Introducing the brain: language and invention (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Sunday, June 28, 2020, 19:57 (4 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: The stasis we’ve been talking about is the period after expansion, when there were no major new ideas for many thousands of years. As far as individuals are concerned, every child has to learn something, and I’d have thought that applied even to our earliest ancestors as well as our fellow animals. Parents teach their young, who also learn from experience. In the latter context, adults too may continue to learn. The difference between all of them and us is the sheer range and quantity of what there is to learn.

DAVID: Your discussion of stasis is the antithesis of your theory that brains grow because of the need for implementation of an idea held by the previous brain.

dhw: Small brain produces big new idea. Brain expands in order to implement big new idea. No more big new ideas for thousands of years. Brain does not expand for thousands of years. That is stasis. Where’s the antithesis?

But the problem with your idea is that brains do expand followed by long periods of stasis. Then the product of the new idea's product that you think causes the expansion shows up. Why the delay if the idea is what drives expansion?


DAVID: My phrase 'learning to use it' implies the additive work done by successive humans over centuries and generations of us. They did the work. We receive the gift of that.

dhw: For me that is not “learning to use the brain”. It is learning what previous generations have learned – and in sapiens’ case, it has accumulated into a vast library of knowledge.

DAVID: What I have described is species learn to use what they are given, and it applies to body as well as brain. Consider gymnastics as a recently developed sport, and the newly seen extreme varieties of maneuvers.

dhw: We consciously perform actions in order to use our bodies in specific ways. We can also consciously perform actions in order to train parts of the brain – e.g. memory exercises. However, when we come up with new ideas and concepts, we are not consciously trying to complexify (or expand) particular areas of our brain! We don’t even know what is going on in our brain! That is why I am flummoxed by the expression “learning to use the brain”, although in some weird way you seem to think your God expanded the sapiens brain so that we would hang around for thousands of years doing nothing with it until in some weird way we learned what we could do with it. When you come up with your theories of evolution and God in control but not in control, do you tell yourself: “Now I am learning to use my cortex and my cerebellum”?

Silly comments. I'm well past the stasis for homo sapiens and so are you. 315,000 years ago in Morocco, they had a bigger brain, but did not know how to use it in full capacity as we do now and our forebears learned to do over time, and our teachers and parents and others taught you and I to do now. Unapproached, uncontacted, tribes in the Amazon still aren't using all of their brain capacity. I am analogically comparing the brain to learning piano playing, using an instrument, not a concept difficult to comprehend.


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