Posted: Nov 24, 2010 10:25 pm
by Mr.Samsa
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.

Yes but a lot of this knowledge comes from the fact that we store our information outside of us, as Katja mentions. Human language is more developed than what is capable of most animals, but it isn't "extraordinary", it's very ordinary just to a greater degree. In other words, given that we can see evidence of animals in different stages of development with regards to language, we can quite easily see how our ability to use language could evolve over small, incremental steps.

The ability to use language itself didn't evolve of course though, in that we aren't born with a "language instinct", but our capability to use it is (e.g. our descended larynx, the FOXP2 gene, etc).

jez9999 wrote: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.

Oh really? I'd be interested in reading some of the studies on this. From my own studies and research in this area, the divide between human and animals intelligence is negligible, especially when you consider what a human would be like raised without cultural influences. We are very ordinary animals, with very ordinary abilities, but we just happen to have the right combination and can use them to the right degree of sophistication, to give the appearance that we are special in some way.

A lot of what we view as amazing differences between us and animals, or how supremely intelligent we are, is a result of ignorance of the science on the topic. In standard intelligence tests that are made to equalise differences between different species, you'll often find humans being beaten by pigeons or rats. The only time we consistently beat animals in intelligence tests is when we define intelligence as "That thing humans do well" - so we ask if rats can do algebra, find that they can't and conclude humans are awesome. This is obviously a silly way to conduct comparative psychology tests and it's why we've slowly eliminated all of those kinds of measures from the field.