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Adding a lot of filler text as I'm in a thoughtful mood tonight. v

 
Humans aren't just "the top of the food chain", to say the least. We have absolute dominance over the entire surface of the planet, and our actions causes ripples to affect the planet as a whole. Heck, we're so advanced that you could argue that we've elevated ourselves above nature's laws and reached a peak in evolution so that if we are to "evolve" any further, we'll likely have to make artificial steps to do it.

But how did we get there? On the top of my head, these are the main evolutionary traits that have brought us this far:

- High intelligence. Obviously. Being intelligent is always a great help and is perhaps the key trait of us humans. The interesting thing, though, is that we're not the only intelligent species on this planet. A big percentile of the adult human population is actually closer in intelligence (the ability to solve an unfamiliar problem) to animals like dolphins, octopus, ravens than they are to prodigies like Einstein and Hawking. Which means there's a lot more than intelligence that makes humans special.

- Hands. Yeah, hands. The more you think about it, the more it makes sense. Intelligence is one thing, but the ability to grip, shape and create things with dexterous hands like ours has absolutely been key in our development. If we hadn't been able to make weapons and tools out of raw materials, we'd still be nude nomads in the African jungle, no matter how smart we'd be. Hands gave our intelligence a new platform to work with, and we have excelled for it.
This is why smart fishes and birds won't take our place any time soon. The best they can do is dodge predators and make off with more food than their physique suggests.

There's also one other thing, and it's connected to the title. I don't know exactly what, but it's what cultivates our wisdom. We have always been pack animals, but we stand out the way we've taken the whole "sense of community" to a whole new level.

Look at, say, the octopus. Like us, it's intelligent and it uses its hands (tentacles) to figure out things, but its biggest flaw is that it is solitary and the female's life is short lived. Octopus are born, learn on their own and die with all its experience lost. The next generation will start over from scratch and on and on it goes in a hopeless loop.


Humans teaches their young. Wisdom gets carried through the generations and, in a way, evolves. Technology is a result of this trait. By some accident or some Stone Age ENTP's ingenuity, fire was made. That "technology" was then taught to their children, and the children taught it to other tribes. Humanity as a whole grew wiser because of it, and this process kept going until we became civilization and kept going still.

Knowledge and wisdom are shared between humans, so we're constantly growing. This process rapidly increased once humans settled down and made the first cities, and it's rapidly seeing an increase now that science rules. It's not a biological marker, so it's not technically an evolutionary trait, per say, but in essence... then yes.

Am I forgetting something? Is there anything else that separates humans from animals that might have an effect on how superior we are? Is civilization the final stage of [natural] evolution?

Bonus question: Theoretically, other than the ones mentioned, which other traits could be used for a race to reach civilization? Use your imagination, but try to be realistic. No "telekinesis" or anything out-of-this-world like that.
 

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Written language to be specific. Writing allows a group as a whole to benefit from the most intelligent and wise among them, in a way that speaking does not.
As far as not being biological, civilization definitely affected the evolution of those groups living in it. Mating rights by virtue of brute force became much less prevalent, other traits such as intelligence and social manipulation became much more important. But brute force will still have its place for the foreseeable future.
It is the low iq groups of people who were mostly isolated from 10,000 years of civilization. That is not coincidence.
 

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I think humans are knowledgeable but not very wise. I think civilization developed as a natural consequence of the things that have been mentioned (brains, hands, writing), and some of the features of civilization might seem wise (e.g., peaceful coexistence with others). But most individuals are not wise and will act terribly if given half a chance, or if civilization wills it by getting involved in a war or through institutionalized racism, etc.

If we're better than other animals (which I tend to doubt), it's because of our ability to feel complex emotions, to manage those emotions, and to override our emotions when necessary.

My ISTP boyfriend thinks that mankind was meant to colonize the universe--and that the universe was meant to be colonized by mankind--and he looks forward to the day when we are able to clone people, halt aging in its tracks, and so on. This is one area where he and I really differ. I think humanity needs to be reined in, and that the universe would be better off without us. Many animal species eat other species, and many animals are cruel to others of their own kind. And humans are just smart enough to be the worst of the bunch.
 

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Language is important because of the aggregation of concepts and the capacity to form new concepts through communication. How else do concepts form? Where and how do concepts take place? (I don't entirely know the answer to either of these questions)

In a sense this is a lot like describing wisdom - after all it is made up of "successful" concepts. After all language does take place with other animals on some level (I believe).

Mental evolution is a difficult thing to pin down clearly in comparison to physical evolution. With Darwinism you have just some successful mutation that becomes prevalent once every other version can't keep up. I think that takes place with psychology/"sensory field navigation / looping" only to a certain extent because there isn't a 1 to 1 correspondence between physical cause and effect and mental states. That is, mental states are kind of like a complicated "eddie flow" in the "river" that is external cause and effect existence. Of course even the natural selection model isn't the most advanced and clear model of evolution, but on a basic level you get the idea.

Wisdom may be more "naturally selective" though in terms of culture and which concepts win out in the long run. There seems to be an arms race for successful concepts in this regard... but what I really wonder is what mental states actually do become automatic and how do they become automatic. For instance, what if over time a highly regarded concept in todays time becomes so straight forward and natural that eventually the idea behind it never surfaces. Instead, all that matters is what it ultimately achieves so that it becomes some rote automatic formation of our neural circuitry. In this sense, what if future humanity and "soul" (that is the "mind" part of mind-body... or "existential emphasis" as apposed to "Positivist emphasis") ultimately falls prey to natural selection and is tantamount to being nothing more than a successful appendage?

We don't know the intermediary stages into the development of the consciousness that we have, and that is the issue. It may turn out that it really isn't all that different than we think, we just happen to care about things in just such a way that it's more open ended than direct survival. I think elephants are a big mystery, I mean they clearly mourn their dead. What is it like to experience such a foreign concept that it is literally impossible to imagine? And then you have sexual selection... it would be pretty hilarious if it turned out human consciousness is directly derived from our unique form of sexual desire. I only mention this because of how I think about the story of the garden of eden.
 

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Written language to be specific.
Not diminishing written language. For it separates sapiens from sapiens.

Spoken language in and of itself is a great divider between us and the rest of the animals. The ability to record the language is just another evolutionary step further away. A widening of the chasm that language created if you will.

Consider the advantage that the ability to communicate complex ideas has given humans over other animals.
if there were a battle between homo-sapiens and homo-erectus (or any other animal), even if the homo-erectus were of superior strength, they could not defeat a band of homo-sapiens for they could not organize themselves and communicate battle plans as language allows us to do.

language is a good reason humans are at the top of the ladder as the most devastating creature to have ever terrorized the planet.
 

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Language is important because of the aggregation of concepts and the capacity to form new concepts through communication. How else do concepts form? Where and how do concepts take place? (I don't entirely know the answer to either of these questions)
there are a few books I could recommend. :)

In a sense this is a lot like describing wisdom - after all it is made up of "successful" concepts. After all language does take place with other animals on some level (I believe).
animals do have various levels of "language" but what they have is nothing compared to what humans have. Our ability to communicate the past, the abstract, etc is impossible in nature.
 

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@forgotten reason sez: "For instance, what if over time a highly regarded concept in todays time becomes so straight forward and natural that eventually the idea behind it never surfaces. Instead, all that matters is what it ultimately achieves so that it becomes some rote automatic formation of our neural circuitry"
What came to mind is the concept of using chemical reactions to provide useful movement. This can be as simple as a hot air ballon, or as sophisticated as a nuclear reactor. It wasn't until about 1000 years ago that this concept became widely used with the introduction of gunpowder weapons, and about 300 years ago for it to be widely used to replace human and animal labor.
Now we seldom if ever think about the concept. Even though most of us use it 24/7.
 
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