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Author Topic:   Terran non-human intelligence
Dexx
Junior Member (Idle past 3277 days)
Posts: 7
From: Perth, WA, Australia
Joined: 08-12-2010


Message 1 of 14 (573577)
08-12-2010 1:08 AM


Fossil evidence indicates that there have been several Homo species who rose to the point of being tool users before their demise. Therefore the emergence of a technicallogical species on Earth is not unique to humans. Given the long history of life on this planet, is it possible that other creatures have evolved into a tool-using race in the far past? After all, humans have been here for a tiny fraction of the planet's history.

Three billion years is a long time. Time enough for many civilizations to come and go. Would subduction and erosion be enough to eliminate all artifacts from a civilization from millions of years ago?


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Message 2 of 14 (573619)
08-12-2010 7:37 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Terran non-human intelligence thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1036 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 3 of 14 (573647)
08-12-2010 9:28 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dexx
08-12-2010 1:08 AM


Hi, Dexx.

Welcome to EvC!

Dexx writes:

Fossil evidence indicates that there have been several Homo species who rose to the point of being tool users before their demise. Therefore the emergence of a technicallogical species on Earth is not unique to humans.

This isn't a very good argument. Technology-capable intelligence has only evolved one time that we know of, and all Homo species are a result of this one evolution. So, we only have a sample size of one.

If we were treat all the species of Homo as separate examples of intelligence, we would be engaging in "pseudoreplication," which means we would be treating things as if they are separate, independent examples, when, in fact, they are not.

-----

Dexx writes:

Given the long history of life on this planet, is it possible that other creatures have evolved into a tool-using race in the far past?

Tool use, on the other hand, is a different story entirely. We have many independent examples of tool use on the earth today. Many primates use tools, many birds use tools, ants use tools, etc. Given that, I would consider it highly unlikely that there were not tool-using creatures in the past.

Granted, most of these animals don’t actually build the tools they use, so if that’s what you’re looking for, I think we may still only have a sample size of one (although there have been reports of other types of animals “building” tools, too).

But, given the large impacts that humans have had on the environment, I doubt that any previous civilizations of the magnitude of our civilization would be completely unevidenced in the fossil record. At the very least, we would see extinction events, and probably also at least a few durable artifacts.

-----

Dexx writes:

Would subduction and erosion be enough to eliminate all artifacts from a civilization from millions of years ago?

Maybe billions of years ago, but certainly not just millions.

But, consider the fact that there are rock formations today that haven’t been subducted since before the Cambrian period.

Combine this with a few other observations --- (1) lack of fossilized artifacts and (2) lack of fossilized organisms with obvious adaptations for technological utility --- and the likelihood that such a civilization existed becomes vanishingly small.

Plus, given how extraordinary a second civilization on Earth would be, the evidence required to convinced scientists of its existence would have to be exceptionally monumental.

I submit that, given all the digging that has been done around the world, if something that monumental existed, we'd very likely have found evidence of it already.

Edited by Bluejay, : Addition: "Given that, I would consider it..."


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


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Larni
Member
Posts: 3990
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 4 of 14 (573649)
08-12-2010 9:42 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dexx
08-12-2010 1:08 AM


There has certainly been enough times for multiple technological civilisations to have risen and fallen in Earths history but the questions is where is the evidence od these civilisations?

When we to see artefacts of civilisation turning up in cretaceous strata we can start hypothesising about extinct civilisations.

Just because something can happan does not mean it did happen.


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CosmicChimp
Member
Posts: 306
From: Muenchen Bayern Deutschland
Joined: 06-15-2007


Message 5 of 14 (573833)
08-12-2010 8:13 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dexx
08-12-2010 1:08 AM


If tool use is the criteria, then I think you could possibly find hundreds of species fitting your definition of intelligent creature. Have you seen how smart the currently living examples of tool users are these days? Just among the birds you should look into the New Caledonian Crow (Corvus moneduloides), or the New Zealand Kea (Nestor notabilis).

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Dexx
Junior Member (Idle past 3277 days)
Posts: 7
From: Perth, WA, Australia
Joined: 08-12-2010


Message 6 of 14 (573896)
08-13-2010 1:12 AM


You make some good points. We have fossils going back over a billion years so any civilization comparable to ours would show up somewhere. In addition, an industrial civilization would have depleted natural resources in much the same as as we are doing now.

Still, i cant help but think that 3 billion years is an awefully long time. Perhaps another species rose to the height of hunter-gatherers with stone tools and was then wiped out in an extinction event. We may never know.

Edited by Dexx, : No reason given.


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Huntard
Member (Idle past 634 days)
Posts: 2870
From: Limburg, The Netherlands
Joined: 09-02-2008


Message 7 of 14 (573909)
08-13-2010 4:31 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Dexx
08-13-2010 1:12 AM


Dexx writes:

Still, i cant help but think that 3 billion years is an awefully long time. Perhaps another species rose to the height of hunter-gatherers with stone tools and was then wiped out in an extinction event. We may never know.


Keep in mind thought that for the vast majority of those 3 billion years, life was simple and single celled. Multicellular, more complex creatures didn't appear until somewhere around the Cambrian, which was some 550 million years ago. A great bit shorter than the 3 billion you're proposing.

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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 3280 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 8 of 14 (573913)
08-13-2010 5:09 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Dexx
08-12-2010 1:08 AM


As others have pointed out, quite a lot of other species use tools. However, these are extremely limited in comparison to the complex tools developed by humans, and the way it has allowed us to manipulate our environment.

It is no matter of chance that it was a primate species that evolved the tool making/using ability. The dexterous hands that were necessary to climb trees and pick fruits, etc, were ideal for adaptation to tool making and usage. (The hands hardly needed adaptation at all, it was the brains that really adapted to take full advantage of this.)

Most other types of species would have to adapt their bodies to such a large extent in order to become great toolmakers/users that it is unlikely it would ever be an advantage to them to make the transition. They are not really equiped to even begin using tools, so there would never be an opportunity to start evolving in that direction. They are already too well-adapted for their own environment that it would be a disadvantage to start evolving towards anything like dexterous hands.

Dolphins and whales, for example, are very intelligent animals, but they have evolved to lose the legs of their land-based ancestors. To survive in their environment, it is clearly an advantage to them not to have limbs that are anything like capable of making/using complex tools.


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jar
Member
Posts: 31764
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 2.6


Message 9 of 14 (573953)
08-13-2010 9:17 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
08-13-2010 5:09 AM


Yet even dolphins and whales create devices to serve their purposes, for example bubble nets.


Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!

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caffeine
Member
Posts: 1729
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008
Member Rating: 5.9


(1)
Message 10 of 14 (573956)
08-13-2010 9:36 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
08-13-2010 5:09 AM


There is nothing preventing other animals from becoming just as good at manipulating their environments, though. Raccoons have independently evolved dextrous hands very similar to those of primates, for example.

And I think there's a bit of anthropocentric bias creeping in to the way you're looking at this. It doesn't follow that, because the only current species with a technological society uses a pentdactyl hand as their primary means of manipulating tools, a pentadactly hand is the best or only method of manipulating tools. It could simply be that, because we evolved from primates with pentadactyl, grasping hands, these hands were the most appropriate organ to turn to tool use.

I'm sure you've seen people on TV without working arms who've impressed with the intricate tasks they can accomplish using mouths and or feet. These are people born into a species which normally relies on their hands, and yet they're capable of learning, with practice, to do many of the same things without. In a species which never relied on hands, there's no reason they couldn't manage to accomplish complex tasks of tool-making and tool use.

To those who say that such a society would have to leave traces, it depends what level of technological sophistication we're discussing, how wide-spread a population. and how long they were here on earth for. We're constantly reminded that humanity is but a blip in geological history, and the period in which we've radically expanded in population and started building megacities is but a blip in human history.

Whilst it's true that there are Cambrian rocks that are yet to be subducted and aren't buried in places palaeontologists don't dig, what proportion of all the rocks dotted around the Cambrian world do they represent? I'd imagine a very low one, please correct me if I'm wrong. Then consider how many of the rocks around in the world today will bear clear signals of a technological society, a figure that I'm sure would be less if we looked back 2,000 years or more in history.

Now, I've no idea how likely another technological civillisation preceding us would be, and it's only idle speculation supported by no evidence, but I don't think it's unreasonable that Cerebrosaurus sapiens could have spent a few thousand years building cities, fighting wars and composing poetry before being wiped out by that big asteroid, without leaving any trace that we've noticed so far. Especially considering the entire length of their putative civillisation would fit into the error margin for the date of the end-Cretaceous event 100 times over.


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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1036 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(1)
Message 11 of 14 (573972)
08-13-2010 10:57 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by caffeine
08-13-2010 9:36 AM


Hi, Caffeine.

caffeine writes:

It could simply be that, because we evolved from primates with pentadactyl, grasping hands, these hands were the most appropriate organ to turn to tool use.

So, it seems that there are two ideas as to what is required for technological intelligence:

  1. The Brain-First Hypothesis: increasing intelligence took advantage of whatever manipulatory organs it had available to it
  2. The Hands-First Hypothesis: the dexterity of the manipulatory organs promoted the evolution of intelligence.

I don't know that we have to pick one or the other, but your statement sounds like you think intelligence is all brain and the hands are just along for the ride. I tend to think that our technological intelligence would never have evolved without dexterous hands, because the hands are rather important for any survival-relevant application that our intelligent brains could have thought of.

I also agree with JUC that most other animals would require very significant alterations to their bodies in order for their intelligence to translate into technology. Some animals --- like raccoons, elephants, octopus and crabs --- would obviously require less extensive alterations, but most --- like giraffes, ladybugs, walruses and tuna --- will require quite a lot more alteration.

I’ll acknowledge that intelligence in the absence of manipulatory organs is possible, but the technological capacity of such a combination would be severely limited. Dolphins are a great example of this: bubble nets are really impressive things, but how far can they actually take this kind of “technology”?

Like I said in my first post, it would take extremely monumental evidence for the idea to fly.

-----

Caffeine writes:

...but I don't think it's unreasonable that Cerebrosaurus sapiens could have spent a few thousand years building cities, fighting wars and composing poetry before being wiped out by that big asteroid, without leaving any trace that we've noticed so far. Especially considering the entire length of their putative civillisation would fit into the error margin for the date of the end-Cretaceous event 100 times over.

Granted, there are a few pockets in the geological column where all the evidence could be hidden pretty conveniently like this, but not 3 billion years’ worth of such pockets---maybe a few million years’ worth at most.

Through most of the Earth’s geological history, any noticeably advanced civilization would have left evidence behind, at least in the form of extinction events (which we were apparently causing long before we built cities or wrote poetry), which would register quite resoundingly in the fossil record.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 3280 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 12 of 14 (573976)
08-13-2010 11:11 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by caffeine
08-13-2010 9:36 AM


There is nothing preventing other animals from becoming just as good at manipulating their environments, though. Raccoons have independently evolved dextrous hands very similar to those of primates, for example.

Yes, there are a few other species with dexterous hands or other organs (such as tentacles) that I suppose could have the potential to evolve in this way. I just think it was most likely to be a primate as they are by far the most common type of animal with dexterous hands.

The point I was making was that a species is far, far more likely to develop a complex toolmaking ability if it comes "ready made" to do so. Our ancestors could still use their hands for the original primary survival purpose of picking fruit, etc, while they gradually developed the use of tools. Whereas almost all other species would have to make a massive physiological transition to develop any kind of dexterous organ. And of course every stage of that transition would have to be advantageous.

Also, of course, it requires other factors such as whether or not the whole physiology of the particular species, not just it's dexterous organ, is appropriately adapted to make good use of tools (e.g. a throwing arm) and whether or not it's environment lends itself to the use of tools.

I'm sure you've seen people on TV without working arms who've impressed with the intricate tasks they can accomplish using mouths and or feet. These are people born into a species which normally relies on their hands, and yet they're capable of learning, with practice, to do many of the same things without. In a species which never relied on hands, there's no reason they couldn't manage to accomplish complex tasks of tool-making and tool use.

Sure, some people can develop a few amazing skills without their hands, but generally they are still very limited. In the natural world if you don't come with a physiology that is "ready made" to make tools, it will take so long to make or use anything useful, that the time and effort would be a hinderance and provide no advantage. There would therefore be no evolution in that direction.


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Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 3280 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 13 of 14 (573981)
08-13-2010 11:50 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by Blue Jay
08-13-2010 10:57 AM


Bluejay writes:

So, it seems that there are two ideas as to what is required for technological intelligence:

The Brain-First Hypothesis: increasing intelligence took advantage of whatever manipulatory organs it had available to it

The Hands-First Hypothesis: the dexterity of the manipulatory organs promoted the evolution of intelligence.

I understand the predominant theory amongst anthropologists now is that toolmaking in our ancestors developed a long time before our large brains.

http://richarddawkins.net/...-stone-tools-to-butcher-animals

There is evidence for tool use at least 3.4 million years ago, whereas I understand brains significantly larger than a chimpanzee's didn't develop until around 2 million years ago. It appears that brains developed to take advantage of tool use, rather than the other way around. This fits with the argument that we needed to develop the various tools and skills for hunting and eating large quantities of meat to get the energy and protein etc needed for large brains, before we actually got those large brains!


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CosmicChimp
Member
Posts: 306
From: Muenchen Bayern Deutschland
Joined: 06-15-2007


Message 14 of 14 (574011)
08-13-2010 2:36 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee
08-13-2010 11:50 AM


Modern man is in the mix now, therefore any genetic engineering accomplished by man to change or ultimately adapt the genetics of organisms could have profound effects upon the subsequent fauna. What were previously unsurmountable hurdles for evolutionary change are since the mid 70's routinely accomplished via genetic engineering/recombinant DNA techniques. Hands on dolphins may not be as far away as you think.

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