Evolution- Observations and Beliefs

We all know the story physical life has built up slowly on this earth. Its diversity now ranges from prokayotes to individuals possessing self-conscious creativity.

Out of those that believe in some form of evolution who would take issue with the very rough account that follows?
Life has its beginning in water. Multi-cellular life makes its appearance. The atmosphere changes in such a way as to allow animal life to evolve. Living creatures emerge from the water, moving over the land and breathing the air. At some point plants also spread out of the water and colonised the land. With animals came sentience and the development of individual consciousness. Possessing four limbs provided mobility while also allowing further development which gave a stable means of supporting the body. Organisms can then evolve in which these limbs are in a position to hold the body clear of the ground. Sentience develops to the stage where animals not only possess various sensations but they can also consciously communicate their inner feelings to others and make sense of the communication of others. The latest novel attributes of life are self consciousness and rational thinking. Humans not only communicate feelings but we can communicate objective thinking and are the most creative beings on the planet. We also have a modicum of free will which can be continuously developed over time. My account is beginning to contain details which, if people have any interest, a few might deem worth challenging.

Now it gets more controversial.

From our studies and research we see that nothing is static, everything is in some form of motion. Polarity is a fundamental feature of existence and becoming. I believe that in the living world we can recognise two poles. These can be thought of as matter and spirit. The material consists of the physical composition of organisms. I regard eating as an example of a physical process and rational thinking is an example of a spiritual process. The body is in the domain of matter and the mind in the domain of spirit. It could be argued that everything comes from matter or everything comes from spirit, or they are two sides of one process, but it might pay to take the time to simply observe and to think about what we observe and to resist the temptation to make snap judgements. Regarding physical nature, according to Goethe, we cannot force Nature to give up her secrets but if we approach with the right attitude her secrets will be revealed to us.

The world of our experience is a world of relationships which is a world of polarities. As we know these include positive and negative, left and right, up and down, growth and decay, summer and winter, life and death, light and darkness, hot and cold, night and day, expansion and contraction, male and female, and on and on.

Our material bodies give us an awareness of being separate entities but we are united in our rational thinking. Features of the material pole are such things as bodies, multiplicity, the constrictive force of gravity and solidity. This is the world of our senses, the ever changing world of Hericlitus. On the side of the spiritual pole there is mind, unity, levity, unrestricted expanse, and light. This relates to the oneness as understood by Parmenides. Parmenides was looking back at a primal unity which he took to be the source from whence we have sprung, Heraclitus brings us down to earth with his astute observations of the surrounding world. This polarity in thinking can be seen again in comparing the thoughts of Plato with those of Aristotle. As in Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’ Plato is pointing upwards towards the heavens and Aristotle has his hand depicted to represent a plane with the palm facing the earth. The Timaeus is concerned with creation from above and the Nicomachean Ethics deals with how we should live on earth. The polarity of past and future.

And looking to the future, the organisms that have the most control over their own individual destiny are humans. We humans have sense experiences in common with animals, but we alone have reason.

Life forms condensed and separated out of an aqueous environment. Today the more advanced life forms maintain an inner aqueous environment which is more isolated from and more independent of the outer environment. As Claude Bernard put it:

The stability of the internal environment [the milieu intérieur] is the condition for the free and independent life

Evolution is a path towards individual freedom. But in order to reach the stage where this freedom could be expressed the right balance between the two poles had to be maintained. Creatures which evolved in a one-sided,
exaggerated way in relation to the earthly pole would not become free in any meaningful way. They must remain bound to the earth. For example the dinosaurs in which the force of gravity had too big an effect could not progress any further in their evolution. Cetaceans rely on their water environment to become relatively free from the pull of gravity. They cannot escape from their lives under water.

From the spiritual pole, in relation to consciousness, the advanced life forms have a more concentrated, individual consciousness. For early more primal life consciousness was more instinctive and diffuse and was not focused within individual forms. Instinctive behaviour is shared consciousness in which organisms do not have any forms of self awareness. The progress from instinctive behaviour to individual learned behaviour is evidence of the concentration of consciousness into individuals.

Living forms are not just bags of chemicals, they are processes of becoming. Our age has instilled in us the concept of life as things. We talk of living beings and human beings as objects in space, when in actual fact we should be thinking in terms of living becomings and human becomings. Over and above existing as spacial beings we are beings in time. I am a process of a zygote becoming an embryo, becoming a child, becoming a man, becoming an old man. I am an instinctive individual, becoming a feeling individual, becoming a reasoning individual. So any self reflective being, (and I would say all of us here would claim to be such), can say to itself, “I am the past, the present and the future”.

To be a physical being is to live in the moment. To be a spiritual being is to live in the all. We share an animal nature in that we have desires. We have a spiritual nature in that we know and recognise that we have desires. We can rise above our desires in a way that animals cannot do. Like Goldilocks, the evolutionary path which has led to the form of the human has maintained the necessary balance. It is easy to point out many ways in which we humans are inferior to other species, but the reason that we have progressed this far by because we are average. We have arrived at this point via the middle path.

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81 thoughts on “Evolution- Observations and Beliefs

  1. Corneel.

    CharlieM: This is all down to individual human ingenuity. The reason that we perform so poorly as a species is because we are all individuals with our own personal agendas. And to overcome the chaos that we cause we need to cooperate with each other. But this has to be an individual decision. By becoming individuals we no longer have the luxury of the group wisdom that we see in other species.

    For someone so keen on individuality, you use an awful lot of “we”.

    I normally use ‘we’ as shorthand for ‘we humans’ or just ‘humans’.

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  2. Allan Miller:
    CharlieM,

    The point is in the punchline.

    Here is the punchline:

    “I don’t understand,” said the scientist, “why you lemmings all rush down to the sea and drown yourselves.”

    “How curious,” said the lemming. “The one thing I don’t understand is why you human beings don’t.”

    So you believe that lemmings understand why they act in the way they do? And not only that they study other species to try to understand why they do the things they do?

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  3. CharlieM: I normally use ‘we’ as shorthand for ‘we humans’ or just ‘humans’.

    I know.

    The point still stands.

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  4. CharlieM: So you believe that lemmings understand why they act in the way they do? And not only that they study other species to try to understand why they do the things they do?

    No. That is the conceit adopted to make the point, not the point.

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  5. Allan Miller:

    CharlieM: So you believe that lemmings understand why they act in the way they do? And not only that they study other species to try to understand why they do the things they do?

    No. That is the conceit adopted to make the point, not the point.

    And what about my point about human individuality?

    So in order for James Thurber to make his point he has to endow his lemming with the attributes of a human individual with opinions and the ability to communicate them.

    What point was he trying to make again? If it was humans as a species cannot claim the high ground, then I’ve already said I agree. So what are we arguing over?

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  6. Corneel:

    CharlieM: the attributes of a human individual

    Which human individual?

    “We humans” is not an individual

    An individual that would say, “You are an amazing animal”. The lemming said this speaking as an individual. Apart from fiction, the only creatures I know of that voice opinions like this are humans.

    If I was to say who I thought was the creature that was most responsible for polluting the planet, I would say we humans fit the bill. Here I am talking about humans in general.

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  7. CharlieM: I actually agree with the point Adams and you are trying to make. At the species level, the group level, most other species are smarter than us humans. But I’m not comparing group intelligence. The uniqueness of humans is in our individuality.

    Good grief.
    No, that is not the point I am making. And I am confident that it wasn’t Adams’s point either.
    Your continued waffling about how uniquely individualistic humans are, as compared with dolphins, represents a further, continuing, ongoing vindication of the point that I am trying to make (and, what I am pretty sure was Adams’s point).
    To wit:
    You are being anthropocentric in your thinking. Parochial, one could say. You reckon that wars and New York and digital wrist-watches are signs of intelligence. You have this view BECAUSE you are a human. Dolphins, hypothetically, reckon that mucking around in the water having a good time is the correct metric of intelligence, and humans underperform appallingly.
    Now you add to the hilarity by claiming that dolphins lack the individuality that humans display.
    I mean, based on WHAT?
    You can’t tell them apart?

    Thank you for demonstrating my point far better than I would have thought possible.

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  8. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: I actually agree with the point Adams and you are trying to make. At the species level, the group level, most other species are smarter than us humans. But I’m not comparing group intelligence. The uniqueness of humans is in our individuality.

    Good grief.
    No, that is not the point I am making. And I am confident that it wasn’t Adams’s point either.
    Your continued waffling about how uniquely individualistic humans are, as compared with dolphins, represents a further, continuing, ongoing vindication of the point that I am trying to make (and, what I am pretty sure was Adams’s point).
    To wit:
    You are being anthropocentric in your thinking. Parochial, one could say.

    Well I am human after all. How else would I think other than from a human perspective?

    You reckon that wars and New York and digital wrist-watches are signs of intelligence.

    Don’t you? I’m sure you are human too.

    You have this view BECAUSE you are a human.

    I have this view because I can see that all of the above have been designed for a purpose. If aliens were observing life on earth do you not think that they would see these things as signs of intelligence?

    Certainly my views come from a human perspective, because of my human awareness. But it is objectively obvious that humans study dolphins and mice with vastly greater thoroughness than dolphins or mice or any other animal study humans. Thank heavens that mice don’t subject humans to vivisection and forced exposure to harmful substances that humans have subjected mice to over the years.

    Mice and Rats in Laboratories

    More than 100 million mice and rats are killed in U.S. laboratories every year. They are abused in everything from toxicology tests (in which they are slowly poisoned to death) to painful burn experiments to psychological experiments that induce terror, anxiety, depression, and helplessness.

    Dolphins, hypothetically, reckon that mucking around in the water having a good time is the correct metric of intelligence, and humans underperform appallingly.

    I think you’ll find that there are plenty of humans who spend their time mucking around having a good time. The trouble with us humans is that we do not all fit in one box. variety is the spice of life. It can’t be easy having to catch fish every day of your life. I would say that it’s pretty hard work. Much easier to have them delivered by your local supermarket.

    How much human invention and manufacturing skills has gone into giving us an easier life? Laundry machines, remote controls, automatic doors, escalators, elevators, mechanical forms of transport, phones and computers, all to save us having to exert too much time and energy and to make life easier for us.

    Now you add to the hilarity by claiming that dolphins lack the individuality that humans display.
    I mean, based on WHAT?
    You can’t tell them apart?

    Based on the fact that even considering individual dolphins to have a few quirky habits, if you were to study a pod of dolphins over the generations, one individuals life story would be much like any other. Your won’t find a dolphin that has decided to become vegan, or maybe one has become unsatisfied with its performance and dreams of having a fluke enhancement.

    Do you think that dolphins are seen to behave as they do just for the benefit of the researchers who study them, but when humans aren’t looking they go off and act in ways that humans know nothing about?

    Using hands, humans have been known to communicate through sign language, knit, text, play a piano or a flute, perform a surgical operation, catch a ball, pilot an aircraft, read braille, use chop sticks, and swing from a trampoline. These are a few pursuits or abilities that select humans are capable of on an individual basis. They are not activities that every human can do. Can you provide a similar list of things that only select individual dolphins can do with their flippers?

    If dolphins the same level of individuality as humans surely this would be apparent in their behaviour.

    Thank you for demonstrating my point far better than I would have thought possible.

    You’re welcome.

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  9. CharlieM: An individual that would say, “You are an amazing animal”.

    Ah, you mean Bernard? Nice chap, very individual, that lad. Not nearly as individual as Millicent of course, but the important thing is that we humans, as a group, are much more individual than lemmings.

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  10. CharlieM: if you were to study a pod of dolphins over the generations, one individuals life story would be much like any other.

    Which dolphins? There are dozens of species.

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  11. Corneel:

    CharlieM: An individual that would say, “You are an amazing animal”.

    Ah, you mean Bernard? Nice chap, very individual, that lad.

    I wouldn’t have called Claude Bernard a nice chap. I obviously have never met the man being before my time, but I can’t see him as being a very nice man.

    Not nearly as individual as Millicent of course, but the important thing is that we humans, as a group, are much more individual than lemmings.

    Well yes. Within a group of humans there will be much more individuality in evidence than within a similar sized group of lemmings. Do you disagree?

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  12. Corneel:

    CharlieM: if you were to study a pod of dolphins over the generations, one individuals life story would be much like any other.

    Which dolphins? There are dozens of species.

    Good point. When studying creatures such as dolphins the centre of most interest lies at the species level. Researchers are mainly interested in the behaviour of the species as a whole.

    When studying humans, what is most interesting about them is their individuality.

    If you went to the library and opened up a book on say, Donald Trump, you would be disappointed if all that you read were things such as, he is a bipedal quadrupedal omnivore etc. What is of interest is the man as an individual.

    Even his diet comes under scrutiny.

    On the other hand (flipper) what can be said about the much nicer chap, Donald the dolphin? He eats fish. Well so do all his mates. In this case it is the diet of the species as a whole that is interesting.

    Come to think of it, maybe the world would be a better place if Donald the dolphin was given the job of leader of the free world. 🙂

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  13. CharlieM: Within a group of humans there will be much more individuality in evidence than within a similar sized group of lemmings. Do you disagree?

    That depends. Which individual humans are in that group?

    CharlieM: Good point. When studying creatures such as dolphins the centre of most interest lies at the species level. Researchers are mainly interested in the behaviour of the species as a whole.

    Are these human researchers, perchance?

    CharlieM: When studying humans, what is most interesting about them is their individuality.

    Not cultures? Not societies? Not differences between sexes?

    Isn’t the focus of studies in humans mostly on groups of humans?

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  14. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Within a group of humans there will be much more individuality in evidence than within a similar sized group of lemmings. Do you disagree?

    That depends. Which individual humans are in that group?

    And what about the lemmings? Does that depend on which individuals are in the group?

    CharlieM: Good point. When studying creatures such as dolphins the centre of most interest lies at the species level. Researchers are mainly interested in the behaviour of the species as a whole.

    Are these human researchers, perchance?

    Do you know of any other creatures whose members research their fellow creatures in such an individual way?

    CharlieM: When studying humans, what is most interesting about them is their individuality.

    Not cultures? Not societies? Not differences between sexes?

    Isn’t the focus of studies in humans mostly on groups of humans?

    Would you prefer to be defined as belonging to a certain race or nationality or sex, or do you prefer to be regarded as an individual regardless of these labels?

    Anthropologists can get lots of interesting facts about groups of people. But individuals can be studied and whole biographies can be written about them which are of equal interest.

    I’m sure that no individual lemming would care or object if what was written about one member of its group could be applied to it too. Would you care if what we know about Trump was said to apply to you too?

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  15. The Lesson Of The Lemming, as I see it, is to take a step outside and take an objective view of one’s own species’ traits. He juxtaposes our surprise at lemming suicide with the lemming’s view that it is perfectly natural and it’s rather odd not to do it. Of course he has to make the lemming self-aware and talkative, but Talking Individualistic Lemmings is not quite the issue. Which reminds me of a joke: sausage and egg in a pan, the egg says “crikey, it’s getting hot in here”, and the sausage says “fuck me, a talking egg!”.

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  16. CharlieM: And what about the lemmings? Does that depend on which individuals are in the group?

    Certainly, but you are still missing the point.

    CharlieM: Do you know of any other creatures whose members research their fellow creatures in such an individual way?

    Is it possible that the occasional interest for individual humans is caused by a general interest for conspecifics, rather than the lack of individuality in dolphins and such?

    CharlieM: Would you prefer to be defined as belonging to a certain race or nationality or sex, or do you prefer to be regarded as an individual regardless of these labels?

    Anthropologists can get lots of interesting facts about groups of people. But individuals can be studied and whole biographies can be written about them which are of equal interest.

    I’m sure that no individual lemming would care or object if what was written about one member of its group could be applied to it too. Would you care if what we know about Trump was said to apply to you too?

    Would you prefer all anthropological, sociological and biological research to focus on individuals only, ignoring culture, nationality, sex and even species altogether?

    No? Then maybe your or my preference is irrelevant.

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  17. Allan Miller:
    The Lesson Of The Lemming, as I see it, is to take a step outside and take an objective view of one’s own species’ traits. He juxtaposes our surprise at lemming suicide with the lemming’s view that it is perfectly natural and it’s rather odd not to do it. Of course he has to make the lemming self-aware and talkative, but Talking Individualistic Lemmings is not quite the issue. Which reminds me of a joke: sausage and egg in a pan, the egg says “crikey, it’s getting hot in here”, and the sausage says “fuck me, a talking egg!”.

    So what are your views on the relationships between individualism and species for various organisms, bacteria, fish, insects, vertebrates, primates or whatever?

    Would you say there is a trend leading to individualism?

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  18. Corneel: CharlieM: And what about the lemmings? Does that depend on which individuals are in the group?

    Certainly, but you are still missing the point.

    So where are the lemmings that stand out within the groups, and what can they be seen to have achieved? Do you think any of them know that they are rodents related to mice, or mammals related to humans? What objective fact about lemmings would possibly distinguish individual lemmings from their peers?

    If you don’t know any lemmings personally maybe you could look at the birds in your local vicinity, pick one species and tell me how you think any one individual is behaving in a way that makes it distinct.

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  19. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Do you know of any other creatures whose members research their fellow creatures in such an individual way?

    Is it possible that the occasional interest for individual humans is caused by a general interest for conspecifics, rather than the lack of individuality in dolphins and such?

    There are many naturalists who tag individual animals and spend a great deal of time studying them in depth. They all seem to live their lives doing what every other members of their species do. I know they can pick out individual dolphins by the markings on their fins.

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  20. Corneel:

    CharlieM: Would you prefer to be defined as belonging to a certain race or nationality or sex, or do you prefer to be regarded as an individual regardless of these labels?

    Anthropologists can get lots of interesting facts about groups of people. But individuals can be studied and whole biographies can be written about them which are of equal interest.

    I’m sure that no individual lemming would care or object if what was written about one member of its group could be applied to it too. Would you care if what we know about Trump was said to apply to you too?

    Would you prefer all anthropological, sociological and biological research to focus on individuals only, ignoring culture, nationality, sex and even species altogether?

    No? Then maybe your or my preference is irrelevant.

    Yes our preferences are irrelevant. The fact is that there are very many interesting details that can be written at all levels from the individual human to life as a whole. How much could be written about one lemming in the group that would distinguish it? Do you think that lemmings have a host of hidden individual traits that researchers would be unaware of? Does each lemming consciously plan for what it will do in the future?

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  21. Allan Miller: “fuck me, a talking egg!”.

    I had heard that one as two muffins in an oven, which seems more apposite as it adds the humorous dimension of Charlie’s total lack of self-awareness.
    But at least he;’s not guilty of anthropocentric thinking…

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  22. CharlieM: They all seem to live their lives doing what every other members of their species do.

    You really need to get out more. The local squirrels here have quite distinct “personalities”. [<– next up, Sapir-Whorf. LOL]

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  23. DNA_Jock: to Allan I had heard that one as two muffins in an oven, which seems more apposite as it adds the humorous dimension of Charlie’s total lack of self-awareness.
    But at least he;’s not guilty of anthropocentric thinking…

    Talking about self-awareness, I like Billy Connolly’s brilliant antropocentric take on it as it plays out on the African Savanna: when asked if it is a wildebeest, the wildebeest replies:

    Wildebeest! That’ll be right! I’m one them stripy things over there

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  24. DNA_Jock:

    CharlieM: They all seem to live their lives doing what every other members of their species do.

    You really need to get out more. The local squirrels here have quite distinct “personalities” [-next up, Sapir-Whorf. LOL]

    I agree that animals in groups have distinct attributes such as dominance and submissiveness. But would your perceived distinction be enough to fill the pages of a biography?

    We get red squirrels round here and they all behave the same as far as I can see. They live among the trees, all have the same diet, are very fast and fidgety and are very accomplished at moving at speed in the tree tops.

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  25. I agree that animals in groups have distinct attributes such as dominance and submissiveness. But would your perceived distinction be enough to fill the pages of a biography?

    We get red squirrels round here and they all behave the same as far as I can see. They live among the trees, all have the same diet, are very fast and fidgety and are very accomplished at moving at speed in the tree tops.

    Squirrels are easily complex enough to have distinct personalities. So are rats. Such differences are stone obvious in cats and dogs. I suppose humans are best equipped to detect differences among themselves, and we have developed an extensive vocabulary to describe them. But all we need is pets to see differences in other animals. Birds for sure, guinea pigs, yes, snakes–maybe.

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  26. Flint:

    I agree that animals in groups have distinct attributes such as dominance and submissiveness. But would your perceived distinction be enough to fill the pages of a biography?

    We get red squirrels round here and they all behave the same as far as I can see. They live among the trees, all have the same diet, are very fast and fidgety and are very accomplished at moving at speed in the tree tops.

    Squirrels are easily complex enough to have distinct personalities. So are rats. Such differences are stone obvious in cats and dogs. I suppose humans are best equipped to detect differences among themselves, and we have developed an extensive vocabulary to describe them. But all we need is pets to see differences in other animals. Birds for sure, guinea pigs, yes, snakes–maybe.

    Yes I agree that animals can and do have distinct personalities. But human individuality is on an entirely different level to this.

    As a child and adult I’ve had many ‘pets’ ranging from newts and slow worms to hamsters, budgies, cats and dogs. And I’d say that the level of individuality on display went up in roughly the order in which I have listed them. The birds and mammals could definitely be distinguished both in appearance and behaviour.

    In this piece they have written:

    As far as we can see, there is no significant difference in degree of individuality between earthworm and man, ant and monkey.

    I have to wonder how far they can see!

    Individuality distinguishes one member from another within the kind. The human individuals in a village could be studied along with an equivalent number of earthworms from the same village. Their daily lives could be studied and their mannerisms and activities noted. Does anyone really believe that match between the humans would be in any way equivalent to the match between earthworms?

    Comparing the lives of the humans would be an interesting experience. Comparing the lives of the earthworms would be tedious. (I would have said boring but that is what they do).

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  27. Allan Miller:
    “They All Look The Same To Me” – Chimp.

    Looks and behaviour are more closely related in animals than they are in humans. The physical appearance of a species can tell us a great deal about its lifestyle. This relationship is exceedingly less noticeable in humans.

    The appearance of a giant anteater gives us a good idea of its activities. Looking at a group of naked people would not tell us very much about what they got up to day by day. Although it might tell us what they’d like to get up to at that precise moment. 😉 😉

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  28. CharlieM,
    It’s a pity that you did not read and comprehend the whole paragraph from which you quoted the concluding sentence.

    It has often been remarked that the individuals of a human race with which one is unfamiliar look alike. This we always discover to be due to our failure to notice marked individual differences. As our familiarity with the type increases, these individual traits become increasingly obvious. Now precisely what is true in our experience with our fellow men is still more true of other types of organism. We note at first only the species or racial differences, or perhaps if they be equally conspicuous, certain age and sex differences, but as we continue to live with the organisms and to observe them carefully day by day, we come to appreciate those qualitative and quantitative peculiarities which constitute individuality. As far as we can see, there is no significant difference in degree of individuality between earthworm and man, ant and monkey.

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  29. DNA_Jock:
    CharlieM,
    It’s a pity that you did not read and comprehend the whole paragraph from which you quoted the concluding sentence.

    I did read it and I did understand what they were saying.

    As I’ve already said, I do not deny that there are individual differences. But as I have explained the creatures that demonstrate by far the greatest individuality are humans. And this can be studied quite objectively.

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