The arrival of individual self consciousness.

Either the gentle arousal of sleeping beauty or disturbing a sleeping dragon, which is it?

The part:
An individual human could not become a self-reflective, thinking adult without the necessary bodily systems, processes and organs which comprise the whole organism.

The whole:
Earthly life could not reach a stage in which individual organisms become self-reflective, rational thinking beings without the forms of life which develop in a way that comprises the vast supporting structure that allow these few seeds of nascent self-aware consciousness to spring from the living earth. Life on earth is one self-regulating body while humanity provides the mind within that body.

The majority of earthly life forms only developed so far along the path, some along ever narrowing, one-sided branches, while the balance of the whole is ever maintained. The  one-sided nature of some creatures is obvious. Giant pandas being a classic example. The hoof of a horse, the wing of an albatross, the middle finger of an aye-aye, are all much more specialised than the human hand. Ideally suited to their specific tasks. But this speciality becomes a hindrance to further novelty.

 

Like pacemakers in a race, various creatures forego their own advancement to give an outcome which was destined in the long run. And to achieve this outcome whereby nature can look upon herself with a spark of understanding, self-conscious individuals are a necessity. The sleeping beauty that is nature begins to wake up. Or has the dragon been poked with a stick?

 

The ubiquitous instinctive wisdom of nature which has been in control since physical life began is handing over its power to the still ripening human wisdom. And of course there is no guarantee that the newly sapient creatures that we are will be up to the task of handling this new found power responsibly. Adolescents can be unpredictable when they encounter novel freedom before they have gained the experience to deal with it.

 

Our minds are our exception within nature. And human exceptionalism rightly regarded is a privilege granted us by nature. It is not something for us to boast about; we did not get here by means of our own efforts. We did not wake of our own accord. This is a responsibility which was thrust upon us and we are now left in a position where we have a great deal of control over the destiny of earthly life. Will we gain sufficient maturity to enhance life or are we the seeds of earthly destruction?

 

The future will determine if our efforts turn out to be praiseworthy. We can claim no credit for getting to this point. Will we be considered worthy of credit for what follows? We haven’t made the best of starts but who would have expected otherwise.

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162 thoughts on “The arrival of individual self consciousness.

  1. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: I am flattered that my nonsense is linked to the nonsense of that “wisest” of the Oxford Inklings, Owen Barfield

    Alan Fox: It might have been better for Barfield if he’d never come across Steiner.

    I doubt if he would have agreed with you. He lived a very long and as far as I know happy life.

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  2. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: Do you think that the isolated tribes you speak about will be able to survive in their own niches unchanged by the onslaught of the modern world?

    Alan Fox: Left alone, yes. Unless climate change, pollution, habitat loss interferes.

    I have to disagree.

    From The Guardian, 2019:
    “In November, on an obscure island in the Indian Ocean, Chau – a 26-year-old American adventure blogger, beef-jerky marketer, and evangelical missionary – was killed by the isolated tribe he was attempting to convert to Christianity”

    I’m sure in the future there will be other idiots like him who will manage to pass on some infectious, covid like disease before they are dispatched, and that will be enough to finish the islanders off.

    CharlieM: Even if we were to do our best to help them maintain their isolated existence, eventually the younger generations within those communities would want a piece of the world ‘out there’ for themselves and their isolated way of life would become a thing of the past.

    Alan Fox: How do you know this? There doesn’t appear to be any effort by youngsters to break out from North Sentinel Island

    I’m just thinking of the possibilities. Like you say how would we know either way. But we do know that it’s human nature to explore unknown places. I think that in the future there probably will be some budding Christopher Columbus or two living there gazing out at the ocean and curiosity will get the better of them.

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  3. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: Are you prepared to argue that giant pandas are not more specialized than humans? That there are various levels of specialization among organisms? Maybe we could start from a point of agreement. If we were to partition animals into two groups, generalists and specialists, I presume you would agree with me that humans would fall within the generalists and giant pandas would fall within the specialists?

    Kantian Naturalist: No, I wouldn’t accept that.

    Your logic here confuses me.

    From this Biology Dictionary

    “Examples of Niche
    Pandas
    Giant panda bears (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are niche specialists. They have a very limited diet, 99% of which consists of bamboo. They have evolved specially adapted thumbs, which allow them to grip the bamboo. Bamboo does not provide much nutrition, and so the pandas must spend most of their time eating, consuming around 70lbs of bamboo every day to support their large bodies…

    Because the niche of pandas is so specialized, they are exceptionally vulnerable to human impact and their populations have experienced dramatic declines.”

    What evidence can you produce against this?

    What are your views on anthropogenic global warming? The entire globe is a pretty wide ‘niche’ to be in.

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  4. And your anthropocentrism amuses me, Charlie. Still, after all these years…

    Since it went straight over your head, my allusion to digital wristwatches (complete with Douglas Adams link!) was a gentle way of pointing out that your list of amazing human achievements

    ships, trains, cars, aircraft, rockets and satellites: refined fossil fuels, virtually indestructible plastics, kevlar, polluted atmospheres and oceans: and the world wide web, radio communication, mobile phones: and artificial body organs, IVF. organ transplants: musical instruments, self portraits, digital photography, movies, works of fiction, Donald Trump’s hair:

    is a delightful demonstration of how parochial you are.
    You really do remind me of Warty Bliggens.

    If I were to “partition animals into two groups, generalists and specialists”, then humans would be in with the specialists,
    [beat]
    what with their pathetic dependence on oxygen, ‘n’all.

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  5. CharlieM: My advice would be if you want to take more than a cursory glance at Steiner’s work, stick to his basic books.

    Steiner on bees was a ludicrous anthropomorphic diatribe. I’ve given authors the benefit of the doubt on starting reading hoping for better. I’ve never had it happen. In my experience, bad authors don’t get better having started badly.

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  6. CharlieM: The entire globe is a pretty wide ‘niche’ to be in.

    That’s not what a niche is. It’s the immediate essential environment. For some creatures, it’s the interior of your eyelash follicle.

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  7. CharlieM: I doubt if he would have agreed with you. He lived a very long and as far as I know happy life.

    Not what I meant. Barfield’s admiration for Steiner led his philosophical career and reputation into the weeds.

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  8. I’m interested in the question, “is Homo sapiens less dependent on its ecological niche than other species?”

    And how we answer this question very much depends on what we take the ecological niche of Homo sapiens to be.

    Kim Sterelny (in The Evolved Apprentice) argues that the Homo niche is a constructed niche — one that is built through the actions of the organisms ‘occupying’ it. (Beaver dams are a classical example.) Sterelny suggests that the constructed Homo niche is “obligate cooperative foraging”. In Homo species (from what we can tell) each and every individual makes a distinct contribution to the provisioning of the group. In Homo sapiens hunter-gatherers this involves significant differentiation of tasks, skills, and abilities.

    The course of Homo evolution strongly indicates, through consilience over various lines of evidence, that language, technology, and culture evolved in order to facilitate obligate cooperative foraging.

    This suggests to me that we should think of language, culture, and technology as our ecological niche — and that we are as dependent on language, culture, and technology as a giant panda is on bamboo.

    We have not ‘escaped’ our niche as we have spread around the planet, killing off millions of species of plants and animals in the process — we bring our niche with us wherever we go.

    +1
  9. DNA_Jock: And your anthropocentrism amuses me, Charlie. Still, after all these years…

    Glad to bring some cheer in these dark times 🙂

    Since it went straight over your head, my allusion to digital wristwatches (complete with Douglas Adams link!) was a gentle way of pointing out that your list of amazing human achievements

    “ships, trains, cars, aircraft, rockets and satellites: refined fossil fuels, virtually indestructible plastics, kevlar, polluted atmospheres and oceans: and the world wide web, radio communication, mobile phones: and artificial body organs, IVF. organ transplants: musical instruments, self portraits, digital photography, movies, works of fiction, Donald Trump’s hair:”

    is a delightful demonstration of how parochial you are.
    You really do remind me of Warty Bliggens.

    So you’ve said in the past. Good old Warty Biggins. Reminds me of people who think that there are no more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science]

    If I were to “partition animals into two groups, generalists and specialists”, then humans would be in with the specialists,
    [beat]
    what with their pathetic dependence on oxygen, ‘n’all.

    So your criteria is that any animal that depends on oxygen is a specialist? Then all free-living multicellular organisms are specialists. Is that what you believe? That doesn’t leave much room for generalists.

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  10. DNA_Jock:
    And your anthropocentrism amuses me, Charlie. Still, after all these years…

    Glad to be of some cheer in these dark times. 🙂

    Since it went straight over your head, my allusion to digital wristwatches (complete with Douglas Adams link!) was a gentle way of pointing out that your list of amazing human achievements

    CharlieM: “ships, trains, cars, aircraft, rockets and satellites: refined fossil fuels, virtually indestructible plastics, kevlar, polluted atmospheres and oceans: and the world wide web, radio communication, mobile phones: and artificial body organs, IVF. organ transplants: musical instruments, self portraits, digital photography, movies, works of fiction, Donald Trump’s hair.”

    is a delightful demonstration of how parochial you are.
    You really do remind me of Warty Bliggens.

    So you have told me in the past. Good old Warty Biggins. Speaking of narrow, self-centred outlooks, reminds me of people who think that there are no more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science].

    If I were to “partition animals into two groups, generalists and specialists”, then humans would be in with the specialists,
    [beat]
    what with their pathetic dependence on oxygen, ‘n’all.

    Using dependence on oxygen as a criterion would place all free-living multicellular organisms as specialists. That is a very large category. Is that really what you believe?

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  11. Kantian Naturalist: We have not ‘escaped’ our niche as we have spread around the planet, killing off millions of species of plants and animals in the process — we bring our niche with us wherever we go.

    Exactly.

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  12. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: My advice would be if you want to take more than a cursory glance at Steiner’s work, stick to his basic books.

    Alan Fox: Steiner on bees was a ludicrous anthropomorphic diatribe. I’ve given authors the benefit of the doubt on starting reading hoping for better. I’ve never had it happen. In my experience, bad authors don’t get better having started badly

    You do realize that these were spoken lectures meant for a specific audience, transcribed and translated?

    I would say that you made a wise decision to put it aside and ignore it. You would have gained nothing positive from further reading.

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  13. CharlieM: That is a very large category.

    In relation to the completely unkown situation in the rest of the universe? I’m looking forward to Perserverance drilling into Martian lakebed sediments. That would be data point number two.

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  14. CharlieM: You do realize that these were spoken lectures meant for a specific audience, transcribed and translated?

    Now you mention it, I think that was the case for the treatise on bees. I’ll have a look to see if I still have it but I think it went to in a box to the charity book exchange.

    ETA gone!

    ETA2

    top review :

    Great book. While I tend to be a practical, scientific-minded person ( I am a mathematician ) I enjoyed this perspective on bees. Steiner uses his philosophy of anthropomorphism, which basically states all living beings have a ‘soul’ that connects them, to explain much about bee behavior and importance. While much now can be explained by science, it doesn’t mean his conclusions are wrong. His insights are gems for beekeepers, and will help others understand what is happening with bees today.

    https://www.amazon.com/Bees-CW-351-Rudolf-Steiner/dp/0880104570

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  15. While much now can be explained by science, it doesn’t mean his conclusions are wrong.

    I love this!

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  16. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: The entire globe is a pretty wide ‘niche’ to be in.

    Alan Fox: That’s not what a niche is. It’s the immediate essential environment. For some creatures, it’s the interior of your eyelash follicle

    If you regard niches as applying to populations, how would you describe the niche that is the interior of my eyelash compared to, say, the niche that is the small town I live in, or the one that is more familiar to you, your locality?

    Humans are exceptional in our greater freedom with regard to niches. Modern culture has allowed me to choose what I eat from a great variety of foods, travel and settle in a habitat of my choosing. I can be as much of a generalist or a specialist as I choose to be in a variety of spheres.

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  17. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: I doubt if he would have agreed with you. He lived a very long and as far as I know happy life.

    Alan Fox: Not what I meant. Barfield’s admiration for Steiner led his philosophical career and reputation into the weeds

    Nonetheless he had a very productive life and it didn’t stop him being invited to the USA as a visiting professor.

    I wouldn’t say that I have a very favourable reputation with the majority of posters here but that’s the way I like it. Gives me plenty to think about.

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  18. CharlieM: If you regard niches as applying to populations, how would you describe the niche that is the interior of my eyelash compared to, say, the niche that is the small town I live in, or the one that is more familiar to you, your locality?

    Smaller – but to a demodex, your eyelash follicle seems pretty big.

    Demodex

    (By © Palopoli et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2014, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94794912)

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  19. CharlieM: Nonetheless he had a very productive life and it didn’t stop him being invited to the USA as a visiting professor.

    I know Lewis and Tolkien thought well of Barfield. But they are all of an age, class, and long-lost empire.

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  20. Alan Fox:

    I’m sure noone doubts that giant pandas’ survival is crucially linked to the survival of their only food source and, I speculate, their gut flora. I wonder if bamboo benefit at all (seed spreading, perhaps) from being eaten by pandas.

    ETA

    https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30395-1

    Seems adaptations to bamboo consumption are more superficial than expected.

    I’m not sure what you are trying to demonstrate with that link? All it shows is that an extreme specialist can get its full compliment of dietary needs from its limited food source than an omnivore gets from its food. That does not alter the fact that the panda’s evolutionary journey from generalist to narrow specialist has had a detrimental effect the future survival of the species.

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  21. CharlieM: ’m not sure what you are trying to demonstrate with that link? All it shows is that an extreme specialist can get its full compliment of dietary needs from its limited food source than an omnivore gets from its food.

    All it shows? There’s a wealth of information in there. What surprised me was how far back was the separation from the rest of Ursidae and yet the adaptations to a herbivorous diet are more to do with mastication than fermentation. Indeed, pandas apparently will still take carrion etc opportunistically. Also the sesamoid adaptation is also found in spectacled bears. Lots of other interesting stuff.

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  22. CharlieM: That does not alter the fact that the panda’s evolutionary journey from generalist to narrow specialist has had a detrimental effect the future survival of the species.

    Sweeping conclusion. Evolution is slow; any rapid change to the niche an organism is adapted to spells trouble.

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  23. Kantian Naturalist: I’m interested in the question, “is Homo sapiens less dependent on its ecological niche than other species?”

    Me too.

    Kantian Naturalist: And how we answer this question very much depends on what we take the ecological niche of Homo sapiens to be.

    Kim Sterelny (in The Evolved Apprentice) argues that the Homo niche is a constructed niche — one that is built through the actions of the organisms ‘occupying’ it. (Beaver dams are a classical example.) Sterelny suggests that the constructed Homo niche is “obligate cooperative foraging”. In Homo species (from what we can tell) each and every individual makes a distinct contribution to the provisioning of the group. In Homo sapiens hunter-gatherers this involves significant differentiation of tasks, skills, and abilities.

    I think it is important, when talking about niches, in distinguishing to what, to where and to when the term ‘niche’ is referring to. Just compare the realised niches and dietary niches of humans and giant pandas and it is clear to see that these niches are so much narrower in pandas.

    Kantian Naturalist: The course of Homo evolution strongly indicates, through consilience over various lines of evidence, that language, technology, and culture evolved in order to facilitate obligate cooperative foraging.

    That’s a very teleological position. Would that be in like manner to that of a bird building a nest in order to facilitate the safe environment for the eggs that will be deposited in the future? Language, technology, and culture evolved for the reason of allowing humans to forage in groups.

    Kantian Naturalist: This suggests to me that we should think of language, culture, and technology as our ecological niche — and that we are as dependent on language, culture, and technology as a giant panda is on bamboo.

    :Language, culture, and technology can cover a very large range of more specific niches and there are probably additional factors. How would you break down the dietary niche of eating ‘bamboo’ into multiple niches of giant pandas.

    What about the proposed unique niche position of humans in which they are designated as generalist/specialist?

    See here
    “Being a generalist specialist, a unique niche, is the hallmark of our species, say researchers.

    Some animals are jacks of all trades, some masters of one. Homo sapiens, argues a provocative new commentary, are an evolutionary success story because our ancestors pulled off a unique feat: being masterly jacks of all trades. But is this ecological niche, the generalist specialist, the real reason our species is the last hominin standing?”

    and here:
    “Abstract
    Definitions of our species as unique within the hominin clade have tended to focus on differences in capacities for symbolism, language, social networking, technological competence and cognitive development. More recently, however, attention has been turned towards humans’ unique ecological plasticity. Here, we critically review the growing archaeological and palaeo-environmental datasets relating to the Middle–Late Pleistocene (300–12 thousand years ago) dispersal of our species within and beyond Africa. We argue, based on comparison with the available information for other members of the genus Homo, that our species developed a new ecological niche, that of the ‘generalist specialist’. Not only did it occupy and utilize a diversity of environments, but it also specialized in its adaptation to some of these environmental extremes. Understanding this ecological niche provides a framework for discussing what it means to be human and how our species became the last surviving hominin on the planet.”

    We have not ‘escaped’ our niche as we have spread around the planet, killing off millions of species of plants and animals in the process — we bring our niche with us wherever we go.

    The problem is that ‘our niche’ is so multifaceted between time periods, populations, and individuals that to talk about it as a single entity is highly misleading.

    The number of different niches that can be attributed to humans at this present time is countless.

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  24. Alan Fox: Kantian Naturalist: We have not ‘escaped’ our niche as we have spread around the planet, killing off millions of species of plants and animals in the process — we bring our niche with us wherever we go.

    Alan Fox: Exactly

    And exactly what is this niche that all the humans on earth share? What dietary niche do we all share? What trophic niche? What cultural niche?

    Of course we cannot escape our niche if the said niche is defined as that which we are active in. How and why would the population of China want to escape from the language they use? Why would all the people or any single culture wish to stop communicating with each other? Of course for individuals this could be a different story.

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  25. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: That is a very large category.

    Alan Fox: In relation to the completely unkown situation in the rest of the universe? I’m looking forward to Perserverance drilling into Martian lakebed sediments. That would be data point number two

    Do you take the human niche to encompass activity on mars and beyond? It would be meaningless to talk about escaping from our niche when the niche includes that which we actively produce.

    All the human technology that has been sent into space expands the range of our niche accordingly.

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  26. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: You do realize that these were spoken lectures meant for a specific audience, transcribed and translated?

    Alan Fox: Now you mention it, I think that was the case for the treatise on bees. I’ll have a look to see if I still have it but I think it went to in a box to the charity book exchange.

    I bought the book years ago and I still have it.

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  27. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: If you regard niches as applying to populations, how would you describe the niche that is the interior of my eyelash compared to, say, the niche that is the small town I live in, or the one that is more familiar to you, your locality?

    Alan Fox: Smaller – but to a demodex, your eyelash follicle seems pretty big.

    Demodex

    (By © Palopoli et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2014, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94794912)

    Smaller! Is that it?

    No mention of all the human activity that was instrumental in constructing the town, All the goods that are constantly being delivered to the town for all around the world. The constant communication between the people in the town those they are in contact with, the transport network to, from, and around the town, the cooperation and involvement of the various people required in the likes of the construction of new buildings. Need I go on?

    What activities can we ascribe to demodex apart from moving around, eating and having sex?

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  28. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: Nonetheless he had a very productive life and it didn’t stop him being invited to the USA as a visiting professor.

    Alan Fox: I know Lewis and Tolkien thought well of Barfield. But they are all of an age, class, and long-lost empire.

    Barfield didn’t die ’till the end of 1997, it’s not that long ago.

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  29. Alan Fox
    CharlieM: ’m not sure what you are trying to demonstrate with that link? All it shows is that an extreme specialist can get its full compliment of dietary needs from its limited food source than an omnivore gets from its food.

    Alan Fox: All it shows? There’s a wealth of information in there. What surprised me was how far back was the separation from the rest of Ursidae and yet the adaptations to a herbivorous diet are more to do with mastication than fermentation. Indeed, pandas apparently will still take carrion etc opportunistically. Also the sesamoid adaptation is also found in spectacled bears. Lots of other interesting stuff

    I agree it is all extremely interesting but it doesn’t detract from the fact that giant pandas occupy a very specialized niche.

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  30. CharlieM: I think it is important, when talking about niches, in distinguishing to what, to where and to when the term ‘niche’ is referring to.

    It might help to compare definitions. Here’s one I found that works for me:

    An ecological niche describes how a species interacts with, and lives in, its habitat. Ecological niches have specific characteristics, such as availability of nutrients, temperature, terrain, sunlight and predators, which dictate how, and how well, a species survives and reproduces. A species carves out a niche for itself in a habitat by being able to adapt and diverge from other species. Modern-day ecologists study ecological niches in terms of the impact the species has on its environment, as well as the species’ requirements.

    From here

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  31. CharlieM: The number of different niches that can be attributed to humans at this present time is countless.

    Did you miss KN referring to niche construction. Since humans came to live in larger than family social groups we have been masters of niche construction. We no longer adapt to the enviroment, we change the environment to suit us. The needs of us humans fall within a narrow range of food and air requirements, temperature and so on. We have central heating, air conditioning, kitchens and freezers, shops and factories. Living at the South Pole involves warm housing, warm clothing and a stock of supplies. We haven’t adapted to living at the South Pole; we’ve constructed a niche.

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  32. CharlieM: Barfield didn’t die ’till the end of 1997, it’s not that long ago.

    Born in 1898. I still think Tolkien and Lewis yearned for a lost age. Both Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books hark back to an age of chivalry.

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  33. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: That does not alter the fact that the panda’s evolutionary journey from generalist to narrow specialist has had a detrimental effect the future survival of the species.

    Alan Fox: Sweeping conclusion. Evolution is slow; any rapid change to the niche an organism is adapted to spells trouble

    I think it’s safe to say that giant pandas are more likely to go extinct in the not too distant future than are many of the other members of the bear family such as black bears with their varied diet and wide range of habitat.

    Rapid changes are far more likely to occur in narrow ranges of habitat.

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  34. ROFL
    Charlie opines

    CharlieM: I think it is important, when talking about niches, in distinguishing to what, to where and to when the term ‘niche’ is referring to.

    then proceeds to equivocate multiple (very non-standard) uses of the word “niche”.
    Charlie, I recommend that you do not use the word “niche”. Instead, try to describe, in your own words, what you are trying to convey. I don’t expect it will help any, since the message seems to be simply “Charlie thinks humans are super-duper special”.
    You do realize that our constructed niche is overly complicated and therefore horrendously fragile. Check out Texas.
    We have covered your various baroque arguments for (modern) human exceptionalism previously.
    ETfix link

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  35. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: I think it is important, when talking about niches, in distinguishing to what, to where and to when the term ‘niche’ is referring to.

    Alan Fox: It might help to compare definitions. Here’s one I found that works for me:

    An ecological niche describes how a species interacts with, and lives in, its habitat. Ecological niches have specific characteristics, such as availability of nutrients, temperature, terrain, sunlight and predators, which dictate how, and how well, a species survives and reproduces. A species carves out a niche for itself in a habitat by being able to adapt and diverge from other species. Modern-day ecologists study ecological niches in terms of the impact the species has on its environment, as well as the species’ requirements.

    From here

    That’s okay for general definition.

    But it shouldn’t be forgotten that within the general definition there are species niches, habitat niches, dietary niches, fundamental niches, realised niches, potential niches, social niches, individualized niches, population niches, trophic niches, cultural niches, Grinnellian niches, Eltonian niches, Hutchinsonian niches, non-standard niches, empty niches, genotype niches, ontogenetic niches, climatic niches and ancestral niches.

    Well they are the ones I’ve found online so far. 🙂

    For those who like mathematics George Hutchinson defined a niche as an n-dimensional hypervolume.

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  36. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: The number of different niches that can be attributed to humans at this present time is countless.

    Alan Fox: Did you miss KN referring to niche construction. Since humans came to live in larger than family social groups we have been masters of niche construction. We no longer adapt to the environment, we change the environment to suit us. The needs of us humans fall within a narrow range of food and air requirements, temperature and so on. We have central heating, air conditioning, kitchens and freezers, shops and factories. Living at the South Pole involves warm housing, warm clothing and a stock of supplies. We haven’t adapted to living at the South Pole; we’ve constructed a niche

    And that is the crux of the matter. Evolution has advanced beyond physical differentiation of organisms finding their niches and constructing new niches. Now niches are being fashioned by human, rational mental activity. Nature is being altered by conscious means. Constructing local environments in the Antarctic is just the very thin end of the wedge.

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  37. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: Barfield didn’t die ’till the end of 1997, it’s not that long ago.

    Alan Fox: Born in 1898. I still think Tolkien and Lewis yearned for a lost age. Both Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books hark back to an age of chivalry.

    And Barfield was looking forward to the time of “final participation”

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  38. DNA_Jock: Charlie opines

    CharlieM: I think it is important, when talking about niches, in distinguishing to what, to where and to when the term ‘niche’ is referring to.

    DNA_Jock: then proceeds to equivocate multiple (very non-standard) uses of the word “niche”.

    Until now I haven’t delved deeply into the way experts use the term ‘niche’, so I’d be happy to go though the list with you to get an idea of how these ‘niches’ relate to the definition given by Alan or any other standard definition you care to provide. That way I will be able to sort out the ones you say are very non-standard.

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  39. DNA_Jock: Charlie, I recommend that you do not use the word “niche”. Instead, try to describe, in your own words, what you are trying to convey. I don’t expect it will help any, since the message seems to be simply “Charlie thinks humans are super-duper special”.
    You do realize that our constructed niche is overly complicated and therefore horrendously fragile. Check out Texas.
    We have covered your various baroque arguments for (modern) human exceptionalism previously

    I look forward to discussing niches with you in more detail. I am wondering how much of an effect on the future of the human race in general the disastrous situation in Texas will have.

    The conscious wisdom of humans is pifflingly paltry compared to the bodily wisdom of dolphins, squirrels, snails or any organism you care to mention. By the way your third link is broken.

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  40. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM,

    The definition I chose as what I thought to be a reasonable defition was for “ecological niche”.

    And very many, if not all, of the terms on my list would fall within the term ‘ecological niche’

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  41. Alan Fox:
    CharlieM: And very many, if not all, of the terms on my list would fall within the term ‘ecological niche’

    Alan Fox: So shall we stick with “ecological niche” then?

    Well I can’t see anything wrong with that definition. And I don’t see anything wrong with also using the terms I listed when appropriate.

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  42. CharlieM: And that is the crux of the matter. Evolution has advanced beyond physical differentiation of organisms finding their niches and constructing new niches. Now niches are being fashioned by human, rational mental activity. Nature is being altered by conscious means. Constructing local environments in the Antarctic is just the very thin end of the wedge.

    My point is that we remain just as dependent on our constructed niche — language, culture, and technology — as any other species. We can take our niche with us and transform it as we do, but we cannot live without it any more than a giant panda can live without bamboo or a polar bear without sea-ice.

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  43. Kantian Naturalist:
    CharlieM: And that is the crux of the matter. Evolution has advanced beyond physical differentiation of organisms finding their niches and constructing new niches. Now niches are being fashioned by human, rational mental activity. Nature is being altered by conscious means. Constructing local environments in the Antarctic is just the very thin end of the wedge.

    Kantian Naturalist: My point is that we remain just as dependent on our constructed niche — language, culture, and technology — as any other species. We can take our niche with us and transform it as we do, but we cannot live without it any more than a giant panda can live without bamboo or a polar bear without sea-ice.

    Yes that’s fair enough. The difference being that giant pandas don’t create the bamboo nor polar bears sea ice.

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  44. Neil Rickert:

    CharlieM: The difference being that giant pandas don’t create the bamboo nor polar bears sea ice.

    Neil Rickert: Yes. But that makes us more specialized, not less specialized.

    You’ll need to explain your reasoning here. Do you mean we as individuals, or as populations or as a species?

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  45. CharlieM,

    I’m not sure what to explain. It seems obvious.

    The pandas can just go out and survive, if they can find a suitable place. And they were born into a suitable place.

    We have to go out and build our own niches. And sure, we were born into a niche where we can survive. But we have to continue building that niche if we want to continue to survive.

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