Do you think there are things forever beyond our grasp?

  • Thread starter newjerseyrunner
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In summary, Kanzi the Bonobo has learned how to make fire with the help of human technology, and this has led to reflections on human evolution and intelligence. Humans are relatively poor at coming up with new ideas, but once those ideas are there, large numbers of people can expand on them. There may be concepts that some alien species has figured out that simply can't be taught to any human being.
  • #71
I have declared both Finnegan's Wake and Gravity's Rainbow forever beyond my grasp.
 
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  • #72
DiracPool said:
I think you got it backwards, the burden of proof is not on me, it's on you with making the statement that non-human animals make mental calculations. Good luck with that...
no

you are the one making claims without proof - that the complex tasks that the brain of an animal is doing is purely instinctive.

You have no proof for this.

I am saying that it is evident that intelligence is emergent, and that many animals make very acurate predictions about the world around them that cannot be described as just instinctive.

How they do it is unknown, just as how we do it is unknown. But what you are doing is drawing an artificial line between human predictive behaviour and animal predictive bechaviour with no justification.

DiracPool said:
The only animal we can be sure is making mental calculations is Homo sapien sapien, and we know this because we see evidence of his/her arithmetic scribbled on scratch paper.
thats a very narrow definition.

our human ancestors did not have written language and were unable to do such thing; but were capable of mental calculations.

You are suggesting that there is a gulf between one animal with a brain capable of mental calculations (humans) and all other animals. And you think this - without justification or proff - because humans have developed written language to write down their calculations.

of course, I am not going to convince you otherwise; but I am convinced you are wrong and will remain wrong.
 
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  • #73
William White said:
you are the one making claims without proof - that the complex tasks that the brain of an animal is doing is purely instinctive.

You have no proof for this.

I'm not making any claim, you are. You're saying that animals perform mental calculations. I'm saying they don't. The default-Null hypothesis is that they don't unless you can demonstrate somehow that they do. You haven't done that. That's why I said the burden of proof is on you.

William White said:
our human ancestors did not have written language and were unable to do such thing; but were capable of mental calculations.

You're making an assertion with no evidence to back it up. I can't really do much with that..
 
  • #74
Animals have been observed making decisions by interpreting their environment, prediciting future events.

Either their brains are doing some complex calculations, or their brains are not.

You do not accept that as proof because your proof demands some sort of ability with written language (which is absurd). Most zoologists would agree that animals are capable of very complex mental agility.

You have said that is purely instinct with no justification: i.e. humans are the only animals that can make non-instintive predictions that involve mental agility, mental calculations.

Your argument is dud because from your argument you cannot prove that humans are doing anything other than pre-determined instinctive behaviour. i.e. you entire proof is based on some humans having the ability of language and that language is proof of mental calculations. Thats some leap (of faith). Its almost religious in its lifiting of humans up above other animals in the order of things. Lift your arm up: was that instinct or did you decide to do it? How did you control your movement? Why?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_(parrot)#Accomplishments
 
  • #75
William White said:
you entire proof is based on some humans having the ability of language and that language is proof of mental calculations.

Your making my point for me, William. The proof is in the pudding. Humans have the ability to give an introspective report that they are performing mental calculations which is further verified by the fact that they can scribble equations on pieces of papers and chalkboards. With animals, we have neither of these; they do not display any introspective report of making a mental calculation nor do they leave scribbled equations on paper, and it is not only because they don't have an opposable thumb. Steven Hawking can't move a muscle but we're pretty sure he is making mental calculations.
 
  • #76
You are obsessed with equations on paper as proof of mental calculations. This suggests a lack on your part of being able to think.
Lets say modern humans evolved about a quarter of a million years ago. You are suggesting that the ability to do mental calculations did not exist before then; but that the ability appeared suddenly (in evolutinary terms) in one species only, rather than emerging.

This flies in the face of all evolutonary evidence that mental ability is an emergent behaviour.

Its the sort of nonsense that religionists use when they say animals don't have souls but humans do (their evidence for a soul is the same as your evidence for mental ability btw - ie uniquely human activity such as abstract language, the ability to think, calculate and percieve rather than act on instinct); that the soul popped into being at some point in the past. Before then, it did not exist. Therefore, somebody had the first soul; and therefore somebody (a human about 1/4 million years ago) was the first animal to be ever able to do a mental calculation. Thats a bizarre claim. It does demand that 1/4 million years ago, a mother gave birth to a child; the child able to calculate, the mother unable.
 
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  • #77
I suggest to avoid the phrase "mental calculations", I think you two are using it in different ways.
 
  • #78
i'm using it in what it means.

An animal brain, absorbing information from its environment, processing it in an intellgent way, to make predictions about the future so as to be able to make decisions.
Reducing this to "doing sums on paper" is missing the point entirely.
 
  • #79
I do admire your passion, William, and because I do, I will entertain your more recent queries...

William White said:
Lets say modern humans evolved about a quarter of a million years ago. You are suggesting that the ability to do mental calculations did not exist before then; but that the ability appeared suddenly (in evolutinary terms) in one species only, rather than emerging.

What do you mean by "emerging?" Yes, the ability to do math "emerged" in the genus Homo. What's so complicated about that? The ability to do math most likely originated with Homo erectus about 2.5 million years ago. I don't know where you came up with the 1/4 million year figure. 250,000 years ago is when we think that the hominin larynx lowered which helped these nascent humans to produce vowels, but it is not connected with the ability to perform mathematical operations. That likely came much earlier. It began with the appearance of homo erectus. I'm not going to go into much detail on this because this is actually in the field of my personal scientific models, and I want to stick to mainstream topics here, that I'm sure the moderators would appreciate. However, what I will say is that Homo habilis (most likely) did not have the capacity for any significant internal dialog. Homo erectus was the turning point.

The take home point, though, is that no non-human hominin species are extant today. So Homo sapien sapien is the only animal that has the capacity to do math. That is the null hypothesis and that is what you have to counter.
 
  • #80
William White said:
i'm using it in what it means.

An animal brain, absorbing information from its environment, processing it in an intellgent way, to make predictions about the future so as to be able to make decisions.
Reducing this to "doing sums on paper" is missing the point entirely.
That animals might learn to "do sums on paper" was the OP's original speculation, and the one DiracPool has been arguing against from his entry into the thread:

newjersyrunner said:
I'm fairly certain it could pick up addition and subtraction, and probably multiplication and division too. I think it could probably grasp that mathematical formulas can represent the physical world and I think she'd understand to some degree Newton's laws.

Here's a basic set of definitions for "calculate," that were the first to come up when I googled:

cal·cu·late/ˈkalkyəˌlāt/
verb
  1. determine (the amount or number of something) mathematically.
  2. intend (an action) to have a particular effect.
  3. suppose; believe.
You have consistently failed to see, or are ignoring, that the first definition is the one DiracPool is refuting for animals. In any given context only one definition is operative, and the Opening Poster made it clear which was meant. The Opening Poster did, in fact, propose that animals might be able to perform mathematical operations to the extent they could understand something like F=ma. And that is what DiracPool is refuting. So, your repeated invocation of the second definition of "calculate" shown above is what misses the point.
 
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