That’s Church yo…
July 23, 2022 at 3:30 am #43828
and a strong urge to communicate with each other in ways that go much deeper than ways among other animals
Not sure about that. Not an assumption i make.July 23, 2022 at 9:59 pm #43835
Not sure about that. Not an assumption i make.
I probably could have worded that better.
By saying “in ways that go much deeper than ways among other animals”, I mean, for example art, music, science. These ways of communicating more deeply are not mainly due to genetic differences, but are cultural capabilities that have accrued in accelerating sophistication over generations of knowledge and practices that are documented or otherwise recorded in permanently accessible fashion… even in (say) folklore, shamanism, folk medicine, songs… just to mention some of our earliest ways we evolved to become increasingly communicative.
But meanwhile, genetically, I think we evolved merely a few, basic differences between other animals, like vocal characteristics, abilities to express and interpret facial features (especially wrt emotions and other feelings), and a few other social abilities (via brain structure evolution) that, granted, also required tens of thousands of years to amplify via a parallel cultural evolution. Enhanced language abilities alone may be the number one such “advancements” in human abilities.
I’ll add one more paraphrasing to this. Even if genetically we aren’t so hugely different from other primates, a few of those differences happened to enhance our abilities to transmit knowledge, skills, and perhaps other enhancements onto subsequent generations, in ways that can be recalled as needed. Technology in particular, in this latest stage of our cultural evolution has multiplied these abilities to document and communicate these “enhanced” capabilities of the human species.
What do you think? (I’m pressed for time at the moment, so I might not be spending enough time here to ponder my wording more carefully, or consider other reasons for why you don’t share my assumption.)
If you’re seeing changes to this post, I’m sorry for all the edits I’ve made here… I’m terrible about wording properly, clearly, and as comprehensively as I would like at first writing. Just one more note, bringing this back to Belle Rose’s topic, with my possibly-narrow point of view of it: Fiction is one of those enhanced, human capabilities, and in particular to the current topic, our capability to invent religions. Religion has, especially in the past, been a very effective way to motivate human beings to come together and interact… in ways that are “for better and for worse”. In fact “for the better” is what the focus of this topic is about, which is a focus that I think deserves more credit and investigation, whether in the context of religion or other humanistic endeavors.
July 23, 2022 at 11:19 pm #43837
- This reply was modified 6 months, 2 weeks ago by PopeBeanie. Reason: TONS of typo fixes, and other clarifications... even some "late" additional thoughts
Pope, you undersell yourself as a communicator.
I agree with most of you’ve written.
I think dogs read us and our facial expressions as well as we do each other. Also very hip to our mood. It is my understanding that all (or nearly all) primates have emotions that are elicited by like-stimulus and are expressed facially in nearly the same way.
I can’t deny that in some ways we exceed all other animals and as a result have produced modes of communication that are unique. On the other hand there is a great deal that is overlapping between ourselves and other primates. And how much communication between nonhuman animals is unknown by us? There is pair-bonding without divorce. Loss causes survivors to be forlorn. There is a world of scent that is only slightly sniffed by humans. It is a natural consequence of being a social mammal that communication is at the forefront of how we function. Without communication there is no social cohesion.July 24, 2022 at 9:25 pm #43860
I think dogs read us and our facial expressions as well as we do each other.
Absolutely! And sidenote, dogs were once wolves until they started evolving with us, and then we bred them to be even more compatible with us… both of which might include newly bred abilities to read our emotions, but I can’t declare that as a fact. Just a strong hunch.
As far as animal abilities overlapping our own, of course that’s true too, and I think that studying these overlaps are enlightening wrt both animal and human behaviors and evolution. (My favorite researcher is still Jaak Panksepp, who discovered and documented laughter in rats during play.) Specific to human evolution, it’s important to me to distinguish between genetic and cultural evolution, and I wish we had more specific terminologies to more easily differentiate each type of evolution. I sometimes think of it as “evolution squared”, i.e. some small changes in our genes, more than other genetic changes, get geometrically multiplied in power by our increasing success in cultural evolution.
While comparing our cultural-advancement powers to other, mother-nature-legacy genetic evolution in all animals, I almost always think of our advanced evolution as unnatural, or artificial. I still need to find a better, non-value laden term than “advanced”. I just don’t know how to better think of and explain this non-genetic type of evolution. Along with this recent cultural/artificial kind of evolution of ours, as I always say, is “for better and for worse”.
When taking a psych class a half dozen years ago, my main project presentation was on empathy and body language in dogs. E.g., just to give one of the most obvious examples, the universal body language in dogs of crouching down, front legs out, signalling a strong desire to play.
My main purpose in the presentation was to show similarities between human and other animal emotions. In this case perhaps there’s no “I wanna play” body language analogy in humans, but body language itself is an evolved trait among different animals.
After the presentation, one guy in class actually asked if I thought dogs have empathy. I thought I had just proven “yes, obviously”. But no, it’s still not obvious to some people. Strange, naive humans!
Picture’s from https://www.allthingsdogs.com/dog-body-language/July 24, 2022 at 11:02 pm #43866
Pope, good stuff.
Genetic and cultural evolution. The two must be related. At some point all of those courtship rituals had a beginning. One unusual member of a species went cuckoo. And others joined in. So at some point that first macaque that washed fruit and had others observe and follow will become genetic. I guess, i don’t reallly know.
Yeah that scientist is pretty cool. However it took him a long time to speculate that the rat’s vocalizations might be laughter. So the universality goes way beyond our primate cousins. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if alien life shares our biological expressions? What would that mean?July 26, 2022 at 2:19 am #43893
So at some point that first macaque that washed fruit and had others observe and follow will become genetic. I guess, i don’t reallly know.
I’d word that slightly differently, and clarify a bit. The behavior was originally enabled by a chance, genetic condition. If beneficial to the species, then enhanced survival that ensues is what makes that genetic difference more permanent. (I’m just placing the genetic change ahead of the behavior, here.)
However it took him a long time to speculate that the rat’s vocalizations might be laughter.
About the five years, it still strike me, too. Although, this video didn’t mention that he needed a special device just to hear the vocalizations, which he had to have custom made at the time. It’s the gray instrument that displays “48”-something on it, converting ultrasonic frequencies near 48 KHz to human-perceivable frequencies. So not having even heard those vocalizations for five years made this discovery of laughter a big leap.
Speaking of laughter in animals, this couple of minutes, from Jane Goodall in 2010:
(And I wonder if hyena sounds during group attacks on prey have any relation to laughter-like communications. I don’t mean that in a dark sense… it’s just another way to communicate before having actual words.)July 26, 2022 at 8:10 am #43894
If beneficial to the species, then enhanced survival that ensues is what makes that genetic difference more permanent.
The crucial condition for genetic change is if something is beneficial to the individual. If the individual reproduces more than others because it possesses a specific trait, then that trait will become more common in the population.
Some people say that when an animal makes noises, it is expressing emotion. But one reason to express emotion is to communicate it to somebody, i.e., its fellow chimpanzees or hyenas or whatever.
You might be interested in this: a lexicon of chimpanzee gestures, which I believe are widely shared among the great apes and understandable by humans.July 27, 2022 at 2:51 am #43899
Pope, perhaps you are not familiar but an Einsteiny macaque began washing fruit and others copied. So washing becomes cultural. A learned behavior simply adopted by doing as others are doing. I simply wonder how ritualized behavior originates and becomes coded. I probably read an explanation in what is his face-the imprint on ducks guy-Lorenz. (put a bullet in my head if it is dementia!)
I love what is her face? Jane Goodall. Heard her speak once and was disappointed she is not an atheist but that does not diminish her beauty. When i was a kid and read one of her books about chimps it really hit home because it confirmed my suspicion that the teachers in elementary school were full of shit. I heard hours upon hours of how humans were unique. And come to read Jane’s book she was treated in a condescending manner by male scientist who accused her of being naive and anthropomorphic. It was my opinion before it was popular that if you buy evolution you MUST buy a great many similarities between other primates and homo sapiens. Frans de waal conveys that same sentiment as Jane.December 11, 2022 at 4:39 am #46060
I simply wonder how ritualized behavior originates and becomes coded.
Just guessing at an example, a ritualized behavior might have been facilitated by an odd genetic mutation, e.g. a vocal tract optimization that enhances communication just enough to help the vocalizer sound sexy and communicate juicy love (and so on) so he can make babies that inherit that gene. (Think male rock star singers, and swooning females, right?) But at caveman level. Maybe the same for dancing, showing off a higher level of physical coordination after a strenuous hunt, and joy. Now it’s TV shows that benefit from audiences that are attracted to those kinds of sing and dance contests. Just sayin’, albeit maybe that’s not my best hypothetical example. OK, let’s go with manual dexterity and abilities to teach novel tool-making skills then.
Which takes us to human cultural memes that can not only spread like wildfire (aka virally, like now it has even evolved to click click click click on all the clickbait links), but carry on culturally to future generations. No, wait, that’s not a fitness enhancement, right? It might be a cultural death spiral. I’m not feeling intelligent right now. Anyway, it does seem that some animals transmit cultural memes too, as per your example, but they tend not to remain viral across their generations, like maybe there’s some other kinds of genetic, evolutionary thresholds that must be accomplished before there’s enough genetic+cultural inertia to keep going.
And come to read Jane’s book she was treated in a condescending manner by male scientist who accused her of being naive and anthropomorphic. It was my opinion before it was popular that if you buy evolution you MUST buy a great many similarities between other primates and homo sapiens. Frans de waal conveys that same sentiment as Jane.
At some point decades ago, especially when I heard some people say they’re sure that animals don’t feel emotions the same way we do, I saw an irony, even in the word anthropomorphism. The ultimate irony, to me, became how so many people miss entirely that it’s the other way around, i.e. it’s the genetically derived, pre-human kind of animal emotions that we later came to inherit. (While eventually enabled by cultural inheritances accumulated over thousands of years, we create stories, plays, and movies about emotions, politics, and other made-up stuff like religion… and all those “advanced” memes, arts, pride, weaponry, blah blah, make us think we’re so much more special than other animals. Which we are, but for better and for worse.)
Now the reason that brought me to find this months-old thread was because I was reminded in a different, recent thread how @simonpaynton was writing about “reciprocity”. (And I think morality without religion was also mentioned in the current thread?)
So per usual, I start the following video several minutes in for people short on time, where the real meat (or fruit?) starts, but y’all still have the option to rewind it to the beginning, if you want:
Franz de Waal:December 11, 2022 at 6:01 am #46061
Pope, i still think it is amazing how complex rituals are inherited. We easily relate to personality traits, physical characteristics, birth defects, sexual orientation as heritable yet complex dances and rituals seem like they should be learned rather than inherited. Bowerbirds for instance are fascinating.
On the other hand we know how macaques in some part of Japan have a habit of washing potatoes. It was observed how one macaques started and the others played monkey see/monkey do. And now it is a prevalent practice-culturally transmitted rather than inherited.
I can’t imagine that a million years ago one enterprising male bowerbird wooed his woman and the other males copied. And then somehow the behavior became coded. I assume there was a pressure from females in sexual selection. And beyond that i can’t say how it evolved.
As to fairness and related concepts of reciprocity that makes perfect sense to me to have evolved in social animals.December 11, 2022 at 6:52 am #46063
Just occurred to me how insects have evolved the equivalent of ritualized behavior. Instinct comes to mind as the explanation. Intuitively it makes sense as being evolved.
Yet the bowerbird seems different to me.December 11, 2022 at 1:52 pm #46064
According to Frans de Waal, animals have reciprocity, in the form of long-term, what he calls “buddy” reciprocity, whereby two friends will do each other favours on a long term basis without keeping strict account. It’s more a case of attitudinal reciprocity – “If you’re generous, I’ll be generous too” rather than a strict tit-for-tat. Most likely, humans started with this kind of reciprocity when they were living in small free-sharing groups, and when groups got larger, and relationships more impersonal, this developed into contracts, money, etc: strict exchanges with safeguards on not being ripped off by strangers.December 11, 2022 at 1:55 pm #46065
morality without religion
As far as I know, the fairness that has been observed among animals is self-directed – “that is unfair to me” – rather than other-directed – “that is unfair to you” as we see in humans. I think this is because humans are so much more interdependent, so they care about how their cooperative partners are doing.December 11, 2022 at 4:45 pm #46071
Reg the Fronkey FarmerModerator
The comments on ‘reciprocity’ above reminded me of an Irish saying. When trouble is coming your way you should “get you retaliation in first“. (From a famous rugby team captain).
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