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Abstract thought

  1. Jul 25, 2003 #1
    Abstract thinking led man to believe in god. i don't believe this development follows normal evolution. why has no other creature on earth established this ability? Man's thinking capabilities changed the ways of evolution. Darwin's "fittest" changed dimensions entirely. We now, instead of evolving physically, evolve mentally. In the future, where will animal kind be beside mankind? will the gap be even greater?

    Whatever sparked abstract thought in man, changed the world forever.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 25, 2003 #2
    I think animals can think abstract thought, only they are too busy to survive, hunting for basic life savers as food and shelter.

    We have been able to come in a good circle by making good equipment giving us more freetime, then more time to think and inventing more which gives us more time to think, and so on.
  4. Jul 25, 2003 #3
    What about household pets then? dogs and cats? or animals detained in zoos? shouldn't they then, since they do not spend time 'surviving,' show signs of abstract thinking?
  5. Jul 25, 2003 #4
    Don't they ? I mean, have you seen some videos, or had any pets? I've had pets almost all my life, both cats and dogs, and even though it's been simple I think I often see them think out some thing.


    I think there are some things that have helped us tremendously(beside we probably have very intelligent brains), like language, and our hands.
  6. Jul 25, 2003 #5
    to think abstractly though is to consider things or actions you cannot 'see' before you with any of your senses. I too have had pets all my life, but my dog's never been able think of anything besides whats in front of him, or what he or i are doing at that precise moment... likewise for my cats, fish, birds, and gerbils as well.

  7. Jul 25, 2003 #6


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    It's because their brains have not evolved far enough to enable creativity and imagination.
  8. Jul 25, 2003 #7
    ok, so then lets look at the animals with the most evolved brains. Dolphin's i believe are the most evolved animals besides us, chimps after that... if not, both are least are still very intelligent animals.

    Dolphins have the brain capacity to communicate and play. They have a language of their own, though primititive perhaps. does that mean that soon they will develop imagination and abstract thought? and chimps, our close relatives, is it only just a matter of time before they develop this too? will any animal develop our ability for thought, or for some reason, are we humans special?
  9. Jul 25, 2003 #8


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    I think that abstract thinking comes after thousands of years of creative imagination. Some animals have creativity in their own ways. Some sing different songs for mating some build their own homes. Still those are for survival but they do have little creativity. We humans too, did not think abstractly when we were primates but busying with survival. Our believes in God comes many many years after primitive stage. (Scientifically speaking... but if you believe in god, you'll say otherwise)

    Just an opinion
  10. Jul 25, 2003 #9
    It is very well known that other species possess cognitive maps. They can plan where they are going and I would think that they visualize geography much like humans do. They know the layout of their houses. Cats rove all over the place and find their ways back home. How is that not abstract?

    Now, obvisouly, humans have more complex abilities in thinking. This is because we are more intelligent. Our brains are different. There is nothing more to it, except going into further detail.
  11. Jul 26, 2003 #10
    You can also see when a cat is about to make a jump. It sits there wiggling it's tale about to make the jump. Don't you think it pictures and calculate about the jump here ?

    Yes, I think this is closer to the truth.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2003
  12. Jul 26, 2003 #11

    People who believe in an afterlife and God are more stable, and hence more likely to reproduce. Therefore there are lots of believers.

    Changing conditions means that under these new circumstances, the level of willingness to believe in God is tested, hence only some believe, while many more do not.
  13. Jul 26, 2003 #12
    Actually, the religious experience if not God per se has proven to be a hardwired feature of the human brain. Along similar lines, the more intelligent the animal the more commonly they seek out altered states of consciousness. It may be then that the religious experience if not some sort of abstract or anthropomorphic vision of Gods is innate to a wide variety of animals. In evolutionary terms what these things suggest is that variety is not only the spice of life, but critical for the survival and continuing evolution of any species.

    Notably our primative ancestors enjoyed an incredible variety of philosophies and religions. Around two thousand years ago the major religions of the world today emerged to dominate this variety and reduce it significantly. What has changed theologically is not that religion has become more abstract, but the introduction of a few rudamentary fundamentalist theologies first pounded out in the middle east and India. Once combined with formal logic which was invented during this same period, the age of both fundamentalist religions and the sciences began.

    Many of these more primitive religions were in fact much more abstract than those of today. This is how they were preserved over the eons in small hunter-gatherer groups of around eight to fifteen people. One generation might seriously believe in gods and ghosts while the next just ignored that aspect of their religion, but nonetheless could see some value in preserving it. Rather than promoting the more concrete ideas of god or gods, such religions often ultimately espoused more abstract nonanthropomorphic pantheistic ideas with pragmatic value for atheists as well as believers.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2003
  14. Jul 26, 2003 #13
    ok, well hardwired meaning what? and are other animals hardwired this way, or will they be as evolution continues, or is that implied when you say that animals may have abstract thoughts or visions of gods?

    a cat pictures the jump as it has jumped before. as with a cat that roams... he only pictures the path he has already taken. true though, these may be the first steps to more evolved thinking.

    Say then, that animals eventually do evolve their minds. Will it be possible? With humans on the Earth, will animals ever reach our level of thinking, or will we hinder them? Will we be their Gods in that we'd appear to be omnicent?

    I don't feel it's possible for animals to develop even slightly as we have. I don't see room for more that one species conscious of more than the concrete world. I think perhaps the reason there is only one species of man may be an example of this.
  15. Jul 26, 2003 #14

    Hardwired into the brain as in innate, biological, etc. Again, part of being a more intelligent animal is that we are predisposed to altered states of consciousness. The more intelligent the animal, the more likely it will seek out such experiences. Elephants will actually pull fruit off trees, stomp on it, and wait for it to ferment. Whether or not animals have religious experiences is something I've personally never asked them, I'll ask my young daughter who says she talks to animals all the time. However, I can say with confidence they evidently they do have a similar capacity for altered states of consciousness. :0)

    As for evolution, we are products of evolution as is every mammal. Other monkeys and dolphins, complex mammals, are the only animals proven to also have sex just for pleasure. That evolution will continue and altered states of consciousness will remain an important aspect of this I have no doubt. Religious experience then, I assume, will also increasingly be a part of this for animals.

    This discussion touches on another important issue, that of just what is thought. The Judeo-christian tradition teaches that humanity has dominion over the animals, that their only purpose is to provide for us, and that we are the only beings capable of abstract thought. In recent centuries this has even led to the philosophy of Idealism which places thought, mind, consciousness, awareness, (or whatever you care to call it) on a pedistal as some kind of divine and etherial phenomenon distinguishing humanity. Such thinking has also led to distinctions between emotions and thoughts which contract the accumulating evidence.

    Without emotion, abstract thought is no different from a calculator or computer running a program. It cannot place things in any kind of meaningful context and, therefore, cannot really understand what anything means or how it relates to the world. Thus, animals at least possess the rudamentary prerequisits for abstract thought in their ability to emotionally place things contextually. Many animals, for example, are thought by animal psychologists to be capable of experiencing guilt. That chimps and others are also capable of learning complex languages of hundreds of words also suggests they are capable of abstract thought, just no where near to the degree that humans are capable of.
  16. Jul 26, 2003 #15
    First of all does God exist? Yes or no? If He doesn't exist and all we have is the evolutionary process, then it stands to reason that the capacity for abstract thought has come about via the evolutionary process. Therefore, this would also imply that man is merely a beast, like all the rest of the beasts on this planet and, that at some point, other beasts should eventually develop the capacity of abstract thought as well.

    If, on the other hand God does exist, then we may need to take other factors into consideration, for example, the notion that man was created in God's image ... or, does man have a soul? ... is there an afterlife? ... etc.
  17. Jul 26, 2003 #16
    The evolutionary process has too many proof that you can do much about it. But I would hardly say it knocks back the whole 'proof' of some God.


    Evolution is a major thing in biology, not in philosophy, ethics, or metaphysical ideas.

    There are tons of ways to see reality, and almost any big philosopher out there through the time has pointed out their major veiw on it, going back even before Aristoteles and Plato.
    It's not like when Darwin first prooved this theory, suddenly we were able to think in completely new ways. He got his rather basic veiws to look upon reality from somewhere. He even admitted he couldn't think long sentences.
    Darwin doesn't have big influence here, if, more so simply as against creationism.

    But it does seem to have a big influence to those kind of people(I don't claim this about anyone here) who like to take liberties with social change among medicore thinkers(yes, I think myself as one). Who make up excuses(half-deliberately or short-mindedly) because they want to have things go their way.
    Among these, or others, think we have gone into a survive of the fittest society(this is called Social-Darwinism btw) by learning the truth about animals. But what they fail(or don't want) to see is that:
    1. Their veiw on animals is their veiw, a veiw it was popular to see animals back at Darwin's time, and not how different animals might live in truth.
    2. If we are animals, you can see it the opposite way, which seems far more likely imo; that we, highly intelligent animals who have studied for centuries, can move our own well studied ethics and knowledge of existence over to our brothers.

    After the shockingly proof by Darwin, we've been studying animals a lot, and we do actually see they behave in more ways we thought possible. Time will show how complex our brothers really are.
    But my guess is that in the long run, Darwin's proof will end with more compassion towards animals, than pain to humans.

    Socially/ethically speaking, social-darwinism have had a strong wave among common people in the USA, far from that much in other countries. But if you talk to most serious(famous) theoreticans, at least in europe, social-darwinism gets much punishment, or short answer because they simply don't take it serious.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2003
  18. Jul 26, 2003 #17
    That's sort of what i was getting at without directly stating it. The ides that because we have art music religion and other forms of abstract thinking, we are ever separated from the other beasts of the planet. Thought, to me, is this amazing gift we have, a phenomenon, sure.

    And when you say that this thinking has led to distictions contracting evidence about thought thought and emotion, what are you talking about? i mean honestly, not like sarastically or offensively at all, cause i think that should be addressed.

    Human thought is absolutely amazing. Reality, existince, time, space, all these are just human thoughts and ideas...
  19. Jul 26, 2003 #18
    Thought is amazing imo, that it exist.

    No, I don't see it as that amazing simply for us.
    Rather an attribute we use too little sometimes.
  20. Jul 27, 2003 #19
    That's not very abstract imo
  21. Jul 27, 2003 #20
    What's not abstract?
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