Author Topic: Zombie dogs in the lab  (Read 9062 times)

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Offline Ford Prefect

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Before I continue, I have to emphasize that anyone who responds to this must, must, must, read the whole thing, or the argument will be incomplete.
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Language isn't defined by vocal equipment, though; hence the whole sign language example.

To that end, I quote from this interview with Steven Pinker:
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A friend of mine lived and worked with a chimpanzee for several years, and tells the story of how the chimp loved to imitate things that she did. For example, after she washed the dishes the chimp would wash the dishes, but the chimp's idea of washing the dishes was very different from ours. It went through the same muscle movements; it would pick up the sponge, let the warm water roll over his hands, would rub the sponge on the plate, but didn't get the idea that the point of washing the dishes was to get the dishes clean.

It just liked the feel of rubbing a sponge over the plate. It could wash the same dish over and over again, it could rub some of the dirt off and not get all of it off, because what it was imitating was the particular physical sequence. What it didn't think about was what was the goal of the human performing the action. And the ability to guess what other people's goals are is a key part of human intelligence, and it makes us very different from our primate cousins.

That's a huge part of what makes us unique. It's that ability to process those extended sequences of cause/effect relationships far beyond the initial physical act, and no other animal has demonstrated that kind of ability. Chimps just don't "get it"; they can only imitate. There is no evidence that any of these so-called "made up" words were anything more than random motions.

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Actually, dolphins and whales communicate on a very complex manner. The frequency range and oscillations they use surpass by far our vocal capabilities..

In other words, the informational potential of their communication is far greater then ours. What they are saying to eachtoher is a mystey though...

B.t.w. - di you know that dolphins acutally have accents?
[/B]
1) Humans possess the ability to close off one portion of our throats, allowing us to produce sounds while exhaling without choking. This ability is unique to us, and it allows us to produce sounds that no other animal can.

2) Dolphins are physically unable build things, which right away removes much of the necessity for language and makes their coevolution of abilities fundamentally different from ours. In The Descent of Man, Darwin, much ahead of his time, described language as "an instinctive tendency to acquire an art". In other words, a child is not born knowing how to make or use tools, but is born with what Chomsky, and Pinker later on, would conclude is an instinctive desire to acquire the necessary information-- in other words, language. Dolphins have no instinctive need to learn these things because they are physically unable to do them in the first place.

3) Noam Chomsky demonstrated that a language cannot be simply a system of responses; it must have the ability to form an infinite number of sentences out of a finite number of words. All dolphins have demonstrated is the ability to communicate basic statements to one another in a code-- "We are in danger", or "I like you, let's have sex." Their system of communication is not infinitely flexible the way all human languages are. Thus, it can never be equal in complexity.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2005, 02:19:55 pm by 2015 »
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Offline Ghostavo

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*cough* about the language thing, Dolphins don't just produce the clicks to comunicate, they use a variety of mechanisms, one of which is the creation of bubbles of variable sizes and shapes. Let's see other animals do that.

Also, about the infinite number of sentences, unless there is an infinite number of words, there cannot be an infinite number of sentences, just a very large one.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2005, 03:15:07 pm by 1606 »
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Offline Ford Prefect

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Originally posted by Ghostavo
*cough* about the language thing, Dolphins don't just produce the clicks to comunicate, they use a variety of mechanisms, one of which is the creatiion of bubbles of variable sizes and shapes. Let's see other animals do that.
Their methods are irrelevant. My point still stands that this is nothing but code, regardless of the specific mechanism employed.

Also, about the infinite number of sentences, unless there is an infinite number of words, there cannot be an infinite number of sentences, just a very large one.
A language can form a theoretically infinite number of thoughts because it can constantly apply new definitions and connotations to the same words-- as well as modify the words themselves-- as new input presents itself.
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Offline Carl

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Offline aldo_14

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Originally posted by Ford Prefect

That's a huge part of what makes us unique. It's that ability to process those extended sequences of cause/effect relationships far beyond the initial physical act, and no other animal has demonstrated that kind of ability. Chimps just don't "get it"; they can only imitate. There is no evidence that any of these so-called "made up" words were anything more than random motions.


Unfortunately, it's also impossible to be 100% certain what they mean becaise of that intepretive problem (I think I already said that, though).  It's always difficult, IMO, to draw conclusions from imitational behaviour because the motivations for the imitation in themselves are interesting.  Like the chimp washing the dishes - does the chimp care about whether the dishes are clean?  After all, it's not a problem it's contemplated (I'd expect), and hence it 's possible that, were it of human level intelligence, it wouldn't 'see' that solution regardless.

The point I was making - trying to make - is that if a chimpanzee had this cognitive ability that humans do, it wouldn't necessarilly need a vocal language.  Unfortunately with only one language using animal in the world, it's hard to find standalone examplars, but I would still say that sign language is an - imperfect - example that you can communicate without vocals (here's a thought... did our word vocabulary develop before or after speech?).

Also, IMO language is a consequence of cognition, not the reverse.
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Offline Ghostavo

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No, there are limited numbers of words, therefore it cannot have infinite number of sentences, just really large numbers of sentences -> Combinations Theory.

I presented a situation where dolphins use a method to communicate that humans don't have, in response to your:

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1) Humans possess the ability to close off one portion of our throats, allowing us to produce sounds while exhaling without choking. This ability is unique to us, and it allows us to produce sounds that no other animal can.


So you pretty much threw that away in your response to mine.

In another matter what they DO communicate is as vague as the definition of inteligence, how do you know that they are saying?

You cannot, you may find meaning into it, but if you were to analyse the patterns of a human conversation you could also find meaning into it, even if you didn't know exactly what they were saying.
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Offline Ford Prefect

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Originally posted by Ghostavo
No, there are limited numbers of words, therefore it cannot have infinite number of sentences, just really large numbers of sentences -> Combinations Theory.

I presented a situation where dolphins use a method to communicate that humans don't have, in response to your:
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Humans possess the ability to close off one portion of our throats, allowing us to produce sounds while exhaling without choking. This ability is unique to us, and it allows us to produce sounds that no other animal can.

So you pretty much threw that away in your response to mine.

In another matter what they DO communicate is as vague as the definition of inteligence, how do you know that they are saying?

You cannot, you may find meaning into it, but if you were to analyse the patterns of a human conversation you could also find meaning into it, even if you didn't know exactly what they were saying. [/B]

My statement regarding humans' ability to produce sounds was a response to TrashMan's assertion that dolphins possess a greater physical potential for communication than humans do, and does not concern the other arguments I made in that post.

Okay, you want to split hairs, I see. If you take a snapshot of a language at any given moment, then you are correct, a language cannot form a literally infinite number of sentences. However, a language is a dynamic entity of sorts, and it is constantly modifying itself as the universe supplies new input. In that sense, a language's potential is, for all intents and purposes, infinite.
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Originally posted by aldo_14
Unfortunately, it's also impossible to be 100% certain what they mean becaise of that intepretive problem (I think I already said that, though). It's always difficult, IMO, to draw conclusions from imitational behaviour because the motivations for the imitation in themselves are interesting. Like the chimp washing the dishes - does the chimp care about whether the dishes are clean? After all, it's not a problem it's contemplated (I'd expect), and hence it 's possible that, were it of human level intelligence, it wouldn't 'see' that solution regardless.
If the chimp possessed our intelligence, it would also have the social prowess to work towards the same goal even if the goal is not in and of itself significant to the chimp. And I cannot believe that a species that has evolved in the same environment as ours would not be able to recognize the pattern of dirty dishes becoming clean through this basic process.

The point I was making - trying to make - is that if a chimpanzee had this cognitive ability that humans do, it wouldn't necessarilly need a vocal language. Unfortunately with only one language using animal in the world, it's hard to find standalone examplars, but I would still say that sign language is an - imperfect - example that you can communicate without vocals (here's a thought... did our word vocabulary develop before or after speech?).
All evidence from human evolution shows language to be the only way a species can expand its own potential within a single generation. And without this rapidity of evolution, there is no reason to believe that a species could reach the level of sophistication we have achieved. Do we know for certain? Of course not. But then again, there is very little we do know for certain.

Also, IMO language is a consequence of cognition, not the reverse.
The two feed each other. It does seem that a certain level of sophistication is necessary before language can exist. I believe it's mentioned in the interview I cited that a species must have something to "talk about" before it starts talking. However, linguists now believe that the emergence of language greatly expanded our cognitive abilities, because it gave us a medium through which abstract thought could exist-- abstract thought that cannot exist without words to describe it first. It's a chicken/egg sort of scenerio.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2005, 04:13:56 pm by 2015 »
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Online TrashMan

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My whole point is they way you decide wich one is better (or higher)

YOU decide the criteria..

biggest brains.. HAHAHA humanz win! We rulez!

What is better?


oh..about the chimp washing the dishes thing:

How do you know the chimp doesn't get it? Maby it doesn't care' Maby it doesn't WANT to clean dishes?
How does that prove or disprove anytihing?

I can very well go and mimich a dog and pee on a tree.. Does it have the smae meaning for me and the dog? nope.. Would the dog consider me dumb? probably...
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Offline Ford Prefect

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How do you know the chimp doesn't get it? Maby it doesn't care' Maby it doesn't WANT to clean dishes?
How does that prove or disprove anytihing?

Read my response to that exact same argument in the post before yours. It is an anecdote that is illustrative of a larger concept.
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Offline redsniper

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you know why a dog pees on a tree but a chimp doesn't know why we scrub dishes.
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Offline Bobboau

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about dolphins, I don't think we have determined exactly what is going on with them, it's posable that they have the languge skills being discussed, but it sure as hell hasn't been proven, or even likely at this point.

just a little uncomfortable with the level of certanty being used by everyone here.
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Offline Ford Prefect

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I think a great degree of certainty is warranted in this case. There are linguistic reasons why dolphin communication is not language, while, as you said, there is no evidence that it is.

I think Chomsky put it best: "Humans can fly about 30 feet -- that's what they do in the Olympics.... Is that flying? The question is totally meaningless. In fact the analogy to flying is misleading because when humans fly 30 feet, the organs they're using are kind of homologous to the ones that chickens and eagles use."
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Offline Sandwich

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Originally posted by Nico


I'm sure a sponge could voice its opinion, it'd share the same as you, Bob :p "hint hint"


Albeit with significantly better spelling, I'd wager. :D
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Offline Ghostavo

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Okay, you want to split hairs, I see. If you take a snapshot of a language at any given moment, then you are correct, a language cannot form a literally infinite number of sentences. However, a language is a dynamic entity of sorts, and it is constantly modifying itself as the universe supplies new input. In that sense, a language's potential is, for all intents and purposes, infinite.


So in your opinion, human population is infinite? It's constantly modifying itself and growing...
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Offline Bobboau

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well is it fineite? a specific number, or could you always put on just one more?
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Offline Ghostavo

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Originally posted by Bobboau
well is it fineite? a specific number, or could you always put on just one more?


:confused:

Number in R + 1 = number in R

Infinite != number in R
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Offline aldo_14

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Originally posted by Ford Prefect
If the chimp possessed our intelligence, it would also have the social prowess to work towards the same goal even if the goal is not in and of itself significant to the chimp. And I cannot believe that a species that has evolved in the same environment as ours would not be able to recognize the pattern of dirty dishes becoming clean through this basic process.


But why would a chimp want clean dishes?  (or more specifically want to work to the same goal as a human person; if it gets enjoyment out of the tactile feeling, is that any more an invalid goal?)

  I'm not suggestin a chimp is anywhere near human intelligence (I think I said this before), but if it was there's not a reason to suppose this would be a goal of relevance.  It's proven that apes can problem solve, to a certain limited degree of course, but dirty dishes is probably not a problem that they would be 'wired' to solve, because cleanliness is part of human society (as such that's probably a bit of evidence for the importance of language, etc; I don't think humans are biologically coded to value cleanliness to the sort of degree that society does).

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Originally posted by Ford Prefect
All evidence from human evolution shows language to be the only way a species can expand its own potential within a single generation. And without this rapidity of evolution, there is no reason to believe that a species could reach the level of sophistication we have achieved. Do we know for certain? Of course not. But then again, there is very little we do know for certain.


That doesn't invalidate the concept of non-vocal language, though.  I'd bet that if you could form a conceptual interlingua of human thought it would be possible to devise other communication methods carrying that same detail.  They wouldn't be natural to us as a species, and they might not be biologically possible in some ways (such as via heavy use of body language), of course, but I think it's possible.

Conceptual interlingua is basically what I meant by whether vocabulary evolved before, or after speech 'began' (most likely during, of course); I think the concepts would come before the language came along to express them.

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Originally posted by Ford Prefect
The two feed each other. It does seem that a certain level of sophistication is necessary before language can exist. I believe it's mentioned in the interview I cited that a species must have something to "talk about" before it starts talking. However, linguists now believe that the emergence of language greatly expanded our cognitive abilities, because it gave us a medium through which abstract thought could exist-- abstract thought that cannot exist without words to describe it first. It's a chicken/egg sort of scenerio.
 


Oh, I have no doubt they feed off each other; I just differ in my opinion of which 'fed first'.  I'm not saying we would have developed our cognitive abilities fully before developing language, nor vice versa.  Like you said, chicken & the egg.
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Now go and read this signature again.

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Offline aldo_14

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