Big brain evolution (Evolution)

by dhw, Tuesday, January 16, 2018, 12:38 (332 days ago) @ dhw

As the discussion on what caused brain expansion has been between David – a dualist – and myself, I’ve been forced to approach it from the dualist’s viewpoint in order to point out what I consider to be major contradictions in his argument. In the first article on this thread, however, I took the materialist line that the brain engenders thought, and at first sight my proposal that expansion was caused by the implementation of new concepts may seem to run contrary to the materialist approach. Most hypotheses I know of seem to take it for granted that the larger brain has caused greater levels of consciousness, as opposed to its being the result. Hence speculation that random mutations, or cooked food and improved diet were the cause of expansion. I would like to offer a different approach.

If all thought processes stem from the brain or from the brain equivalent (I prefer to include single-celled organisms), it is difficult to see any way in which this can happen without cellular intelligence. Scientists actually pinpoint specific cell communities within the human brain that are responsible for our different faculties and abilities. David himself makes great play of the cognitive functions of the cortex, though he never refers to it as a cell community. However, in view of the fact that some brain-damaged people are still able to think normally, I’d prefer not to discuss particular areas. The self-repairing brain fits perfectly into my hypothesis that the whole community of communities cooperates, and in some cases can do so in a manner that will even overcome brain damage.

If you can accept the basic premise of cellular intelligence, as promulgated by such prominent scientists as Barbara McClintock, Lynn Margulis, James Shapiro et al, then the rest seems to me to follow on quite logically. We are all individuals – i.e. even if the fundamental structures are the same, no two brains are alike. The materialist equivalent of the dualist’s “soul” is those cell communities that are the source of our thinking. And the source of our thinking is what gives instructions to the rest of the brain and body. The materialist process of expansion will therefore be precisely the same as the dualist process: the individual "genius" cell community comes up with the new idea, and the rest of the brain must implement it, as will the rest of the social community. In our ancestors, the rest of the brain did not have the necessary capacity, and so there was a need for more cells and more connections to perform the required actions. Concept first, then implementation resulting in expansion. Eventually,expansion reached its physical limit in sapiens, and so the cell communities had to find a different mode of implementation: namely, complexification.

NB (1) I am not taking sides. I am simply trying to demonstrate that for both the materialist and the dualist, it makes perfect sense to attribute brain expansion to the implementation of concepts rather than attributing concepts to the expansion of the brain. Fortunately, we have a clue to the feasibility of this hypothesis: we know that in modern humans, it is the implementation of concepts that changes the brain. The brain does not change in anticipation of the concepts it is asked to implement, regardless of whether the source of the concepts is a soul or a community of cells.

NB (2) Neither dualism nor materialism explains consciousness. They are both beliefs relating to the source of consciousness. And although the materialist belief is usually coupled with atheism, there is no reason why one should not believe in a God who has done precisely what humans are now attempting to do with their work on artificial intelligence – namely to create conscious beings out of materials. If humans succeed in doing so, this will not prove that conscious beings can be the product of chance.


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