Origins of human thought - needinfo

scott collins (74563.100@CompuServe.COM)
8 Oct 1995 23:15:51 GMT

I'm looking for some good references for an article I'm writing. My
thesis is that the capacity for abstract thought only arose in humans
along with the capacity for language. A sub-thesis is that both of
these arose very late, only about 50,000 years ago or so, and that
together they are what made anautomically modern humans so dominant,
first over Neanderthals, and then eventually the entire globe. In
other words, without language and abstract thought we would have
remained nothing more than a pretty mundane hominid species.

I fully realize that one can pick bones (no pun intended) with this
thesis by, for example, redefining language to include Jane Goodall's
apes. But, really, that sort of stuff bores me. I'm talking about the
capacity for modern rapid, easily-spoken languages, which almost seem
innate. As far as abstract thought -- I'm refeering to the capacity
for metaphysical speculation , early religion, anatism, etc. I'm
highly unimpressed with the material that says Neanderthals were
really capable of this kind of thing.

Here's what I've read: Milo and Quiatt, 1993, some stuff by
Liebermann, and some stuff by Pinker. I am not a professional, by the

Of coure I'm interested in counter arguments to my thesis too.