On the uniqueness of humans

February 16, 2010 at 2:00 am 5 comments

I’ve been watching a whole lot of videos lately and I thought I’d share some of them with you. I came across this great lecture given at Stanford by American primatologist and author, Robert Sapolsky. He talks about what makes humans unique and how other species might find us bizarre (love the example of how a giraffe might find certain human activity disturbing). Sapolsky’s talk begins at the 4.51 mark. Once you get over the hair and Biblical look, it’s a very enjoyable talk. Perhaps I missed it but he doesn’t seem to cover how imagination makes humans unique.

I wish I’d had him in my biology lectures, would have made things a whole lot more fascinating. I plan to get one of his books, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.

Entry filed under: Useful resources, YouTube. Tags: , , .

Tiger or chocolate? Should he or shouldn’t he?

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Paris  |  February 23, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks a lot for this VERY interesting video!

    I learnt 2 funny things:

    1. my brain works like a chimp one, not as a human brain (with regard to dopamine & religion)=> which lead me to think that I might be atheist because I can’t sustain a dopamine surge until I’m dead without any reward…not because Im a rationale scientist??

    2. to morph a violent culture into a nice one: kill all the agressive males…
    up until half males, which can explain why the death row is vai!
    ie. far too fewer guys there compared to the amount of violent ones (violent husband, road killers, for ex aren’t sentenced to death)

  • 2. Stephen Byrne  |  February 24, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Hi Kim … despite some of his assertions, I like that he simply blows away the idea that we are ‘different’ and ‘special’ when compared to other species. The remaining examples of us being special, I suspect, points to a limitation of our research capability, rather than any uniqueness that we profess to have.
    Moreover, I think we would be much better off as a species if we spent more time focusing on sameness rather than difference. We are genetically wired to spot difference, (in-group-friend/out-group-foe) which gives rise to so many of todays issues … if we all thought of ourselves as same – there would be no extremists! And the world would be less at risk from consumerism as we attempt to display our specialness with the latest fashion/car/iphone …
    Better stop there, I can feel a rant coming on …

  • 3. thinkingshift  |  February 24, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Hi Paris
    You’re welcome 🙂

    Hi Stephen good to see you on TS blog and welcome. I like your notion of focusing on sameness. I spend all my time focusing on difference in this sense of individuality…I shall ponder this and perhaps a blog post will emerge!

  • 4. jeremylent  |  March 2, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I follow your blog and thought you might be interested in a relevant post I’ve recently published called “So What Really Makes Us Human?” It emphasizes “social intelligence” and “theory of mind” as a key driver for increased prefrontal cortex capabilities.

    Here’s the post:
    Hope you find it interesting.

  • 5. thinkingshift  |  March 3, 2010 at 3:18 am

    thx Jeremy for the link to your article – I’ve left a comment on your blog. I confess that I have your book, Requiem of the Human Soul, on my reading list but have not as yet managed to get to it – but I will!!


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