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A scientist looks again at Project Nim

Starting in 1973, Herbert Terrace led an ambitious project to examine the capability of chimps to develop sign language. The chimp participant was born at the Institute for Primate Studies in Oklahoma and was taken from his mother after about a week and handed to Stephanie LaFarge who acted as a surrogate parent. The chimp was effectively adopted. In a recent piece in Nature, Terrace explains why he initiated the project:

“After serving as a graduate assistant at Harvard University with behavioural psychologist B. F. Skinner, I heard that Allen and Beatrix Gardner at the University of Nevada, Reno, were teaching sign language to a chimpanzee named Washoe. But when I looked at their data, I wasn’t sure that the chimp’s sequences of hand signs were grammatical. I decided to do a study to collect everything a chimp signed, and document the circumstances. We wanted to have full records of the discourse between the infant chimp and the caretaker.”

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4 Responses to A scientist looks again at Project Nim

  1. Moral of story? If the scientific facts don’t fit your Darwinian worldview have Hollywood mold the facts to suit your tastes.

    Such as;

    Inherit the Wind
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053946/

    But alas the truth always wins out in the end:

    Alleged The Movie – Trailer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1b8g8rUA6k

    facebook 3 hours ago:

    Alleged
    “alleged” took top honors at the Anthem Libertarian Film Festival in Las Vegas Sunday, taking home double awards for “Best Narrative Feature” and the coveted “Audience Choice Award.” Fred Foote was present to accept.
    http://www.facebook.com/allegedthemovie

  2. Here are a few related notes Dr. Tyler;

    Darwin’s mistake: Explaining the discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds:
    Excerpt: There is a profound functional discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds. We argue that this discontinuity pervades nearly every domain of cognition and runs much deeper than even the spectacular scaffolding provided by language or culture can explain. We hypothesize that the cognitive discontinuity between human and nonhuman animals is largely due to the degree to which human and nonhuman minds are able to approximate the higher-order, systematic, relational capabilities of a physical symbol system.
    http://www.bbsonline.org/Prepr.....eprint.htm

    Origin of the Mind: Marc Hauser
    Excerpt: “Researchers have found some of the building blocks of human cognition in other species. But these building blocks make up only the cement footprint of the skyscraper that is the human mind”,,,
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-341275

    Earliest humans not so different from us, research suggests – February 2011
    Excerpt: Shea argues that comparing the behavior of our most ancient ancestors to Upper Paleolithic Europeans holistically and ranking them in terms of their “behavioral modernity” is a waste of time. There are no such things as modern humans, Shea argues, just Homo sapiens populations with a wide range of behavioral variability.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....umans.html

    Geometric Principles Appear Universal in Our Minds – May 2011
    Excerpt: Villagers belonging to an Amazonian group called the Mundurucú intuitively grasp abstract geometric principles despite having no formal math education,,, Mundurucú adults and 7- to 13-year-olds demonstrate as firm an understanding of the properties of points, lines and surfaces as adults and school-age children in the United States and France,,,
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscie.....-geometry/

  3. bornagain77 – thanks for the notes. All relevant. The Marc Hauser comment must have been written on a good day. Let’s hope he has many more of these – now that he has resigned from Harvard.

  4. Dr. Tyler, Here is the entire Scientific American article by Marc Hauser

    The Origin Of Mind – April 2009
    http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~mn.....dSciAm.pdf

    Myself, I find this sharp discontinuity between man’s mind and the animal mind to be a ‘real world’ evidence, anchored in the present, as opposed to the evidence of historical narratives constantly used by neo-Darwinist. A ‘real world, right now’ evidence, that offers strong support for the Theistic view that we were indeed specially created for a relationship with God:

    ===================

    notes;

    ,,,even though the authors of the ‘Evolution of the Genus Homo’ paper (Tattersall; Schwartz) appear to be thoroughly mystified by the fossil record, they never seem to give up their blind faith in evolution despite the disparity they see first hand in the fossil record. In spite of their materialistic philosophical bias, I have to hand it to them for being fairly honest with the evidence though. I especially like how the authors draw out this following ‘what it means to be human’ distinction in their paper:

    “although Homo neanderthalensis had a large brain, it left no unequivocal evidence of the symbolic consciousness that makes our species unique.” — “Unusual though Homo sapiens may be morphologically, it is undoubtedly our remarkable cognitive qualities that most strikingly demarcate us from all other extant species. They are certainly what give us our strong subjective sense of being qualitatively different. And they are all ultimately traceable to our symbolic capacity. Human beings alone, it seems, mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities. When exactly Homo sapiens acquired this unusual ability is the subject of debate.”

    The authors of the paper try to find some evolutionary/materialistic reason for the extremely unique ‘information capacity’ of humans, but of course they never find a coherent reason. Indeed why should we ever consider a process, which is utterly incapable of ever generating any complex functional information at even the most foundational levels of molecular biology (Behe; Edge Of Evolution), to suddenly, magically, have the ability to generate our brain which can readily understand and generate functional information? A brain which has been repeatedly referred to as ‘the Most Complex Structure in the Universe’? The authors never seem to consider the ‘spiritual angle’ for why we would have such a unique capacity for such abundant information processing.

    John 1:1-1
    In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.” Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum teleportation:

    “Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician – Father of Cybernetics

    Appraising the brain’s energy budget:
    Excerpt: In the average adult human, the brain represents about 2% of the body weight. Remarkably, despite its relatively small size, the brain accounts for about 20% of the oxygen and, hence, calories consumed by the body. This high rate of metabolism is remarkably constant despite widely varying mental and motoric activity. The metabolic activity of the brain is remarkably constant over time.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/99/16/10237.full

    THE EFFECT OF MENTAL ARITHMETIC ON CEREBRAL CIRCULATION AND METABOLISM
    Excerpt: Although Lennox considered the performance of mental arithmetic as “mental work”, it is not immediately apparent what the nature of that work in the physical sense might be if, indeed, there be any. If no work or energy transformation is involved in the process of thought, then it is not surprising that cerebral oxygen consumption is unaltered during mental arithmetic.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....4-0127.pdf

    Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger by Richard Conn Henry – Physics Professor – John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the “illusion” of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case, since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism (solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist). (Dr. Henry’s referenced experiment and paper – “An experimental test of non-local realism” by S. Gröblacher et.

    Another very strong piece of suggestive evidence, which persuasively hints at a unique relationship that man has with ‘The Word’ of John 1:1, is found in these following articles which point out the fact that ‘coincidental scientific discoveries’ are far more prevalent than what should be expected from a materialistic perspective,:

    In the Air – Who says big ideas are rare? by Malcolm Gladwell
    Excerpt: This phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples”—turns out to be extremely common. One of the first comprehensive lists of multiples was put together by William Ogburn and Dorothy Thomas, in 1922, and they found a hundred and forty-eight major scientific discoveries that fit the multiple pattern. Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians “invented” decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland. ,,, For Ogburn and Thomas, the sheer number of multiples could mean only one thing: scientific discoveries must, in some sense, be inevitable.
    http://www.newyorker.com/repor.....ntPage=all

    List of multiple discoveries
    Excerpt: Historians and sociologists have remarked on the occurrence, in science, of “multiple independent discovery”. Robert K. Merton defined such “multiples” as instances in which similar discoveries are made by scientists working independently of each other.,,, Multiple independent discovery, however, is not limited to only a few historic instances involving giants of scientific research. Merton believed that it is multiple discoveries, rather than unique ones, that represent the common pattern in science.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....iscoveries

    The following video is far more direct in establishing the ‘spiritual’ link to man’s ability to learn new information, in that it shows that the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores for students showed a steady decline, for seventeen years from the top spot or near the top spot in the world, after the removal of prayer from the public classroom by the Supreme Court in 1963. Whereas the SAT scores for private Christian schools have consistently remained at the top, or near the top, spot in the world:

    The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped – David Barton – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4318930

    The following video is very suggestive to a ‘spiritual’ link in man’s ability to learn new information in that the video shows that almost every, if not every,founder of each discipline of modern science was a devout Christian:

    Christianity Gave Birth To Science – Dr. Henry Fritz Schaefer – video
    http://vimeo.com/16523153

    ===========================

    Thus Dr. Tyler, much to the consternation of atheists, we have several strong pieces of evidence that show we have a unique mind which has a, ‘potential’, capacity to interact with the ‘information theoretic/theistic’ foundation of reality in a profound, and unique, way.

    ==================

    The Word – Sara Groves – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ofE-GZ8zTU

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