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Non-Primate Evolution

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#1 gsmonks


    Tree Psychiatrist

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Posted 06 November 2015 - 09:47 AM

Rather than keep harping on this subject in someone else's thread, I'll start a new one:

When it comes to theorising about possible advanced non-humans from far, far away, there recently has emerged this notion that advanced beings will inevitably be like us.

There are three problems with this notion:

1) There is nothing to compare it to, which means anything said is baseless speculation.

2) Our thinking is purely anthropomorphic.

3) It may not be possible to see beyond our own anthropomorphic thinking.

Anthropomorphic thinking goes far beyond trying to outsmart introspective thinking. All intellectual thought, on any subject you care to choose, is predicated on the evolution of primates.

This includes our social thinking, our social psychology, our notion of culture, our senses and anything that extends from them, and the billions of years of evolution built into every life-form on this planet.

A modern bias has evolved, in terms of possible life-forms, that they must be something like us.

The fatal flaw in this line of reasoning is the very long chain of accidents that led to life-forms like ourselves. Sexual reproduction only happened once in the whole entire history of evolution, for instance. This in itself is a huge subject that includes sexual differentiation, the evolution of complex multicellular organisms, the various stages of evolution, not to mention the complex variation to be found in the world of single-celled organisms which preceded the world of multicelled creatures.

Comparative taxonomy is of little use here because it is based on the existing condition of a form. This means that while we can compare the taxonomies of existing life-forms on this planet, everything we can learn from such a venture is wholly irrelevant when it comes to extraterrestrial life-forms because the taxonomy in question concerns life-forms that are related through terrestrial DNA, and terrestrial DNA evolved as a reciprocal process involving the environment.

The reciprocal process I'm referring to is the fact that the planet shaped life just as much as life shaped the planet. Life on this planet made this planet liveable over billions of years, creating everything from its saltwater seas to its breathable atmosphere to its arable land.

Relying solely on the principles of taxonomy, and looking only at the evolution of intelligent life-forms on this planet, hypothesising the evolution of beings like ourselves is straightforward. Given the "right" circumstances, intelligent beings could have evolved from large-brained dinosaurs, from marsupials (there are excellent examples of convergence where marsupials are concerned, such as marsupial cats), and birds.

What must be considered, first and foremost, is that non-primates are going to have different dispositions, which in themselves, over millions of years, are going to produce long strings of occurrences that are going to add up over time. Reasoning itself will take on forms that are wholly unrecogniseable to us.

Take empathy, for example. Empathy is in our genes. And values. All of our values have one value as their core- the value we have for life itself. Self-preservation is central to our thinking in ways we cannot see. Our notion of family is genetic, as is our notion of social order.

Comparing ourselves to animals that might evolve from the aforementioned is pointless because we are related to them, however distantly. They have characteristics similar enough to ourselves that empathy is inevitable.

Let's assume that a large-brained dinosaur evolved into a highly intelligent bipedal creature. To do so, it would have to have reason to walk upright and free its hands. Some type of environmental conditions would have to be present to force this to happen. Conditions would also have to be such that thinking became necessary to survival. This happened in many stages in ourselves, and included the shift from vocalising to signalling to early forms of mixed communication to speaking. The tail would be lost from walking upright, as it would no longer be needed for balance. The snout would become shortened because powerful jaw muscles would no longer be required for killing and rending flesh. The hands would become more facile as tool-making was discovered. Claws would disappear, fingers would evolve out of use. In the end, you would end up with something that would resemble us in outward form.

However, it must be remembered that we are related, and because we are related, the rules of taxonomy apply, meaning convergence is a consequence of our being related. Evolution is contingent upon the existing state of a thing. You can alter that existing state, but you can only work with what you have. It's all variations on a theme when it comes to the rules of taxonomy.

The brain of this creature is where all the interesting stuff is going to happen. Birds/dinosaurs do not think like we do. Their empathy is generally relegated to their own young, and that tendency is often shortlived. As they domesticated themselves and conquered foreign climates, they would require clothing, tools, fire. But they would not develop primate hierarchies or follow primate social patterns. As they evolved, they might not even form family groups, but might instead differentiate social roles based upon age and gender. Instead of rearing their own children, they might instead leave them to join same-age groups with their own social functions.

Our notion of government would be wholly alien to them. In fact, it wouldn't, couldn't, occur to them to form social organisations of that type, simply because they do not have primate brains that think that way. Their social organisation would be wholly incomprehensible to us because of an utter lack of shared values, because for us, the core value from which all other values are derived is the value we place on life itself. They might have no such value. They would probably think of the individual as expendable, like an individual ant in a colony.

Many non-human intelligent life-forms are agenda-driven. An example of an agenda-driven life-form is the caterpillar. A human can't interact with a caterpillar in a meaningful manner because a caterpillar's brain is agenda-driven: locate food, eat, eat, eat, find a place to pupate, sleep, sleep, sleep, POP goes the butterfly, moth, or skipper. Being purely agenda-driven does not preclude intelligence. We just happen to not be that way ourselves.

And so it goes.
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