"No other animal has a sense or system of exchange."
You sure about that, Charles?
i really thinks so, poe.
Yes, even YOU can wax philosophical! Make up shit that sounds good. But, be sure to avoid looking out window.
I'll bet your cat would give up that ping-pong ball in a heartbeat if you put a plate of fish out.
From the picture, I thought you were gonna say it is marketing which makes us human.
Sorry Charles, you're wrong about that! Chimpanzees barter on a regular basis. Check it out:
lulu, if that is the case then chimpanzee's are humans.
Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) frequently participate in social exchange involving multiple goods and services of variable value, yet they have not been tested in a formalized situation to see whether they can barter using multiple tokens and rewards. We set up a simple barter economy with two tokens and two associated rewards and tested chimpanzees on their ability to obtain rewards by returning the matching token in situations in which their access to tokens was unlimited or limited. Chimpanzees easily learned to associate value with the tokens, as expected, and did barter, but followed a simple strategy of favoring the higher-value token, regardless of the reward proffered, instead of a more complex but more effective strategy of returning the token that matched the reward. This response is similar to that shown by capuchin monkeys in our previous study. We speculate that this response, while not ideal, may be sufficient to allow for stability of the social exchange system in these primates, and that the importance of social barter to both species may have led to this convergence of strategies.
For Charles' point, humans must first set up the economy for the chimps to follow.
This is becoming embarrassing.
lulu, you are wrong. those chimps were humanized:
"The chimps often did not spontaneously barter food items, but needed to be trained to engage in such barter."
I was going to comment on chimps, but Lulu beat me to it. You might even argue that training any animal using food is a form of currency: you're bartering a desired behavior in exchange for food. Chimps, of course, do this on their own, and you could argue bonobos were the original prostitutes because they regularly exchange food for sex.
The one thing that separates humans: teaching. A human baby has almost no useful instincts for survival, without a guiding hand to develop them. It's one argument for why humans live so long -- hunter gatherer societies depend on older generations for knowledge of plants and animals.
True, but trivial. The fundamental difference between animals and humans is that humans can teach and learn. Whether it be about money, things, or how to read Slog comments by Charles.
Pit bulls are known to accept your child's hand or foot in exchange for the remainder of the child.
What about those penguins that exchange sex for rocks to build nests?
Animals exchange for Material objects all the time. The hunter, a leopard sits in a tree or occupies an area of land that it stakes as its own territory. Other animals (prey) are allowed to graze there until it is payback time and one has to be given in exchange for being there. Until this hunter is challenged that area and mating rights belong to the stronger cat. There is give and take and a sense of ownership all the time.
Damnit, I read this as
"What makes Hummus Hummus?"
And I was stoked on an article all about Garbanzo Beans.
Chuckie's overly simplistic epiphanies are getting so trite he has to put them in bold-face.
@10 and 11-not sure i follow your logic. there is that story of the business curve where 1 monkey on an island teaches the others how to swim over to another island w/ more food; then over x number of yrs the baby monkeys are born w/ the innate skillset of swimming.
From Wikipedia: Sexual intercourse plays a major role in Bonobo society, being used as a greeting, a means of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation, and as favors traded by the females in exchange for food.
But more importantly: so what? Humans trade goods a lot. And? So? What's the big deal? We also wear hats and invented tap dancing and can set things on fire.
In the lab, yes-- and chimps are resistant to bartering actual commodities, esp. in the wild (and often exchange commodities without regard to their relative value). However, they do exchange services in the wild, without a superimposed human economy, and those services are mutually benficial. So, chimps have a natural system of exchange, which can be adapted with mixed success to a human-modeled system of exchange.
forget about the animals - what about humans who are, for whatever reason, mentally incapable of borrowing, bartering, or buying? are they not human?
Your biggest problem Charles is that you look at money and you think capitalism.
Sell your truck, quit your job, walk to the mountains, kill an animal with a makeshift weapon and feed your family, burn all of your clothes and find primitive replacements, find a cave, start a fire, and write this shit on one of the walls with some hematite or charcoal, and maybe one day someone will read it without laughing.
I love youz.
Charles you are so full of shit.
"No other animal has a sense or system of exchange. Only humans borrow, barter, and buy."
Actually lots of animals exchange favors, grooming, attention, food, or positions in a hierarchy. That alpha male protecting all the orangutangs has to watch out. The wolves exchange services by hunting in a pack.
Charles just stop making shit up.
Actually, just leave your truck. Debt shouldn't mean anything to you at that point, anyway.
@18 - you hit on the biggest difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom - we are the only species that plays with fire.
Why is that people talk about the one thing that separates us from the animals as if there can only be one thing that separates us from the animals?
Here are some other thing that separates us from the animals-
Animals don't write novels
Animals don't have democratic elections
Animals don't take out student loans
Animals don't audition for American Idol
Animals don't deliberately get mullet haircuts
Animals don't play Stairway to Heaven
Animals don't work in internet technologies
Animals don't lie
Animals don't make mixed tapes
Animals don't watch Everybody Loves Raymond reruns unless we make them
Animals don't cook casseroles
Bullshit. Smokey the Bear totally started that shit.
I've got to call bullshit on the "only humans teach and learn" line, as well as that played-out, thoroughly discredited version of the Hundredth Monkey, where Japanese macaques are suddenly born with culturally ingrained knowledge.
There's lots of differences between human beings and other animals, but the differences are that we have more of something or less of something else, not an entirely different, unique thing. We have more society. We have more systematized exchange. We have more object-oriented, bigger brains. We have less fur, and we don't smell or run as well. But there is nothing that you can say about humans that you can't say (to a lesser degree) about any other creature.
Oh, wait, I guess they don't write novels. Never mind.
We don't know that animals can't write novels. We never thought towels could. We were wrong.
Gee, and here I always thought the answer was: "opposable thumbs".
That, and the fact that we're conscious, i.e. "self-aware". Even chimps taught sign-language still refer to themselves in the third person; they simply have no ability to grasp what Julian Jaynes called "the internal 'I'" when refering to themselves.
Opposable thumbs, Comte? Well then I guess pretty much every species of primate, as well as koala bears, pandas, and various other species are humans.
Apes, dolphins, and elephants are believed to have self-awareness. The big thing is the mirror test. They see themselves in a mirror and actually recognize that it's their own image, and use it to groom themselves. Whereas a dog would think it's another dog. It's hard to prove these things outright, but most scientists agree that we're not the only ones with self-awareness.
Hey all y'all:
Charles is right. While many animals do have systems of exchange (food for sex being one of the most common, from insects on up) they do not have MONEY. That is, they do not exchange an abstraction, a symbol, for real and concrete things (food, shelter, sex). Food or grooming for sex or protection is one concrete action/object for another. While you can buy goods and services with money, money itself is just an abstract system we all agree to use.
Bullshit #2 on "only humans teach and learn." Lots of animals, not just apes, have easily observed culture. Look at songbirds.
I did a dumb psych experiment in college where I taught rats to eat pellets flavored with certain spices just by having them hang out with rats who had eaten those spices. Rats started to eat only cinnamon chow (for example) for the rest of their lives even if they never met the original rat that smelled like cinnamon. The rats transmitted cinnamon-loving culture by themselves throughout the entire colony.
It's kind of like how suburbanites transmit beef-loving culture amongst themselves.
We have full bubble-butts. The only animal on the planet that does. Oh, and we act like assholes.
I love this. charles is the sole arbiter of what humanity is. so it follows that when chimps satisfy his criteria for what it means to be human he says that chimps are thusly human. he doesnt consider changing what the criteria for being human is since he has already firmly decided this.
@32- My dog uses the mirror to groom herself. Then again, she's a smarter-than-most-dogs-and-knows-it German Shepherd.
PS, JT is right. The ability to cook casseroles is what separates us from other animals.
Look at the other side of the coin. Are retarded people not human because they don't use money or barter or even self-aware? Is a dolphin more human than a feral child raised by wolves? Is someone born quadrapalegic less human than a rat?
You can use the argument that "humans are humans because they belong to a species that does XYZ" but then you're essentially saying "human are humans because they're humans."
actually recipe of the day, having a the basic criteria for being human relate down to genetic material is probably the best and easiest way to define a human. you are a human if you were created by the genetic material of another human.
What about human language? Our Lady of Syntax (aka Noam Chomsky) has long been flogging the theory that what makes humans distinct from other species is our neurologically-based ability to combine two symbols to create a new one, whereas other species, even neurologically advanced ones (like, yes, dolphins), large though their symbol vocabularies may be, are not cerebrally equipped to make that quantum mind-meat leap.
So money, a form of symbolic combination (as well as displacement), may be a consequence of this, but is it really an irreducible trait of the human species?
I haven't yet asked Nim Chimpsky about this. I'll get back to you after I text-message the gang at MIT...
I'd have to go with animals don't make idiotic, dumbassed posts to Slog. Unless you're really an animal, Charles, and have been fooling us all this time.
18th century Choctaws (and plenty other human groups) didn't use barter and exchange as their system of redistribution. Reciprocal gift exchange is not the same thing.
@36, I was thinking the same thing...
Charles, you're confusing "system of exchange" with currency.
As was pointed out above, lots of animals have a "system of exchange". It's called altruism, and it's been a vital part of the evolution of many species. A single lion can only score a kill once every couple weeks or so. They also can't eat the whole kill, either, so they share the kill knowing that when the other lions get their kill, they will share with them. Humans have a vastly more complex sense of altruism (Social Security comes to mind).
I do think you're right about the other stuff.
Language: some animals obviously have language.
Art: questionable. We could be the only ones. Depends on your definition of art. Are beaver dams and bird nests art? Does art require some kind of abstraction? Isn't natural camoflauge an abstraction?
Self-awareness: some animals are obvious self-aware (mirror test, and even then, animals without the analytical ability to understand reflection could still be self-aware. Just because a dog doesn't recognize its reflection doesn't mean it isn't self-aware)
Morality: animals could conceivably have a sense of morality, but really, what is morality but a by-product of human evolution? Right and wrong is probably an illusion designed to keep us alive in some roundabout way. Read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_skepticism particularly the part about "argument from evolution". I could see how other animals would have evolved "morality" in this sense. Saying humans are the only ones with morality is self-fulfilling; if other animals were to have morality it would not be morality as we know it.
Mortality: This is an interesting one. Many constructs of the human mind are simply over-complicated versions of simple instinctual evolutionary concepts, in this case, keeping our asses alive. Do we have any greater sense of mortality than a housefly that dodges the fly swatter just in time? Or do we just like to think so?
Making casseroles: definitely human
But really, this is all a silly exercise. All life is a product of evolution. Areas where we tend to think we transcend the animal kingdom (art) are *still* just products of evolution. There is nothing innate about the universe that is keeping other lifeforms from evolving to make art, it just hasn't happened yet. Unless you believe in a soul, our sense of self-importance is largely overblown.
Cheesy, yes, but we are all one universe.
@17, "there is that story of the business curve where 1 monkey on an island teaches the others how to swim over to another island w/ more food; then over x number of yrs the baby monkeys are born w/ the innate skillset of swimming"
Impossible. That's like saying a giraffe stretching to reach high leaves causes its children to be born with longer necks.
Malls? I've been to some of the first malls (Milan) ... but what we did for the first million years has nothing to do with what we do now.
While some animals MAY have a vestigal aptitude toward self-reference, that's not at all the same as self-AWARENESS, which was the point I was making by referring to Jayne's research.
Self-reference is an external awareness, not an internal one. If you take away the mirror, there is no point of reference left for the animal to be aware OF itself. This has been born out in the sign-language example I cited.
A sign-language using chimp can look at itself in a mirror and sign its name, correctly identifying itself as the object in the reflection, but it cannot look at that same reflection and interally (so far as we are aware, and certainly long-term observation seems to bear this out) make a first-person connection between itself and the reflection. The connection is based purely on an external symbol - the name assigned by researchers and communicated by them to the individual chimpanzee - and not on any internal identification the animal may have made by or for itself.
Even without the mirror, reference-to-self is always articulated in the third-person, and never in the first-person; "Washoe hungry" is certainly self-referential, but it's not at all the same as stating "I am hungry", which requires a substantially more sophisticated level of internal self-awareness (i.e. consciousness) than we have observed in primates, or any other animal for that matter.
I do believe we are the only animal that hates.
Bowerbirds, packrats, magpies, and many other birds and beasts collect, hoard and steal objects for various purposes; mostly to get laid, though. I don't see much difference between the behavior of these creatures and people in this.
I'm also going to take this opportunity to plug two very engaging books related to my post above.
"How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker will school you on evolutionary psychology and show you how it relates to concepts like language, infanticide, maternity, deadbeat dads, depth perception and spatial awareness, religion and ritual, and humor.
"Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge" by sociobiology pioneer Edward O. Wilson attempts a throwback to the englightenment and constructs a chain of causation from (meta)physics to chemistry to biology all the way to seemingly unrelated concepts from the humanities such as economics, politics, religion, and art.
Only humans have Orange Juliuses, and Hot Dog on a Sticks.
Isn't that what truly separates us from beasts?
and out of so many zillions of humans who have existed since before the dawn of history, only one of us has ever had Toast On A Stick, namely, the one-and-only Larry "Bud" Melman.
That's true as well--I do not believe that any of the lesser primates have mastered the art of toast.
Much less toast on a stick.
Don't forget tea. All that brownian motion has to be good for us.
The most important invention in the history of humanity: booze. Oh, sure, all God's creatures love the stuff, and if allowed to, will literally drink it till it kills 'em, but have you ever seen an animal actually make the stuff?
@17 and @44
That passage isn't clearly written. It WOULD be possible for subsequent generations to be born swimmers if in each generation the monkeys who learn how to swim at an earlier age end up producing more offspring, and are more likely to survive. Eventually, you could end up with a born swimmer.
And ditto some of the other posts...lots of animals teach, lots learn, lots exchange favors, some are very fine appreciators of beauty (art?), producers of beauty (art), MANY animals do very hateful things,
@18: all of the research that led to that pop-culture interpretation of bonobo behavior was done in captivity by a guy WHO HAS NEVER SEEN A BONOBO IN THE WILD. His conclusions are extremely suspect, although popular. Research in the wild is scarce and difficult, but doesn't appear to uphold any of de Waal's ideas.
You're wrong, Charles. The thing that sets humans apart from other animals? Awareness of our own mortality.
Another thing that makes us humans superior to--er, ah, I mean, different from other species is metacognition, which is the ability to think about our own thoughts. We're so awesome, us humans!
Oh, wait--they just discovered that brown rats also have metacognition. Darn! Never mind...
Interesting theory COMTE @46. However in that case, what of autistic people who (as with the signing chimps) cannot grasp the common usage of "I" "you" and third-person names? Many autistic people have the tendency to refer to themselves by their own name, or as "you" and other people as "I".
Does that mean they have no self awareness? Obviously not. They still articulate their thoughts, needs, hopes, etc. They conceptualize themselves as a person, and as part of humanity.
What they DO have trouble with, is understanding that what they want is not always what other people want. This is not the same as not having any self awareness.
I'm not sure that specific grammatical quirks should be used as a measure of consciousness...
"what makes humans different from other animals"? Well, maybe pondering such a question. I was just asking myself the same thing and I think one thing humans do is ponder the universe.
I don't think any other animal does that. Also, I don't think any other animal ponders the history of it's species (or of any other species for that matter.) I don't think any other animal knows the internal functions of it's body. Nor have they formulated the functions of the physical world ( i.e.the immutable laws of physics). So maybe the only thing that seperates us from other animals is a large brain and an ego to match.
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