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Q: Evolution and technology ( Answered,   12 Comments )
Subject: Evolution and technology
Category: Science
Asked by: chrisjb-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 09 Apr 2006 16:22 PDT
Expires: 09 May 2006 16:22 PDT
Question ID: 717207
Why is it that the human brain has made use of technology, while no
other animal has ever taken this step?

Clarification of Question by chrisjb-ga on 09 Apr 2006 16:54 PDT
Having thought about it I would imagine most people would answer this
question with something about brain size, and so actually this isn't
the question I wanted to ask. I want to know why the precursor to the
human species first felt the necessity to create basic technology. Was
it fluke? Was it alien intervention? What was it? What was the spark
that started the fire?

While asking that question simultaneously the original question may be
answered, but I will elaborate to clarify:

While what became the human species was evolving, with the use of
technology (which arguably catalysed the development of the human
brain, as apposed to other human body parts (such as claws for
example), due to natural selection, and the competitive advantages
gained from the use of technology), why did no other species come to
use tools and develop technology?
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
Answered By: hedgie-ga on 15 Apr 2006 01:32 PDT
Animals use tools, and some learn language.

Why and how do we differ from the other animals?

Here are several relevant references

In summary, it boils down to the 'use of complex language',
language with grammar. It was mutation, or several mutations, which
changed to way the brain functions. Computer scientist would say it
enabled recursion.

 Grammar and recursion are interrelated:

This is explored in books by (student of Chomski) S Pinker

Complex language, leading to written record, facilitatet emergence of
culture and cross-gerational learning
in particular

Technology is essential part of human culture.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: pugwashjw65-ga on 09 Apr 2006 19:17 PDT
The answer to this is found in the Bible. Genesis 1;26 And God went on
to say: ?Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and
let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying
creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth
and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth".
We are made in God's 'image'. with all his apsects of Love, Wisdom,
Justice and Power. Animals act on instinct. They do not ' plan ahead'.
They have no sense of Justice. They accept whatever happens. We do
not. We plan ahead , because we have the ability to estimate what
'will' happen. We build to protect against ' future' storms, We plan
for events ' yet to occur'. We have a 'sense' of a higher authority,
"God". According to verse 28, we are able , with technology, to
'subdue' the earth. e.g. The Suez and Panama canals, the Aswan and
Hoover dams and many other projects. But with all our technology, we
should be doing more to protect the earth we have been given.
Revelation 11; . 18 But the nations became wrathful, and your own
wrath came, and the appointed time for the dead to be judged, and to
give [their] reward to your slaves the prophets and to the holy ones
and to those fearing your name, the small and the great, and to bring
to ruin those ruining the earth.?
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: thither-ga on 09 Apr 2006 20:31 PDT
I'm sure you'll get a comprehensive answer (as opposed to this
comment), but as you mentioned tools I thought I'd just point out

" shown in the first part of NATURE's INSIDE THE ANIMAL MIND,
crows on the remote Pacific island of New Caledonia have learned a
skill that people once thought only primates could master: the use of
tools. The birds use long, specially chosen twigs to spear the plump
grubs that hide deep beneath the bark of rotting logs."

Have a good day.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: daniel2d-ga on 09 Apr 2006 22:17 PDT
It is called intelligence.  We have it and they do not.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: shadycaliber-ga on 09 Apr 2006 23:16 PDT
Technology created from efficiency, necessity, entertainment.  It
fills our needs, our curiosity propels it, our sense of needing to be
like everyone else sustains it. Even apes use tools, a bird may use a
stick to get grubs from a tree.  In its own right they are all
technology.  In its lesser state on your drive to work you tend to
take the shortest rout?  Why not take the long rout, its a mundane
task, after doing anything too many times we in our human state find
ways to improve upon it.  Hence technology, a tool, technique, or a
cultural force.

If you didn't understand the "need to be like everyone else" it meant
joe has a plasma tv, now greg must get one too, economy stuff.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: davedamage-ga on 10 Apr 2006 07:48 PDT
This is a very complex and interesting question.

First of all there certainly are species of animals who make use of
some 'tools'; chimps have been observed using sticks to get at ants to
eat and rocks to beat each other. However obviously none use
'technology' in any sense.

We often (as demonstrated by some of the other comments) mistakenly
believe that humans are in some way fundamentally different from other
animals - we are not. Everything that has evolved to live on earth is
here because it has found a 'niche' into which it can fit.

Im finding this point harder than i thought to make! There are people
who will answer your question and more in far more intelligent and
intelligable ways. There is a fantstic book called 'The rise and fall
of the third chimpanzee' by Jared Diamond. It answers many questions
along the same lines as yours and also asks a lot more.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: chrisjb-ga on 10 Apr 2006 10:06 PDT
Thanks Dave Damage, It seems you may have been the only one who, so
far, really understood, or put any amount of thought to my question.

Daniel 2D ? have you really thought what the definition of
intelligence is? I suspect not.

Pugwash - sorry, I'm not interested in Bible citing unless you are
going to elaborate with your OWN opinion - not brain washings you have
received. That's not to say I am not interested in religion as a valid
element of this discussion. In fact I find it quite fascinating as ONE
possible explanation. However I feel it is ignorant to wholly and
unquestionably believe one possible hypothesis without consideration
for others. It is fair enough that you believe what you have been
told, as most of us do to some degree, but I ask you, WHY do you

If I met God I'd ask him two quick questions. Firstly, why did you
create us? And secondly, what did you do before that?

Thanks Thither for your point about the crows. That presents further
questions, which is usually the way, when searching for answers of
this magnitude. And I hope you have a good day to, thank you. Really
though it only allows me to expand on my question:

The precursor to the human species used ?tools?, as crows and apes do
in the present day. Why though, are humans exclusive on earth, for
seemingly carrying an innate NECESSITY in their brains to consciously
develop as a species, like a ?super organism??

Shady Calibre, you have attempted to answer one aspect of this
question - the psychological reasoning behind the human minds
motivation. For me it is about paradoxically self created necessity,
stemming from fundamental fear in the human mind. This is very
complex, and is related also to competition and natural selection, in
my opinion. If anyone wishes to elaborate on this area I would be
interested in other peoples? thoughts.

I haven?t really been very good at elaborating on my points, but then
it was me who asked the question. I?m surprised at the number of
comments. Thanks everyone. Hopefully someone will provide an answer
that will satisfy me, although they will probably need a time machine
that can travel backwards in time, or perhaps God will log in and sort
me out.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: rracecarr-ga on 10 Apr 2006 10:45 PDT
"The Third Chimpanzee" by Jared Diamond
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: manyvan2000-ga on 10 Apr 2006 12:23 PDT
In the process of evolution any strength or skill is developed to
compensate a weakness. In this case, humans are comparatively weaker,
slower than many other animals when it comes to race for food /
survival. In order to survive, be it hunting for prey or to escape
from predators, each animal must come up with a strength that the
others dont have - for instance long neck of giraffe, swiftness of
panthers and deers. In the evolution, monkeys have developed
sophisticated hands and we, humans have found the way to use it more
effectively - to make tools (other animals use tools, but its human
intelligence that made him to create tools.) Also humans are
comparatively lazier and greedier than most other species. All these
combined - laziness, greediness, being slower and weaker, having
sophisticated hands - could have lead to the development of

This is one of the many paths in the process of evolution that has
been adapted by humans.

The reason only humans have come this way is sheer coincidence. 

In fact a lot of birds and animals have superior skills like intuition
and they have intelligence and could evolve into a species superior
than humans. It may not be probable, since they dont have the need or
want, but still it is quite possible.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: markvmd-ga on 10 Apr 2006 13:02 PDT
I suspect any time another species has approached Man to negotiate for
improved status, we've eaten them.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: davedamage-ga on 10 Apr 2006 15:07 PDT
I have an exam in 5 weeks, and your damn interesting question (and
unwarranted flattery) has given me the excuse not to study for the
past hour! If I fail then you, Chris, are getting the blame! Here are
my incoherent, ill-thought out, (badly spelled and punctuated)

Technology has been advantageous to individual humans through two main
ways that I can think of:

?Agriculture. Hunter gatherers have been killed off by larger numbers of farmers
?Weapons. For more effective hunting as well as in human-human
conflict (those with more advanced technology would obviously survive)

Our current obsession with technology seems not to, certainly in most
cases, confer an evolutionary advantage. In the UK today are my
children really more likely to survive and pass on my genes if their
mother has a plasma-screen TV and a 40 GB mp3 player? Am I going to
find her less attractive if she doesn?t? Obviously this is a massive
oversimplification, and I would like to be able to give a definite
?no? if I was asked. To be honest though ? I don?t know for sure.
Another (seemingly sexist) question would be: if I was female would
the ?technology factor? be more/less/just as important or unimportant
to me choosing a partner?

If I remember correctly then my ill-presented hypotheses (not mine of
course, but belonging to some thoughtful intelligent evolutionary
biologists) are that maybe:

(a)Our current obsession for technology stems from a previously very
advantageous trait of ?desire for technology?
(b)Sexual selection (the handicap theory?) results in evolutionarily
?fit? individuals displaying their ?fitness? by making some
?sacrifice?. Effectively saying ?I?m so great that I can waste money
an all this stuff and still be able to look after myself and survive?,
the animal example everyone always goes for is the peacocks tail.

As I read this over again I realise that I have almost entirely missed
the crux of your question: why only us? The only possible explanation
I can think of is pretty much markvmd?s. The niche for
?animal-using-tools-extensively? has been filled, and there isn?t room
for anyone else (or rather nothing else is as well adapted to this
role as us). Perhaps if species XYZ had filled the niche they?d be
asking the same question right now.

Apologies to Dawkins, Darwin, Diamond, Williams etc for some no doubt
horrific bastardization and misrepresentation of their exceptionally
interesting ideas, explanations and analogies! I don?t know why the
subject is so damn interesting, and I really wish I could understand
and speak about it better; maybe this?ll help sort it all out in my
head anyway.

Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: chrisjb-ga on 10 Apr 2006 16:43 PDT
Very interesting - compensating for weakness. 
It is a good point you make Manyvan2000.

I had the thought that the human brain uses technology as 'extensions
of the human form' (eg telescope as extension of the eye, book as
extension of the memory, etc - see Plato, Mcluhan and numerous other
scholars) in order to compensate for a body that did not have the
required assets for completing a task envisaged by the human brain.
The human brain is remarkable because it is able to envisage the
completion of a task that, without the use of a device, that is as yet
non existant, is currently impossible to achieve. The human brain is
crucially able to imagine something previously thought impossible, and
bridge the gap between the humans current state and the future state
with the use of invented technology.

I realise there are a huge number of factors that caused humans to
evolve intelligence distinctly beyond that of any other animal.

But why though, in the time since humans have existed, have there been
no signs of the development of other animals in a similar way as
humans? Perhaps as precurser species to the present day human we did
simply eat them, as you suggested Markvmd.

Certainly hands are an important factor, and dry land as apposed to
water. And a great many other factors favoured humans.

Having thought about it now I am fairly satisfied by these answers. I
was hoping for something more dazzling, but I spose it is just fluke
and that's nature.
Subject: Re: Evolution and technology
From: scubajim-ga on 10 Apr 2006 17:28 PDT
I am currently reading Jared Diamond book called Guns,Germs, and
Steel.  Fasinating work.  I'll have to read his earlier work now.  We
are built to take advantage of the world around us.  We don't have the
best eyesight, we can't run faster than the fastest animal, but all
together we somehow are able to use technology to our advantage.

Some animals do use tools, we are just a heck of a lot better at it.

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