Re: Thoughts on "Origins of human thought"

the skeptic (
Sat, 14 Oct 95 14:37:11 CDT

In article <45iv1c$> (Phil Nicholls) writes:



>evolutionary histories. Living insectivores are not the ancestors of
>primates or any other modern mammalian group. What we learn about
>insectivore brains may not be true for early mammals in general.

True, but living insectivores may well share a common mammalian ancestor and
we should look at the evolution of the earliest primates, omomyidae and adapida
e to try to discern if there is a pattern there. When the omomyids and adapids
evolved during the Eocene, they developed the post orbital bar, grasping hands
and stereoscopic vision. Some of the fossil specimens of the omomyids had larg
e eyes which would seem to indicate that they were still nocturnal. However,
the adapids and some of the omomyid genera seem to have been diurnal. These
early primates most likely developed these typical primate characteristics to
be able to compete with the rodent like insectivores.

>Putting aside the limitations of methodology for the moment and
>getting back to the point, the best way to study the evolution of
>human thought is to understand the evolution of thought in mammals and
>in particular in primates.
>Harry Jerison put forward some interesting ideas in his book "The
>Evolution of the Brain and Intelligence." I would like to summarize
>some of these ideas and then see if anyone would like to take a moment
>from discussing important things like aquatic apes.
>The earliest mammals were nocturnal. This means that the sensory
>information most critical to their survival was not visual
>information. Most important were what might be called distance sences
>such as hearing and olfaction. Nocturnal mammals used information

Just remember that this is only theory ...that "This means that the sensory
information most critical to their survival was not visual information." This
is possible, but it is just as possible that the fact that they WERE nocturnal
shows that vision was the most essential sense for their survival, in terms of
being able to find small insects in the dark.

>The construction and use of perceptual maps also produced a
>decoupling of behavior from sensation to some extent, leading to less
>stereotypic behaviors and producing more and more flexiblity in the
>ability to respond to the perceptual map.
>If you want to look for the origins of "abstract though" then I think
>this is a good place to begin. Surely perceptual maps are
>abstractions of the real world constructed from distance sense data.
This is a fascinating speculation. It would seem to indicate a development of
response flexibility evolving as a byproduct of an adaptation. Which would of
course if we believe in the gradualist theory at least, indicate that over a
period of time, the morphology of the brain might change. Neat speculation

Please tell me that you aren't trying to say that none of the living non-h.s.s.
primates have the capacity for abstract thought.
evolution of abstract thought in humans.

>Phil Nicholls
>"To ask a question you must first know most of the answer"
> -Robert Sheckley
Robert Sheckley has a point there, and so I'll add my 6 cents
can't understand the answer if one doesn't understand the question.