Re: [asa] Jerry Coyne's Confused Attack on Religion

From: Nucacids <>
Date: Thu Jan 29 2009 - 07:45:35 EST

Hi Randy,

The point of chapter 9 it to explore such examples. Here's something from another source:

Experts have long known that toothed whales boast exceptionally large brains. Some species, including the famously bright dolphins, have capabilities previously only ascribed to humans and, to some extent, other great apes. For instance, dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors and understand symbol-based communication systems and abstract concepts.


"Essentially, the brains of primates and cetaceans arrived at the same cognitive space while evolving along quite different paths. What the data say to me is that we, as humans, are not that special. Although we are highly encephalized, it's not by much or for that long compared with odontocetes," Marino said.

Mike (whose startin' to like that little brainstorm I had last night)

  I'm not quite sure why Conway Morris says "...needless to say, show examples of convergence." That bolsters my suspicion that convergence is not a very quantitative concept. Different people seem to have different criteria of how many lineages of how similar a characteristic trait are evidence of convergence. I have no idea how one could say where convergence begins and where it stops.


    Hi Randy,

    Good points. Since it's late, let me just throw this out there. Going back to Conway Morris (thanks, Steve):

    “There is no simple answer to the question about the stage at which something like ourselves becomes overwhelmingly probable. To provide a focus, however, much of this chapter will concentrate on those elements that we might regard as the hallmarks of the humanoid – large brain, intelligence, tools, and culture – all of which, needless to say, show examples of convergence.” (p. 234)

    If these hallmarks are "inevitable," then a front-loading proponent might very well note that the biosphere is poised to evolve a humanoid. Thus, the convergence argument may not get us to humanoid - it may get us to the needed precursor state. From there, the deck is stacked. Convergence stops just short so only one species is likely to make the next step.


    PS: I do not advocate the front-loading of humans, as my focus has always been much more modest. But that doesn't stop my brain from contemplating tantalizing thoughts.

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Received on Thu Jan 29 07:46:06 2009

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