We now know ( from ancient DNA) that Bushmen split off from the rest of humanity (or we from them) at least a quarter of a million years ago. Generally, when you see a complex trait in sister groups, you can conclude that it existed in the common ancestor. Since both Bushmen and (everybody else) have complex language, one can conclude that complex language existed at least a quarter million years ago, in our common ancestor. You should also suspect that unique features of Bushmen language, namely those clicks, are not necessarily superficial: there has been time enough for real, baked-in, biologically rooted language differences to evolve. It also shows that having complex language isn’t enough, in itself, to generate anything very interesting. Cf Williams syndrome. Certainly technological change was very slow back then. Interglacial periods came and went without AMH displacing archaics in Eurasia or developing agriculture.
Next, the ability to generate rapid cultural change, invent lots of stuff, improvise effective bullshit didn’t exist in the common ancestor of extant humanity, since change was very slow back then.
Therefore it is not necessarily the case that every group has it today, or has it to the same extent. Psychic unity of mankind is unlikely. It’s also denied by every measurement ever made, but I guess invoking data, or your lying eyes, would be cheating.
From this Land quips, “‘Mankind’ is an implausible religious idea. (But quite possibly still a hill the West will choose to die on.)” Let’s examine this notion.
I’ll take the blog author’s word that DNA evidence indicates Bushmen went their own way (exclusively? only mostly?) at some point in the past. There are obvious differences in genetics between them and Europeans, and between Europeans and Han Chinese, etc., all encouraged by separation.
It is also true the Bushman languages, including clicks, are not superficial. That is also the opinion of Noam Chomsky and his co-author Robert Berwick in the book Why Only Us? Language and Evolution, an intriguing work I’ll be reviewing soon. Non-vocalizations in language are not uncommon. Spaniards roll their Rs and the Blonde Bombshell tsk-tsks me often.
Only humans have language, a potentially very large (they like to say infinite, but who has the time?) hierarchical system of communication that is meant primarily (as argue Berwick and Chomsky) for thinking. There also exist translations from various Bush Khoisan languages to, say, English (which are, as are all translations, imperfect).
Having human language is enough to make possible our rational thoughts, even though, as the blog author suggests, thought alone is insufficient to “generate anything very interesting” (he implies) in the way of machines.
The author says “Certainly technological change was very slow back then.” It was. And was everywhere until, really, a century or so ago (in the West). The desire for it is only a little older than that, some four centuries (also in the West). It is an anachronism to suppose the ancients desired as we for technological delights.
But technological progress is not moral, philosophical, or theological progress. Why else do you think it took so long for people, even in the West alone, to key to the idea of building so many “unnatural” machines? It’s certainly not because we’re smarter, but because the pre-machine people had higher, more important, things on their mind.
Machines will not be our salvation.
Can it be that certain segments of mankind are better at making machines? Sure. Why not? That is, as the author says, also what we observe. But then it could also be that certain segments are better at philosophizing. And it could be these are the same groups.
Yet ability to make machines is not what makes us men, or there were no men until the invention of the internal combustion engine. Ability to philosophize is much closer to the mark. To philosophize requires an intellect and language, both of which Bushmen possess. I do not say Bushman philosophy is superior to, for instance, Thomism; I claim it is inferior. I also do not claim Bushmen have nothing to offer.
Finally the crux: the “Psychic unity of mankind”, which the author says is “unlikely.”
If “psychic unity” means having language and an intellect and will, then Bushmen are in unity with everybody else. We are all men. Land is wrong. Mankind is not an implausible religious idea, but a commonsense (metaphysical) definition flowing from the observation of language and intellect. (This is also David Oderberg’s view: read his negative-answer paper “Could there be a superhuman species?“)
If “psychic unity” means having the exact same intellectual abilities in act or in potentia (i.e. blank slate-ism), then Bushmen, and Han Chinese, and whites, etc. are not in unity; and it’s unclear whether even any two individuals are in psychic unity. Which is another way of saying equality is a false doctrine. Equality is a hill the West is choosing to die on.