In The Darwinian Theory of Man’s Origin, Adler of course explained Darwin’s theory of evolution and the evidence that anchors it. Here in The Answer to Darwin, he continues with the evidence, adds to it more current research and the gives some evidence of his own to the contrary.
Adler reminds us that Darwin never built his theory on the anatomical or physiological resemblance between the higher animals and man, nor embriological similarities or fossils. He rested his whole argument on mental power, in respect to the differences and similarities. “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.” What evidence did Darwin use for his conclusion? It is all on the basis of human and animal behaviour. He claims animals reason, use tools and use speech the same as man but to a lesser degree. Adler then gives examples of experiments of animal behaviour since Darwin’s day, all seemingly to support Darwin’s theory. But Adler does not believe they are indisputable and he is going to dispute them. He believes that men differ essentially from all other animals in kind, and his evidence will be presented under three different headings:
- Only humans make artistically
- Only humans think discursively
- Only humans associate politically
He will proceed as Darwin, comparing human and animal behaviour but arrive at opposite results. In these examinations, there are some things only humans do, special things that require human reasoning. It will mean not that man reasons more than other animals, but that man alone is rational.
Adler then asks how can the evidence show something that cannot be seen, namely reason? How will he be able to confer this special power? There will be two marks in the evidence:
- if human behaviour is highly variable
- if that behaviour shows some understanding that no animal has, an understanding that “is found or expresses itself in a grasp of the universality of things”
Only Humans Make Artistically
Adler had asked Luckman to send the outline of his evidence to people, including universtiy professors, to get their feedback. As to if only humans make artistically, Luckman presents the first objection: spiders spin beautiful webs and bees engineer their hives perfectly, and beaver’s are wonderful engineers.
Adler is not interested in the excellence of the production but the way in which animals make and the way in which humans make (ie. behaviour); animals are makers by instinct and humans, by art. Herein lies instinct versus art influenced by reason.
For example, even though the spider’s web is possibly more exacting than a human artistic design, there is no change in how the spider spins his web compared to his ancestors HOWEVER, a human improves or increases his skill, not only over his lifetime but therefore the human race develops greater skill over history.
Two other ways to see this difference between species are:
- While animals, like man, can use rudimentary tools, only man makes machine tools. Man can develop fine applications and “separate the idea of the thing to be produced from the individual production ….. and here is seen man’s grasp of the universal, the plan, the idea, apart from the individual circumstance.”
- Works of fine art are only created by man. We may see a bee hive or a beaver’s dam as works of art, but to the animal, they only satisfy a basic biological need. Man creates not only for biological purposes but often only for the sake of enjoyment.
Therefore, “human making is different from animal making.”
Only Humans Think Discursively
Adler is now presenting his second piece of evidence.
Luckman points out that professors whom he has canvassed say that animals can solve problems and thus animals think discursively. Adler agrees that animals certainly do solve problems which proves they think. Yet all the problems they solve are by trial and error or by “perceptual insight” which meet basic biological needs. Men can problem solve in a similar way but men also think in another way; consider the problems of mathematics, philosophy, or theoretical or speculative sciences which do not serve biological needs. Secondly, the manner in which they think about them is distinctive; an animal is active using his senses, limbs, etc but only man sits to think in a manner that can illustrate intense bodily inactivity (think of the statue of Le Penseur by Rodin). “Only men sit down to think about what is important and not urgent.”
The word “discursively” is related to discussion and he means “only men think in words, in words that are abstract, referring to things that cannot be perceived but only understood.” It is human language only that consists of words and sentences.
Only Humans Associate Politically
Adler reaches his third and final point which is only humans associate politically. Luckman reveals that he’s had an outcry against this statement as, if you look at wasps, ants, etc. it’s obvious that animals associate. Adler does not disagree that animals are social and even gregarious, he only says than man is the only one to associate politically. Animals which are social, are so because of instinct and do not change from generation to generation, however humans “form by reason the conventions, the constitutions, the laws, the rules unto which they live.” This accounts for the great variability from race to race, or tribe to tribe, or culture to culture, or century to century. In fact, Adler claims man is the only constitutional animal.
Luckman raises other objections. How can a baby or a mentally challenged person, both of whom cannot use or cannot fully use reason, be seen as rational human beings? Adler says both have the potentiality of reason, even though it is not developed or stunted. A baby grows into reason but a pig never will; a mentally challenged person may some day be healed and be able to use reason but an animal never will. However, Adler says his original statement does not mean that man always uses his reason or that he acts rationally; that is seldom the case. Yet man is also the only animal who is unreasonable and irrational. And only man can go mad.
Luckman stops him, stating that there is evidence of psychologists making rats neurotic by frustrating them in their mazes. Adler responses that “by creating, through conditioning in the animals, a kind of tight conflict of impulses, the animal breaks down under the tension of that conflict into a severe frustration that I admit might look like a neurosis.” But Adler thinks it is not. It takes a psychologist to make a rat neurotic but humans are capable of become so without the help of a psychologist. There is a difference.
In the next talk (essay), The Uniqueness of Man, Adler will weigh the evidence on both sides. He also stresses the importance of understanding the issue and how it affects everyone theoretically, practically, morally, politically and spiritually.