Joined: Jan. 2006
Oh yes I agree that arbitrary lines have to be drawn somewhere. The difference is not in where one draws the line, but how one draws the line.
These arbitrary lines should be pencilled in, pending further data (on pretty much any subject) rather than concreted in and surrounded by guards, dogs, gun turrets and barbed wire.
Like the abortion example, yes there has to be a line for legal purposes, and yes that line should be open to revision on the basis of the data. It may be there is a hard developmental line beyond which abortion is the only option as the foetus won't survive no matter what we do, but I doubt it. What amuses me about the abortion issue is that it's "debated" on entirely the wrong facet. Abortions happen. End of story. They happened when they were illegal, they happen now they are legal. The only issue is whether you want them happening in as safe and controlled a manner as possible, or in a back street "clinic" where no government control is possible. The rights of the woman vs the rights of the foetus is specious bullshit argued over by the religious wing. They've shifted the debate into an obscure area to try to cloud the issue and acheive their results by the back door.
This ties into the same thing we are talking about on the ID is dead thread. PZ is right when he idenitifies the megachurch phenomenon and surrounding social aspects as the underlying mycelium of the fungus that is antiscience. The toadstools that pop up: ID, "scientific creationism", the abortion issue, even party politics are easily picked, but it's going to take one #### of a fungicide to hit the thing from whence these toadstools spring.
Obviously this is the same thing that infects the comparison of humans and other animals. Some people wish to draw hard lines, not pencil lines, for whatever reason. Perhaps you're right, perhaps we've moved so far along the information transfer route that it's like a "speciation" event, but I honestly doubt it. Granted we are apparently at one end of a broad spectrum, but it's still a spectrum. We don't have many near neighbours in terms of the volume of data transferred, but are we really so different in out individual ability to transfer information? After all, we do stand on the shoulders of giants to see as far as we currently do, individual humans can't transfer vastly more information than individual chimps, what we HAVE evolved is systems that remain longer than one human life. These systems survive and are tools adopted and adapted by other humans.
Anyway, just a thought.