Posted: Nov 24, 2010 3:30 pm
by katja z
jez9999 wrote:How can one say that human language is a 'bit' further beyond other animals? I'm pointing out the degree of difference, which is truly vast. It's uncanny that I can describe to you in great detail why I think human evolution is so extraordinary; I'm appreciating very complex science (from an armchair) and using very complex language to convey my ideas, as you all are. I'm not confusing how 'unique' our abilities are, but neither should you confuse how vast the difference in intelligence between humans and any non-homo genus is.

I don't know if you've read my first response to you? (You should as this post you've responded to was really an afterthought to it.) My point is that biologically, these abilities you speak of are a matter of degree not kind - they build on mechanisms that already existed in nonhuman animals.

But (paraphrasing the authors of Figments of Reality that I mentioned before), when we, as social primates, gradually developed culture, we gave ourselves a whole new range of things to be intelligent about. It was this new social environment that made a huge difference by providing pressures that didn't exist in our, let's call it, biological environment. We have also invented the trick of storing large amounts of information and experience outside the individual brain where it is accessible to the members without them having to learn it first hand. This trick is known as culture. It really hinges on the ability not just of individual brains to learn, but on the ability of human groups to function together (ability that we've perfected over time, and we're still working on it). Our languages themselves are products of very long, collective, cumulative processes of cultural evolution that have made them the impressive, extremely versatile communication tools they are today.