also remarkable. But superior? As far as I can tell, that is just a word that we invented to make ourselves feel better. It is also a word that has been used to justify all sorts of human atrocities. Personally, I feel fine without.

  18. 18
    Mung says:

    A_b: “Since humans are not inherently superior to other organisms there is little point to this subject.”

    M: “I suppose next you’ll assert that it is a scientific fact, as sure as the fact of evolution, that humans are not inherently superior to other organisms.”

    A_b: “That depends on how you define superior.”

    And here, honest discussion necessarily ends. Pity that.

  19. 19
    Acartia_bogart says:

    A_b: “That depends on how you define superior.”
    Mung: “And here, honest discussion necessarily ends. Pity that.”

    And I always thought that a clear definition of terms was important for any discussion if you hope it to have relevance. But I guess that clear and agreed to definitions are not important to creationists like yourself.

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