inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #101 of 175: Martha Soukup (soukup) Fri 18 Jun 99 11:32
    
Well, how dubious of Blackmore.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #102 of 175: With catlike tread (sumac) Fri 18 Jun 99 12:14
    
As for those feathered tits: those UK Crested Tits and Coal Tits and
Marsh Tits and Willow Tits and Blue Tits and Great Tits are all
*Parus* spp.  (Unlike the Long-tailed Tit and the Penduline Tit, which
are Aegithalos and Remiz, respectively.)

We have *Parus* spp. in the US and sometimes we daringly call them
Tufted Titmouse or Plain Titmouse or Bridled Titmouse but mostly we
call them chickadees of one kind or another.  Also we have Bushtits.

Occasionally *Parus cinctus* is seen in Alaska and we have gotten
over calling it the Gray-headed Chickadee and now brassily call it
the Siberian Tit.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #103 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Fri 18 Jun 99 12:23
    
A piece in New Scientist and another in the Guardian, both reviewing recent
surveys that show chimps around the wrold have distinct cultures, not all of
which can be explained by immediate environmental pressures.

wg
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #104 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Sat 19 Jun 99 02:13
    
tits out for <sumac> !
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #105 of 175: Mitsuharu Hade (mitsu) Sat 19 Jun 99 14:23
    <scribbled by mitsu Sat 19 Jun 99 14:24>
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #106 of 175: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Sat 19 Jun 99 14:27
    
It seems to me that the chief difference between humans and (at least as far
as we know) animals is not the ability to communicate symbolically or the
ability for ideas to move from individual to individual, but rather our
ability to recursively recombine ideas.  We use nested syntax when we
communicate; while apes and chimps can learn simple syntax, they do not seem
to be able to learn nested syntax.  Thus, I see no reason to deny that
chimps can learn from each other; clearly it is not that chimps cannot learn
from each other, but that they do not have this ability to recombine ideas
recursively, and thus their ability to teach each other does not have the
exponential effect it has in our case.

I personally think we are not too far removed from animals; it is just that
somehow we have gotten past that threshold required to be able to
communicate recursively.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #107 of 175: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Sat 19 Jun 99 14:31
    
(What I mean by "not too far removed" is that I think that the ability to
recursively recombine ideas is a monumental change, and it gives us the
appearance of being far beyond all animals in every respect; however, I tend
to suspect that from an evolutionary standpoint apes and chimps just happen
to be barely below the threshold required for this, and we broke past that
threshold at which poinit evolutionary pressure heavily favored those of us
capable of this, so now nearly every human is born capable of this.)
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #108 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Sun 20 Jun 99 07:39
    
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "recursive syntax". Could you
expand on this, maybe give an example?
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #109 of 175: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Sun 20 Jun 99 08:45
    
I'm probably using terms that are more commonly used in computer science, I
apologize.  All I mean by this is that we (humans) can create sentences with
nested clauses, for example "I am afraid that the police will repress the
students" or "These are not the droids you were looking for the last time
Lucas directed a film" or whatever.  In the animal language experiments,
the apes and chimps could learn simple syntax (interrogative, declarative,
and the use of modifiers as in "open door fast!") but they never created
any sentences with multiple clauses or nested structure of any kind; I believe
that these apes were actually communicating symbolically (some people
for some reason continue to insist that they were somehow not using
symbols for reasons I cannot fathom -- seems like mere prejudice to me),
but they were not able to create recursively recombinable structures (i.e.,
create nested linguistic structures).

As I say, I think this experimental evidence points to the power to recombine
ideas recursively (to nest ideas) as the key facility which separates us from
the animals.  Perhaps people overlook this because they underestimate both
the power and importance of this.  I do not believe human civilization would
be even remotely possible without it.  It would certainly be next to
impossible to write a computer program of any complexity, for example, much
less explain to someone how to make a television set, or build a thatched-
roof hut for that matter.  This facility is profound and powerful and for
some reason beyond the reach of animals (as far as we know).
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #110 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Sun 20 Jun 99 09:01
    
I see. what are "nested" clauses in CS are relative clauses in
linguistics.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #111 of 175: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Sun 20 Jun 99 10:06
    
Actually, I mean not only relative clauses, but any sort of multi-clause
structure; i.e., also adverb clauses, noun clauses, and I think even
independent clauses are beyond the capability of apes and chimpanzees.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #112 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Mon 21 Jun 99 00:48
    
So, anything for which there is a placeholder in those pretty diagrams of
sentence structure that you find in "The Language Instinct" and which
presumably descend from Chomsky?
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #113 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Mon 21 Jun 99 00:50
    
Anyone interested in general evolutionary theory and battles therein
should have a look at Michael ruse's latest book "mystery of mysteries".
My copy is pub'd Harvard, but I picked it up in the New Statesman offices,
so I don't know what the American versio is.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #114 of 175: Undo Influence (mnemonic) Mon 21 Jun 99 06:22
    

Andrew, I took mitsu to be referring to what Chomsky might call
a transformational grammar.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #115 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Mon 21 Jun 99 08:32
    
Yup. I think that's the stuff. But I have never read Chomsky, so did not
want to assume too much. Syntactical placeholders.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #116 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Wed 23 Jun 99 04:33
    
IJWTM that the latest electronic Skeptical Digest both plugs <sumac>'s
review of Biological Exuberance and tells people to click on the horse's ass
at www.darwinwars.com...  (The digest is at http://www.skeptic.org.uk.)

wg
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #117 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Wed 23 Jun 99 10:17
    
Oh dear. I shall remove that joke, then
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #118 of 175: With catlike tread (sumac) Wed 23 Jun 99 10:19
    
Wow!
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #119 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Wed 23 Jun 99 13:47
    
Oh, now, don't do that -- it was meant to help get people there.

Sorry if I screwed up, but...

AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH.

wg
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #120 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Thu 24 Jun 99 04:48
    
Click now.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #121 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Thu 24 Jun 99 14:48
    
Aw, jeez, now I've rooned it.  But still:  glad there's something there.  I
only did it to try and help you sell books.

which, btw, I think DW is reviewed in the next issue of the Skeptic.  But
the review isn't in the digest so you'll have to buy it.  :--

wg
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #122 of 175: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Thu 24 Jun 99 18:25
    
Sorry for the belated response; I was away.  I didn't quite mean Chomsky-
style transformational grammar per se; that implies extra ontological
assumptions that I do not mean to make (i.e., I do not know if I agree with
Chomsky's presumption of a sort of hard-wired innate deep structure to
langauge --- rather, I think that language tends to have this sort of deep
structure for computational reasons, but that's another conversation).
All I really mean is that we, as humans, seem to be able to communicate via
language which can be described in terms of trees, where the branches of the
trees can themselves be trees, (theoretically) ad infinitum.  This could
be described as "nested" because if you write down the structure of the
sentence using parentheses to delinate nodes of the tree, the parentheses
can be arbitrarily nested, e.g., (A (B C (D E F) G (H (I J) K (L M)) N)))
(where A-N could be whatever you like, nouns, verbs, modifiers, etc.)
Apes and chimps for some reason do not seem to be able to produce this sort
of structure, and therefore their communication is "flat" in a sense;
they can ask for something (give me a banana), or declare something (I love
you) but this nested structure eludes them.

This ability to create nested structure is what I think separates us from
most if not all animals --- and this is what gives us the tremendous power
we have.  It is an awesome shift, but not quite the shift that some people
would have us believe, i.e., it is not as though animals cannot communicate
symbolically at all, it is that they cannot recombine those symbols in
the way humans can.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #123 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Thu 24 Jun 99 22:52
    
this is fascinating.
You mean that Washoe could not say "Give me the banana that I love", or
"Give me the banana becasue I love you". 

I don't see, though, tat there need be any contradiction in supposing that
the disjunction between human and animal use of symbols represents
somehting in the nature of language, and that it is the product of a
specialised brain structure. You would expect specialised physical
adaptations to reflect disjunctions in the nature of the outside world. To
make an analogy, I think that active flying requires a different anatomy
from passive gliding (anchor points for muscles, that kind of thing).
These anatomical requirtements reflect independent aerodynamic laws. I
don't see why brain anatomy should reflect logical or syntactical
complexity in a similar way. 

(There's a red herring here, labelled Universal Turing Machines. Let us
allow it to swim away in peace).
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #124 of 175: Andrew Brown (andrewb) Thu 24 Jun 99 22:54
    
#121

All plugs gratefully received. and appreciated. It's just that the
original joke was small and six months old. I felt it had outlived its
usefulness. It's still there for people who view the source, which is
about the level of obscurity it deserves.
  
inkwell.vue.38 : Andrew Brown and The Darwin Wars
permalink #125 of 175: Wendy M. Grossman (wendyg) Fri 25 Jun 99 03:41
    
That's good enough to get you into NTK...

!

wg
--who spent yesterday Wimbling and rediscovering why it's so much better on
TV.
  

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