Since antiquity, philosophers have argued that higher mental abilities -- in short, thinking and language -- are the great divide separating humans from other species. The lesser creatures, Rene Descartes contended in 1637, are little more than automatons, sleepwalking through life without a mote of self- awareness. The French thinker found it inconceivable that an animal might have the ability to "use words or signs, putting them together as we do." Charles Darwin delivered an unsettling blow to this doctrine a century ago when he asserted that humans were linked by common ancestry to the rest of the animal kingdom. Darwinism raised a series of tantalizing questions for future generations: If other vertebrates are similar to humans in blood and bone, should they not share other characteristics, including intelligence? More specifically, did the earliest humanlike creatures, who split from the ancestors they shared with apes between 5 million and 7 million years ago, already possess a primitive ability to form plans, manipulate symbols, plot mischief and express sentiments?
David Chalmers gave a talk today (at the Toward a Science of Consciousness conference in Tucson) arguing that it is fairly likely that sometime in the next few centuries we will create artificial intelligence (perhaps silicon, perhaps biological) considerably more intelligent than ourselves -- and then those intelligent creatures will create even more intelligent successors, and so on, until there exist creatures that are vastly more intelligent than we are. The Splintered Mind
Ned Block explores some of the philosophical problems of consciousness in conversation with Nigel Warburton in the latest episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast. Block believes that not all phenomena of consciousness are directly available to us. Sound contradictory?
Those of us who are critical of evolutionary psychology (EP) are often accused of being anti-evolution and/or anti-psychology. Many of us are neither. That's because evolutionary psychology isn't really evolution and it isn't really psychology.
We have become too reductive in understanding ourselves, argues philosopher Alva Noe. Our thoughts and desires are shaped by more than neurons firing inside our heads.
Duke University anthropologist Steven Churchill presents his research on the evolutionary origins of projectile weaponry, and how weapon use changed interactions between humans and other species—including, perhaps, the Neandertals. (October 20, 2009) » American Scientist
It has been suggested that interconnected brain areas evolve in tandem because evolutionary pressures act on complete functional systems rather than individual brain areas. The cerebellar cortex has reciprocal connections with both the prefrontal cortex and motor cortex, forming independent loops with each. Specifically, in capuchin monkeys cerebellar cortical lobules CrusI and CrusII connect with prefrontal cortex, whereas the primary motor cortex connects with cerebellar lobules V,VI,VIIb, and VIIIa. Comparisons of extant primate species suggest that the prefrontal cortex has expanded more than cortical motor areas in human evolution. Given the enlargement of the prefrontal cortex relative to motor cortex in humans, our hypothesis would predict corresponding volumetric increases in the parts of the cerebellum connected to the prefrontal cortex, relative to cerebellar lobules connected to the motor cortex. We tested the hypothesis by comparing the volumes of cerebellar lobules in structural MRI scans in capuchins, chimpanzees and humans. The fractions of cerebellar volume occupied by CrusI and CrusII were significantly larger in humans compared to chimpanzees and capuchins. Our results therefore support the hypothesis that in the cortico-cerebellar system, functionally related structures evolve in concert with each other. The evolutionary expansion of these prefrontal-projecting cerebellar territories might contribute to the evolution of the higher cognitive functions of humans.
By comparing how a gene critical for language works in humans and chimpanzees, researchers have identified an entire network of genes involved in the incredible linguistic powers of Homo sapiens.
"Language requires the coordination of perceptually grounded categories with a socially-negotiated set of shared linguistic conventions to express them; i.e. language is based on shared groups of meanings that arise from our perceptual interaction with the external world and the way in which we convey that relationship to other human beings. Deacon’s opinion is that neurological predispositions and socio-ecological constraints sponsored the development and evolution of language, and that the subsequent feedback system gave rise to a complex coevolution of the two. Founded neurological determinism within evolutionary and socio-ecological boundaries drives the core of his argument." « Neuroanthropology
"Humans are sometimes said to be distinguished as "The Symbolic Species." A Research Highlights note in Nature point to the work of Addessi et al., who show that capuchin monkeys, who diverged from the human lineage ~35 million years ago, can be trained to use and assign value to tokens (symbols) for different items of food." (Deric Bownds' MindBlog)
"Yes, we’re a lot like other primates, particularly the great apes, with whom we have more than 98 percent of our genes in common. Yet elaborate displays of apparent maternal grief like Gana’s may reveal less about our shared awareness of death than our shared impulse to act as though it didn’t exist." - NYTimes.com
The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain:
A Review of two contrastive views (Pinker & Deacon).
(Printed 2001 in Grazer Linguistische Studien GLS 55, 1-20)
Ken Ramshøj Christensen
Department of English, University of Aarhus
Noesis VI: Article 4
Kim Sterelney. The Baldwin Effect and Its Significance: A Review of Bruce Weber and David Depew (eds) Evolution and Learning: The Baldwin Effect Reconsidered; MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass 2003, pp x, 341.
08.31.2008 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"The Baldwin effect occurs, if it ever does, when a biological trait becomes innate as a result of first being learned. Suppose that some trait is initially absent from a population of organisms. Then a number of organisms succeed in learning the trait. There will be a Baldwin effect if this period of learning leads to the trait becoming innate throughout the population." David Papineau