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Thread: Were we the only intelligent species on Earth? Do Neanderthals and other homonids

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    Question Were we the only intelligent species on Earth? Do Neanderthals and other homonids

    count or were they all a different species than us all together? I mean if we couldn't mate with them and so we weren't the only species to have language, tools, cave art etc?

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    i understand the current view is that our species interbred with neanderthals over long periods, and neanderthals were tool users etc so they do 'count'.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Quote Originally Posted by MVAgusta1078RR View Post
    count or were they all a different species than us all together? I mean if we couldn't mate with them and so we weren't the only species to have language, tools, cave art etc?
    Humans outside sub-Saharan African gene pools have shown up to 4% Neanderthal DNA. Australian and Pacific populations have Denisovan DNA. So they were both able to breed with us and were humans.

    As for whether another species had sapient intelligence, it's a broad area of discussion that has not been answered yet.
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    I agree with all that profloater and Noclevername said. I'd also add that one reason intelligence in other species is a broad area of discussion is that there is no universal agreement on a definition of intelligence nor on how to measure it. It seems likely that intelligence cannot be adequately described by a single number, like IQ, whether for individuals or a species as a whole.
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    And just looking at our species which may date back a million years as intelligent, and some forty thousand years ago we worked out muddy hand prints on cave walls and four thousand years ago we were as intelligent or even more so than now, with a larger brain and then 800 years ago we started toward western civilisation rather later than over in China, and then three hundred years ago we got industrialised and so on, to assess the intelligence as opposed to the knowledge base of ancestors and neanderthals is a big ask, as they say.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
    Originally Posted by Ken G

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    Yes indeed, intelligence is a tricky thing to evaluate, even among our fellow citizens. I heard a news report about a young man who had a Mensa-class score on an IQ test, but had been turned down by the police academy in his state. The academy officials said that in their experience candidates with such scores frequently made lousy cops, and that they were more interested in finding candidates with the right sort of temperament for police work, even if they were only "average" in terms of whatever that IQ test evaluated. This candidate reportedly tried to sue the state on some sort of discrimination grounds, unsuccessfully.

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    Intelligent? How to define it?
    Or Sentient? With a culture?

    Last weeks New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com/article/...l#.VLRJ5CusV-4 reviews a new book, "The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins" by Whitehead and Rendell (U.Chicago Press ) that contends that they do have a culture, that is communicated, not innate, and so must have sentience. And a culture among non-manual sea creatures will be avery differemt from anytghing we can boast.

    JOhn

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    Current research tends to show that intelligence is a continuum, not a sharp distinctive change. I think that research is showing the same sort of thing for culture.
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    To me it's easy. With reference to hominids;

    Did they deliberately use fire?

    I don't see how that wouldn't be enough of a qualifier.

    Not unless someone here can convince me otherwise.
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    The ones who used fire by mistake are extinct.

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    I think Neanderthals and other pre homo sapiens species certainly qualified as intelligent. We know Neanderthals created and used tools, buried their dead with apparent ceremony, painted on walls and had fires. To me, this qualifies as intelligent - "our kind" of intelligence.

    Carl Sagan argues (in "Echoes of forgotten ancestors") that upper animals do have varying intelligence levels and self awareness, but some other limiting factors that hasn't allowed them yet to create technology to the level of our ancestors. Octopi are very intelligent, are self aware, can use and make tools, garden and preplan. but their life spans are very short and they have no social culture, both of which would make knowledge collection and transfer hard; Bonobos are tool users, self aware, with culture in family groups, but lack of an opposable thumb and limited speech producing organs which may be their limiting factor for creating advanced technology. Dolphins communicate and are self aware, have some culture, but almost no capacity to make complex tools.
    Last edited by iquestor; 2015-Jan-14 at 05:34 PM.

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    iquestor, the ceremony of that buried Neanderthal was based on flowers in the grave.

    A re-examination has determined the flowers were incidental. The amount was greatly exaggerated and the time of year coincided with natural falling blossoms. That was the only evidence of ceremony.

    I was sorry when I read that too.
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    I think the definition of intelligence has to include the environment that species inhabit, it's not an absolute quality. In our case we were more suited than other hominid species to adapt to the changing conditions that the recent glacial cycles have created with long periods of massive ice sheets in the Northern hemisphere punctuated with relatively brief warmer interglacial periods. This has created frequent and sometimes quite rapid changes in climate and habitat.

    I think it's more precise to say that it's our species adaptability that tends to distinguish us from other species rather than pure intelligence.

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    I was merely defining non-H. sapiens humans as I see it. Not intelligence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    iquestor, the ceremony of that buried Neanderthal was based on flowers in the grave.

    A re-examination has determined the flowers were incidental. The amount was greatly exaggerated and the time of year coincided with natural falling blossoms. That was the only evidence of ceremony.

    I was sorry when I read that too.
    yeah I just looked it up. However the fact that they were intentionally buried says something about their capacity for planning and abstract thought. They were also tool makers and did paintings. so even without the flowers, they were well on their way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    I was merely defining non-H. sapiens humans as I see it. Not intelligence.
    Sorry Don, I was addressing the OP without quoting it. My mistake.

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    To me, the evidence that Neanderthals and other non H. Sapiens humans developed some level of intelligence, as well as apparent self awareness, culture and intelligence (albeit not human level) in other animal species gives me confidence that intelligence on other worlds isn't so rare.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iquestor View Post
    yeah I just looked it up. However the fact that they were intentionally buried says something about their capacity for planning and abstract thought. They were also tool makers and did paintings. so even without the flowers, they were well on their way.
    Are there paintings that are known to be Neanderthal and free of sapiens influence? Last I heard, all "art" associated with Neanderthals had been found only after sapiens arrival. Similarly, there was a conspicuous increase in the variety of their tool shapes after sapiens arrived. The implication was that they were mimicking what they from sapiens, or even obtaining sapiens products without even mimicking. Of course, whether that means they couldn't is another question; Norse in Greenland interacted with Innuit sometimes but never mimicked their successful way of life even when they knew their own was in trouble. But I think the length of time the Neanderthals went without innovating more before meeting us is a reasonable sign that they couldn't, and suddenly coming up with new ideas themselves that just happen to parallel those already in use by the new neighbors, right when those neighbors arrived but not for ages before, is too much of a coincidence to buy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    Are there paintings that are known to be Neanderthal and free of sapiens influence? Last I heard, all "art" associated with Neanderthals had been found only after sapiens arrival. Similarly, there was a conspicuous increase in the variety of their tool shapes after sapiens arrived. The implication was that they were mimicking what they from sapiens, or even obtaining sapiens products without even mimicking. Of course, whether that means they couldn't is another question; Norse in Greenland interacted with Innuit sometimes but never mimicked their successful way of life even when they knew their own was in trouble. But I think the length of time the Neanderthals went without innovating more before meeting us is a reasonable sign that they couldn't, and suddenly coming up with new ideas themselves that just happen to parallel those already in use by the new neighbors, right when those neighbors arrived but not for ages before, is too much of a coincidence to buy.
    Yes this would make a lot of sense to me also. My interest here lies in our closest living parallel (chimps). Now here we can see a degree of learned behaviour, that has adapted over the time we have been studying them which is a certain indication of intelligence. We also see basic evidence of some kind of precursor to culture. Now obviously chimps lie on a parallel evolutionary chain, but to me is suggestive about our closer parallels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by malaidas View Post
    Now obviously chimps lie on a parallel evolutionary chain, but to me is suggestive about our closer parallels.
    Since some human ancestors were Neanderthals, I'd call them a converging chain rather than parallel.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Since some human ancestors were Neanderthals, I'd call them a converging chain rather than parallel.
    Don't forget that we have Neanderthals genes in us, so the Neanderthals aren't technically extinct.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Inclusa View Post
    Don't forget that we have Neanderthals genes in us, so the Neanderthals aren't technically extinct.
    Only 4% of their DNA, which means we can't reconstruct them. That's close enough to extinct for my books. There have been pigs and cows spliced with human DNA for medical experiments, but I wouldn't call them human.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2015-Jan-21 at 06:48 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iquestor View Post
    I think Neanderthals and other pre homo sapiens species certainly qualified as intelligent. We know Neanderthals created and used tools, buried their dead with apparent ceremony, painted on walls and had fires. To me, this qualifies as intelligent - "our kind" of intelligence.

    Carl Sagan argues (in "Echoes of forgotten ancestors") that upper animals do have varying intelligence levels and self awareness, but some other limiting factors that hasn't allowed them yet to create technology to the level of our ancestors. Octopi are very intelligent, are self aware, can use and make tools, garden and preplan. but their life spans are very short and they have no social culture, both of which would make knowledge collection and transfer hard; Bonobos are tool users, self aware, with culture in family groups, but lack of an opposable thumb and limited speech producing organs which may be their limiting factor for creating advanced technology. Dolphins communicate and are self aware, have some culture, but almost no capacity to make complex tools.
    Too sad that they have severe limitations to develop their potentials.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Inclusa View Post
    Too sad that they have severe limitations to develop their potentials.
    I would say if these are innate limits to their abilities rather than unfulfilled potential. For example, if a species has a poorly developed speech center, then their speaking a language is not a potential at all.
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    A few points to throw into the conversation.

    A complete mitochondrial DNA genome of Neanderthals has been sequenced. A draft of a complete nuclear DNA genome was published in 2010.

    The earliest studies that sequenced portions of mtDNA and compared them with modern human DNA did not indicate interbreeding had occurred. Most every subsequent study working with larger sequences, and finally nuclear DNA, have indicated that interbreeding occurred. The evidence in support of interbreeding has increased along with the scope of the studies and indicates that non-African modern humans share 1%-4% DNA with Neanderthals, but that African modern humans do not.

    Modern humans and Neanderthal share a common ancestor relatively recently. Genetic analyses to date puts it at about 370,000 years ago. Since that split the two populations began to diverge. The evidence of interbreeding means, obviously, that gene flow between the two populations was still possible up to the time Neanderthal went extinct (or close to it anyway). This is a snap shot of the middle of a speciation event. The gene flow between two groups begins to reduce and genetic differences begin to accumulate. The barriers to gene flow may be behavioral, geographic, etc., to start and eventually become biological as differences between the two gene pools increase. There are many species concepts, and lots of arguing about them, but the most commonly accepted single metric is that to be separate species interbreeding resulting in viable, fecund offspring does not occur. What all this means is that there is pretty good reason, by established conventions, to categorize modern humans and Neanderthal as belonging to the same species, i.e. as being sub-species.

    About the best that can be said about the speech capabilities of Neanderthal as compared to modern humans, at the moment, is that we aren't really sure. The following quote is a good example of what is known at the moment, though something more may have been found in the past couple of years.

    Neanderthals, Language and FOXP2

    The FOXP2 gene is involved in speech and language (Lai et al. 2001). Changes in the FOXP2 gene sequence led to problems with speech, oral and facial muscle control in modern humans with a mutation in the gene. It impairs language function. Modern humans and Neanderthals share two changes in FOXP2 compared with the sequence in chimpanzees (Krause et al. 2007). Neanderthals may also have their own unique derived characteristics in the FOXP2 gene that were not tested for in this study.

    The human FOXP2 gene is on a haplotype that was subject to a strong selective sweep. A haplotype is a set of alleles that are inherited together on the same chromosome. The researchers then tried to determine how the FOXP2 variant came to be found in both Neanderthals and modern humans. One scenario is that it could have been transferred between species via gene flow. The researchers do not think this is likely since there is no evidence indicating that gene flow has occurred. Another possibility is that the derived FOXP2 was present in the ancestor of both anatomically modern Homo sapiens and Neanderthals with the selective sweep that made it prevalent occurring after the divergence between the groups. A third scenario, which the authors think is most likely, is that the changes and selective sweep occurred before the divergence between the populations.

    (from http://humanorigins.si.edu/)

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    This review, Darrell, finds that there is no evidence of interbreeding from mitochondrial DNA: http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/...ochondrial-dna

    John

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    Yes, I believe I clearly stated that early studies that compared early partial sequences of mtDNA did not show evidence of interbreeding.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darrell View Post
    The earliest studies that sequenced portions of mtDNA and compared them with modern human DNA did not indicate interbreeding had occurred.
    The very same link also mentions that subsequent studies of larger sequences of mtDNA, and nuclear DNA, did show evidence of interbreeding.

    Also, I would hope that most people would understand that studies such as these, the first few of their kind, are hardly definitive? You will of course find reasonable experts with different positions on these studies. At the moment claiming that the limited amount of data favors that interbreeding did take place is a reasonable claim to make. But by all means, don't take my word for it. The internet has all kinds of good, accessible material on this.

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    One quick question I have here, is what evidence do we have that shows that such commonality is not from a shared ancestor. I assume there is reasonable cause to assert this cannot be the case.

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    Thnak you,m Darrel, I must reread the review!

    Malaidas, Would you do too? I think that DNA is believed to vary by natural mutation at a relatively fixed rate, so that differences that are outwith that change can be attributed to mixing. Plus, of course, comparison between the two variant that may have mixed. If what should be ABC and XYZ are found to be XBC and AYZ, and too little time has passed, then they must have shared genes by mating.

    I rather like the idea of being, if only in a very small way, part Neanderthal!
    JOhn

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnD View Post
    Thnak you,m Darrel, I must reread the review!

    Malaidas, Would you do too? I think that DNA is believed to vary by natural mutation at a relatively fixed rate, so that differences that are outwith that change can be attributed to mixing. Plus, of course, comparison between the two variant that may have mixed. If what should be ABC and XYZ are found to be XBC and AYZ, and too little time has passed, then they must have shared genes by mating.

    I rather like the idea of being, if only in a very small way, part Neanderthal!
    JOhn

    I have no problems with this at all. I'm just trying to catch up here, as not been looking at this for a long time.

    I cannot find this precise article on the link, although the site is extant.

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