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The Uniqueness of Mammals (areomagazine.com)
51 points by chat 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 59 comments





> Morality did not occur in humans spontaneously. It must have had animal precedents. Ethologists such as Frans de Waal have discovered that some mammals, particularly monkeys and apes, show a rudimentary sense of fairness and inequity aversion

We share the house with several cats. And an old labrador. One of the cats in particular appears to have a highly developed idea of fairness. She will get up and nonviolently intervene if she perceives someone getting too much of a rough deal. This can be inter-cat disputes or it may be labrador exuberance getting someone trod on or being hit by a wagging tail. The thing is, she doesn't play favorites, not even with Julius the Lab who is otherwise the all conuming love of her life. The offending party gets told of, and generally listens. The other thing is, she is nearly always completely in line with my own judgement on the given case. And appears to understand our commonality of thinking: She has on more than one occasion actively solicited my assitance if the ongoing confrontation has been a bit too loud and boisterous for her to tackle alone. Afterwards, I will unfailingly be treated to a short acknowledgment snuggle as thanks for the help. I probably wouldn't believe this story if I heard it from someone else, and of course I've never managed to get anything on video. But it's real and absolutely amazing to watch.


> When Niko Tinbergen, the Nobel prizewinning ethologist, was asked how human beings differ from animals he responded, “I wish I knew.”

Another way to see this is that other mammals are no different to humans. They spend most of their time caring for their families and going to work. They do their best to seem attractive to potential mates; they love sex and food; and housing is a very important issue for them, particularly in the context of parenthood and education.

What's it like to be a mammal? You already know. If people who dismiss other animals as inferior would only remember that, the world would be a kinder place.


> they love sex and food

I generally agree with your post, but I don't think this part is truly accurate. For most mammals, sex is something that happens relatively rarely, only when the female is in heat and the male ruts.

There are also exceptions (bonobos being one of the most well known), but I don't think it's clear that mammals in general enjoy sex in the same way we do.


Is that an inference based on frequency, or something else?

Zooming in on infrequent episodes of sex, what do you imagine goes on in their minds during those occurrences?


It's not so much frequency itself - it's all the 'missed opportunities' for having sex, compared to humans. Animals can spend large amounts of time together doing nothing, and only have sex a few times a year. Also, most mammals have extremely short (by human standards) sexual acts, with little or no variation, and they often lose interest immediatelyaafter it's over, possibly for a few months.

All of this to me suggests strongly that their sexual drive is extremely different from our own, for most mammals. My guess is that they probably only feel sexual desire at all during heat/rutting, and that even then, it feels more like hunger to them than pleasure - something to be sated when it happens, not a pleasurable act to enjoy as often as possible. Of course, I'm not claiming this is some deep insight I'm privy to, just some speculation.


Dunno, watch a herd of horse, cows, goats or sheep for a bit. Recreational sexual activity abounds. Llama can apparently talk anything female into spending time with them.

"animals don't have sex" is more a matter of "people don't publish about their study of animal sex" because it'd be seen as weird.


What you're saying makes sense in the context that you're saying it - your own lived experience as a 21st century young adult human being in an affluent country with means.

Married women all around the world will share wry smiles with each other listening to the third sentence of your first para.


Yes, I am aware of the difference the sexual revolution has had on female sexuality in particular. But that doesn't change my larger point - that human society has often (and continues to, in much of the world) stifle women's sexuality does not significantly change my point that human libido is different from that of most mammals.

Most mammals don't have the kind of social structures that could systematically suppress a natural desire. Even if they did, it remains true that the lack of libido affects both females and males in most mammals, it's not limited to some individuals.

And promiscuity, at the very least for men, has been a constant throughout human history and around the world, with very few exceptions. The same is true of homosexuality by the way, another form of sexual enjoyment and bonding that is extremely rare among most mammals, while being relatively common in humans.

By the way, our closest extant cousin species, bonobos, also behave much more like humans in terms of sexuality than even other apes do. They obviously do have sex only for the sake of enjoyment, and the difference in sexual behavior is stark compared to something like wolves.


I think that person you are responding to was making joke about husband of those women.

Mammals social behavior have social structures in which some individuals prevent reproduction of other individuals in same group.


Even as young i spent a lot of time in group leisure setting without having sex. That is actually quite normal for humans.

Also, some mammals are quite notorious for their sex drive. Going as far as attempting sex with lamps and such.


I think that may be too specific to mammals that have a particular breeding strategy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R/K_selection_theory

Gorillas don't have that much interest in sex afaik but small mammals with short lives may be another matter. An ethicist wrote that mice take huge risks to get sex.


>> Zooming in on infrequent episodes of sex, what do you imagine goes on in their minds during those occurrences?

"Does he think I'm fat?"

"Oh yeah baby, I'm doing it!"

:trumpets trunk:

Sorry for joking on HN folks. To contribute more seriously to the conversation, watching other animals having sex is one of the most fascinating and most hilarious activities I can imagine. No wonder the relevant filmography is so popular.


> With the exception of insectivorous mammals, mammalian predators—unlike fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates—generally prefer to kill their prey before eating it.

I'm not so sure about this one. Many carnivores like wolves eat their prey while it's still alive. When you are in a pack and are in competition with the other wolves for who gets to eat, your main priority is to get the prey into a state where it can't run away any more. Anything beyond that doesn't matter.


Any https://reddit.com/r/natureismetal regular know it's grossly wrong, as mammals devouring another mammal while it's still alive is a large percentage of the content.


As another exception, many birds of prey, typically those who eat larger mammals, which would be able to bite them when still alive, first carefully kill their prey with their claws and beak, and then they start eating only when the prey no longer moves or shows any other sign of life.

Doesn't the term "generally" imply, not all or at all times?

IDK not a biologist, but I found some videos of carnivores eating (parts of) their prey alive. Caution, graphic content.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VECtHHQjCqg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAt7mrAfMRw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhRd3bqghHo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sg7xp9lMyZw

Do you know of any videos showing carnivores kill their prey before eating it?


> tactile drive & requesting touch

Pointless but cute anecdote. My poodle is _incredibly_ touchy. Yeah there's /r/petthedamndog but I've never seen a dog ham it up like her. Her first thing do do when we wake up is get up onto the bed, laying on us and staring at us. When she wants to be pet, she'll first stare at you, then poke you with her paw till you pet her. If you still refuse, she'll growl quietly. Then if you totally cold shoulder her (some people have to work!) she'll let out a dramatic sigh and wander off. I've never met any nonhuman animal this driven for touch, though I've had cats and fancy rats and they seem to actively seek out cudding as well.


We used to live in the bush, with lots of kangaroos. Our neighbours would also rescue and hand raise kangaroos from accidents, and release them on the property; the rescue roos were less scared of people than the native roos.

Anyway. One of the rescue roos, who we called Wattle, used to come around and play with our cat sometimes. The kangaroo - a medium female gray - was probably 170cm tall, and the cat was just a cat. They used to chase each other around the yard, for minutes at a time, and did so many times. It was hilarious.

Fun side fact: kangaroos love eating banana skins. Who knew?


One of my dogs gets really upset if you blow on him. He is extraordinarily sensitive to it. So when we want him to stop doing something, we just purse our lips and make sure he can see! It's like a water spray to a cat!

Dogs are incredibly intelligent when it comes to zeroeth, first-order and second-order effects.

0-order: Pavlovian: Stimulus leads to unconscious reaction. No causal awareness.

1-order: Skinnerian: behavior X leads to good/bad outcome Y, I do more X to get Y. Causal inference without indirection.

These are pretty uncontroversial. Higher order reasoning sees much more debate, but I see evidence all over the animal kingdom.

This is the domain of cognition and eventually theory of mind, and arguably extends behavioral logic with recursion and reasoning about causality indirection.

Audrey knows several tricks. When we are trying to get her to do something hard, she knows we want her to do something. So she "rotates" through her repetoir, spinning, jumping, hi-fiving, searching for the correct behavior. One could argue that it's just extended Skinnerian conditioning, but I don't think so, I think this is the roots of 2nd order reasoning and creativity - "a solution exists and I need to try differnt approaches" - and it's cool to watch. She's 1.5 years old so she's still learning about the world.

But the best dog story comes from another owner who taught her poodle to drop toys before going outside (she couldn't leave hollow toys outside lest scorpions nest in them). So one day the dog brings two toys and drops one at the threshold, as if to say, "there, I paid your dues! Let me out!"

This higher reasoning is clearly harder for them though. I think this manifests most obviously in "no take, only throw!" They want to _have_ the ball (immediate minor reward) but also fetch (delayed large reward). She rarely drops the ball immediately, rather she almost drops it a few times, only to bite down at the last second, before relinquishing.


I often look at our dogs like that as well and I'm just so fascinated at how intelligent they really are. The current dogs we have are quite possibly the smartest dogs I've ever been exposed to. But I believe it's because they just have such expressive personalities. They're a mix between havanese and coton de tulier's which amounts to basically aristocratic lap dogs that love to stand on their hind legs.

One of them is like a jock, very athletic, very show-offy, loves to cuddle. However he's not perfect and has specific quirks to him that only he has! He's the one who doesn't like being blowed on, he gets really uncomfortable when you pick him up but he'll happily jump on your lap.

The other dog is the shy type and likes to hide. He's kind of schizoid like where he likes company but only when he knows he needs it. Other than that he just wants to be alone. But when you come and say high to him it's the absolute highlight of his day. He likes to do things his way and isn't afraid to take charge. Often doing risky things like explorer or running in the road. Whereas the other one is really a tepid scaredy cat haha!

These dogs have honestly made me question kind of what you touched on. I forgot to mention but these are my parents dogs and I actively do not live with them. But I partially go to visit because I loved these dogs so much when I did live at home. Almost because I essentially raised them when I was unemployed for a while. Now I try to visit once a week and my parents hype them up the days I come over. It just feels like walking in as santa to a bunch of kids on christmas morning. Almost as if they anticipated it and knew I was coming and were patiently waiting. I don't know what it is but I constantly question that they aren't capable of thinking beyond their daily lives.


Recently a young orangutan died in our zoo. The mother carried it around for several days before laying it to rest.

Our zoo has a special area for apes that is built in with research mind. Scientists from the Max Planck institute can hide and observe and have access to rooms where they can do experiments. (e.g. shell games, etc)

There even is documentary soap on TV since 2003 with over 900 episodes aired till today, looking behind the scenes [0]. The caretakers seem to know a lot about the behavior of the animals, but I wonder how much of it is scientifically researched and documented.

[0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elefant,_Tiger_%26_Co.


Humans are unique in that our rational reasoning is strong enough to reliably override or control our intuition and feelings. Remove that and we are just a normal mammal. Add that to other mammals and we could integrate them in society as full citizens.

For example, we aren't using millions of mammals to sit and label machine learning models all day. It is not because they can't create those labels, mammals are really good at a lot of tasks, it is because we can't make mammals sit and repeatedly do a task all day even when rewarded. They just lack the reasoning capacity to override their intuition to do it.


> For example, we aren't using millions of mammals to sit and label machine learning models all day. It is not because they can't create those labels, mammals are really good at a lot of tasks, it is because we can't make mammals sit and repeatedly do a task all day even when rewarded. They just lack the reasoning capacity to override their intuition to do it.

We can. There are chimpanzees in neuroscience laboratories that perform repetitive tasks all day, every day, while they have electrodes hooked in their brain. It's actually disturbing that we submit them to this.

Here is an example: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep34685

> Procedure

> The experiment consisted of training and test sessions. We used ten versions of the pictures described above. Five pairs (1 and 32, 2 and 27, 3 and 23, 5 and 19, 8 and 15 hours) were used in the training sessions. When the chimpanzees touched the start key at the centre of the touchscreen monitor, images from one of the pairs were displayed side by side. The chimpanzees’ task was to touch the image of the fresher cabbage out of the two alternatives. Once the chimpanzees had chosen one of the two images, the stimuli disappeared. A food reward and chime were given for the correct response. A buzzer sounded when the chimpanzee made an error. Following a trial where the chimpanzee made an error, a correction trial, where only the correct image was presented, took place. The correction trials were included in the methodology to keep the chimpanzees motivated.

We could absolutely use chimpanzees to perform labeling of data for ML. But we shouldn't.


They didn't get the monkeys sit and do those for hours, just a short while per day.

> Each session consisted of 30 trials.

> The experiments took place over eight days, with the chimpanzees participating in five test sessions per day in order to cover all of the novel combinations within a day.

The study just affirms my point that it is hard to make monkeys do stuff for extended amounts of time or the experiment would have progressed much faster. The only way we have to motivate them is to give them food directly after completing a small task, and that motivation doesn't really work in the long run. You can't make them do an hour long task and then give them something.

Edit: Humans however have been shown capable to toil away with no reward whatsoever for years just to achieve some arbitrary goal or reward they believe exists. If this was just a question of degree then it shouldn't have been hard to get monkeys to do a days work with no rewards. Humans aren't a thousand times smarter than monkeys.


We can and do make nonhuman mammals sit and repeatedly do tasks all day even when rewarded. Neuroscience behavior experiments in rats, mice, and apes are exactly this.

Humans are considered much less exceptional than they were in the 1950s.

I'd say our big edge over other species is the scale of our social networks. For example, apes can have economies where they trade currency, but that economy is going to be limited to a single tribe.


> We can and do make nonhuman mammals sit and repeatedly do tasks all day even when rewarded.

I have never seen a study showing this. Where did you get this data from? You can make nonhuman mammals follow their instincts all day, but we can't extract much value from that. You can't make them do arbitrary tasks that are physically and mentally within their means all day. You can train animals to do a task once easily, but you can't train it to continue doing said task for the entire day so it can get fed by the end of the day.


You have some deep misconceptions about science, but state them with certainty anyway, and garner upvotes for this.

OK, I'm done with this forum.


But Isn't this exactly what a service dog does? I guess there's some nuance here, but I believe dogs specifically exhibit most things we assume are human only characteristics.

Where humans and dogs start to deviate is with tasks that require much more contemplation or require many steps. But dogs "in the moment" behavior seems to be shockingly similar to humans.


Dogs instincts are to help their packmates. They will do it all day long even with no rewards.

The superior but accidental rational capability of homo sapiens isn't the only significant distinction from other mammals.

(This rational capability needs much practice -- both in the group and the individual -- to become something approaching reliable.)

Although being a mammal favours the development of some co-operative behaviours (which vary according to environmental pressures), the other very unique characteristic is the theory of mind, i.e. the tendency to ascribe agency and even psychology to events and other beings.

Sophisticated co-operation, language, and patterns of social cohesion begin in this perception/assumption of agency. Sophisticated reasoning then follows as the perception/assumption of agency proves a correct guess and humans begin to think together. (Dennett's hypothesis about debugging thought.)

An unfortunate result of the theory of mind is the chaos of human delusions.


I'm not sure if that is true. To me it makes more sense that mammals just lack the rational capability to act on that information. Like, dogs clearly understands that others are thinking and feeling beings.

>For example, we aren't using millions of mammals to sit and label machine learning models all day

Aren’t we? Look at Recaptcha


All humans do decisions primary in intuition and feelings. We do have good logic, but actual on the ground decision making is not based on that.

I think reliably is stretching it, but yeah. We do plan longer term than most other animals.

Almost every human is reliable enough to go to work/school every day and do their tasks even when they don't feel like it. That is pretty darn reliable.

Edit: If you lack that level of reliability you will be diagnosed with a psychological condition of some form. So we absolutely expect humans to reliably override their feelings using rational reasoning.


A substantial fraction of humans in WEIRD societies don’t do their tasks when they don’t feel like it, and they spend most of two decades being trained to do it. Most humans are not historically that reliable. It’s incredibly difficult, verging on impossible, to turn hunter gatherers into agriculturalists. Turning agriculturalists into industrial workers is comparatively easy but still the work of decades. People really, really hate being told what to do, being micromanaged, being punctual, being ranked, doing work that feels meaningless, practically the entire suite of behaviors necessary for industrial society.

> And that was a theme that cropped up again in Professor Blumin’s class, that there were two great working class traditions that echoed through the ages, and they were

> 1) avoiding work and 2) drinking

...

> Those great satanic mills, where women and children worked in shifts at great water- or steam-driven sewing and spinning machines, stories of little kids getting their hands mangled by the machinery? One of the major reasons women and children were preferred was because they would actually show up on time every day, and stay sober around all those hand-manglers.

https://kontextmaschine.tumblr.com/post/96390732283/happy-la...


Makes you wonder if they’re actually the smart ones.

There's a great recent documentary on Netflix called My Octopus Teacher about an octopus which displayed some of these behaviors (interspecies bonding, tactile drive, play). Another good Netflix documentary, on birds, is Beak & Brain: Genius Birds from Down Under.

This appears to be a list of things that we have no reason to bother to observe in non-mammals.

I've heard most of them said to be unique to humans. (the most insightful comment in the article is e.g. "There is very little data on mammalian defecation.")

My conclusion is: we like to study ourselves, we are not that bothered about studying other creatures.


I think the frustrating thing about this article is that every single observation has obvious exceptions. The thesis "mammals are unique" could just as easily be antithesized by the chosen evidence.

This taxonomical difficulty has always fascinated me. I give biologists the benefit of the doubt that they have solid evidence for their categorization but in the back of my mind I've always been curious about this. Why would these unique features exist in other lineages? Perhaps the space of diversity in behaviors is smallish to the point that random overlap occurs? Maybe it's purely definitional and the actual behaviors are distinct between say mammals and birds?

Or maybe my problem is that I failed my 7th grade taxonomy exam catastrophically and have never quite gotten over that :)


There's not much solid about taxonomy of animals. Nature doesn't really have clearly defined classes, just rough clusters of similar organisms. It's the humans that like classifying things because it's easier for us to think about them and make predictions when we see them as classes rather than as individuals or even the whole global ecosystem as a single integrated super-organism. The more common features we can find in a class, the less thinking we have to do but it's OK if there are exceptions as long as it's not so many that it makes the classes useless.

Only human mammals seem to have rhythm. But some birds have it..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJOZp2ZftCw


Regarding the tactile drive: there was recently some research in the news regarding neurons in the skin that react to stroking movement with a specific speed of about 3 cm per second, which are common to many mammals. Related Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C_tactile_afferent

Here is one missing from the list that I find fascinating: hiccups are only found in mammals.

As my 3 year old once asked: “Where do hiccups come from, rainbows?”


The article correctly notices that there are exceptions to its supposition about the uniqueness of mammals, and that many parrots also exhibit these kinds of behavior thought as typical for mammals.

While parrots and corvids seem to be the most intelligent birds and they commonly show such behaviors, these behaviors can also be encountered, even if less frequently, at many other birds.

For example many birds that bond in long-term pairs, pigeons being the most obvious, practice frequently a kissing-like behavior, even if birds are hindered by their hard beaks.

It is likely that these behaviors are not associated specifically to mammals, but to complex brains / nervous systems, so they are encountered most frequently in mammals, less frequently in birds and some times also in other animals, e.g. octopuses or lizards.


The author of this article has obviously never owned a parrot.

From the article:

Exceptions At times, nature defies the human desire for orderly taxonomy. For example, there are mammalian monotremes that lay eggs (e.g. echidnas), flowering plants that lack chlorophyll and cold-blooded naked mole rats.

The Psittacidae (parrots) appear to have some mammalian behaviours. They exhibit play, learning through modelling, interspecies bonding and kissing and certain species are highly regarded for their intelligence. Some humans reciprocally bond with them, carrying them on their shoulders. This is never done with other avian species.


>> Mammals rarely engage in repeated stereotypical behaviour when presented with a task wherein they cannot directly obtain their goal, but will change their behaviour and attempt different strategies. This could provide one possible definition of intelligence in animals: the more complex the improvised strategy, the more intelligent the animal. Other behaviours can also be used as markers of intelligence and there are gradations in intelligence.

This is very tempting to accept. I have no idea how accurate it is (not a specialist in the subject) but it certainly rings true to my experience.

I might have told the story of the Light Fixture of Death on HN before. There's a light fixture where I stay in the summers, shaped like a quarter sphere, on the wall inside the living room. In the summer, large, orange hornets that have their nest in the chimney start coming out of the fireplace. In the nighttime, if the Light Fixture of Death is on, they will, invariably, draw a, well, beeline to it, stand on its edge, slide on its smooth interior and immolate themselves onto the (incadescent) light bulb with a horrible sizzling sound. The fixture has to be changed every once in a while because it fills up with dead hornets. There's a black imprint above it, like you'd expect to see over a candle or oil lamp, because of all the smoke of burning insects that emanates from it.

There is no exception to this behaviour. As soon as a hornet enters the living room via the fireplace, it will always, always fly to the Light Fixture of Death and burn itself to death. If they come in from another side, say the balcony doors, then they often miss it.

I've started to think that this is some kind of hallmark of insect intelligence: they have a set of behaviours that are adaptive in the sense that they can cope with the variations in an environment but that are also limited in that they only work in specific environments- and outside of those environments, an insect's very survival is basically down to luck. Again, I'm no expert on this so I'm possibly talking bullshit, but I can't imagine the same kind of stereotypical behaviour in cats or dogs. I mean, I see dead strays on the edge of the road all the time, but then again I see so many strays that are not hit by cars. There must be some variation in their behaviours. Maybe not.

It's tempting also to see insect behaviour as the result of some kind of million-years' optimisation process, not unlike gradient-based optimisation in modern statistical machine learning. But that's stretching things way too far.


Very interesting article.

"Morality did not occur in humans spontaneously. It must have had animal precedents."

This statement has so much embedded in it, its hard to know where to start. This comes after having listed a bunch of traits that we share with animals.

My view is that we mammals emote in the same wayas us. Mentally though, human thinking and conceptualising is at an entirely different level. We can think about concepts. We are not the same mentally. This is not a value judgement - it is not better or worse, and quite possibly it is far worse - without language, we would live in a world of lies or at best, mis-interpretations and mis-understandings. But it is evidently orders of magnitudes different to animals.

Which brings me back to the quote. Embedded in it is the belief in evolution, which I can re-state as 'human morality arose out of animal behaviour via the process of evolution'.

Like the bible, evolution is just another story. When we want to say 'we know', we need to have a direct path to a real situation - no steps can be missed! But we don't have that - we were taught stories as if they are true. The reality is that they are hearsay. I haven't seen evolution. Its just a story an explanation believed to be knowledge.

Perhaps the theory has some explanatory power, although it is also a possibility it is taught to confuse us and keep us intentionally ignorant. We do not know. However, when we say we know but do not, we are proudly and arrogantly wearing our ignorance as a badge of honour!

I love to hear about animal behaviour. I don't love to hear the back flips that ignorance masquerading as knowledge makes us do. Eg, the author signs off with: "I would suggest that what makes us unique is that we are mammals—only more so. The mammalian characteristics have been amplified in human beings. This echoes Darwin’s supposition in The Descent of Man that humans differ mentally from animals in degree rather than in kind and that, as Giovanni Boniolo put it, it is only logical to suppose that human behaviour evolved from that of our non-human ancestors. Some people may not like this idea."

If you have to have a theory to explain the world, as if the world can be explained on scientific terms, then the go-to theory is evolution. If you don't agree with this 'science' then the author will get all passive aggressive on you for lack of belief in 'non-human ancestors'. He smugly allows himself to say: "Some people may not like this idea." Unsaid is - 'Those idiots.'

So, the science belief is actually a lever to feel superior, justified and empowered in his ignorance masquerading as knowledge, over those who, in their own ignorance believe in religion, or something other to him. But there is no greater knowledge there. Its ignorance all round.

The article is the sugar, to get you to swallow the pill of an assumed but still unproven belief in evolution.

Skepticism of everything is the answer. Beware of believing anything regards the objective world, that does not match with personal experience.


> Skepticism of everything is the answer. Beware of believing anything regards the objective world, that does not match with personal experience.

Do you believe in the past? Not any particular history, but just that anything actually existed at all before your birth/first memory? If you do, then you already accept that we can rationally believe things that we have not personally experienced. You also require this belief to think that places you have never visited before actually exist as well, or that tomorrow will look anything like today.

Evolution is a somewhat vague theory that is completely undeniable, as long as you accept that the present is a result of the past. To not believe in evolution, you need to believe that the process of artificial selection and its profound effects on organisms produced in this way (chihuahua vs german shepherd, wild bananas vs bananas) is something that never happened on Earth before us.

You also need to believe that genetics is bogus, and that the genetic relationships we notice between species that seem similar or distant are somehow pure coincidence.

Now, the precise mechanisms of evolution are still debatable - the role of natural vs sexual selection vs genetic selection; the role of mutation, and how random it is; and many others are still debatable and debated. But there is simply no way to look at anything in modern biology or medicine and accept that while denying evolution, if you think through the consequences.

Reasoning about the past is just like reasoning about the future, but in reverse: we look at the laws of our world as a function of time, and extrapolate from the present state - to reason about the future, we look at how they apply to t > 0, to reason about the past we look at how they apply if t < 0. Nothing more magical about that.


To say 'I remember my birth' is hearsay. When we give our birth date, we are effectively lying, as we don't know, even though we were there.

I believe that there is a past that was laid down. But I don't think we know it. We are told and taught is what is most expedient in order for our behaviour to be managed. (Take a look at Star forts to see what I mean - you weren't taught about this global build style at school.)

As we don't experience evolution, why should we believe it is true? We can experience selection of the best fruit etc, choosing and breeding the best tomatoes - but this is not evolution. This is just selective breeding.

In the same way as I think history is whatever is expedient, I think the same about science (and religion).

I personally believe that the scientific method is a fantastic way to better understand the world. But it has to be done personally. The problem is that science does not use the scientific method, regardless of how much it pays lip service to it. Science relies on trust and scientists have faith that all the steps are there - its just they were taken by someone else. But the steps are not there, and no one is checking anything. These are mistaken assumptions, or stories and no one seems to care or notice.

If you want an example of how little we know in science, try and make water out of the 2 gases, in controlled conditions. I will pre-empt any further questions on this, until you have looked online, or put up an experiment of your own. There are lots of loud pops, but what I see is water already in the air condensating against the glass. If you find a good example of water being created - and we should be able to create buckets of the stuff right? - please run it past me and see if I agree. I promise to be fair, and explain my reasoning if I disagree.

My view is that we live in a fabricated reality, where we have created types and classifications - but that these are ideas in our own minds. We are not describing reality, we are describing our classifications. We are lost in our stories.


This is quite fascinating. I've never before met someone who almost entirely discards knowledge they didn't experience themselves. I wonder to what extent you trust that I am a human being living somewhere else on the globe :) .

Regarding the synthesis of water, I have seen that experiment done first hand when I was in school, and I have seen a larger quantity of droplets of water when it was done than in other similar experiments where two gasses were burned, so I am well convinced. Synthesising buckets of water would be a much more complicated trick though, especially if you expect to see it happen all at once, because the reaction is 2H2 + O2 = 2H2O, so you need to react 1kg of hydrogen with 0.5kg of oxygen to get 1kg of water vapour, without blowing your whole house up - not an easy feat. Going a safer route, creating a process that reacts small quantities over a long time is also difficult, especially if you want to make a convincing looking apparatus.

An easier route if you want to convince yourself of this reaction, I still suggest the best way is to perform the experiment with hydrogen and oxygen, and then to perform similar experiments with other gasses. This way, you could compare the amount of vapour that condenses after burning hydrogen (you should see a lot) vs burning sulphur (you'll see very little or none).

> My view is that we live in a fabricated reality, where we have created types and classifications - but that these are ideas in our own minds. We are not describing reality, we are describing our classifications. We are lost in our stories.

The reason why I don't think your argument holds water, at least for most science, is that we can see the products of science working every day, even if we don't personally study them from first principles. I can see that my computer works, so I am convinced that all of the science involved in its creation is true - electricity, materials science, possibly some aspects of quantum mechanics, general relativity for my GPS clock, the speed of light when looking at the Latency of satellite communications, the chemistry of silicone which they use in the manufacturing process and others. I look at the plastic industry and pigment industry and junk food and medicine, and I know that chemistry is true. I look at how we successfully treat and prevent microbial diseases, or selectively breed plants and animals, and I know that genetics is true.

Do I need to deeply understand each of these phenomena? Not really, and I don't even need to trust the scientists. All I need is to trust that the hundreds of thousands of engineers who apply these processes every day are not lying about how they make it work. I don't need to trust them that it works, that I can see for myself.


I'm glad it is fascinating. You should think on this, and realise how much trust and faith you are putting into the stories you are told, and how much or how little it coheres with what is the gold standard - your personal experience.

Yes - at school, I think you were convinced I think by water condensating and by the loud pop (as was I). This is almost the definition of a magic trick! You are told it explains something, but of course at that age, you wouldn't have looked at the experiment with a critical or knowledgeable eye. The evidence that we were shown as kids should not be considered rigorous or acceptable in science - mixing invisible gases in an open container that allows air in, is not rigorous. Personally I have not seen any examples of this experiment that are undertaken in what I deem to be an acceptable scientific manner.

I too believe that computers work. :) I don't dispute that we are able to use things to create some excellent technology. What I dispute that we know what we're doing.

What I'm saying is that we do not get to see or understand the first principles. We do not see them in almost any of the science we are presented when we are taught at school. What we are given are claims and explanations that are not supported by the evidence. We are put in a position where we are forced to trust. It seems we require an explanation, so much so that we will latch on to any story rather than sit uncomfortably with one or 2 open-ended hypotheses.

The heart of the issue, we are not given evidence to know, we are given a claim to believe. I can know I am resting on a table. I can know that if I drop my pen it will fall on the table. There is no debate to be had. There is a clear path to experience, or empiricism. Empiricism is purported to be the basis of science, but some very basic ideas are not actually possible to experience it seems.

In the original article here, evolution is the implied explanation. But, we have no means to test or confirm the truth or not. We cannot see evolution occurring. (Feel free to point me to an article or something that you think shows this.) Yet we are all taught it as if it was true! If it is as I say, what we are presented with is an unfalsifiable theory which is without evidence. This is to say it is based on trust and faith. This is religious thinking, and is no different to a religion.

Finally, are you aware of the replication crisis in science?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis

and

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-39054778

"According to a survey published in the journal Nature last summer, more than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments."

There should be 100% replicability, not 30%. Science shouldn't be about playing the odds in a casino.

And as to the science we do, funding is probably the most serious issue. All science funding comes from the government, the military and corporations. These 3 entities form our governance structure. This is to say they have vested interests in ensuring that only certain areas are looked into, the point being is that science is not an independent field of enquiry - it is about what is expedient to the governance structure.


> The evidence that we were shown as kids should not be considered rigorous or acceptable in science - mixing invisible gases in an open container that allows air in, is not rigorous.

Well, have you seen other gas-gas reactions produce water vapor? Because most of the ones I've seen, especially exothermic ones, don't produce any vapor at all. So when a hydrogen-oxygen reaction produces vapor, why else would it be if not because they reacted and produced a gas that quickly condensed on the glass? (true, I never personally tasted that condensed liquid to confirm it is water and not some other liquid).

> I too believe that computers work. :) I don't dispute that we are able to use things to create some excellent technology. What I dispute that we know what we're doing.

Well, how could we reliably make them work if we don't know what we're doing? This is why I don't need to take so many things on faith: I see people reliably make them work. If I saw a faith healer or church reliably cure people, by the millions every day, I wouldn't even need faith: it would be obvious that they know something real.

> We cannot see evolution occurring. (Feel free to point me to an article or something that you think shows this.)

First of all, as I explained earlier, I don't need to literally see it happen to understand how it must have. The present derives from the past, and if you simply extend how we see genetics working today into the past (or future), evolution is in fact the only possible result (assuming no magical forces are acting). Your way of thinking is a dead end for any process that lies outside the limited human senses: if something is smaller than what we can see, or further away than we can see, or takes longer than a single human lifetime, it would be completely out of the reach of science. I do not accept this view of the world, and I don't see any reason why theories couldn't be extrapolated beyond what is immediately visible.

If I understand what my eyes see, and I understand how a lense works, and I understand how an electron microscope works, then I can trust that the image the electron microscope is drawing of a microbe is true, even though if I take away the microscope I can only see a mess. The same works if you apply this reasoning backwards in time, even over millions of years.

By the way, there have apparently been quite a few experiments of artificially producing new species from a single colony - there's a list here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laboratory_experiments_of_spec...

The crisis of reproducibility is a tangent, and it only affects a limited set of fields, it is not a crisis in all of science. It is also caused by all sorts of economic incentives (we live under capitalism, unfortunately) pushing scientists to avoid revealing too much data - it is not necessarily a crisis of bad science (though there are fields that should barely be regarded as scientific at all - nutrition "science" being a prime example).


By the way, to explain better what I mean by extrapolation: let's say you accepted one of those experiments, maybe you perform it yourself and find indeed that the two populations of flies have become separate species. I'm not saying that you should beleiev it now, just accept for a moment that that happened. Now, let's say it took 50 generations for this to happen, for a minor difference.

If you then tried to think how this could look like in dogs, it would presumably also take something like 50 generations to happen in dogs as well. Let's say again that you do this experiment on dogs, and a few decades later you become convinced that indeed you can produce two species of dogs through selective breeding. Since tthis took a few decades,it is obvious that for more pronounced changes to come about, it would take a lot more time than that, right? Sure, until we do the experiment, maybe it would happen, maybe not - but for sure, we can't find out in a reasonable amount of time.

But furthermore, if we did find out that through artificial selection we can produce 2 different species from the same dog, doesn't it make sense to wonder what would happen in nature if a group of dogs got naturally separated in 2? And also, if we let this process run for even more time, many many generations of separation, wouldn't it make sense that the species could become arbitrarily different from the original?

And if not, then you have to explain why the process doesn't continue - why would the species remain largely dog-like? (remember, this is all under the assumption that we have already confirmed that we were able to successfully produce 2 different species of dog through artificial selection).

Of course, I don't think I can convince you that the assumption I proposed is true. I for sure can't claim to have done this experiment myself, with flies or anything else. But the point was to show what kinds of arguments make peeople like me be highly confident in evolution, given some initial assumptions.


You have not produced a new species, when you reproduce different looking dogs. You might classify that as a new species, but it is not a new species in any meaningful or underlying way. You are talking about a system of classification that only exists in the minds of men. I will agree that these are somewhat useful distinctions in order to allow us to navigate and describe our world, but let's not kid ourselves that we are describing some underlying reality.

> First of all, as I explained earlier, I don't need to literally see it happen to understand how it must have. The present derives from the past, and if you simply extend how we see genetics working today into the past (or future), evolution is in fact the only possible result (assuming no magical forces are acting). Your way of thinking is a dead end for any process that lies outside the limited human senses: if something is smaller than what we can see, or further away than we can see, or takes longer than a single human lifetime, it would be completely out of the reach of science. I do not accept this view of the world, and I don't see any reason why theories couldn't be extrapolated beyond what is immediately visible.

You are lost in the stories. You think that because you have classified something as a new species, it is a new species. You can say what I say is a dead end. That's fine. I'm just not prepared to extrapolate theories ad infinitum. I'm certainly willing to entertain them. I'm not prepared to treat them as true or as knowledge, without actually being able to confirm them. Evolution might be as described, but I can't know that it is, as I am unable to confirm it. We are not given information to allow us to understand - we are given claims that we have to accept as true.

> If I understand what my eyes see, and I understand how a lense works, and I understand how an electron microscope works, then I can trust that the image the electron microscope is drawing of a microbe is true, even though if I take away the microscope I can only see a mess. The same works if you apply this reasoning backwards in time, even over millions of years.

My point is that you do not understand. You believe you understand. You are standing on belief, not knowledge. Knowledge is certain, indisputable. Beliefs might or might not be true.

> The crisis of reproducibility is a tangent, and it only affects a limited set of fields, it is not a crisis in all of science.

Well, I understand that you think this is a tangent. But for me, I see this as evidence of nefarious activity. Science is presented as a completed package, we are masters, etc. Yes, there are some bits that are changing, but we've got the big pieces in the right place. I think this idea - that science is basically right - is dangerous and plays on our ego. We think we know, but we have belief. We cannot be critical of the pronouncements of science. This 'science' is really religion.

Cutting to the chase, I think science has been bent to conform to some ideas that those that bent it, want us to accept. Those that bent it, have also ensured that we are all educated (indoctrinated) in these dogmas. We are presented with theories, we are not given the evidence we need to know, but we are told to believe these are truth. As children, we are pushed into a situation where we take these ideas as true articles of faith or nothing. And as we prefer a story to the absence of one, we cling to it. This is not logic, it is a psychological trick. At the end of this process, as adults, we have beliefs masquerading as knowledge.

This makes for very rigid thinking, such that whoever holds to it, cannot even consider other possibilities. To do so would be to destroy their sense of self. So 'adults' will double up and reject alternative ideas as they are seen as a personal attack. And they are - they are attacking that adult's beliefs - they must be rejected, as a Christian would reject some science explanations. This is not the way of science and the scientific method. We should be grateful for alternative ideas, as we will likely discover something new. But no, what we have is the idea that 'the science is in' and we just have to accept it. Science is a powerful means of control. Just like religion used to be.




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