Miscellany (General)

by dhw, Friday, April 30, 2021, 13:18 (14 days ago) @ David Turell

Homo luzonensis
All dealt with on the “theodicy” thread.

Introducing the brain: all human brains don't react the same
DAVID: Darwin's survival theory cannot explain us. Apes survived without our brains.

dhw: Of course it can explain us. A vast proportion of our inventions, conventions, institutions and lifestyles have arisen out of improvements to our chances of survival. Apes and all the other extant life forms have survived without our brains because they don't need our brains to survive. How does that invalidate Darwin's theory?

DAVID: Amazing you don't understand that concept. The complexities of our very civilized world make live more complete and enjoyable, but our survival was guaranteed lo ng ago as long as we don't use our atom bombs.

dhw: Amazing how you introduce non sequiturs. Our so-called “civilized” world grew out of our increasingly efficient ways of surviving. Nothing is “guaranteed”, and what has that got to do with the fact that apes didn’t need our brains to survive?

DAVID: It tells us evolution of our brains was not naturally necessary, as above.

As you keep agreeing, no multicellular form of life was “necessary”, since bacteria have survived from the beginning. My proposal is that multicellular organisms evolved as unicellular organisms found new ways of surviving by joining forces. This “naturally” turned into a symbiotic process, whereby new communities of cells joined together to find new ways of coping with or exploiting new conditions. Hence the vast bush of diverse life forms past and present. If God exists, he would have created the mechanism that enabled them to do this. Can you see anything in the known history of life that contradicts this theory?

Self awareness
DAVID: the book doesn't tell us anything new. It makes the usual point. We are exceptional and like nothing else.

Agreed. You are a voracious reader, and if you wish to apply for a grant to write a book about books and articles that tell us nothing new, I will happily support you.

Brain and body sizes
This belongs to the thread on “pre-planning”, but it is too long to for me to put on that thread.

QUOTES: "The climate shift appeared to have triggered the evolution of the biggest brain-to-body ratios, such as those of dolphins, elephants and apes. (David’s bold)
“'Brain-to-body size is of course not independent of the evolution of intelligence. But it may actually be more indicative of more general adaptions to large scale environmental pressures that go beyond intelligence.'”

DAVID: This is just descriptive, and offers no clues as to why the brains are bigger in the ways they are. The comment I bolded above is pure guess work. We don't know what causes the triggering of any aspect of evolution from a natural viewpoint.

If brain changes are triggered by environmental pressures, we have a logical thesis: that they respond to new conditions, either by adapting or by innovating. The question of the relationship between size and intelligence remains open, but when I googled to find the size of the elephant brain, I got a very illuminating answer, with a big laugh at the end. But first the facts:

If Elephants Have Bigger Brains, Why Are They Not Smarter ...

QUOTE: “The African elephant brain had three times the number of neurons in a human brain, 257 billion to our 86 billion. But, 98% of their neurons were located in the cerebellum, in the back of the brain. That left 5.6 billion neurons in the cerebral cortex of the elephant compared to 16 billion neurons in the human cortex.

The cerebellum is responsible for such functions as movement, balance, coordination, posture etc. And so presumably the bigger the animal, the more cells the brain will need to meet these physical requirements. And since the cortex is linked to mental activity, the more mental work the brain has to do, the more cells it will require. Conclusion: See below.

QUOTE: "So what do we have that no other animal has? A remarkable number of neurons in the cerebral cortex, the largest around, attainable by no other species, I say. And what do we do that absolutely no other animal does, and which I believe allowed us to amass that remarkable number of neurons in the first place? We cook our food."

Um…I would humbly suggest that there are a few other things we do and did that absolutely no other animal does/did: e.g. bipedalism, sophisticated weapons and tools, clothes, fire (not just for cooking), increasingly complex social structures, different methods of acquiring food etc. And I’m thinking that cooking did not “allow” the cerebral cortex to add more and more cells, but the cortex needed more cells during the process of discovering and learning how to use fire (just as modern illiterate women needed additional complexification of cells while learning to read). In other words, the brain did not get bigger BECAUSE Mr Man roasted the deer he had killed with his spear, and (David’s theory) it did not get bigger because God gave it new cells so that afterwards it could think of inventing spears and using fire. It got bigger, just as it now complexifies, by RESPONDING TO NEW REQUIREMENTS. Can you find any logical flaws in this argument and its conclusion?

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