Abyss between humans and other species.

Why is there such a gigantic gap between human and the rest of the species, inhibiting our plant. Why is there no gradient, no intermediate steps? The answer might seem quite obvious but I never saw a scientifically based arguments trustfully explaining this phenomena.

Another question (may be it ought to be asked in a different post):

What are we good for?

The second question should be addressed in geological perspective and  humans must be considered to be just a single species, one among hundreds of millions of others. In geological terms we are here since just a blink of a second. Check this wonderful picture from Wikipedia:

the link to full size: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geological_time

There is not a single species besides homo sapience that makes harm to our planet. But there is something that makes us think we are so good that have moral or whatever right to scarify everything else. What is it?

Religion gives us a very good explanation: god created all the animals for us to eat. So that when we serve god we do not have to starve from hunger. Of course I don’t buy a single word what religion says. Any other explanations?

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Hubris it is but I’m not as arrogant as religion which only recently started to treat other species on the planet as our little friends or smaller brothers. Anyway there is something wrong in this discussion from the very beginning and I wander what might this be.

Of course birds fly faster than average man and insects fly even faster relative to their body size. Of course we can’t process even a simplest trajectory of falling from the chair. We can’t hear well and see well, we can’t run fast, we don’t have sharp claws and long fangs. A bunch of bacteria can kill the best quantum physicist with all his knowledge in a matter of days. But we don’t need all these wonderful abilities because we have something instead – our brain. That’s why we don’t fly – our machines fly. We don’t process trajectory – our computers process them for us.

Also there is no animal who is doing all that wonders the same time – fly high, swim fast, dive deep, sees ultraviolet, smells kilometers, lives in all conditions, predicts the future, etc.

But I’m not championing machines here. I’m not a kind of humanist for whom animals is something dirty crawling about by itself somewhere out there. Quite opposite. My next business trip for example is tropical rain forest in Brunei where I will have to climb tallest trees during the night in pursue of exploding ants. Would ants come to my city in search of me only because they are particularly interested in something about my persona? Would any animals do something which will certainly not bring any immediate benefits? Would they do something out of an idea that this probably might turn out useful for some remote future generations? Would they do it even if they know that this act will kill them instantly? These ants for example are unique in a way they protect their colonies: as soon as enemy approaches their explode themselves and cover intruders with their poisonous entrails. Is this the act of self-sacrifice or just an unconditional reflex? Do they struggle through some thoughts of doubt before they trigger detonators in their heads?

The point is that we are sitting now and discussing with one another all these topics using our computers while being separated in space by oceans. We are also separated in time because we can reply tomorrow, next week. This is called delayed response and this is one of the characteristics of human consciousness. We can perceive the world on a systematic level. We are able to understand that the world is composed of systems and each system is in turn made of other systems. We are able to record our knowledge for the future use although we never know this future will come. Generations are using this collective knowledge for education and father improvement. We are curious just because we want to know.

So the point is not who is faster flying or better see in the night. The point is slightly different. I don’t want to argue with people who promptly start defending animals and protect their rights. No need for this. If you think that man is nothing special and other species can do all that, fine. It’s a good position. It only raises one question: if we are in no way more advanced and alerted then they why then should we think about trying to protect them from ourselves? They are so cool, they will handle everything by themselves right?
So...what is your question/issue then? Humans were deficient in many areas but they could use and make tools and their brains evolved that way out of necessity - IE they didnt have the ability to fly, no(or inferior) fur for warmth, no claws etc. because over time in evolution tools replaced those things for humans.

In hindsight we can see that the species that learns to use tools as well as cooperation becomes the most successful. Moreover, the species who masters cooperation and extension of their own deficiencies with tools ends up mastering all other species. Its a fairly simple cause/effect...no great mystery as to why the "gulf", no powers, no divine right...just a fluke in the past when a creature with a very slightly different brain picked up a digging device to get at some underground insects for food than its neighbor with better claws could get without the tool. Eventually we humans result.
Ok, my question could be formulated like this: What makes a man man? Just as a little tip: cerebral cortex. My initial plan was to discuss how physiological properties of human brain and specifically human mind made us what we are – a purely social animals.

The fact that we are social explains why we don’t need to have adaptations for natural environment which is the only reason keeping other animals alive and therefore why we don’t need to be able to fly and have sharp teeth and long fangs.
Alexey, Let me understand you. You are travelling thousands of miles in order to cause small animals to explode trying to defend their community from you. I think I'd rather discuss Ethics and Morals with an ant! There are lots of dog fights here in FL you could come and watch. Much closer. Oh, I forgot. You are the one who said,
"There are few people who love animals more than I do."
As soon as I read that, I knew you. Don't bother explaining that you might be an entomogist. I worked with Dr. Carol Williams at Harvard. I love science, but I do not think its pursuit entitles us to cause death and misery to others.
Are you vegetarian Dogly?
We are the result of evolution, marvelous as it is we can not rid ourselves of our genetic imperatives, for example that for creating and protecting offspring.

To survive and to shape, these are imperatives too, just as important as food, water, and shelter is our need to scape the enviroment in our image.

We are driven to mate, to manipulate, and to think?

We evolve, just as animals evolve because we are animals ourselves, however we have been given a better oppurtunity for development, with opposoble thumbs and those brains which are a tad bit more advanced than that of other animals.

At the beginning we were symbiotes, surviving with nature and living of it in harmony,
as we grew we became able to manipulate parts of naturally occuring materials and begun to craft tools.
After we crafted tools we became able to use them more effectively, then we used the land itself, we burned the ground to make it fertile, we planted seeds for food.
Society grew like a bamboo sprout, we were able to support a larger population.

As soon as basic needs were more of less fulfilled it gave us time to do other things, we began thinking properly, differently.
We grew yet again, we formed societies and from there they have grown large.
We have made beliefs and placed ourselves in this world.

We have always been driven by base desires, but they have ran rampant.

We have become able to support our offspring, then we support ourselves and think larger and more complex.

We started destroying at the start of our growth and it will likely continue.

By using our brains we disturbed the flowing equilibrium of the ecosystem, and that can most likely not be changed back.

as sure as we developed, we destroyed that which we developed from, as the pheonix enters in to this world it destroys it's cradle, we do this as well.

The cradle of life, our planet.
We have destroyed and continue doing so to ensure our growth, we have evolved into a virus upon this world, evolution, nature and life itself made it's greatest enemy in our image.

i'm sorry if this made no sense or is hard to read, i hope you like it though.
btw gimme brutal feedback if you would be so nice ^^
Alexey, you began this discussion with a statement of opinion, that there is a huge gap between the human animal and all the others. Then, after your travel plans, you list a few facts about adaptation. Some say they think the gap isn't so big, and some suggest the gap is not in kind, but in degree. So? What point were you trying to make?
I am vegan. To your unwritten query, I am not a hypocrite. Now, please answer my earlier question, "With ketchup or steak sauce?"
I would suggest looking at review articles on this topic such as "Human and animal cognition: Continuity and discontinuity" by David Premack, written in 2007. These analyze both cogntive and neural models to look for actual differences. A popular summary might be that there are large reorganizal differences, proibably in the last 3-4 million years in the social brain (neo-temporal-parietal areas). Below is a small part of the Premack article to give the flavor of findings and how they are discussed.

"In 1999, Preuss and Coleman became the first to show microscopic differences in brain organization between apes and humans. In one layer of the human primary visual cortex, nerve cells were organized in a complex meshlike pattern very different from the simpler vertical arrays of cells in other primates. At about the same time, Hof and associates rediscovered a slender tapered neuron, labeled VEN, in both human and ape. Humans, however, have many more VENs than apes; individual VENs are markedly larger; and those in the human are located in only two parts of the brain: the anterior cingulate cortex and the frontoinsular cortex . Both of these structures appear to be involved in complex social emotion/cognition such as empathy, feelings of guilt, and embarrassment.

The human reorganization of the brain affected even the minicolumn—80–100 neurons bundled vertically that supports parallel processing—which is the basic unit of information processing in all mammalian brains. Human minicolumns in the left planum temporale, an area involved in language and perhaps music, are organized differently than those of chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys......

Virtually all the newly discovered human singularities are located in areas associated with either complex social cognition [theory of mind (TOM)] or language. But the reorganization of the human brain has not been without cost. In addition to advancing language and TOM, it brought about neurodegenerative disease: schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's, etc. These diseases are as unique to humans as is advanced cognitive function. What cognitive functions make humans susceptible to dementia? Are factors that help humans adjust swiftly to rapidly changing social situations a possibility? A major goal of neuroscience is to find a unified theory that will explain both the positive and negative sides of the reorganization of the brain."

One obvious implication of this view is that Homo designed culture can use and hence amplify the selective influence of certain social cognitive abilities. This could in turn accelerate the evolution of our scoial cognition (including symbolic processes and language).
Thanks for info! This article is a bonanza! Brings this topic to the next level.
The European entry into the Americas and the impact on natives was a failure in the moral sense not in the sense of acheiving other goals. The impact of disease was initially unintended and therefore I don't judge it as a planned event. We now know better and if we as a society were to encounter other members of Homo we could be blammed if we didn't take precautions.
Jim and Gary are both on the right track, I think, in mentioning language (and ToM too). We greatly underestimate how much we use language. Without it we would have a very limited ability to communicate with each other, we would not be able to write down ideas and directions for future generations, and most importantly, our thought processes would not be very sophisticated. We record our memories and thoughts in one of two ways--visually or verbally. Although some people use visualization more than others, up to 80% of our cognition is verbal. Thus, we would lose a lot of our ability to plan, to concentrate, to THINK if we were to lose language.

Animals have developed some rudimentary aspects of language, but none of them have developed true language.
we would lose a lot of our ability to plan, to concentrate, to THINK if we were to lose language..
Not necessarily. Cognition isn't dependent on language. Many animals can plan and execute complex action - which requires thought - yet they have no language. We don't actual think in language but we do interpret our thoughts into language immediately in the Werke region of the brain, where language inception occurs; that process creates the illusion that one is thinking in language.




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