Singular intelligence?

Wed, 8 Feb 1995 12:55:38 +0000

I'm busy working on other projects here, but you keep drawing me back
to ANTHRO-L. So be it. Here we go again. Just as I argued before that
intelligence is a single label referring to a multiplicity of neural
functions, I will have to take aim against notions that it has some
singular cause.
This is another example of Blake's "Single Vision" of science at work
again - everything has to have one, simple, linear cause. Here in this era
of systems theory, cybernetics, complexity theory, and nonlinear dynamics,
it's time to question that.
I think tool-making definitely had something to do with the peculiar
evolutionary trajectory of our particular hominid line. As did 'social
intelligence,' the need to negotiate social relationships.
But I would suspect that all of the following do too - and the fact
that they all influenced each other and are correlated is also important:

1. The development of language. No linguistic anthropologists have
offered this one yet?? I would suggest the importance of human language is
not only that it enables us to share information, but also to conceal or
distort it... and to create an important new channel for memetic
2. Menstruation. Human females are fertile year-round, and not just
during periods of "heat." Only William Irwin Thompson and some feminist
anthropologists seem to have been willing to discuss the significance of
this for human sexuality and social complexity.
3. Consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms. OK, this is from Terrence
McKenna, and I know he's not scholar de rigeur around here. But I suspect
the development of a circumpolar shamanism revolving around consumption of
hallucinogenic plants around 100,000 years ago may have been very important
4. Hemispheric lateralization. I keep returning to this left/right
brain business. It's the origins of IT (the dichotomization of function,
and the overwhelming move toward left brain dominance in our species) that
still remain enigmatic.
5. Play. Read Huizenga's _homo ludens_, people! _Homo ludens_ is, at
least to me, as valid a model as _homo faber_ - maybe better...
6. Changing sensory modalities. Human beings seem to have lost out in
the smell and sight categories as compared to some of our mammalian
cousins. Touch and taste seem to have evolved extremely peculiarly in us.
The audial channel has been used for new and unexpected means (see 1.,
above.) Visual information seems to provide 80% of our 'inputs' about the
world. And as for other sensory modalities (electromagnetic sense)....
well, nobody around here believes nonsense like that anyway, so I'll stop
7. The incest taboo. The development of kinship and reciprocity. Nobody
reads Levi-Strauss anymore?
8. Relexivity. Self-awareness, self-consciousness, introspection. Homo
sapiens sapiens is capable of not only making complex models of the
external world, but also representations and expressions of its own
internal emotional, mental, and physiological states. Humans can not only
acquire new memes, they can also question or reject existing ones.
Metaprogramming. There are those who feel 8. is a function of 1., although
it might have been an important change in-itself.

All of these changes helped people build better tools and navigate social
relationships better. And perhaps building tools and navigating social
relationships influenced changes in these areas. The point is that there
are LOTS of feedback loops going on here. To say the cause of increased
intelligence was NOTHING BUT the result of improved tool-making is
'cyclopean' vision, to say the least.


Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, AnthroFuturist, Topothesian
Home Page URL:
"One measures a circle, beginning anywhere." -- Charles Fort