Wordcraft Home Page    Wordcraft Community Home Page    Forums  Hop To Forum Categories  Potpourri    Special Abilities of Homo Sapiens
Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Reply
  
Special Abilities of Homo Sapiens Login/Join
 
Member
Picture of shufitz
posted
This thought has nothing to do with words, but it has me curious. A group of intelligent minds may be able to help.

Plenty of creatures have special abilities or characteristics, unique (or almost unique) to them. Bats echolocate; certain birds sense the earth’s magnetic field to guide their migration; monarch butterflies fly vast distances compared to other insects.

However, it strikes me that the human animal has numerous such special abilities:
  • opposable thumb
  • bipedalism (walking on two feet) as primary way to travel
  • mental ability – including the ability to speak a complex language.
  • physical ability to produce sounds in wide variety, for that language (requires hyoid bone, vocal chords)
  • continuous estrus (the female is sexually available throughout the year, not just in a “heat” from time to time)
This can’t be coincidence. There surely must be a chain of causation, where one trait, when developed, provided a selective advantage for another.

But what are the connection?
 
Posts: 2666 | Location: Chicago, IL USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jerry thomas
posted Hide Post
quote:
But what are the connection?


The connection are singularly legion.
 
Posts: 6708 | Location: Kehena Beach, Hawaii, U.S.A.Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of arnie
posted Hide Post
quote:
But what are the connection?

Try a creationist Web site, then a evolutionist site. Then try to reconcile their answers.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
Posts: 10940 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
Check out this site.
 
Posts: 2878 | Location: Shoreline, WA, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
However, it strikes me that the human animal has numerous such special abilities:

You could have added that homosapiens is probably the most omniverous species as well.

I suspest it is homo sapien's possession of a large number of reasonably good skills, rather than a few superlative ones, that has led to our ability to do so many things adequately, and thus successfully expand into a huge number of different living areas. This expansion has undoubtedly led to a reduction in many competing species as their own supremacy is challenged.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:

opposable thumb

Handy, and almost unique. Definitely an advantage, but
quote:
bipedalism

not so much. Just flightless birds and us. Lots of animals have had the opportunity to go bipedal and haven't. It clearly makes us slower than four-legged animals, and probably has something to do with the opposable thumb.
quote:
mental ability

The ability to make models of the world and use them to try to predict the future and influence our behavior is a definite survival advantage. Whether we actually have these mental abilities will be determined in the few centuries.
quote:
physical ability to produce sounds in wide variety

Again, I think birds have us beat. Also, it's not at all clear that other animals, chimps or cetaceans, for example, don't have the ability to make enough sounds to transmit language. Electrical engineers can transmit quite a big of information just by manipulating amplitude.

quote:
continuous estrus

There are lots of different reproductive strategies. Continuous estrus is one of them. There's nothing special about it.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
This expansion has undoubtedly led to a reduction in many competing species as their own supremacy is challenged.

I'm reminded of line attributed to Chou En-Lai, when asked what he thought about the French Revolution: "Too soon to tell."
We've only been significant for a few tens of thousands of years. Lets have this conversation in 20,000,000 years and see how it turns out. I must warn you, though, that the results from the SETI program are not encouraging.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
We've only been significant for a few tens of thousands of years.

I was talking about the situation as it is now; I would not try to predict even a million years ehead, let alone 20 million. Presently the human species is the most successful but it was not always thus and there is no guarantee that it will always be thus.

The SETI programme has only been running for a blink of an eyelid in astronomical terms; give that time as well.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
human species is the most successful

That's my point: by what measure is it most successful?
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
That's my point: by what measure is it most successful?

One measure I use is the effect that a species has on its environment. The human species has been more successful than any other in modifying the environment to meet its needs.

Other measures could be used, of course, and by some of them homo sapiens is not the most successful; it is certainly not the most numerous by a long way.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
One measure I use is the effect that a species has on its environment. The human species has been more successful than any other in modifying the environment to meet its needs.

Which species was most successful in modifying its environment 70,000 years ago, before modern humans left Africa? Which species currently comes in second? The point being it's not a measurement made (or even defined) for species other than ourselves. We begin with the assumption that humans are supreme, then we perceive that humans dramatically modify their environment (naturally, since we rarely venture outside of human-modified environments), and finally that becomes a criterion for success.

Shu's original list was, I think, an example of human triumphalism that is almost always simply assumed. First we declare ourselves most successful, then we convince ourselves that our unusual characteristics are somehow unique and ideal, when in fact they are rarely either.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
<Asa Lovejoy>
posted
What's been said only suggests that we are superbly self-centered. Dolphins also echolocate along with bats. Continual estrus? Not quite - it's monthly, not constant. Perhaps we are, within ourselves, the most highly symbiotic. We are an organization of organisms, not just a single variety. When the symbiosis goes askew we get cancer, and, from one point of view, we may ourselves be a cancer on the overall environment.

"Man is the only animal that blushes - or needs to." Mark Twain
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
Which species was most successful in modifying its environment 70,000 years ago, before modern humans left Africa?

As I wrote earlier, I am talking about now, not 70,000 years ago. Everything changes and I am sure that the most successful species will also change. It has in the past and no doubt will in the future.

But I have seen no evidence that shows that any past species has been so successful at modification as has homo sapiens. The dinasours were hugely successful for millions of years - for a far longer duration than homo sapiens has yet been - but there seems to be no evidence of their roads, buildings and machines - as there surely would had they modified their environment to the same extend as has modern man.

An analogy can be made with the most successful countries/empires. 2000 years ago it was the Romans; 100 years ago it was the British; now it is the USA. In just a few years the leadership will probably change again.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
As I wrote earlier, I am talking about now, not 70,000 years ago.

There's nothing special about now. If you don't know who comes in second, how do you know we come in first? You don't know what the previous most successful, or the second most successful species is because there's no such measurement.
quote:
there seems to be no evidence of [dinosaur's] roads, buildings and machines

Humans make roads, buildings and machines, so making roads, buildings and machines becomes the standard. By this logic I'm the most successful person on the planet, if we define success as being most like me.
quote:
An analogy can be made with the most successful countries/empires

Yes, that is the analogy you think you are making. It's called triumphalism, and it's a bad analogy. That's my point. If it were a good analogy, you'd be able to list off previous successful species just like you listed previous empires.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
<Asa Lovejoy>
posted
quote:
It' If it were a good analogy, you'd be able to list off previous successful species just like you listed previous empires.

I vote for crocodilians in the #2 spot and cockroaches in #1.
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
There's nothing special about now. If you don't know who comes in second, how do you know we come in first? You don't know what the previous most successful, or the second most successful species is because there's no such measurement.


As I said, you have to decide on the criterion or criteria for success. I have told you what one of mine is. If you choose other criteria then you get different answers - as I also said.

And you don't need to know who's second to determine who's first in many instances. Indeed, in some situations there is no second place.

quote:
That's my point. If it were a good analogy, you'd be able to list off previous successful species just like you listed previous empires.

I could very easily have done so and did, indeed, mention the dinasours as just one example. But again you need to choose the criteria for success; if you were to choose population, then I doubt whether any multi-cellular lifeform would come close to being top. The likes of bacteria or other single-celled organisms have probably occupied that slot since life began on Earth,


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
I'm not so sure we are that successful. Arrogant and triumphalist, yes, but successful? We're more of a blight on this planet (that we share with so many other humans and non-humans but seem to forget that) than any species I can think of.

I mean, put a naked human and a cat in the wilderness (with adequate wild food sources for both) in a temperate climate, summer or winter, and I'd put money on the cat being the one to survive longest. I don't see much success in being so far removed from one's natural environment that ome has forgotten how to survive in it.

We've done some marvellous things to be rightly proud of, but we've also committed horrendous atrocities with far-reaching effects for all Earth inhabitants that a truly successful species would have avoided. Other animals seem to have grasped the concept of not crapping in your own bed rather more successfully than we have...
 
Posts: 669 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
I mean, put a naked human and a cat in the wilderness

True. And put a naked cat and a naked human in a speeding car with no other occupant and I reckon the human would.

It's very easy to think of circumstances and situation where beings other than humans would do better. But humans are very good generalists and can survive in environments that would be instantly fatal to any other life-form, simply by modifying the environment to meet their needs.

As I said, though, you have to set your criteria for success before you can measure success.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
A car isn't a natural environment though, and a human who'd never learnt to drive would be in just as much trouble. Humans can indeed adapt their environments to suit themselves (often with little thought for others - part of the reason we're in the mess we're in), but it takes time and trial and error. An individual or even group with no training in a new hostile environment would likely die just as another animal might.

I agree about deciding on the criteria of success. I mean, in the Western world, success is based mostly on material acquisition, which immediately excludes the sick and disabled who are unable to work enough to earn a decent wage; healthy people on lower incomes (someone has to clean the toilets) etc. It's a disgusting measure of success but sadly it's all too prevalent.

Personally, I measure individual success by less tangible things, but it is hard when you're surrounded by societal expectations not to be influenced, stressed out and saddened by it at times.
 
Posts: 669 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
Cat, absolutely nothing to do with the topic but have you seen this?

It's what happens when you take Garfield out of Garfield - you get a post modern strip about "schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life".

So it says in the intro. it's right too.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
Posts: 9422 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
Whoa. Says a lot that strip, doesn't it?

(On a lighter note, it's kind of fun trying to imagine Garfield's expressions in the originals.)

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Cat,
 
Posts: 669 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
It works brilliantly but I agree that a lot of it doesn't make comfortable reading.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
Posts: 9422 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
you have to set your criteria for success before you can measure success

That would be a good start. Next you might want to consider if your criteria were biased toward human success by our long-standing cultural assumption that we have dominion over the earth. You might also want to think about whether your criteria are measurable even in theory, let alone practice, or if your measurement scheme returns a value for species other than ours.

quote:
But humans are very good generalists and can survive in environments that would be instantly fatal to any other life-form

Most, but not any (and not by modifying our environment so much as bringing our environment along in a can). Tardigrades (water-bears) have us beat. They can survive boiling, freezing to 1 degree Kelvin, the vacuum of space, pressures six times that of the deepest ocean trench, complete dehydration, and a half million rads of X-ray radiation(ref).
They live from the Himalayas to deep ocean sediment, from hot springs to the Arctic, in deserts and beaches, and in your garden. That's live, not just visit occasionally in a can.

And they've been doing this for about 500 million years. Homo sapiens will come, and go, and the water bears won't even notice.

Plus they're kinda cute.

 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
<Asa Lovejoy>
posted
quote:
Originally posted by Cat:
Humans can indeed adapt their environments to suit themselves (often with little thought for others - part of the reason we're in the mess we're in)

Wasn't it Shaw who noted that the reasonable man adapts himself to his environment; the unreasonable man adapts the environment to himself. Therefore, all progress is because of unreasonable men? Roll Eyes
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
I believe the Shavian comment was "the world" not the envirnment - but I could be wrong.

But I still maintain that homo sapiens can adapt to any environment - that we need technology to make that adaptation is obviously true in many cases. But we can use technology to do it; other species can't.

Another interesting fact about homo sapiens that is often overlooked is our feeding methods. Whereas most other (all other?) species adapt their feeding mechanisms to suit their food, humans adapt their food to suit their feeding mechanism. Thus we will never be so good at feeding on blood as fleas and ticks, but we can manage it if we wish (by making the blood into black pudding, for example). But fleas and ticks, if they have no source of the right kind of blood, simply starve.

Our omniverous feeding habits also add to our success (as measured by by most criteria).


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
It has been interesting reading this thread. Shu's original point was merely that humans have a number of special abilities, compared to other animals, and he wondered why. Somehow, though, the discussion morphed into humans not really being the most successful creature. That had never been a part of the original question, and I don't believe it was the intent of the question.
 
Posts: 24735 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of arnie
posted Hide Post
quote:
That had never been a part of the original question, and I don't believe it was the intent of the question.

So, when have we ever stuck faithfully to the topic for any length of time? Big Grin


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
Posts: 10940 | Location: LondonReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of shufitz
posted Hide Post
quote:
Shu's original list was, I think, an example of human triumphalism
I think not.

I merely noted that while many species have a special ability (or nearly unique) to them, homo sapiens has multiple such "special abilities". No other species does, insofar as I know.

I made no assertion of human superiority. (Frankly, I don't find "species superiority" to be an interesting topic, and so I haven't participated in the discussion! It strikes me as entirely normative and incapable of resolution.)

But it does strike me as curious that a single species should have multiple unusual traits, ones shared by few or no other species. That strongly suggests that those traits are interrelated, in an evolutionary sense: the presence of one creates a survival advantage in developing another. But what are the connections??
 
Posts: 2666 | Location: Chicago, IL USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of shufitz
posted Hide Post
If (as I hope) we can also address the original topic, let me respond (in red) to neveu’s comments (in black) on the data.
  • opposable thumb: Handy, and almost unique We agree.
  • bipedalism: not so much. Just flightless birds and us. Why “not much”? Sounds like you’re agreeing that few share bipedalism as their primary means of locomotion.¹
  • mental ability: The ability to make models of the world and predict the future ... definite survival advantage. Agreed. Whether we actually have these mental abilities will be determined in the few centuries. Witty, not literally accurate. Clearly we do have that ability. You are saying that it can be a dangerous ability if used without wisdom and foresight. I 100% agree.
  • physical ability to produce sounds in wide variety: Again, I think birds have us beat. Not so. Your link notes that lyrebird may indeed be our equal or superior here, and that it is extraordinary. In other words, the ordinary bird is not on a par with us here.
  • continuous estrus: There are lots of different reproductive strategies. Continuous estrus is one of them. There's nothing special about it. Really? What other animals share that trait? Any mammals? Any vertebrates?
To the list one could also add omnivorism, as Richard notes, and neoteny.


¹ By the way, “flightless birds” (unless they revert to water, like penguins) are not particularly successful species. The dodo of Mauritania, and the ostrich of Australia, could survive only with insular geographical isolation from competitors and predators.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: shufitz,
 
Posts: 2666 | Location: Chicago, IL USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Kalleh
posted Hide Post
quote:
So, when have we ever stuck faithfully to the topic for any length of time?
True, arnie. However, in this case it's more a misunderstanding on what the original intent of this thread was; the question was asked: why do humans have numerous special abilities?

I have to say, my take is that we do have some distinct characteristics, but so do other creatures. I know there are some strange creatures out there. I think of the insects that die after they sting or the females who die after they give birth or the females who eat their mates, etc. Look at the gorgeous webs that those tiny little spiders weave.

[I did find this funny Web site, though, as I was looking...legitimately...for unusual characteristics of creatures.]

[Corrected typo]

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,
 
Posts: 24735 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
By the way, “flightless birds” (unless they revert to water, like penguins) are not particularly successful species.

It's maybe significant that there are few (no?) flightless birds in the northern hemisphere. One suggestion I heard was that the more efficient predators that live in the northern hemisphere had ensured the extinction of all examples, with the Great Auk being one of the last.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
Sounds like you’re agreeing that few share bipedalism as their primary means of locomotion
I am. My point here was that lots of species (i.e. all quadrupeds) have had the opportunity to become bipedal, but few have taken it. We're much slower moving than most quadrupeds our size, so maybe it's not that advantageous, unless it's coupled with something like an opposable thumb, or wings.

quote:
You are saying that it can be a dangerous ability if used without wisdom and foresight
No, I'm saying that we give ourselves more credit than we deserve. I think that most human behavior is not so much rational as rationalized. But that's just my misanthropic opinion.

quote:
the ordinary bird is not on a par with us here
Yeah, well, the birds think we all sound alike, too. In what sense do we make a wider variety of sounds than birds, cetaceans, monkeys, or bats? We make a particular set of sounds that we've evolved the ability to discern from the noise. Lots of animals do that. That's what I meant by human triumphalism: you begin by assuming that there's something special about human vocalizations because they sound special to us. We have to take a step back and ask how we would measure something like that, and make sure than it is really an objective measurement of variety, and not something like how many consonants and vowels an animal can make.

quote:
Really? What other animals share that trait [continuous estrus]? Any mammals? Any vertebrates?
Otters, rabbits and pigs come to mind. It's unusual but not unique.

Nobody has mentioned the few characteristics that I think really are unique (or nearly so) to humans, so I'll list my nominations:

  • Creation and use of fire as a tool (though H. erectus got there first).
  • Extra-corporeal memory. I know of no other organism that stores and retrieves symbolic information outside of its body.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
Yeah, well, the birds think we all sound alike, too. In what sense do we make a wider variety of sounds than birds, cetaceans, monkeys, or bats?

In the sense that any one human (let alone the human species) with normal vocal ability can make a greater range of sounds than any single variety of bird, cetacean or monkey. Even vocally gifted birds can't match the range of sounds, from basso-profundo to topmost soprano; from mono-syllabic grunts to complex structured sounds such as sentences; from the almost inaudible whisper; to the stentorian parade-ground bellow, that humans are able to produce.

Oh, and by the way, which bird was it that told you that birds think humans all sound alike? Tell him from me that he's an idiot.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
Even vocally gifted birds can't match the range of sounds, from basso-profundo to topmost soprano; from mono-syllabic grunts to complex structured sounds such as sentences; from the almost inaudible whisper; to the stentorian parade-ground bellow, that humans are able to produce.

That's quite a long assertion. Back it up with some data.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
That's quite a long assertion. Back it up with some data.

I don't think that any data are needed; it's a matter of common observation. Tell me the name of a species of bird that can beat a normally-voiced human in all the vocal respects I cite and I might change my opinion.

But I'll find some data if you can find some that proves that all birds believe that all humans sound alike Wink


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
I'm with neveu here. If you tell me which human can produce the same range of sounds as a bird I'll tell you which bird can produce the same range of sounds as a human. You aren't comparing like with like.
There are logical ways you could do this. You could examine the physiology of the two species to determine which sounds each is capable of. You could make an exhaustive set of recordings, devise a classification system, label each sound (and I'd suggest you'd need to greatly slow down the birdsong) according to the system and count them. But the appeal to the principle of "it's so obvious that it doesn't need proof" is hardly scientific.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
Posts: 9422 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
I'm with neveu here. If you tell me which human can produce the same range of sounds as a bird

That isn't what I was trying to say. There are clearly some sounds that some birds make that humans can't replicate. But no bird that I can think of can duplicate all the aspects of human speech that I mentioned. A wren can make sounds that are higher than the human can hear; a bittern can boom as low as the lowest basso profundo; a gull can shriek as loudly as the most strident actress. But individually no single type of bird can equal a human's range of speech and sound.

And not even the most gifted parrot can equal the average human's vocabulary.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of BobHale
posted Hide Post
But that isn't the point. Of course the development of language is fascinating and possibly unique (or why are we all on this board) but the question wasn't about the range of sequences of sounds (which is what language is) - it was the range of sounds. And to demonstrate that a human is physically capable of making more sounds than a bird is not a trivial task.

Speech is, if you like, connected meaningful sounds but the "a" in "cat" is the same "a" as in "mat", "bat", "fat" and "all that". Those "a"s aren't different sounds. They are the same sound in combination with other different sounds.

By considering sound sequences and meaning you are asking a different question.


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
Posts: 9422 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
By considering sound sequences and meaning you are asking a different question

Oh I agree. And that was one of the criteria I spoke of when I suggested that humans were capable of making more different sounds than birds.

But even excluding sentences I still suggest that there is no bird that can makes the same overall range of sounds that a human can make. Sure, there are sounds that some birds can make that humans can't - but overall humans have a pretty wide range.

As I believe I posted earlier, one of the reasons for homo sapiens success is that we are great generalists. We do many things adequately and a few things very well. Most other species excel in just a few areas and are successful in the niche for which this excellence prepares them.


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
posted Hide Post
quote:
Tell me the name of a species of bird that can beat a normally-voiced human in all the vocal respects I cite and I might change my opinion.

No, you won't.

A normally-voiced human has a vocal range of about 3.5 octaves, the plain wren has a range of 10 octaves, and toothed whales have a range of 13 octaves -- an astonishing 40Hz - 345KHz. Toothed whales are considerably more stentorian as well, and can be heard for thousands of miles.
 
Posts: 1242 | Location: San FranciscoReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Richard English
posted Hide Post
quote:
No, you won't.

I will if you do.

But this is not an example of of a species of bird that can beat a normally-voiced human in all the vocal respects I cite. The wren has a greater octave range, I agree - but it doesn't equal a human voice in volume. A toothed whale (when did they develop feathers?) has a greater range and volume, too - but doesn't form very good sentences.

As I have tried to say all along, there are many, many species that have abilities that are better than humans' in some respects but I can think of none that exceed humans' ability in all respects. Our versatility is one of the reasons for our success (as I define it).


Richard English
 
Posts: 8038 | Location: Partridge Green, West Sussex, UKReply With QuoteReport This Post
<Proofreader>
posted
That was an interesting digression but to get back on track:

Scientists cannot agree on why primates first became bipedal. However, according to “Human” by Smithsonian Institution, p. 24: “Whatever tipped the balance to a bipedal stance, becoming upright had its benefits. Walking on two legs takes less energy than knuckle-walking; more importantly, it leaves the hands free for many other purposes, including making tools, carrying things, gathering food, and throwing weapons.”

So it is not just having an opposable thumb or being bipedal that is advantageous to homo sapiens. It is having both in combination that provides the advantage. Neither trait would help a grazing quadruped but both together were invaluable to early primates.

Making tools means we could clothe ourselves and, as a consequence, move into less hospitable environs. Being omnivorous, we could eat a wide range of food products. The ability to make weapons meant we could defend ourselves against other predators. All of this made us superior to other animals and allowed us to dominate, and perhaps eventually destroy, the planet.

And we’ve now reached the zenith of our ability to adapt since my wife can operate three slot machines at once at Foxwoods despite her arthritis.
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jerry thomas
posted Hide Post
Several weeks ago neveu wrote:

quote:
Back it up with some data.


Somewhere I read that reliable qualified researchers in many countries agree that "A little bird told me." is the most popular and therefore the most valid response to requests for backup data. How do I know that? A little bird told me.
 
Posts: 6708 | Location: Kehena Beach, Hawaii, U.S.A.Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<Proofreader>
posted
I'm sorry, but I don't understand the last comment. If it refers to the attribution, I may have been a little lax. It is from "Human", created by Smithsonian, Robert Winston, editor-in-chief, published by DK Publishing,2004,ISBN #0-7566-0520-2. Available in all good bookstores worldwide.
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of jerry thomas
posted Hide Post
Proofreader, my post about a little bird was --- by NO means --- addressed to you and did NOT refer to your post.

I had been reading back through the thread and felt that my post was appropriate in view of the mention of birds and their potential for producing language-like sounds.

No offense intended.
 
Posts: 6708 | Location: Kehena Beach, Hawaii, U.S.A.Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<Proofreader>
posted
I wasn't taking offense, Jerry. I was just confused since it immediately followed my post, and I thought I wasn't clear on attribution.
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  
 

Wordcraft Home Page    Wordcraft Community Home Page    Forums  Hop To Forum Categories  Potpourri    Special Abilities of Homo Sapiens

Copyright © 2002-12