TED Conversations

Jacob Warren


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Is intelligence an inevitable step in evolution?

More and more we are redefining what intelligence means to us and finding more examples of it in the animal kingdom. We can only speculate, but do you think that there have been intelligent animals on the level of dolphins, crows, elephants, squids, etc. that have come and gone in some of the many mass extinctions in ages past? In other words, what is your opinion about the inevitability of intelligence appearing through the process of evolution in many animals, even some that died off in mass extinction(s), and how does this intelligence relate to the types of intelligence humans seem to (occasionally) possess and/or exhibit? What does this mean to our picture of human superiority?



http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1335227/animal-intelligence G


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    Feb 26 2014: Intelligence is a product of experience: therefore should accumulate with time. Our combined intelligence is also a factor of population, so the cumulative effects of time & population growth give us the abilities we have today.
    A few thousand years ago we had some smart individuals building pyramids.
    There is no reason to suspect that today's individuals are any smarter than the pyramid builders, in fact our accumulated smarts would be struggling to build a pyramid today. We only have records for these few thousand years, but there is no reason to suspect any evolutionary adaptions within our brain. To go earlier is to guess and speculate, I'll leave that to others.

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      Feb 28 2014: 59,000 BC Y-Chromosome Adam ... ...
      50,000 BC Colonisation of Australia. ... ...
      35,000 BC first cave paintings. ... ...
      30,000 BC Neanderthals die out.
      25,000 BC Oldest arrow heads discovered in Africa.
      10,000 BC Domestication of the dog. First pottery made in the Jamon period of Japan. ... ...
      8075 BC First sighting posts establish at Stonehenge. ...
      8000 BC First known fortified city - Jericho. Link
      8000 BC Mammoths go extinct on the Siberian mainland. ... ...
      7500 BC Agriculture begins. ... ...
      5000 BC Earliest known writing. (Balkan-Danube Script) ... ...
      3300 BC Sumerians arrive in Sumer. The earliest continuous writing known: receipt on clay tablet. Tablet
      3200 BC Newgrange complex was built in Ireland. link
      3150 BC Some evidence of Comet impact known as a world flood. ... ...
      3020 BC Henge is started at Stonehenge. ...
      3000 BC Bronze Age begins ... ...
      2700 BC First ziggurat is built in Iraq. ...
      2650 BC First pyramid of Djoser is built at Saqqara in Egypt ...
      2638 BC Khufu becomes king of Two Lands of Egypt. Pyramid of Khufu was built ...
      2600 BC First large temple mounds are built in Peru ... ...
      2570 BC Great Pyramid of Giza completed.
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      Feb 28 2014: RE: there is no reason to suspect any evolutionary adaptions within our brain.

      (why do people make such unknowing statements?)

      Microcephalin, a gene regulating brain size, continues to evolve adaptively in humans.

      The gene Microcephalin (MCPH1) regulates brain size and has evolved under strong positive selection in the human evolutionary lineage. We show that one genetic variant of Microcephalin in modern humans, which arose approximately 37,000 years ago, increased in frequency too rapidly to be compatible with neutral drift. This indicates that it has spread under strong positive selection, although the exact nature of the selection is unknown. The finding that an important brain gene has continued to evolve adaptively in anatomically modern humans suggests the ongoing evolutionary plasticity of the human brain. It also makes Microcephalin an attractive candidate locus for studying the genetics of human variation in brain-related phenotypes.

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        Feb 28 2014: Given the diversity of brain size among the existing world population; it will come as a shock for many to hear that intelligence is related the size of their bonce.

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          Feb 28 2014: This is deflecting the point that research supports that we continue to evolve,
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        Mar 1 2014: Hi, Theodore-

        Since I have cited PBS NOVA "What Darwin Never Knew" before, you know that I agree about the genetic variant of Microcephalin (MCPH1) that is unique to humans, or what I prefer to call Pan sui fallenda (Self-deceiving ape), since the Great Linnaeus freely admitted that his creation of the genus Homo was a fraud.

        That program also shows that jaw-muscle weakening, defective gene Myosin variant MYH-16 must have preceded the genetic variant of Microcephalin that allowed our brains to expand after 4 million years of small brains in upright, tool-using primates. Our craniums could not expand nearly enough to house significantly larger brains until the huge, very constricting "cage" of apelike jaw muscles that arched over the top of the cranium - gorilla jaw muscles are the size of human thigh muscles/quads- atrophied via a species-wide muscular degenerative disease that struck at a time when the species that evolved into us had its population reduced via some catastrophe to as few as 10,000 individuals, according to many geneticists.

        I love your timeline in earlier post, but I would ask you and all TEDsters to pause for a while at the domestication of the dog and deeply consider its implications for our cultural evolution. I supply the link to PBS NOVA program "Dogs Decoded" below.

        1) Domestication of dogs may be as old as 100,000 years

        2) Hunting dogs vastly expanded food resources. A man might spend more calories chasing a rabbit than he would get from eating it.

        3) Herding dogs did/do 99% of the work.

        4) Granaries could never have been protected effectively from vermin without domestic dogs

        5) Both planted fields and human villages benefited greatly from guard dogs.

        Many scholars think that without our symbiotic relationship with dogs that may be far older than most folks imagine, we would not be where we are, for good or ill.

        Animal intelligence surely factors into this chat, Jacob.

        PBS Dogs
        • Mar 2 2014: I've seen the "Dog's Decoded" a number if times, it's a great documentary that speaks to the amazing plasticity of dogs and the profound impact they had on our survival and our evolution as well. Another good documentary is "A Murder of Crows" it talks about the intelligence, problem solving capability, and tool use of certain crows. Surely there is some form or level of abstract thought going on when solving a two part puzzle to obtain food.

          Edit: the whole film is great, but if you have 5min you can YouTube "a murder of crows" and skip to minute 15. It shows some toolmaking and problem solving that seem to me to be on par with some chimps.
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        Mar 2 2014: Hi. Theodore-

        I agree that Pan sui fallenda is still evolving. Great book on that is "The 10,000-Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution." Of particular interest to me, since it dealt with recent and well-documented human events, is the chapter "How the Ashkenazi Jews Got Their Smarts," which explains why so many Nobel Laureates have been Ashkenazis and why Harvard put a 25% student enrollment cap on Jews!



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