Evolution, Macdonald, Nestor

Philip L Ferguson PLF13 at SPAMstudent.canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Sep 7 16:49:14 MDT 1999

Nestor wrote (in reply to Macdonald S):

>Now is the moment for you to brake, Macdonald. We are
>animals, true, but of a particular kind. Genetic mutations
>happen among humans as well as among any other living
>species. What Phil is arguing, however, and if I understood
>him well is that the evolutionary strength of genetic
>mutation among humans is much weaker than among the
>remaining species. And on this, he is right. He is
>repeating Engels on "The origin of family", by the way.

Thanks Nestor.  Yes, this is exactly what I was talking about.  There is a
qualitative difference between us and other animals.  What little mutation
might be going on among humans has no impact on our ability to live as

For instance, if you look at something like dimorphism in the primate
world: there is a substantial difference in size between male and female
gorillas and bigger males have more chance of mating and passing on their
genes, than scrawny male gorillas.  Among humans body size makes no
difference at all.  A male who is five foot and weighs nine stone has just
as much chance of mating as a male who is six foot six and weights fifteen
stone.  Moreover, even what could be considered 'physical' attributes -
body size, ability to run a mile under four miunutes, etc etc - are all
narrowing between female and male humans.  This is because our development
is social, not biological.  Genetically, we have been stagnant for about
50,000 years, yet the way we live now is totally different.  Our
'evolution' is socio-cultural.  Animals, on the other hand, are doing what
they did 50,000 years ago.  There is zero socio-cultural evolution in the
animal world.  People really ARE different.

Moreover the attempt to draw equals signs between humans and animals is a
favourite theme of reactionary thinking.  Take a look at something like
Desmond Morris' 'The Naked Zoo' and the work of people like Lionel Tiger
and so on.

I've even heard neo-liberal theorists compare capital accumulation to
squirrells gathering nuts.

>Phil's is no "Chosen one" statement. We have a peculiarity,
>that we should not forget: we are the only living species
>that realizes its specificity by transforming the whole
>world. This _does_ make a difference, and we should keep it
>in mind, don't you think so, Macdonald?

Yes, exactly.

And this is central to Marx and Engels' humanism.

Even arguments of the kind Mac uses show our qualitative difference: no
animal is in favour of protecting animals, for instance.  That is a
uniquely human characteristic as well.  When a lion sees an antelope, it is
just dinner, not a fellow being in a cosmic oneness.


More information about the Marxism mailing list