Is there a major objective difference between our species and every other animal?

Is there a major objective difference between our species and every other animal?

  • Yes

    Votes: 13 59.1%
  • No

    Votes: 9 40.9%

  • Total voters
    22

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I'm saying Yes, because whereas a fully verbal, conceptual language is found in every know human society, this trait has not been adequately demonstrated in any other species - not even our closest relatives, the chimps and gorrilas, or those squeaking smart-arses, the dolphins. Of course, future research may overturn this, but I doubt it.

What do you think?

Edit: the difference (if you think there is one) can be anything, doesn't have to be language-based, I just thought that's one of the most obvious ones.
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
But how can anyone really tell that, without speaking Bird?

And is Bird likely to have pronouns, articles, moods, cases, tenses...? Not that complexity = sophistication, exactly, but the two are often related.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
Doesn't mean they are capable of abstracting though, just talking about actual things happening. So I think there's a difference there. But yeah, very had to know without speaking bird.

I think I'll have to vote yes on this, but it still feels kind of chauvinistic - it's really hard not to see things from a human perspective being human and that.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Really? That's pretty cool.
I'm certainly not denying that animals can and do use quite sophisticated methods of communication. What I'm saying is that it's my gut feeling that only humans have a language that deals with abstract concepts - ideas like 'tomorrow' or 'underneath' or 'without', and probably also numbers and pronouns.
These sorts of things, essentially:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_language
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
I think I'll have to vote yes on this, but it still feels kind of chauvinistic - it's really hard not to see things from a human perspective being human and that.

In a way, though, what you've just said is just the kind of thing I'm talking about: has a bird ever wondered what it's like to be a human?
 
N

nomadologist

Guest
Even the idea that sentience=supreme intelligence is hard for me to endorse, though...
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
If by sentience you mean self-awareness or self-consciousness then it's still a difference in this context.

Having said that, if we were to take the question literally you could probably say yes about any species - there are objective differences, that's why they are different species. ;)
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Having said that, if we were to take the question literally you could probably say yes about any species - there are objective differences, that's why they are different species. ;)

Of course, but I was trying to avoid that interpretation with the phrasing of the question: what I meant was, is there an objective difference bewteen humans (on the one hand) and all other animals (on the other): a difference which is not present between any two non-human animals.

Eg. whales do not have a grammatical, conceptual language, and neither do geckos, snails, woodlice, bream...
 
N

nomadologist

Guest
Scientifically, humans are of the order "primates", the suborder "haplorhini", the family "hominidae", the genus "homo", the species "homo sapiens." Science makes no distinction between the human animal and other animals that it doesn't make between any other species.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Well yes, but that's not really my point. Of course there are differences between (say) cats and dogs, otherwise they would be the same specie: what I'm saying is that I think there's a fundamental difference between humans and other animals that is unique to humans. A difference of order, rather than degree. I mean, there might be some kind of spider which is the only creature to have exactly twelve eyes, or something, but since other animals have various numbers of eyes, this is only a difference of degree.

Apart from the language thing, I'd say humans are the only animals that consciously alter their environment for their own benefit (beyond simply building nests of some kind). I mean, it's pretty impressive what beavers can achieve, and those bower birds in Australia, but I think it's a fairly safe bet they're acting out of pure instinct.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
That's not the entirety of 'science' though is it? That's biology / genetics / zoology. Other branches of science (linguistics, neurology, ontology etc.) would have other things to say I think.

x-post
 
N

nomadologist

Guest
We are acting out of instinct as well. It's our social contract that's a little more complicated, but other primates have them as well...
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
I'd say humans are the only animals that consciously alter their environment for their own benefit (beyond simply building nests of some kind). I mean, it's pretty impressive what beavers can achieve, and those bower birds in Australia, but I think it's a fairly safe bet they're acting out of pure instinct.

We're almost certainly the only species that alters its environment to its own detriment. :eek:

There was this article n New Scientist recently about a study that found that some members of the crow family seemed to be able to think about the intentions of others.

http://www.newscientist.com/channel/life/mg19426091.700-the-scheming-minds-of-crows.html
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
We're almost certainly the only species that alters its environment to its own detriment. :eek:

Not necessarily: I bet there are loads of other examples of animals degrading their environment to their own detriment. When this happens, they run out of food or whatever and the population crashes, so the food organisms make a recovery, and the animal population starts to increase again. When this happens to non-human animals, people say it's part of a 'natural cycle' or 'balance': when we do it, it's environmental degradation.

I'm certainly not saying it's not a bad thing, purely from our own point of view, given that 'population crashes' involve huge amounts of human suffering and death.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
I haven't voted yet but I'm surprised at the result so far. Would have thought most humans would immediately say 'yes' to this question. I mean you've just got to look around you to see that we do something a little different in excreting all these objects and machines and buildings and media and stuff. Ideas, communicable ones.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
I think most cats would agree that yes, humans are different, really fucking stupid but useful for free food.
 
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