Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How is man different from animals? Harvard discovers Aristotle.

Natalie Wolchover from Life's Little Mysteries:

There's no consensus on the question of what makes us special, or whether we even are. The biggest point of contention is whether our cognitive abilities differ from those of other animals "in kind," or merely in degree. Are we in a class by ourselves or just the smartest ones in our class?
Charles Darwin supported the latter hypothesis. He believed we are similar to animals, and merely incrementally more intelligent as a result of our higher evolution. But according to Marc Hauser, director of the cognitive evolution lab at Harvard University, in a recent article in Scientific American, "mounting evidence indicates that, in contrast to Darwin's theory of a continuity of mind between humans and other species, a profound gap separates our intellect from the animal kind."


Hauser and his colleagues have identified four abilities of the human mind that they believe to be the essence of our "humaniqueness" — mental traits and abilities that distinguish us from our fellow Earthlings. They are: generative computation, promiscuous combination of ideas, the use of mental symbols, and abstract thought. [Read: Top 10 Mysteries of the Mind]

1. Generative computation

Humans can generate a practically limitless variety of words and concepts. We do so through two modes of operation — recursive and combinatorial. The recursive operation allows us to apply a learned rule to create new expressions. In combinatorial operations, we mix different learned elements to create a new concept.

2. Promiscuous combination of ideas

"Promiscuous combination of ideas," Hauser explained, "allows the mingling of different domains of knowledge — such as art, sex, space, causality and friendship — thereby generating new laws, social relationships and technologies."

3. Mental symbols

Mental symbols are our way of encoding sensory experiences. They form the basis of our complex systems of language and communication. We may choose to keep our mental symbols to ourselves, or represent them to others using words or pictures.

4. Abstract thought

Abstract thought is the contemplation of things beyond what we can sense.

"This is not to say that our mental faculties sprang fully formed out of nowhere," Hauser wrote. "Researchers have found some of the building blocks of human cognition in other species. But these building blocks make up only the cement foot print of the skyscraper that is the human mind. The evolutionary origins of our cognitive abilities thus remain rather hazy. Clarity is emerging from novel insights and experimental technologies, however."

Notice "the evolutionary origins of our... ".  Homage to evolution is the tax that must be paid by any scientist who presents a finding that calls into question the materialist ideology on which evolutionary theory is based.  Materialism has no explanation for man's capacity to reason,  because materialism is an utterly failed theory of mind.  But when I read the article and read the quite cogent description of the enormous qualitative difference between man and beast, I knew that somewhere the scientists had to pay homage to evolution.  It's usually in the last paragraph, just to ensure materialist censors that the authors are still on the plantation.

The assertion of the scientists is refreshingly true, but not refreshingly new.  Aristotle defined man as a rational animal, and all philosophers and theologians (e.g. Aquinas) who followed in his footsteps have agreed. It is the ability to engage in abstract thought,  to use symbols and language, to combine and compare ideas, and to contemplate universals and not just particulars that defines man and sets an unbridgeable gulf between man and beast.

How did man's reason evolve? The ability to do metaphysics has little to do with reproductive success. It may even be a hinderance; who gets the girls, the football star or the philosophy major?  And even the concept of 'evolution' of reason presupposes that reason is material, like hoofs or wings.  But the materialist philosophy of the mind is in shambles, widely regarded as a dying superstition.  Much of the mind is clearly immaterial, including the capacity for reason. How does something immaterial 'evolve'?

So how to account for man's qualitative difference from animals, which is his ability to reason?  Perhaps, in addition to mind and body, we have spirit as well,  and we were created in the image of a Spirit-- the Creator of reason.

13 comments:

  1. "But the materialist philosophy of the mind is in shambles, widely regarded as a dying superstition" - Just as you expected the 'Homage to evolution', I expected 'this perfectly reasonable science that this research paper fully supports is ACTUALLY in dire straits and about to be replaced'

    lol, makes me laugh everytime.

    Do some creation science and convince the author(s) of this paper that your creation framework helps you to understand the world better than evolution's framework. Do some creation science and be the first creation scientist to actually do SOMETHING besides moaning about how The Theory of Evolution is ABOUT to die.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The best way to illustrate the gulf that separates man from his closest (darwinian) cousin, is in the use of tools.

    Since an image is worth a thousand word:

    Gorilla at work

    Man at work

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Nnoel

    Do some creation science...

    What about debunking yet another icon of evolution?

    The Myth of Junk DNA

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nnoel,
    You miss the and Doctor's point entirely; and you do so deliberately. How is that 'science' or even rational. Dr Egnor mention's Darwin's theory only to note the 'homage' it is given, and to note it's materialistic foundations.
    Evolution is a theory under assault (and desperate defence) because it is a non flexible theory based on the most inflexible and utterly monistic branch of the great tree of philosophy: Materialism. Materialism is the sand foundation you Atheist / Darwinist types built your shabby castle (argument) on.
    The fractures created by that shoddy and hasty 'science' is what is causing theories such as Darwin's Victorian Evolutionary theory to be reconsidered in many circles.
    "Science" is what you want...well DEMAND. "creation science" (do you mean PRE 1500BC to AD 1890?) as opposed to what?
    Science based on WHAT presumption of origins? MATERIAL CAUSES, perhaps?
    Well that is the foundation, and that is the problem we encounter when we probe deep enough in ANY field of inquiry.
    In Physics we hit the wall of potentiality.The 'field' where potentials 'collapse' and CREATE matter and reality. Due to what force? Apparently, observation by a mind!How does materialism respond to this? I cannot. It is impeached by it.
    In biology we have the blueprints (DNA) and they are enigmatic, surely. But lacking a NEW information source - natural selection / random mutations are mathematically impossible given the time frames. The questions raised by genetics and microbiology are important, and should NOT be ignored to protect dogma. Again, materialism is impeached by the inability to find a material cause. All they have left is 'one day...', promissory materialism, or as I call it:'Atheism of the Gaps'

    In the philosophies we are confronted by the mind, we experience and create the arts, and in every day experience their are the wonders and miracles of conception, birth, life, and death. Here the foundations of materialism crack again. That the brain is a computer is an obviously infantile comparison, but it is the materialists ONLY response (monism); and even if accepted (not by me) the question becomes: Who/where is the USER and who is the PROGRAMMER? Natural selection again? Randomness, chance, chaos and futility? How many trillions of years would that take? Surely more than a few hundred thousand, or even million. At any rate, the material causation does NOT cut it, and materialism is once again impeached. Something MORE is at work here...
    I wont even get into Cosmology.
    I am sure you are aware of that minefield as any good little automaton would be, Nnoel.
    All that Ex nihilo stuff is pretty scary , you may just need some extra universes full of convenient 'laws' and extremely God/Angel like beings (who MUST have evolved!) to help your argument out.
    Anyway, I don't think you will get anything from what I say, Nnoel.
    I would love it if you proved me wrong and thought outside the box, even if only for a moment.
    I will not hold my breath...
    But, I do hope others browsing through may read something in this response that speaks to them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Pépé
    I was thinking the same thing when I saw 'paintings' by a rhino in the news...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nnoel has indeed once again illustrated that Aristotle was wrong.

    Not all men are, in fact, rational animals.

    ReplyDelete
  7. > How did man's reason evolve? The ability to do metaphysics has little to do with reproductive success.

    The ability to do metaphysics is a byproduct of pattern recognition which has obvious benefits to evolutionary fitness. The correct question to ask is whether a early hominid has more reproductive success by building better tools and being able to make better plans.

    > And even the concept of 'evolution' of reason presupposes that reason is material, like hoofs or wings.

    Consider the statement "Even the concept of 'evolution' of flight presupposes that flight is material, like hoofs or wings"

    Reason is the function of your brain like flight is a function of wings. Cut off the wings, your bird won't fly. Remove your gut, you won't digest. Remove the hippocampus, you won't remember, remove the neocortex, you won't reason.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Anon

    Remove the hippocampus, you won't remember, remove the neocortex, you won't reason.

    Very true - if we consider the brain as a computer only. If you remove the memory of a computer, it cannot give you back the data, if you remove the CPU, it can no longer process information.

    But removing pieces of hardware will never allow you to remove the programmer!

    I recommend The Spiritual Brain for anyone open-minded enough to really want to understand how the human brain works.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Anon:

    [The ability to do metaphysics is a byproduct of pattern recognition which has obvious benefits to evolutionary fitness.]

    You've made my point for me. You can make any story out of evolutionary science:

    Why are men rational? Pattern recognition.

    Why are men irrational? Single-minded pursuit of reproductive success.

    This is the formula for evolutionary 'science':

    1) Pick a trait.
    2) Make up a story about how it improve reproductive success
    3) If necessary, cherry-pick a bit of data.
    4) Publish your speculation.
    4) Get a publicist and announce another breakthrough in evolutionary science.
    5) Repeat.
    6) When you tire of this, write book for the lay press about how evolution disproves the existence of God.

    Even evolutionary biologists are tiring of this charade.

    Mike

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Pepe: your analogy is an poor argument for creationism, not an argument against materialism

    @Mike: At least it explains why Footballers of average intelligence have better reproductive success than Philosophers, which are curiously rare considering that all of mankind is supposed to be "in the image of the creator"

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Anon

    Your comment seems to prove that you are the product of chance, but I do not believe it! The cause of your problem seem to be materialisitis! Please don’t be alarmed, there is a cure… it’s called open-mindedness!

    ReplyDelete
  12. @crusadeREX

    You dont have to prove to me that Materialism isn't the 'Truth' of reality, I figured it out all by myself thank you very muchly! :-D (which was the second half of your post)

    you also said : "Dr Egnor mention's Darwin's theory only to note the 'homage' it is given"
    - well ACTUALLY, I think it is excatly as I said, The Thoery of Evolution provides a FRAMEWORK, they are working _within_ that framework, they are not paying it 'homage', they are using it to get places.

    I think 'All is mind', that everything is a dream, inside a dream, and that 'material' as we understand it is completely able to be transformed with mind alone, but...

    Science does a wonderful job of explaining the 'dream-mechanics' of how we have set up our world to work (laws of physics etc), or how the dream unfurled to allow life to blossom.

    I stand by my statements about creation science. You may say science during the period '1500BC to AD 1890' was creation science, but only becuase they didn't have a framework like evolution to explain biology etc, and since evolution has come about, the framework has allowed wonderous discoveries to be made.

    Love ya, not read any other response yet.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Nnoel, I am glad you are not a materialist.
    There is at least that. The divine 'foot is already in the door'. Perhaps it is youthful enthusiasm that leads you to discard thousands of years of observation and philosophy in favour of 'new ideas', like Darwin.
    I wont belabour the point, as it has been posited in eloquent form on these posts already, but I will write this: Darwin only noted what many others had already noted (survivors survived and their traits were passed on) and applied it to nature. This raised some big questions he attempted to answer in his hasty work of philosophy 'Origins'. He suggested an ancient MATERIALIST answer: Everything is stuff, stuff is everything, 'sh*t happens'. No need for anything like the divine or supernature. All was MATERIAL.
    How does that fit into your 'dream mechanics' reality? If an imagination ONLY exists because of the brain, how can the brain ONLY exist because of the imagination. You must be imagining your imagination!
    If I read it correctly your position is one of illusory 'reality'.
    If you believe everything is mind, and "that 'material' as we understand it is completely able to be transformed with mind alone", what do you mean by "transformed"? Do you mean created? Out of NOTHING? Are we talking about Potential? Substance? Form? All by the MIND?
    Sounds Pantheist or Deist to me, not Atheist.
    At least I don't feel that our conversations are entirely futile, now Anon! For that I am glad. You do believe in SOMETHING.
    Anon wrote:
    You may say science during the period '1500BC to AD 1890' was creation science, but only because they didn't have a framework like evolution to explain biology etc, and since evolution has come about, the framework has allowed wonderous discoveries to be made.
    Well, I will correct you here. Atheism and materialism have been around since the dawn of recorded history, they are just obviously inane and historically attract little following. As for naturalism, it is also very ancient. As far as modern Darwinism obsession with 'evolution' as the theory explanation for everything (parallels here too), it too is not a new idea. Horse, dog, cattle, fowl, and sheep breeders - as well as growers of flowers and vegetables, KNEW all about selection and traits. It is one of the OLDEST forms of science. Darwin simply hybridized it with materialism/naturalism to make a philosophical statement. He made observations on gradual changes in nature, and assumed the causes were all chemical and random. He made many other assumptions too (protoplasm, racialism, and pre Cambrian transitional fossils anyone?)that have been totally refuted.
    It was the 'Emperors New Clothes', and the only people who could see the 'beauty' in them were/are the Emperor's lapdogs. Just like in the children's tale, anyone who questions the Emperor is deemed a fool; and just like in the tale, the Emperor is made to look the fool by posterity.
    My question to you Nnoel, is this: Why on earth would, with a non materialist outlook, defend a pillar of modern materialism? Why would you defend an obviously erroneous study of evolutionary processes based on MATERIALISM?
    I am not suggesting you should run to Church and repent (wouldn't hurt - but you could walk or drive), rather what I am suggesting you are backing the wrong horse. If you feel the mind is behind it all, then you believe a Universe designed by intelligence(s). ID. anyone?
    Love is All, Nnoel.
    Love you too, bro.
    In Christ's name.
    CrusadeRex

    ReplyDelete