Working session on the origin of man

Working session on the origin of man

Posted in: Pamplona
Date of publication: 13 March 2007

On March 13, Prof. Daniel Turbón came from Barcelona to a session of work with the members of group and other invited professors of the University of Navarra, to discuss the origin of man. The topic corresponds to the book that, written by Prof. Turbón in its technical sections and by Prof. Artigas in its philosophical aspects, will be published soon. The meeting is part of a project financed by the Templeton Foundation.

position After a presentation of the meeting, which was given by Prof. Collado *(1) *(2), Prof. Turbón *(3) tried to bring us closer to the current state of scientific knowledge about the origin of man from the perspective of his research in palaeoanthropology. He stressed from the outset that it varies greatly depending on the interpretation given to the data provided by science.

He mentioned that already two million years ago australopithecus had the brain capacity for development language and work with instruments, but focused his attention mainly on the changes in the gestation period and growth stages of the human offspring. *(4)

In homo sapiens, a shortened birthing time and a lengthened childhood indicate the achievement of reproductive success. Prof. Turbón emphasised that only in man does the period of adolescence appear, which he defined as a stage of sexual maturation and the learning of behavioural partner-economics transmitted by the parents; this topic is the focus of his current research . These changes in the length and configuration of the periods of development are, on the one hand, strongly related to morphology (which would correspond to the evolutionary part of topic), but above all they show qualitative differences with respect to other humanoids. *(5) *(6) *(7)

Prof. Murillo *(8) tried to address the gnoseological questions of the topic of science and evolutionism. Recalling the common origin of the sciences and of the Philosophy in antiquity, he wondered about the problem of modern biology, which always acts on the basis of methodological and ontological presuppositions, but never asks itself or gives an account of them. Do biologists ask themselves how the laws of their science are formulated and what they consist of? What are the mechanisms it evokes and uses? And all this already belongs to philosophical reflection which, in this or that way, will determine the vision and scope of science.

He also stressed above all the postulate of methodological and ontological materialism in biology. Whether biologists realise the implicit postulate of methodological materialism that they use, separate it from the postulate of ontological materialism that many use, and reflect on whether these postulates are the only and sufficient ones to be used in their research, depends on whether their approaches to the origin of the human being are merely evolutionary. Science works on the basis of postulates which, while allowing it to achieve, limit it in the scope of its results.

After the meal at university dining hall and the return to classroom via campus *(9), Prof. Pardo (10) pointed out that, although monogenism is not currently a theologically worrying issue, it is in the common mentality, which attributes to the human race an origin in a single couple.

However, although the problem arises in the origin of man, his case is only the extension of a problem of the synthetic theory of evolution: if the modifications that are added together are always smooth, it is not possible to establish a limit to determine whether an individual belongs to a species or not. The synthetic theory implies a negation of the principle of non-contradiction, since intermediate forms would simultaneously belong to two species.

To address this problem, he argued that the punctuated equilibrium described by Gould and Elredge in the 1970s is not merely an appearance of the fossils, but accurately reflects reality: as Grassé described, species appear abruptly, perfectly formed, without the slightest hint of their forms in the earlier fossil record.

To explain this abrupt origin, physics has recently pointed to the self-organisation of complex systems, which should be applied, not to the genes of living beings, but to the organism considered as a whole, including genetic and non-genetic issues, as well as interactions at levels other than the molecular (cellular, tissue, etc.).

In this way, one would have a picture of evolution in which selection plays a very minor role and in which the weight would be carried by the sudden and progressive appearance of more complex organisms by self-organisation; this picture is more in line with the observed data than the synthetic theory. Moreover, this way of understanding evolution does not contradict the concept of species, and fits in effortlessly with the current idea of monogenism.

Prof. Echarte commented on the obstacles faced by evolutionary theories in accounting for mental phenomena. Firstly, he pointed out the difficulty of considering mental events under merely physical descriptions. In this sense, he described as an error (reification) the attempt to attribute physical causes (such as those related to natural selection) to events that are not effects but criteria of intelligence. "It is as illogical to claim that evolution can explain the emergence of the mind as it is to claim that it can explain the game of tennis".

Secondly, he highlighted several difficulties with the evolutionist proposal advocating the accidental emergence of language. For Luis Echarte, such an event could only occur in a society governed by rules. But to be able to follow a rule requires the possession of symbolic functions, which brings us back to the problem of language, causing us to fall into a vicious circle. Parallel to the above nonsense, "to suppose that language is a congenital or accidentally acquired capacity is like imagining that someone could be born or accidentally find themselves playing tennis". At final, the major obstacle to explaining the origin of language is related to its essentially conventional nature. A difficulty that theories of natural selection do not resolve.