Regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of the evolutionary argument that humans are descended from apes, the differences between humans and apes are so profound as to render the view that humans are apes abject nonsense.
It is important to understand the fundamental difference between humans and nonhuman animals. Nonhuman animals such as apes have material mental powers. By material I mean powers that are instantiated in the brain and wholly depend upon matter for their operation. These powers include sensation, perception, imagination (the ability to form mental images), memory (of perceptions and images), and appetite. Nonhuman animals have a mental capacity to perceive and respond to particulars, which are specific material objects such as other animals, food, obstacles, and predators.
Human beings have mental powers that include the material mental powers of animals but in addition entail a profoundly different kind of thinking. Human beings think abstractly, and nonhuman animals do not. Human beings have the power to contemplate universals, which are concepts that have no material instantiation. Human beings think about mathematics, literature, art, language, justice, mercy, and an endless library of abstract concepts. Human beings are rational animals. More.
Not only so, but even human beings who have severe neurological deficits can display these qualities, imperfectly or in fits and starts.
As I wrote here,
When Canada effectually legalized euthanasia, I was dismayed. Dementia victims, certain to be targets, can be got to “consent” without any fixed or firm idea what they are doing. With the ageing of the world’s population dementia has become the new leprosy.
Legislators have sniffed the wind. People with dementias are looked on as beings apart, as lepers once were.
But dementias are not different in principle from other disabilities.
Dementia: The brain is an organ; when challenged, it tries to heal, like any other organ. And it often succeeds, up to a point, just by rewiring (neuroplasticity). So dementias go forward and backward, depending. They are more of a problem in some areas of life than others.
In that respect, dementias do not differ much from, say, mobility issues. It is true that mobility declines with age. But it is also true that seniors who arrive in rehab in wheelchairs routinely progress to walkers and canes.
Mental awareness is like that too. Just for example: I was in the dining room in an old age home a couple of months ago. Some residents were complaining that it was too dark for that time of year.
Well, no surprise there, five light bulbs were burnt out. I said, I am going to grab one of those deaders, go get five like it, and just screw them all in. (How big a committee do we need for this? How many meetings?)
Then an old fellow diagnosed with dementia—who usually could not speak clearly—rasped from the back of the room, “Maybe you should leave that to the landlord.”
I realized he was right. If I did it myself, I’d be personally responsible for any consequences, no matter how unforeseen. Following his implied suggestion, I spoke to the front desk, and they got Maintenance to do the job.More.
To think that way, he needed a type of life experience involving many abstract concepts, some of which had stayed with him in the gathering darkness. And one of which would never have dawned on an animal.
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