This is an unexpected aside, but it’s fun for me, and I think at least one other person will enjoy it.
An astute reader with lightly barbed sense of humor observes that I have “begged a lot of big questions” in the first post. My response is that yes, indeed I have.
It is worth pointing out that “begging the question” is a formal logical fallacy, which is short hand for “assuming your conclusion in the premises.” The phrase has been adapted to its colloquial meaning, which is something like “the conversation leads me to ask an obvious question, which can best be answered by me.”
In any case, I have done something that may look more like the former, formal logical fallacy, in implying that humans are exceptional because they are exceptional. But really, if the argument were laid out, it might go like this:
1. We notice that humans are exceptional (eg. in their development of technology) among all animals.
2. Distinctly human behaviors are marked by the capacity to reason.
3. Humans alone have the capacity to reason.
Granted, this is rather rough-and-ready, but one sees that I have not assumed “reason” in the first premise. Being exceptional does not necessarily imply that reason is involved.
Therefore, when we analyze (with our reason) what makes the exceptional, we identify the use of reason, which leads us to our conclusion in #3.
If, on the other hand, you want to insist that I have begged the question in the colloquial sense, I will probably shrug and move on. One approaches these topics – any topic, really – with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of assumptions, and there is little time to prove to what all sane people think is obvious.