TED Conversations

Serge Patlavskiy

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Are cognitive abilities indeed dependent on the number of neurons? Is mental (not social) development indeed dependent on thermal cooking?

Are cognitive abilities indeed dependent on the number of neurons? Is mental (not social) development of humans and other organisms indeed dependent on what they eat? Let us discuss these questions in more details.

Topics: neurons

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    Dec 19 2013: What is the standard scale to measure cognitive abilities between species? I mean, is there a science that can measure a relative cognitive coefficient for each species? The more complex the biological/social needs of an organism, the more number of neurons and the more complex it's brain will need to be, I guess. So how correct it will be to say a monkey is dumber compared to human? The cognitive need of monkeys and humans are vastly different.
    I understand that it takes a human being (of a given cognitive ability) to make a cathedral, but it sure takes a dog to identify a person by smell, or it takes a bat to fly blind.
    Are we seeing a a problem of scaling consciousness here?
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      Dec 19 2013: What we're seeing is a problem with the scientific validity of a TED Talk... It's misleading and, dare I say, pseudoscience.
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        Dec 20 2013: This is a reply to your question to me below. I did follow the links from Serge's blog and did find his publication in the Journal of Conscientiology: "The Journal of Conscientiology (JofC) publishes research papers and articles related to the study of the consciousness, with the aim of deepening our understanding of consciousness. The science of conscientiology analyzes the consciousness by examining its physical and its non-physical attributes (including energies, non-physical bodies, multiple existences (lives) and multidimensional communications and manifestations). As a logical extension of this, analyses in conscientiology typically incorporate parapsychic and paranormal capacities as instruments for conducting research. The lucid out-of-body experience stands out among them as an invaluable tool for advancing research into the nature of consciousness as multi-dimensional. The JofC is committed to providing a forum for the unbiased publication of research and exchange of ideas associated with these concepts."

        I saw no work in Nature.

        Here is the link FYI for the International Academy of Consciousness to which you refered: http://www.iacworld.us/ From that link, here is the description of the orientation of that group: This site offers an overview of IAC's
        activities and the sciences of Projectiology
        and Conscientiology, which study consciousness
        beyond the brain, investigating psychic awareness and
        paranormal phenomena as tools to understand the multi-dimensional
        nature of humanity."

        I do understand that Suzannah and Serge have different professional associations.

        I found reporting of Suzannah's work by googling her. You can too.
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      Dec 19 2013: Pabitra, I would appreciate your looking at the talk yourself, as a scientist, to form an independent conclusion. I would be interested in reading your point of view, as I believe you have training in biological science.

      I wish Christophe, who has graduate training in neuroscience, would come around as well.
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        Dec 19 2013: As requested, I went through the talk a second time and read the transcript lest I I should miss something important.
        I shall give credit to Suzana for demystifying the specialty of a human brain as she concluded it is just the right kind of brain of a primate at its evolutionary stage.
        I shall however not be persuaded by her talk that the mental development of humans has scientifically established relationship with thermal cooking. In my opinion. What she has done is, at best, educated speculation. Aided metabolism of foods ( thermal cooking as in this case) is nothing unique in animal kingdom. There are known species of birds who eat small pebbles (metabolism aids) to digest their food (grains). This does not appear to have resulted in maintaining a more complex brain by reducing energy demand.
        I am not a neuro-scientist but know for a fact that human brain's information processing capability is nothing of the sort of a super computer. On account of energy constraint human brains constantly compromise input data and use neuronic short cuts to achieve what we think is a feat. For example when you are reading this text your brain is scanning only the first alphabet of each word and the next significant consonant and conjuring up the word from memory.
        I have a fundamentally different idea of cognition and consciousness where brain does not figure in a central way as in Suzana's talk. The sea squirts of the tunicate family at the young larvae stage eat their own nervous system (notocord) and the rudimentary brain (cerebral ganglion) as food when their purpose of movement for the rest of their lives is over.
        However, I shall give her benefit of doubt against pseudo-science.
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          Dec 19 2013: Thank you, Pabitra. I don't have the background for analysis in this field, but I do note that Nature and the National Academy of Sciences also have vetted this work and considered it significant. Those organizations use peer review by scientists with a record of peer-reviewed publications in scholarly journals.

          Often hypotheses are derived from small samples that are later tested on different and broader samples. So I can respect first, exploratory steps.

          Thank you for reviewing the talk.
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          Dec 20 2013: Fritzie,

          Could you please provide the sources for Nature and the National Academy of Sciences as I'm really interested in reading what they have to say about this.

          And I'd also like to point out that Serge has great credibility in this field. He's has a background as a physicist, is founder and director of the Institute for Theoretical Problems of Interdisciplinary Investigations. Has had numerous papers published in nature. And is a member of the International Academy of Consciousness.

          You can find this out by Googleing him.
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      Dec 19 2013: As I have indicated many times when commenting on this talk, it is a rude and impermissible methodological blunder to compare the cognitive abilities of the representatives of different species. We can only compare a human with a human, a cow with a cow, a monkey with a monkey, and so on. Even within the same species, say, humans, we have Chess Tournaments for men and separately for women. Rats, bats, apes (as well as all other species) need not become as intelligent as we are -- they already are expediently intelligent. Moreover, no proof exists that prehistoric man was duller than we are now.

      Suzana remains deaf to the expressed arguments, and, as I think, for a good reason. The case is that in her talk she states not her personal views, but just re-states all that pile of misconceptions the modern science has accumulated for the last two centuries concerning the consciousness-related and evolutionary problematic. Let us recollect that yet at the beginning of 20-th century the African pigmies were not treated by Darwinists as cognitively able as other humans.

      To the point, Pabitra, yours are cool glasses. They must be for underwater swimming? :-)

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