Steven Pinker's "How the Mind Works" Quotes 4

On the inevitability of the evolution of intelligence:

[E]minent biologist Ernst Mayr […] had noted that only one of the fifty million species on earth had developed civilizations, so the probability that life on a given planet would include an intelligent species might very well be small. Drake replied:

The first species to develop intelligent civilizations will discover that it is the only such species. Should it be surprised? Someone must be first, and being first says nothing about how many other species had or have the potential to evolve into intelligent civilizations, or may do so in the future… Similarly, among many civilization, one will be the first, and temporarily the only one, to develop electronic technology. How else could it be? The evidence does suggest that planetary systems need to exist in sufficiently benign circumstances for a few billion years for a technology-using species to evolve.

To see why this thinking runs so afoul of the modern theory of evolution, consider an analogy. The human brain is an exquisitely complex organ that evolved only once. The elephant’s trunk, which can stack togs, uproot trees, pick up a dime, remove thorns, powder the elephant with dust, so[hpm water, serve as a snorkel, and scribble with a pencil, is another complex organ that evolved only once. The brain and the trunk are products of the same evolutionary forces, natural selection. Imagine an astronomer on the Planet of the Elephants defending SETT, the Search for Extraterrestial Trunks:

The first species to develop a trunk will discover that it is the only such species. Should it be surprised? Someone must be first, and being first says nothing about how many other species had or have the potential to evolve trunks, or may do so in the future… Similarly, among many trunk-bearing species, one will be the first, and temporarily the only one, to powder itself with dust. How else could it be? The evidence does suggest that planetary systems need to exist in sufficiently benign circumstances for a few billion years for a trunk-using species to evolve.

 
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