Re: [asa] Shermer and Inevitability

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Sat Nov 07 2009 - 03:38:31 EST

This is another example of how people speak with different languages. Two people have said (and probably many more have thought it) that (other) animals use technology, or at least 'tools.' As an HSS, I was actually glad to read Shermer say what he did about 'intelligent technology.' But for some reason NPSs (this means Natural-Physical Scientists) see the statement only from one side and not from the other. This is understandable, though unfortuntely Christians in the 'natural science and religion' dialogue don't see how it is good news to read this coming from Shermer. Why? Because it supports a 'kind' *not* 'degree' perspective. Well, then again it is only to primates to which Shermer referred, and not to 'human beings.' Mayr's reference to 'civilisation' in Mike Gene's selected quotes is a step further. Don't you see how them noting this is a sign that there is something 'special' or 'unique' about human beings in the universe? Jesus became a human being; not just any (other) animal! Does this count for nothing to naturalistically-inclined, anti-discontinuity Christians? How far do you want to push your continuity, degree fetishism? Dennis alerts the list to a behvioral ecology site as 'proof' for his 'anti-kind' argument. "Look, birds use tools, therefore our intelligence is not unique!" It sounds like he desperately doesn't want anyone to think that human beings are 'special' or 'unique,' but just another product of naturalistic evolution...because that's what the lower order 'natural' sciences say; that what they can *only* say in their spheres of competence. But then let's ask him again: first, is behaviour ecology or behaviour genetics 'scientific,' next, is cognitive science called 'scientific,' and finally, Dennis, is evolutionary psychology scientific? Why can't Dennis Venema play fair and offer an answer? In A. Peacocke's 'map of knowledge' these above fields are located between 2. Living Organisms and 3. Behaviour of Living Organisms. None of them are fields that relate to 4. Human Culture (which incidentally incudes 'technology'). So, to sum up, is it any wonder that the only answer we can get from scientists in 'lower order' fields is *anti-kind* ones, taken in the light of naturalistic, total evolution? One hurrah for the support of responsible Christian theology goes to scientists who recognize that human beings are a special *kind,* one way or another... Gregory ________________________________ From: Dennis Venema <> To: Murray Hogg <>; ASA <> Sent: Sat, November 7, 2009 6:47:32 AM Subject: Re: [asa] Shermer and Inevitability Shermer is also wrong in that other species, even non-mammalian species, use technology: corvids (crows, jays, ravens, etc) are highly intelligent and make/use simple tools. See the link: On 06/11/09 7:23 PM, "Murray Hogg" <> wrote: Hi Mike, > >... > >It is, incidentally, simply wrong that only the primates have technological intelligence! Off hand I can think of one group (birds) and three species - otters, beavers and dolphins - who demonstrate an ability to construct artefacts or use tools. > >These are very cursory thoughts, but I hope you find them a helpful point of departure for further reflection. > >Blessings, >Murray > > >Nucacids wrote: >> Michael Shermer makes an argument that doesn’t strike me as being as >> strong as he thinks it is: >> >> >> >> Shermer writes: >> >> “What are the odds that intelligent, technically advanced aliens would >> look anything like the ones in films, with an emaciated torso and limbs, >> spindly fingers and a bulbous, bald head with large, almond-shaped eyes? >> What are the odds that they would even be humanoid? In a YouTube video, >> produced by Josh Timonen of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason >> and Science, I argue that the chances are close to zero” >> >> and explains: >> >> “if something like a smart, technological, bipedal humanoid has a >> certain level of inevitability because of how evolution unfolds, then it >> would have happened more than once here.” >> >> Not necessarily.  If event X has the likelihood of happening once every >> 3 billion years, then after 3 billion years, it becomes inevitable and >> it happens once. It’s like the lottery.  If the odds of winning are a >> million-to-one, if a million people play, someone will win.  That the >> winning is inevitable does not mean a thousand people from that million >> should win. >> >> Shermer also adds: >> >> “But of the 60 to 80 phyla of animals, only one, the chordates, led to >> intelligence, and only the vertebrates actually developed it. Of all the >> vertebrates, only mammals evolved brains big enough for higher >> intelligence. And of the 24 orders of mammals only one—ours, the >> primates—has technological intelligence. As the late Harvard >> evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr concluded: “Nothing demonstrates the >> improbability of the origin of high intelligence better than the >> millions of phyletic lineages that failed to achieve it.” In fact, Mayr >> calculated that even though there have evolved perhaps as many as 50 >> billion species on Earth, “only one of these achieved the kind of >> intelligence needed to establish a civilization.”” >> >> But this is like arguing that since there was only one winner of the >> lottery, it was not inevitable that someone, somewhere would win. Yet if >> enough people play, it becomes more likely that someone will win to the >> point that it becomes inevitable. And the more people that play, the >> more people who do not win. >> >> Inevitability does not mean an event should happen multiple times.  It >> would depend on how likely that event was.  And unless we have >> independent evidence about this probability, we cannot rule out >> inevitability because the event happened once. >> >> Mike >> > >To unsubscribe, send a message to with >"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message. > > __________________________________________________________________ Yahoo! Canada Toolbar: Search from anywhere on the web, and bookmark your favourite sites. Download it now

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Received on Sat Nov 7 03:39:01 2009

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