Class Warfare Blog

August 28, 2018

Remarkable … Really?

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:32 am
Tags: , ,

I just received a special issue of Scientific American. I have been reading SA for over 60 years now so, yes, I am that kind of geek. This special issue is on “Humans” with the subtitle “Why We’re Unlike Any Other Species on the Planet.”

The first paragraph in the headline article contained the following words:

“Curiously, the scientists best qualified to evaluate this claim (that humans are special creatures) have often appeared reticent to acknowledge the uniqueness of Homo sapiens, perhaps for fear of reinforcing the idea of human exceptionalism put forward in religious doctrines. Yet hard scientific data have been amassed across fields ranging from ecology to cognitive psychology affirming that humans truly are a remarkable species.”

WTF?

Really?

Hello?

To be remarkable is to be worthy of being remarked upon. I, for example, have been observed and the remark shared “What an asshole.” That remark makes me remarkable in the area of assholiness, in any case.

Of all the myriad species on this planet, which of them is capable of making a remark? Hmmm, at last count it was one, us. While sometimes my dog looks at me askance, I suspect the message is only a projection of my thinking and not the dog’s.

Gosh, stop the presses—we are special! No shit Shylock! Are you aware of any other species which has dominated this planet to serve its needs? Maybe chickens. The population of chickens has risen right along with that of humans. Next in line, maybe cattle, and then pigs. All of these species have spread around the world and exploded in population. Are any of them capable of making a remark? I think not.

That makes us the remarking species and what topic heads the list of things we remark upon? Hmm, Satan? (No, Church Lady, shut up will you.) Our remarks are dominated by comments about other humans and even ourselves. So, remarkable is not something to brag about.

Is the whole SA issue about how we are unique, then? Well I hate to break it to you, Bucky, but the whole idea of a species is that it is unique. The original definition stated that species could not mate successfully with members outside their species (we have since learned this is not exactly true). That is the definition of uniqueness, I think.

So, what is the issue about? I haven’t finished reading it yet, but it seems to be about how fucking full of ourselves we are. Shakespeare comes to mind—

“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—” (Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2) Hamlet sensibly goes on to reject this description, but then he was a moody guy.

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11 Comments »

  1. Have you ever seen Withnail & I? The finakl scene is Withnail reciting that verse. It’s marvellous…. quite remarkable, really.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by john zande — August 28, 2018 @ 11:52 am | Reply

    • ;o)

      On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 11:52 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 28, 2018 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

  2. I wonder if you are contemplating cancelling your subscription? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Arkenaten — August 28, 2018 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

  3. if You actually read the articles in the issue (as I am doing) you will see that much of the content seeks to try to figure out HOW it is that we humans alone are the only species known to have come to so thoroughly dominate or planet with our selves and our artifacts. There is a lot that we have learned, and much that remains out of reach. After all, speech and brain tissues don’t fossilize well, and we still dont even really have a consensus on when humans developed language, and there is vigorous debate on when we became fully human!

    Like

    Comment by gfbrandenburg — August 28, 2018 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

    • You think we have finished developing to become fully human yet. From what I see we are still developing and have quite a ways to go yet. We still can’t get along with each other. Mass killings, war and tribalism is a rampant and getting worse. I keep hoping for better

      Like

      Comment by Old Guy — August 28, 2018 @ 12:46 pm | Reply

      • Can’t stop developing. No standing still. Some species have been observed to have devolved, that is to have gone back toward a more primitive form. There is no standing still; it is change or die. What we have to figure out is how to change for the better.

        On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 12:46 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

        >

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Steve Ruis — August 28, 2018 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

    • A good part of that is we dominated our niche. Gone are all of the other Homo species, gone are any species that threaten us or even that we don’t like (the definition of a weed is a plant we do not want).

      I am working my way through the issue. I was, however, a bit taken aback by the tone of the article. And so many magazines are pandering now to hang onto any audience they can get, so I had an “oh, no!” reaction. I expect the articles to be more worthwhile than that lede.

      On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 12:34 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 28, 2018 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

  4. Don’t get too upset about our being “fucking full of ourselves”. Humans are the only animals capable of reading Scientific American so the other species won’t be offended by our conceit.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by John Branyan — August 28, 2018 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

    • He’s got a point there! (Name the movie reference.)

      On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 2:10 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 28, 2018 @ 2:13 pm | Reply

      • Don’t know the movie but I will wager it was produced by human beings.

        Like

        Comment by John Branyan — August 28, 2018 @ 2:16 pm | Reply

  5. It is an interesting take by SA on the “remarkableness” of Homo sapiens Steve. Hmmmm. 🤔

    Based on your post here I’d like to just balance their point-of-view a bit more, perhaps offering a HD-version of where Homo sapiens’ place is or places are on the planet and Cosmos.

    Over the last 3 to 4 centuries Homo sapiens have come to understand better, theorize, and/or prove forces like energy and thermodynamics, gravity, electricity and the electromagnetic spectrum and forces, Quantum Physics and discovered Quarks and the Higgs Boson just to name a few of the intellectual evolution and capacity of our species. However, we are utterly dependent on forces, nature, and events that sustain our existence! What we are or are not, will not be or will become is determined (fully, partially?) by at least four factors:

    1. — Resources and food. Nature-Earth plays a large part in this fluctuating abundance or deprivation.

    2. — Our physical body and its status from prenatal-embryonic and genetics to post-natal events, e.g. injuries, disease, or paralysis.

    3. — Our brain and how it develops, which is influenced by #2.

    4. — Social life and what type of mentors or detractors are surrounding us.

    Yet and to #4, imagine where we Homo sapiens would be today had the “Authorities of Truth and Death” (religion) deservedly lost their mass appeal when Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler first presented us the right Universe? Bertrand Russell asserted that “speech, fire, agriculture, writing, tools, and large-scale cooperation” significantly widens the gap between us and all the animals. But Thomas Suddendorf rightly counters that we find “parrots can speak, ants have agriculture, crows make tools, and bees [as well as ants] cooperate on a large-scale” (Superorganism and Eusocial behaviors, that Homo sapiens are poor at and crudely equipped for, currently).

    We Homo sapiens are incredibly gullible, naive and ignorant for various reasons and causes both internally and externally! Our 12-15 sensory-receptors are incredibly perfect and imperfect based on either our brain’s interpretive capacity and its experiential broadness, or its lack of the two. Yet, we indeed possess FOUR distinct cognitive abilities that sets us Homo sapiens well apart:

    1. — Generative computation

    2. — Promiscuous combination of ideas

    3. — Mental symbols

    4. — Abstract thought

    And yet again, we are still (as a whole) failing to realize and act upon the fact that we are not only degradating our planet’s sustainability for all of us, we STILL kill each other in numerous ways directly by choice and indirectly by apathy! Many animal species no longer behave in such primate ways and haven’t for millions of years.

    So how remarkable are we Homo sapiens when we KNOW the problems and consequences in the near future via probabilities and high probabilities, and yet choose to do little or nothing? What’s wrong with those brains? LOL 😬

    Like

    Comment by Professor Taboo — August 28, 2018 @ 2:14 pm | Reply


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