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Does the capacity for rational thought differentiate us most from other species?

Science or Art? Does the human capacity for rational thought and scientific reasoning, or our creative responses, differentiate us most from other species? Which is more significant for improving quality of life for the individual, and for the benefit of society?
Paul Butlin from Suffolk (age 45-54)

Answer

Neither. What distinguishes us most from other species is our capacity for imitation. This means we can copy things that other people have learned or worked out, without doing so ourselves. This ability to copy lets loose a new evolutionary process – selection working on memes (the skills, stories, songs, and behaviours that we copy). This is why we alone have culture. This is why we alone are destroying the very planet on which we live and depend. Very few other species can copy at all (the exceptions are some song birds, cetaceans, and to a very small extent other great apes). Chimps are very poor at imitation and this is why they have only the slightest beginnings of culture.

Sue Blackmore, Visiting Lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol

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