The scientific, ethical, and policy issues raised by research involving the engraftment of human neural stem cells into the brains of nonhuman primates are explored by an interdisciplinary working group in this Policy Forum. The authors consider the possibility that this research might alter the cognitive capacities of recipient great apes and monkeys, with potential significance for their moral status.
As the cognitive revolution was slow to come to the study of animal behavior, the vast majority of what we know about primate cognition has been discovered in the last 30 years. Building on the recognition that the physical and social worlds of humans and their living primate relatives pose many of the same evolutionary challenges, programs of research have established that the most basic cognitive skills and mental representations that humans use to navigate those worlds are already (...) possessed by other primates. There may be differences between humans and other primates, however, in more complex cognitive skills, such as reasoning about relations, causality, time, and other minds. Of special importance, the human primate seems to possess a species-unique set of adaptations for “cultural intelligence,” which are broad reaching in their effects on human cognition. (shrink)
In The Ethical Primate, renowned philosopher Mary Midgley tackles important questions about human freedom and morality. Scientists and philosophers have found it difficult to understand how each human being can be both a living part of the natural world and, at the same time, a genuinely free agent. Midgley explores their responses to this seeming paradox and argues that our evolutionary origin, properly understood, explains why human freedom and morality have come about.
Over the last two decades, scientific accounts of religion have received a great deal of scholarly and popular attention both because of their intrinsic interest and because they are widely as constituting a threat to the religion they analyse. The Believing Primate aims to describe and discuss these scientific accounts as well as to assess their implications. The volume begins with essays by leading scientists in the field, describing these accounts and discussing evidence in their favour. Philosophical and theological (...) reflections on these accounts follow, offered by leading philosophers, theologians, and scientists. This diverse group of scholars address some fascinating underlying questions: Do scientific accounts of religion undermine the justification of religious belief? Do such accounts show religion to be an accidental by-product of our evolutionary development? And, whilst we seem naturally disposed toward religion, would we fare better or worse without it? Bringing together dissenting perspectives, this provocative collection will serve to freshly illuminate ongoing debate on these perennial questions. (shrink)
Study of “theory of mind” in nonhuman primates is hampered both by the lack of rigorous methodology that Heyes stresses and by our lack of knowledge of the cognitive neuroscience of nonhuman primate conceptual structure. Recent advances in this field indicate that progress can be made by first asking simpler research questions.
Primate vocal communication is very different from human language. Differences are most pronounced in call production. Differences in production have been overemphasized, however, and distracted attention from the information that primates acquire when they hear vocalizations. In perception and cognition, continuities with language are more apparent. We suggest that natural selection has favored nonhuman primates who, upon hearing vocalizations, form mental representations of other individuals, their relationships, and their motives. This social knowledge constitutes a discrete, combinatorial system that shares (...) several features with language. It is probably a general primate characteristic whose appearance pre-dates the evolution of spoken language in our hominid ancestors. The prior evolution of social cognition created individuals who were preadapted to develop language. Several features thought to be unique to languageâlike discrete combinatorics and the encoding of propositional informationâwere not introduced by language. They arose, instead, because understanding social life and predicting othersâ behavior requires a particular style of thinking. (shrink)
Heyes correctly points out some problems in primate theory of mind, but lacks a critical approach to children's theory of mind, and at times implies meta-awareness when discussing theory of mind. Also, in selecting pure experimental designs, she ignores its limitations, as well as the merits, and at times the necessity, of other methodologies.
To establish a starting point for a phenomenological theory of the science of primate ethology, this essay first reviews how the phenomenological philosophers Aron Gurwitsch and Maurice Merleau-Ponty made use of the Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Köhler’s description of chimpanzee consciousness and its objects and then considers primate ethology in light of the theory of the cultural sciences in the work of Gurwitsch in addition to that of Alfred Schutz.
The playback experiment -- the playing back of recorded animal sounds to the animals in order to observe their responses -- has twice become central to celebrated researches on non-human primates. First, in the years around 1890, Richard Garner, an amateur scientist and evolutionary enthusiast, used the new wax cylinder phonograph to record and reproduce monkey utterances with the aim of translating them. Second, in the years around 1980, the ethologists Peter Marler, Robert Seyfarth, and Dorothy Cheney used tape (...) recorders in a broadly similar way to test whether the different predator calls of one monkey species, vervet monkeys, warn about different kinds of predator. This paper explores the circumstances leading to the ca. 1890 invention and the ca. 1980 reinvention of the primate playback experiment. In both instances, I show, the experiment served as a riposte to those arguing, on scientific grounds, that an unbridgeable gap divides human language from animal communication. I also consider how far progress in technology explains the timing of invention and reinvention. I conclude with some reflections on sifting contingent from inevitable aspects of the history of the primate playback experiment, and of scientific achievements more generally. (shrink)
Social grooming is an important element of social life in terrestrial primates, inducing the putative benefits of β-endorphin stimulation and group harmony and cohesion. Implicit in many analyses of grooming (e.g. biological markets) are the assumptions of costs and benefits to grooming behaviour. Here, in a review of literature, we investigate the proximate costs and benefits of grooming, as a potentially useful explanatory substrate to the well-documented ultimate (functional) explanations. We find that the hedonic benefits of grooming are well documented. (...) However, we did not find convincing evidence for costs. If proximate costs do exist, they might consist of energetic, cognitive, opportunity costs, or some combination of all of these. Nonetheless, there remains the possibility that grooming costs are negligible, or even that the provision of allogrooming is rewarding in itself. We suggest empirical research to resolve this issue. (shrink)
Primate research suggests that affiliation is a highly complex construct. Studies of primate affiliation demonstrate the need to distinguish between various affiliative behaviors, consider relationships as emergent properties of these behaviors, define affiliation in the context of general environmental responsiveness, and address developmental changes in affiliation across the lifespan.
The highly recommended transposition of the dynamic system approach for tackling the question of apes' linguistic abilities has clearly not led to a demonstration that these primates have acquired language. Fundamental differences related to functional modalities – namely, use of the declarative and the form of engagement between mother and infant – can be observed in the way humans and apes use their communicatory systems.
The extent to which Pavlovian feed-forward mechanisms operate in primates is debatable. Monkeys and apes are long-lived, usually gregarious, and intelligent animals reliant on learned behavior. Learning occurs during play, mother-infant interactions, and grooming. We address these situations, and are hesitant to accept Domjan et al.'s reliance on Pavlovian conditioning as a major operant in primates.
The main function of vision in many animals is to control movement. In rodents, some visuomotor acts require the construction of models of the external world while others rely on Gibsonian invariants. Such findings support Norman's dual processing approach but it is not clear that the two types of processing rely on homologs of visual processing streams described in primates.
This commentary focuses on the importance of auditory object processing for producing and comprehending human language, the relative lack of development of this capability in nonhuman primates, and the consequent need for hominid neurobiological evolution to enhance this capability in making the transition from protosign to protospeech to language.
This commentary focusses on MacNeilage's arguments and evidence that the development of cerebral cortical controls over cyclic ingestive movements has provided substrates for the evolution of speech production. It outlines evidence from experimental approaches using cortical stimulation, inactivation, and single neuron recording in primates that lateral frontal cortical regions are indeed crucial for the generation and guidance of cyclic orofacial movements.
Abstract In this paper I examine two claims that support the thesis that chimpanzees are substantive epistemic subjects. First, I defend the claim that chimpanzees are evidence gatherers (broadly construed to include the capacity to gather and use evidence). In the course of showing that this claim is probably true I will also show that, in being evidence gatherers, chimpanzees engage in a recognizable epistemic activity. Second, I defend the claim that chimpanzees achieve a degree of epistemic success while engaging (...) in epistemic activity. Typically humans qualify as substantive epistemic subjects. Again, typically, knowledge plays an integral role in intentional human behaviour. As a consequence of defending the claims that chimpanzees are evidence gatherers and achieve a degree of epistemic success while engaging in such epistemic activities, I will also have shown how knowledge plays an integral role in intentional chimpanzee behaviour. The importance of these arguments does not wholly reside in the significance of knowledge explaining some chimpanzee behaviour. Treatments of animal knowledge in the literature tend to go in one of two directions: either the treatment embraces reliabilism and so construes animal knowledge as reliably produced true beliefs (or, if not beliefs, the relevant analogue for non-linguistic animals), or it embraces an anthropocentric stance that treats animals as knowers only when they find themselves behaving in circumstances that, were it true of humans, would imply the presence of causally efficacious knowledge. What I offer here is another way of understanding non-linguistic animals, in this case chimpanzees, as knowers. (shrink)
Heyes's literature review of deception, imitation, and self-recognition is inadequate, misleading, and erroneous. The anaesthetic artifact hypothesis of self-recognition is unsupported by the data she herself examines. Her proposed experiment is tantalizing, indicating that theory of mind is simply a Turing test.
Biodefense and emerging infectious disease animal research aims to avoid or ameliorate human disease, suffering, and death arising, or potentially arising, from natural outbreaks or intentional deployment of some of the world’s most dreaded pathogens. Top priority research goals include finding vaccines to prevent, diagnostic tools to detect, and medicines for smallpox, plague, ebola, anthrax, tularemia, and viral hemorrhagic fevers, among many other pathogens (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases [NIAID] priority pathogens). To this end, increased funding for conducting (...) research, developing research facilities, and purchasing (stockpiling) developed vaccines, diagnostic tools, and therapeutics .. (shrink)
Women's preference for symmetrical men need not have evolved as part of a good gene sexual selection (GGSS) reproductive strategy employed during recent human evolutionary history. It may be a remnant of the reproductive strategy of a perhaps promiscuous species which existed prior to the divergence of the human line from that of the bonobo and chimp.
An evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) may apply to characters expressed across species for predation and feeding, because these characters are conservative. However, the evolution of complex, polymorphic behaviors is more difficult to define as an ESS. Lateralization may be selective for certain simple traits, but lateralization of complex traits is likely the result of coadaptation of otherwise non-lateralized features.
A persistent methodological problem in primate social cognition research has been how to determine experimentally whether primates represent the internal goals of other agents or just the external goals of their actions. This is an instance of Daniel Povinelli’s more general challenge that no experimental protocol currently used in the field is capable of distinguishing genuine mindreading animals from their complementary behavior-reading counterparts. We argue that current methods used to test for internal-goal attribution in primates do not solve Povinelli’s (...) problem. To overcome the problem, a new type of experimental approach is needed, one which is supported by an alternative theoretical account of animal mindreading, called the appearance-reality mindreading (ARM) theory. We provide an outline of the ARM theory and show how it can be used to design a novel way to test for internal-goal attribution in chimpanzees. Unlike protocols currently in use, the experimental design presented here has the power, in principle and in practice, to distinguish genuine mindreading chimpanzees from those who predict others’ behavior solely on the basis of behavioral/environmental cues. Our solution to Povinelli’s problem has important consequences for a similar debate in developmental psychology over when preverbal infants should be credited with the ability to attribute internal goals. If what we argue for here in the case of nonhuman primates is sound, then the clearest tests for internal-goal attribution in infants will be those that test for attributions of discrepant or ‘false’ perceptions. (shrink)
Since the BBS article in which Premack and Woodruff (1978) asked “Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind?,” it has been repeatedly claimed that there is observational and experimental evidence that apes have mental state concepts, such as “want” and “know.” Unlike research on the development of theory of mind in childhood, however, no substantial progress has been made through this work with nonhuman primates. A survey of empirical studies of imitation, self-recognition, social relationships, deception, role-taking, and perspective-taking suggests (...) that in every case where nonhuman primate behavior has been interpreted as a sign of theory of mind, it could instead have occurred by chance or as a product of nonmentalistic processes such as associative learning or inferences based on nonmental categories. Arguments to the effect that, in spite of this, the theory of mind hypothesis should be accepted because it is more parsimonious than alternatives or because it is supported by convergent evidence are not compelling. Such arguments are based on unsupportable assumptions about the role of parsimony in science and either ignore the requirement that convergent evidence proceed from independent assumptions, or fail to show that it supports the theory of mind hypothesis over nonmentalist alternatives. Progress in research on theory of mind requires experimental procedures that can distinguish the theory of mind hypothesis from nonmentalist alternatives. A procedure that may have this potential is proposed. It uses conditional discrimination training and transfer tests to determine whether chimpanzees have the concept “see.” Commentators are invited to identify flaws in the procedure and to suggest alternatives. Key Words: apes; associative learning; concepts; convergence; deception; evolution of intelligence; folk psychology; imitation; mental state attribution; monkeys; parsimony; perspective-taking; primates; role-taking; self-recognition; social cognition; social intelligence; theory of mind. (shrink)
After years of failure, in November 2007 primate embryonic stem cells were derived by somatic cellular nuclear transfer, also known as therapeutic cloning. The first embryo transfer for human reproductive cloning purposes was also attempted in 2006, albeit with negative results. These two events force us to think carefully about the possibility of human cloning which is now much closer to becoming a reality. In this paper we tackle this issue from two sides, first summarising what scientists have achieved (...) so far, then discussing some of the ethical arguments in favour and against human cloning which are debated in the context of policy making and public consultation. Therapeutic cloning as a means to improve and save lives has uncontroversial moral value. As to human reproductive cloning, we consider and assess some common objections and failing to see them as conclusive. We do recognise, though, that there will be problems at the level of policy and regulation that might either impair the implementation of human reproductive cloning or make its accessibility restricted in a way that could become difficult to justify on moral grounds. We suggest using the time still available before human reproductive cloning is attempted successfully to create policies and institutions that can offer clear directives on its legitimate applications on the basis of solid arguments, coherent moral principles, and extensive public consultation. (shrink)
The current view that behaviour which is manifest in non-human primates forms a baseline for human behaviours is examined with special reference to the development of gender determination. A review of 21 non-human primate societies suggests that the behaviour of the sexes relates to assumption and occupation of societal roles defined by the local group. The significance of these findings for the human condition is discussed.
"It's the animal in us," we often hear when we've been bad. But why not when we're good? Primates and Philosophers tackles this question by exploring the biological foundations of one of humanity's most valued traits: morality. -/- In this provocative book, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that modern-day evolutionary biology takes far too dim a view of the natural world, emphasizing our "selfish" genes. Science has thus exacerbated our reciprocal habits of blaming nature when we act badly and labeling (...) the good things we do as "humane." Seeking the origin of human morality not in evolution but in human culture, science insists that we are moral by choice, not by nature. -/- Citing remarkable evidence based on his extensive research of primate behavior, de Waal attacks "Veneer Theory," which posits morality as a thin overlay on an otherwise nasty nature. He explains how we evolved from a long line of animals that care for the weak and build cooperation with reciprocal transactions. Drawing on both Darwin and recent scientific advances, de Waal demonstrates a strong continuity between human and animal behavior. In the process, he also probes issues such as anthropomorphism and human responsibilities toward animals. -/- Based on the Tanner Lectures de Waal delivered at Princeton University's Center for Human Values in 2004, Primates and Philosophers includes responses by the philosophers Peter Singer, Christine M. Korsgaard, and Philip Kitcher and the science writer Robert Wright. They press de Waal to clarify the differences between humans and other animals, yielding a lively debate that will fascinate all those who wonder about the origins and reach of human goodness. (shrink)
"I experience language as an intensely physical process," writes Donna Haraway. "I cannot not think through metaphor... Biochemistry and language just don't feel that different to me." Since the appearance of her monumental Primate Visions and the now classic essay "A Manifesto for Cyborgs," feminist historian of science Donna Haraway has created a way of thinking about culture, science, and the production of knowledge that has made her one of the most highly regarded theorists in America. She is admired (...) for her passion and rigor, her wicked ironies, and her deep commitment to issues of gender and race, as well as species. The author of four seminal works on science and culture, Donna Haraway here speaks for the first time in a direct and non-academic voice. Thyrza Nichols Goodeve leads her subject through conversation about Haraway's intellectual development, theories and influences, the role of Catholicism in her thinking, and how her ethical stands have mirrored issues in her personal life. For readers who have admired and struggled with the rich and complex performances of her earlier works, How Like a Leaf will be a welcome inside view of the author's thought. At the same time, this work makes Haraway's contribution to modern thought available to a much wider audience who cares about the issues she addresses. This is a highly personal introduction to a major thinker's body of work. (shrink)
The radical nub of Byrne & Russon's argument is that passive priming effects can produce much of the evidence of higher-order cognition in nonhuman primates. In support of their position we review evidence of similar behavioral priming effects n humans. However, that evidence further suggests that even program-level imitative behavior can be produced through priming.
Two substantive comments are made. The first is methodological, and concerns Heyes's proposals for a critical test for theory of mind. The second is theoretical, and concerns the appropriateness of asking questions about theory of mind in nonhuman primates. Although Heyes warns against the apparent simplicity of the theory of mind hypothesis, she underplays the linguistic implications.
Given Heyes's construal of “theory of mind,” there is still no convincing evidence of theory of mind in human primates, much less nonhuman. Rather than making unfounded assumptions about what underlies human social competence, one should ask what mechanisms other primates have and then inquire whether more sophisticated elaborations of those might not account for much of human competence.
: There has been a marked expansion in our human knowledge in recent decades, and much of this new information about ourselves and our world has yet to be integrated into our human self-image. I maintain that understanding how we fit within the spectrum of lifeforms as the primates that we are will enable us to take a more active role in choosing ecologically responsible behavior and will allow us to address more effectively our major problems of overpopulation, overconsumption, and (...) militarism. (shrink)
In this response to essays by Barbara J. King, Gregory R. Peterson, Wesley J. Wildman, and Nancy R. Howell, I present arguments to counter some of the exciting and challenging questions from my colleagues. I take the opportunity to restate my argument for an interdisciplinary public theology, and by further developing the notion of transversality I argue for the specificity of the emerging theological dialogue with paleoanthropology and primatology. By arguing for a hermeneutics of the body, I respond to (...) criticism of my notion of human uniqueness and argue for strong evolutionary continuities, as well as significant discontinuities, between primates, humans, and other hominids. In addition, I answer critical questions about theological methodology and argue how the notion of human uniqueness, theologically restated as the image of God, is enriched by transversally appropriating scientific notions of species specificity and embodied personhood. (shrink)
Heyes argues that nonhuman primates are unable to imitate, recognize themselves in mirrors, and take another's perspective, and that none of these capabilities are evidence for theory of mind. First, her evaluation of the evidence, especially for imitation and mirror self-recognition, is inaccurate. Second, she neglects to address the important developmental evidence that these capabilities are necessary precursors in the development of theory of mind.
Recent studies with human infants and nonhuman primates reveal that posture interacts with the expression and stability of handedness. Converging results demonstrate that quadrupedal locomotion hinders the expression of handedness, whereas bipedal posture enhances preferred hand use. From an evolutionary perspective, these findings suggest that right-handedness may have emerged first, following the adoption of bipedal locomotion, with speech emerging later.
Gurven suggests that the tolerated scrounging model has limited relevance for explaining patterns of food transfers in human populations. However, this conclusion is based on a restricted interpretation of the tolerated scrounging model proposed originally by Blurton Jones (1987). Examples of food transfers in nonhuman primates illustrate that the assumptions of Gurven's tolerated scrounging model are open to question.
Following the publication of the Weatherall report on the use of non-human primates in research, this paper reflects on how to provide appropriate and ethical models for research beneficial to humankind. Two of the main justifications for the use of non-human primates in biomedical research are analysed. These are the “least-harm/greatest-good” argument and the “capacity” argument. This paper argues that these are equally applicable when considering whether humans are appropriate subjects of biomedical research.
Die beste Erklärung für den Gegenstandsbezug unserer Gedanken erhalten wir, so die These meines Aufsatzes, indem wir die Semantik jener Ausdrücke studieren, mit denen wir uns auf Individuen beziehen. Für diese methodologische Entscheidung sprechen dreierlei Gründe: Erstens die Uneinheitlichkeit der Kategorie singulärer Terme; zweitens die Notwendigkeit, zwischen einem starken und einem schwachen Begriff des de re Glaubens zu unterscheiden; sowie drittens die Unmöglichkeit, psychische Phänomene zu einem Verbindungsglied zwischen Worten und Gegenständen zu machen. Im ersten Punkt stütze ich mich auf (...) eine Lesart der attributiv/referentiell Unterscheidung, die Donnellan zu einem Partner und nicht zu einem Gegner von Russell macht. Schon die Kennzeichnungstheorie stellt jeden Versuch in Frage, zwei so grundverschiedene Arten des Bezeichnens gleichermaßen durch ein 'intentionales Gerichtetsein' der Sprecher zu erklären. An dieser Schwierigkeit scheitert auch, so mein zweites Argument, Chisholms Versuch, zwei unterschiedlich starke Begriffe des de re Glaubens auf intentionale Weise zu definieren. Schließlich verteidige ich Wittgensteins streng antireduktionistische Haltung gegenüber Deutungen, die ihn zum Advokaten eines Primats des Intentionalen machen würden. (shrink)
In the past decade, the notion of a neural correlate of consciousness (or NCC) has become a focal point for scientific research on consciousness (Metzinger, 2000a). A growing number of investigators believe that the first step toward a science of consciousness is to discover the neural correlates of consciousness. Indeed, Francis Crick has gone so far as to proclaim that ‘we … need to discover the neural correlates of consciousness.… For this task the primate visual system seems especially attractive.… (...) No longer need one spend time attempting … to endure the tedium of philosophers perpetually disagreeing with each other. Con- sciousness is now largely a scientific problem’ (Crick, 1996, p. 486).2 Yet the question of what it means to be a neural correlate of consciousness is actually far from straightforward, for it involves fundamental empirical, methodological, and _philosophical _issues about the nature of consciousness and its relationship to the brain. Even if one assumes, as we do, that states of consciousness causally depend on states of the brain, one can nevertheless wonder in what sense there is, or could be, such a thing as a neural correlate of consciousness. (shrink)
Knowledge of one's own states of mind is one of the varieties of self-knowledge. Do any nonhuman animals have the capacity for this variety of self-knowledge? The question is open to empirical inquiry, which is most often conducted with primate subjects. Research with a bottlenose dolphin gives some evidence for the capacity in a nonprimate taxon. I describe the research and evaluate the metacognitive interpretation of the dolphin's behaviour. The research exhibits some of the difficulties attached to the task (...) of eliciting behaviour that both attracts a higher-order interpretation while also resisting deflationary, lower-order interpretations. Lloyd Morgan's Canon, which prohibits inflationary interpretations of animal behaviour, has influenced many animal psychologists. There is one defensible version of the Canon, the version that warns specifically against unnecessary intentional ascent. The Canon on this interpretation seems at first to tell against a metacognitive interpretation of the data collected in the dolphin study. However, the model of metacognition that is in play in the dolphin studies is a functional model, one that does not implicate intentional ascent. I explore some interpretations of the dolphin's behaviour as metacognitive, in this sense. While this species of metacognitive interpretation breaks the connection with the more familiar theory of mind research using animal subjects, the interpretation also points in an interesting way towards issues concerning consciousness in dolphins. (shrink)
To naturalize religion we must identify what religion is, and what aspects of it we are trying to explain. In this paper religious social institutional behavior is the explanatory target, and an explanatory hypothesis based on shared primate social dominance psychology is given. The argument is that various religious features, including the high status afforded the religious, and the high status afforded to deities, is an expression of this social dominance psychology in a context for which it did not (...) evolve: high density populations made possible by agriculture. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that there is much to learn about “wild justice” and the evolutionary origins of morality – behaving fairly – by studying social play behavior in group-living mammals. Because of its relatively wide distribution among the mammals, ethological investigation of play, informed by interdisciplinary cooperation, can provide a comparative perspective on the evolution of ethical behavior that is broader than is provided by the usual focus on primate sociality. Careful analysis of social play reveals rules (...) of engagement that guide animals in their social encounters. Because of its significance in development, play may provide a foundation of fairness for other forms of cooperation that are advantageous to group living. Questions about the evolutionary roots of cooperation, fairness, trust, forgiveness, and morality are best answered by attention to the details of what animals do when they engage in social play – how they negotiate agreements to cooperate, to forgive, to behave fairly, and to develop trust. We consider questions such as why play fairly? Why did play evolve as it has? Does “being fair” mean being more fit? Do individual variations in play influence an individual’s reproductive fitness? Can we use information about the foundations of moral behavior in animals to help us understand ourselves? We conclude that there is likely to be strong selection for cooperative fair play because there are mutual benefits when individuals adopt this strategy and group stability may also be fostered. Numerous mechanisms have evolved to facilitate the initiation and maintenance of social play, to keep others engaged, so that agreeing to play fairly and the resulting benefits of doing so can be readily achieved. (shrink)
We examine the question of which aspects of language are uniquely human and uniquely linguistic in light of recent suggestions by Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch that the only such aspect is syntactic recursion, the rest of language being either speciﬁc to humans but not to language (e.g. words and concepts) or not speciﬁc to humans (e.g. speech perception). We ﬁnd the hypothesis problematic. It ignores the many aspects of grammar that are not recursive, such as phonology, morphology, case, agreement, and (...) many properties of words. It is inconsistent with the anatomy and neural control of the human vocal tract. And it is weakened by experiments suggesting that speech perception cannot be reduced to primate audition, that word learning cannot be reduced to fact learning, and that at least one gene involved in speech and language was evolutionarily selected in the human lineage but is not speciﬁc to recursion. The recursion-only claim, we suggest, is motivated by Chomsky’s recent approach to syntax, the Minimalist Program, which de-emphasizes the same aspects of language. The approach, however, is sufﬁciently problematic that it cannot be used to support claims about evolution. We contest related arguments that language is not an adaptation, namely that it is “perfect,” non-redundant, unusable in any partial form, and badly designed for.. (shrink)
Milner and Goodale’s influential account of the primate cortical visual streams involves a division of consciousness between them, for it is the ventral stream that has the responsibility for visual consciousness. Hence, the dorsal visual stream is a “zombie” stream. In this paper, I argue that certain information carried by the dorsal stream likely plays a central role in the egocentric spatial content of experience, especially the experience of visual spatial constancy. Thus, the dorsal stream contributes to a pervasive (...) feature of consciousness. (shrink)
I show the sense in which the concept of history as a human science affects our theory of the natural sciences and, therefore, our theory of the unity of the physical and human sciences. The argument proceeds by way of reviewing the effect of the Darwinian contribution regarding teleologism and of post-Darwinian paleonanthropology on the transformation of the primate members of Homo sapiens into societies of historied selves. The strategy provides a novel way of recovering the unity of the (...) sciences: by construing the physical sciences themselves as human sciences - and, therefore, as themselves historied. (shrink)
Philosophical inquiries into morality are as old as philosophy, but it may turn out that morality itself is much, much older than that. At least, that is the main thesis of prima- tologist Frans De Waal, who in this short book based on his Tanner Lectures at Princeton, elaborates on what biologists have been hinting at since Darwin’s (1871) book The Descent of Man and Hamilton’s (1963) studies on the evolution of altruism: morality is yet another allegedly human characteristic that (...) turns out to be built over evolutionary time by natural. (shrink)
First published in 1995, The Visual Brain in Action remains a seminal publication in the cognitive sciences. It presents a model for understanding the visual processing underlying perception and action, proposing a broad distinction within the brain between two kinds of vision: conscious perception and unconscious 'online' vision. It argues that each kind of vision can occur quasi-independently of the other, and is separately handled by a quite different processing system. In the 11 years since publication, the book has provoked (...) considerable interest and debate - throughout both cognitive neuroscience and philosophy, while the field has continued to flourish and develop. -/- For this new edition, the text from the original edition has been left untouched, standing as a coherent statement of the authors' position. However, a very substantial epilogue has been added to the book in which Milner and Goodale review some of the key developments that support or challenge the views that were put forward in the first edition. The new chapter summarizes developments in various relevant areas of psychology, neuroscience and behaviour. It notably supplements the main text by updating the reader on the contributions that have emerged from the use of functional neuroimaging, which was in its infancy when the first edition was written. Neuroimaging, and functional MRI in particular, has revolutionized the field over the past 11 years by allowing investigators to plot in detail the patterns of activity within the visual brains of behaving and perceiving humans. The authors show how its use now allows scientists to test and confirm their proposals, based as they then were largely on evidence accrued from primate neuroscience in conjunction with studies of neurological patients. (shrink)
The claims are grounded in a wealth of fascinating data, particularly on primate and young child communication and social cognition, much produced by Tomasello’s own lab. But there is certainly no dearth of stimulating speculation. Tomasello’s story is rich and complex. In what follows, I focus on aspects of the three hypotheses listed above, offering some commentary as I go.
What is the relation between philosophical theorizing and experimental data? A modest set of naturalistic assumptions leads to what I term the force-field puzzle. The assumption that philosophy is continuous with natural science, as captured in Quine’s force-field metaphor, seems to push us simultaneously towards thinking that there have to be conceptual constraints upon how we interpret experimental data and towards thinking that there cannot be such conceptual constraints, because all theorizing must be accountable to data and observation. The key (...) to resolving the force-field puzzle is to take a more nuanced view of how conceptual constraints can be accountable to data and observation. This can be done by developing conceptual arguments in conjunction with interpretative frameworks for making sense of experimental evidence. This paper shows how attending to important differences between different types of mindreading yields tools for interpreting experimental and observational data in a manner consistent with a (conceptually derived) constraint that I have developed elsewhere. This is the first-order constraint that second-order thinking, or thinking about thinking, is only available to language-using creatures. (shrink)
The evolutionary claim that the function of self-awareness lies, at least in part, in the benefits of theory of mind (TOM) regained attention in light of current findings in cognitive neuroscience, including mirror neuron research. Although certain non-human primates most likely possess mirror self-recognition skills, we claim that they lack the introspective abilities that are crucial for human-like TOM. Primate research on TOM skills such as emotional recognition, seeing versus knowing and ignorance versus knowing are discussed. Based upon current (...) findings in cognitive neuroscience, we provide evidence in favor of an introspection-based simulation theory account of human mindreading. (shrink)
Mazur & Booth's (1998) target article concerns basal and reciprocal relations between testosterone and dominance, and has its roots in Mazur's (1985; 1994) model of primate dominance-submissiveness interactions. Threats are exchanged in these interactions and a psychological stress-manipulation mechanism is suggested to operate, making sure that face-to-face dominance contests are usually resolved without aggression. In this commentary, a recent line of evidence from human research on the relation between testosterone, cortisol, and vigilant (dominant) and avoidant (submissive) responses to threatening (...) “angry” faces is discussed. Findings, to a certain extent, converge with Mazur & Booth's theorizing. However, the strongest relations have been found in subliminal exposure conditions, suggesting that biological instead of psychological mechanisms are involved. (shrink)
Rafael Malach is currently a professor in the department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. His current research is aimed at understanding how the neuronal circuitry in the human brain translates a stream of sensory stimuli into meaningful perception. Rafael Malach received his PhD in physiological optics from UC Berkeley and did his post-doctorate research at MIT. Originally doing research on the organization of neuronal connections in the primate brain, his focus has recently shifted to the study (...) of the human cerebral cortex using fMRI. Professor Malach has begun this research at Massachusetts General Hospital, exploring a new object-related region called the lateral occipital complex. Since then he expanded this research, studying the human visual cortex using a variety of methods, including adaptation paradigms, backward masking, and more recently naturalistic stimuli--all aimed at deciphering the intriguing link between perceptual experience and brain activity. (shrink)
We examine the question of which aspects of language are uniquely human and uniquely linguistic in light of recent suggestions by Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch that the only such aspect is syntactic recursion, the rest of language being either specific to humans but not to language (e.g. words and concepts) or not specific to humans (e.g. speech perception). We find the hypothesis problematic. It ignores the many aspects of grammar that are not recursive, such as phonology, morphology, case, agreement, and (...) many properties of words. It is inconsistent with the anatomy and neural control of the human vocal tract. And it is weakened by experiments suggesting that speech perception cannot be reduced to primate audition, that word learning cannot be reduced to fact learning, and that at least one gene involved in speech and language was evolutionarily selected in the human lineage but is not specific to recursion. The recursion-only claim, we suggest, is motivated by Chomsky’s recent approach to syntax, the Minimalist Program, which de-emphasizes the same aspects of language. The approach, however, is sufficiently problematic that it cannot be used to support claims about evolution. We contest related arguments that language is not an adaptation, namely that it is “perfect,” non-redundant, unusable in any partial form, and badly designed for.. (shrink)
An emerging class of theories concerning the functional structure of the brain takes the reuse of neural circuitry for various cognitive purposes to be a central organizational principle. According to these theories, it is quite common for neural circuits established for one purpose to be exapted (exploited, recycled, redeployed) during evolution or normal development, and be put to different uses, often without losing their original functions. Neural reuse theories thus differ from the usual understanding of the role of neural plasticity (...) (which is, after all, a kind of reuse) in brain organization along the following lines: According to neural reuse, circuits can continue to acquire new uses after an initial or original function is established; the acquisition of new uses need not involve unusual circumstances such as injury or loss of established function; and the acquisition of a new use need not involve (much) local change to circuit structure (e.g., it might involve only the establishment of functional connections to new neural partners). Thus, neural reuse theories offer a distinct perspective on several topics of general interest, such as: the evolution and development of the brain, including (for instance) the evolutionary-developmental pathway supporting primate tool use and human language; the degree of modularity in brain organization; the degree of localization of cognitive function; and the cortical parcellation problem and the prospects (and proper methods to employ) for function to structure mapping. The idea also has some practical implications in the areas of rehabilitative medicine and machine interface design. (shrink)
One of the key challenges confronting cognitive science is to discover natural categories of cognitive function. Of special interest is the unity or diversity of cognitive control mechanisms. Evolutionary history is an underutilized resource that, together with neuropsychological and neuroscientific evidence, can help to provide a biological ground for the fractionation of cognitive control. Comparative evidence indicates that primate brain evolution has produced dissociable mechanisms for external action control and internal self-regulation, but that most real-world behaviors rely on a (...) combination of these. The archeological record further indicates the timing and context of distinctively human elaborations to these cognitive control functions, including the gradual emergence of increasingly complex hierarchical action control. (shrink)
For a biological anthropologist interested in the prehistory of religion, J. Wentzel van Huyssteen's book is welcome and resonant. Van Huyssteen's central thesis is that humans' capacity for spirituality emerges from a transformation of cognition and emotions that takes place in the symbolic realm, within Homo sapiens and apart from biology. To his thesis I bring to bear three areas of response: the abundant cognitive and emotional capacities of living apes and extinct hominids; the role of symbolic ritual in the (...) evolutionary history of Homo sapiens; and the closely intertwined nature of biology and culture in the workings of evolutionary change. (shrink)
It is widely accepted that many species of non-human animals appear to engage in transitive inference, producing appropriate responses to novel pairings of non-adjacent members of an ordered series without previous experience of these pairings. Some researchers have taken this capability as providing direct evidence that these animals reason. Others resist such declarations, favouring instead explanations in terms of associative conditioning. Associative accounts of transitive inference have been refined in application to a simple five-element learning task that is the main (...) paradigm for laboratory investigations of the phenomenon, but it remains unclear how well those accounts generalize to more informationrich environments such as primate social hierarchies, which may contain scores of individuals. The case of transitive inference is an example of a more general dispute between proponents of associative accounts and advocates of more cognitive accounts of animal behaviour. Examination of the specific details of transitive inference suggests some lessons for the wider debate. (shrink)
Social animals are provisioned with pro-social orientations that transcend self-interest. Morality, as used here, describes human versions of such orientations. We explore the evolutionary antecedents of morality in the context of emergentism, giving considerable attention to the biological traits that undergird emergent human forms of mind. We suggest that our moral frames of mind emerge from our primate pro-social capacities, transfigured and valenced by our symbolic languages, cultures, and religions.
Ernst Haeckel’s popular book Nat¨urliche Sch¨opfungs- geschichte (Natural history of creation, 1868) represents human species in a hierarchy, from lowest (Papuan and Hottentot) to highest (Caucasian, including the Indo-German and Semitic races). His stem-tree (see Figure 1) of human descent and the racial theories that accompany it have been the focus of several recent books—histories arguing that Haeckel had a unique position in the rise of Nazi biology during the ﬁrst part of the 20th century. In 1971, Daniel Gasman brought (...) the initial bill of particulars; he portrayed Haeckel as having speciﬁc responsibility for Nazi racial programs. He argued that Darwin’s champion had a distinctive authority at the end of the 19th century, throwing into the shadows the myriads of others with similar racial attitudes.1 But it was not simply a general racism that Haeckel expressed; he was, according to Gasman (1971: 157–159), a virulent anti-Semite. Since its original publication, Gasman’s thesis has caught on with a large number of historians, so that in the present period it is usually taken as a truism, an obvious fact of the sordid history of biological thought in the ﬁrst half of the 20th century.2 Perhaps the most prominent scholar—at least among historians of biology—to adopt and advance Gasman’s contention was Stephen Jay Gould. In his ﬁrst book, Ontogeny and Phy- logeny (1977), Gould took as his subject Haeckel’s principle of recapitulation, the proposal that during ontogeny the developing embryo went through the same morphological stages as the phylum passed through in its evolutionary descent. So according to this conception, the human embryo begins as a one-celled creature, then takes on the form of an ancient invertebrate (e.g., a gastraea), then of a primitive vertebrate, then of an early mammal, then of a primate, and ﬁnally of a distinct.. (shrink)
There have been a number of criticisms, based on visual processes, of the Australian view that colour is an objective property of the world. These criticisms have led to subjective theories about colour. These visual processes (metamers, retinex theory, opponent processes, simultaneous contrast, colour constancy, subjective colours) have been examined and it is suggested that they do not carry their supposed critical weight against an objective theory. In particular, it is argued that metamers don''t occur in nature and primate (...) colour vision evolved without metamers. Thus normal colour vision occurs without the problem of metamers. This argument, in conjunction with evidence against the critical roles of opponent processes and retinex theory in colour vision, is taken to suggest that colour can be given a photon energy/wavelengthrealism explanation. This proposal allows an account of the many microstructural bases of colour generation put forward by Nassau (1983). It is argued that neither disjunctive realism or reflectance realism are adequate objective explanations of colour. (shrink)
Our current conception of intelligence as measured by IQ tests is “mind-blind”. IQ tests lack ecological validity because they ignore social cognition – the “mindreading” prowess that enabled one species of social primate to become the most cognitively successful on the planet. In this talk, I shall examine how to correct the ethnocentric and anthropocentric biases of our perspective-taking abilities. What future technologies can enrich our capacity to understand other minds? I shall also discuss obstacles to building empathetic AGI (...) (artificial general intelligence) - and why old-fashioned “autistic AI” may always be vulnerable to the cunning of “Machiavellian apes”. In an era of global catastrophic and existential risks, developing ways to enrich and “de-bias” mankind's capacity for empathetic cognition will be vital. This is because the greatest underlying risk to the wellbeing of life on Earth is the dominance behaviour of other male human primates. (shrink)
Human language is a peculiar primate communication tool because of its large neocortical substrate, comparable to the structural substrates of cognitive systems. Although monkey calls and human language rely on different structures, neural substrate for human language emotional coding, prosody, and intonation is already part of nonhuman primate vocalization circuitry. Motherese could be an aspect of language at the crossing or at the origin of communicative and cognitive content.
Los sociobiólogos han defendido una posición "calvinista" que se resume en la siguiente fórmula: si la selección natural explica las actitudes morales, no hay altruismo genuino en la moral; si la moral es altruista, entonces la selección natural no puede explicarla. En este ensayo desenmascaro los presupuestos erróneos de esta posición y defiendo que el altruismo como equidad no es incompatible con la selección natural. Rechazo una concepción hobbesiana de la moral, pero sugiero su empleo en la interpretación de la (...) psicología de los primates no humanos y en un modelo de progresión evolutiva que habría llevado a la moralidad como adaptación pasando por la razón instrumental. /// Sociobiologists have endorsed a "Calvinist" position captured in the following formula: if natural selection explains moral attitudes, morality is not genuinely altruistic; if morality is altruistic, then natural selection cannot explain it. I expose the false presuppositions behind this claim and argüe that altruism as fairness is not incompatible with natural selection. I reject a Hobbesian view of morality as an instrumental endorsement of fairness norms, but suggest its use to interpret primate psychology and to model an evolutionary progression ending in moral capacities as adaptations. (shrink)