Responding to Darwin Devolves’ revisitation of the evolutionist Jerry
Coyne, Michael Behe notes the real reason why he sees the gap between man
and monkey as too great to be understood only by unguided material
processes. It comes from “personal awareness that we can reason, speak,
think in an abstract way, and so on – in other words, that we have a mind”.
This is in contrast to Professor Coyne’s absurd assumption that Behe’s
thought “derives from the Christian belief that Homo sapiens is a special
creation of God”.
Why does it seem implausible that a material process can explain the human
mind with its powers of speech and all the rest? If what separates us from
other animals was material in nature, only material, then perhaps we could
look at a material process for an explanation.
The right things
But read the comments of neuroscientist Michael Egnor to Mind Matters, “The
real reason that only human beings speak”. The fact that animals do not
speak is not because they lack the “physiological apparatus”:
[M] all non-human animals have the physiological apparatus necessary to
form words. Yet they do not have a language. They can do and respond to
signs – gestures, grunts and the like. A dog, for example, can respond
appropriately to simple words addressed to him (“Sit!” “Fetch!”). But all
animal communications are symbols, that is, signals that point directly to
an object. In this case, the object is a simple intended action that the
animal must perform immediately.
What animals cannot do is communicate using abstractions. They cannot use
designators – words used abstractly as a language ….
The difference between human language and animal symbols or signals is the
difference between abstract thought and concrete thought …
It is not the brain circuits that make humans capable of language and
animals incapable. As Aristotle pointed out two millennia ago, abstract
thought is intrinsically an immaterial power: it is the immaterial aspect
of the human soul. Animals have material souls, without an immaterial
aspect. It is nature and the differences between animal and human souls
that provide animals with symbolic communication and grace to man with
An “immaterial power” is only the kind of power that seems highly unlikely
to be the gift of a purely material, unguided, non-intelligent process like
Darwinian evolution. In abstraction, human communication reaches a
completely different order from that of animals. We cannot look for an
explanation for this simply in the evolution of “brain circuits”.
As noted by dr. Egnor, Aristotle would have recognized just as much. This
is not just a question of “Christian belief”. Read the rest at Mind Matters.