2.5 – A Creature Like No Other (18 min video)
The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.
Well, welcome to our final lecture for this week. Actually gonna start out with a quote by, uh, Patricia Churchland, who’s actually a, a philosopher and, and most certainly an evolutionist. She says this about our, our brains and our nervous is, and we’re starting here because we’re discussing today what makes man, man, she says this, she says, boiled down to the essentials, a nervous system, our brain and so forth enables the organism, enables us to succeed in feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing.
The principle chore of a nervous system is to get the body parts where they should be in order the organism should survive. She goes on to say the truth. Whatever that is definitely takes the hind most. In other words, if we’re to approach who we are from a strictly materialist or evolutionary perspective, we end up with this issue of why is man so distinct?
Or in other words, to use Francis Schaeffer’s term. Why is man Manish, why is he so different from all of the animals and all the creatures as we actually know them? Well take a look at a few categories of this starting out with morality. Now, the philosopher Mitch Stokes, from whose book I was just quoting, says that if naturalism is true, if evolution is true, if we were just created by biological forces essentially, then we should have a moral nihilism, meaning that we really shouldn’t have a true morality. We really shouldn’t even really care about morality. Uh, the Russian, the Russian, uh, writer Doki said, if God does not exist, then everything is permissible. Mitch Stokes says, naturalism does not tell us how we ought to live or how we ought to behave. And in fact, if you read the evolutionist about morality, you come up with very similar issues. Richard Dawkins, uh, argued that, uh, biology and our genes are really a terrible, uh, prescription for morality. So he argued that we should try to teach things like generosity or things like altruism simply because we can, so that we can outsmart our own genes.
Of course, it begs the question, why would we want to if we are just the product of biological and genetic forces? Harvard Professor ma uh, mark Houser, another evolutionist, argues that our morality somehow evolved by experiences with other people that we essentially kind of just figured out what works.
Actually, it’s a very common position. Jerry Coin another, uh, atheist and evolutionist argues that evolution can’t tell us what to do. It can’t tell us how we should behave, or we get characters like Sam Harris, for example, who argues that yes, science can actually tell you morality.
You basically just run things like a science experiment. You figure out whatever causes wellbeing and that’s what you want to pursue. Whatever causes harm, that’s what you don’t want to pursue. That, of course, is a very simplistic idea way of looking at it. It also doesn’t explain why we do what we actually want to do. Probably a more honest, uh, philosopher is the atheist, Peter Singer, who says, I need facts to make a sensible decision, but no amount of facts can make up my mind for me.
Hence, no amount of facts can compel me to accept any value or any conclusion about what I ought to do. He says, we do not find our ethical premises and our biological nature or under cabbages, either. We simply choose them. In other words, this is kind of the natural result of evolution. We simply choose our own morality. This is where someone like c s Lewis and his work mere Christianity is extremely helpful because it’s there that Lewis is able to, uh, to help us see that we all have a sense of right from wrong. Even when we fight about something, even when we make excuses, when we feel guilty about something and so forth, it reveals that there is some kind of a standard Lewis talks about some of the objections he might’ve encountered at the times is the fact that well, maybe we try to do good things, try to help people out of a herd instinct.
We’re just, we’re just biologically programmed to help each other, kind of like some animals help their own kind, or maybe we are just biologically programmed to protect ourselves or protect our own lives, which is why we often flee from danger.
But of course, Lewis says that when you have a situation where someone is in danger and to go and help them, requires you to put yourself in danger, you have to decide between those two instincts.
And it’s that third thing, what we would call the conscience. That seems to be an enormous hint at the fact that there actually is a morality and the fact that there is something absolute, there actually is a God.
I love what Lewis says in Mary Christianity. I’ll quote it. He says that the whole universe has no meaning. We should never have found out that it has no meaning. We really shouldn’t care ’cause it has something to do with our biological survival of what was that, fighting and fleeing and so forth. He says, just as if there was no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, then we should never have known it was dark.
Dark would be without a meaning. And his conclusion is he says, quote, I find that I do not exist on my own, and that I am under a law that somebody or something wants me to behave in a certain way.
In other words, morality is a huge hint. That man is Manish. Second category we’ll look at, and we could look at a whole lot more, but the second category we’ll look at is the category of art. The fact that humans, uh, distinctly make art and they make art different from animals. I mean, it is true. We have creatures such as the Bauer bird, which will make the sometimes elaborate nest using all kinds of colorful objects. Uh, it’s even true that other birds like the weaver bird that makes these elaborate nest and these nests can actually improve over time. One thing to note is that these behaviors are innate and they only are to that species, and they’re only for, uh, pragmatic reasons being they’re only for the purpose of actually attracting a mate and reproducing the species. So it’s not quite the same, uh, free will attribute of art that we have where we create because we have this compulsion to create. Well, there are animal examples. One of the most famous is the chimpanzee Congo, who was a London Zoo in the 1950s. Uh, this, this chimpanzee Congo made these abstract paintings, and whenever a painting was brought back to him, if he felt like painting more, he would do so.
If he didn’t, he would refuse to paint and but would always paint on a new canvas. That’s probably the closest example we have to an ar to an animal just kind of wanting to create and so forth. But once again, the art was always fairly simplistic. It never really went anywhere. And keep in mind, if the animals are essentially kind of like helpers to mankind and part of our dominion, it would make sense that they reflect some of our traits.
We also, of course have the example of of painting elephants such as elephants and, and Thailand, for example, who have been, uh, who have been the witnessed as, or have people who’ve witnessed them painting flowers or painting other elephants and things like that. Uh, I read an article by actually a friend of Richard Dawkins Desmond Morris, the day of the male from 2009, where he actually went to Thailand and actually investigated this to see if they really do create art.
And what he discovered was they have trainers who have trained them to paint and who control the brush brokes through various tugs on their ears.
So it’s not actual creation of art as we would describe it amongst humans, but of course, Cheshire 10 can address this best in his book, the Everlasting Man.
Uh, let me read to you the section about bird’s nest and how that relates to art and how it’s different than man’s art writes. He says, the very fact that a bird can get as far as building a nest and cannot get any farther in art, that is proves he is not a mind as a man has a mind.
It proves that more completely than if he built nothing at all. If he built nothing at all, he might possibly be a philosopher indifferent to all but the mind within. But when he builds as he builds and is satisfied and sings loud with satisfaction, then we know there really is an invisible veil, like a pane of glass between him and us.
But let’s just suppose that some abstract onlooker saw one of the birds began to build as men build suppose in an incredibly short space of time.
There were seven different styles of architecture for one style of nest. Suppose the bird carefully selected fork twigs and pointed leave to express the piercing piety of gothic architecture, but turned to broad foliage in black mud when he saw it in a darker mood to call up the heavy columns of bale and astro from antiquity or suppose the bird made little clay statues of birds of other birds who were celebrated in letters or politics and stuck them up in front of the nest.
Suppose that one bird out of a thousand birds began to do one of a thousand things that man has already done even in the mourning of the world.
In other words, suppose a bird actually did those things. It’s, it’s kind of ridiculous. And that’s touched in’s whole point. He says that something, if it appeared, would be the appearance of a mind with a new dimension of depth. It would be a mind like that of man. In other words, the fact that we create art, that we do, the fact that we create music like we do, the fact that we find things beautiful, and as Carl Sagan pointed out, they, they actually cause some kind of internal response to us.
All of those things are hints at our manness. It’s also Chesterton, by the way, who pointed out that we are the only creature that laughs because something is funny. We can also take a look at how man is manish by the fact that we have a conscience by the fact that we have consciousness and we have reason.
In fact, uh, anthro or paleoanthropologists, those people that study, uh, those early fossils of humans, something we’ll talk about later, they’re often trying to figure out, okay, when did consciousness actually develop? Because they reject Genesis as as kind of just a, an assumption right from the beginning. But we have this issue, the fact that we have reason that even contemplates its existence, especially evolution, but there’s no biological or evolutionary explanation for why we should care. Charles Darwin himself said that facts compel me to conclude that my brain was never formed for much thinking. In other words, he recognized that, uh, we should not be able to think like we do if it’s just a result of biology, there should be something more to it. The British philosopher John Locke said, it is impossible to conceive that ever peer in cognitive matter matter that doesn’t think should produce a thinking intelligent being as that nothing of itself could produce matter, meaning there has to be mind at the heart of all creations.
I mean, the Greeks understood and all philosophers understood very well until evolution changed the narrative. Darwin actually has more to say about this and it’s worth reading here. Darwin wrote in a letter to a friend, he said with me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, the ability to reason which has been developed from the mind of a lower animals according to evolution are of any value or at all trustworthy.
Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey’s mind if there are any convictions in such a mind? In other words, it goes back to what Louis was talking about, that if our minds did indeed evolve from some kind of biological process from the primates, then why do we even care about how that actually happened?
We never should have actually developed this kind of consciousness. But the final thing we’ll talk about is we’ll talk about the unique nature of man to use language. And for this, I’ll actually start out by quoting Douglas Kelly whose book Creation and Change is a marvelous read on these topics we’ve been covering and much, much more. But he has this to say about language and man, he says, linguistic studies demonstrate these studies of language as the, uh, the scientists ler and amdal have stated that quote, apparently human beings and only humans are specially designed to acquire just the range of language systems that we see manifested in the world’s 5,000 plus languages. Kelly goes on, he says, and the great Jewish linguist known Chomsky has shown that the ability to learn language is given in being human.
He says, quote, the rate of a vocabulary acquisition is so high at certain stages of life, and the precision and delicacy of the concepts acquired are so remarkable that it seems necessary to conclude that in some manner, that conceptual system with which Lexile items are connected is already substantially in place.
In other words, we have this natural ability to acquire language. We have this natural ability to use language which we cannot find in animals. Melissa Hogan, boom, writing for the B B C in 2015 said quote, we have our advanced language skills to thank for that, for the fact that we’re different for the fact that we have developed so much more than the animals are. She says, we may see evidence of basic language abilities in chimpanzees, but we’re the only ones writing things down. We tell stories. We dream, we imagine things about ourselves and others, and we spend a great deal of time thinking about the future and analyzing the past something that animals do not do.
There’s a great book by Tom Wolf called The Kingdom of Speech, in which he tries to deal with these issues. He talks about how evolutions throughout times evolutionists that is throughout time have tried to figure out where did language come from. It’s one of the trickiest situations for them. Darwin thought that maybe we were imitating Birdsong, and that’s where it came from. Noam Chomsky, who’s a great evolutionary linguist, uh, assumes that we have some kind of organ in the brain that helps us create and understand linguist something that no one’s ever been able to figure out or discover. Another evolutionists have assumed that when we started walking on two legs, we had more time to communicate with our hands, which kind of what I do sometimes, and that’s how it began. In other words, we really have no idea where it came from. From an evolutionary perspective, and this is very evident or was very evident in a 2014 report in the frontiers of psychology, which was called the Mysteries of Language Evolution, which was written by Noam Chomsky and others.
It was in that report that they said that despite 40 years of studying this problem, they were no closer to actually figuring out how language evolved that actually said there was a poverty of evidence and actually trying to figure it out.
The same paper said that when it comes to animals that they don’t really learn or even use language like we do. That is true that dogs can understand, uh, sometimes up to a thousand words, for example. Uh, but that takes thousands of hours of training and children don’t require that kind of time when they talk. For example, the famous chimpanzee called Nim Chimpsky, name it for the philosopher or the linguist we just talked about, was that he was very advanced in his ability of understanding certain words, but he was not any more advanced than a two year old child.
He didn’t create words, he didn’t interpret words, he didn’t use words in new ways. He didn’t use syntax. I mean he didn’t really pay attention to word order. All of these things that we actually do the same paper, recognized that we already have fully developed language abilities, um, very early on, whereas animals developed them very early on as well, but they’re kind of complete. They don’t continue to develop them as we actually do. The paper also recognized that we have not found any precursors to the earliest form of writing, which is Cana form, which is a highly complex system.
Their conclusion was that, uh, surely we must be able to find an evolution of language. The only way to do it is hopefully we’ll find some early precursor to QA form something more than just say the cylinder seals. We’ll talk about that later too. Or perhaps we’ll be able to develop technology to actually read animals’ thoughts and kind of see how that works. In other words, they have no idea, or we could put it this way. And what all of these things are showing us is that man being manish, being imago de made in God’s image has certain traits That separate us from the animals and allow us to build the culture and the civilization that we see today that is built upon the culture and civilizations of the past, which we’ll be studying this year.