Re: the G word, reply to Pinsker

Dave Rindos (arkeo4@UNIWA.UWA.EDU.AU)
Sat, 17 Dec 1994 08:26:35 +0800

On Fri, 16 Dec 1994, Mike Lieber wrote:

> I agree with Eve's point that dogs cannot be used as a model of human
> neurophysiology. I never said that they were, nor did I imply it. The
> observational/experimental advantage of dogs is precisely that they have
> wide intra-species variability, given selective breeding.

There's an empirical problem to be faced here -- it seems possible that
in dog breeds (as in human 'races') the genetic and phenotypic variability
may well be greater WITHIN the breeds than BETWEEN them (save for that
teensy bit which serves to 'define' the breed). Some studies have led in
this direction, and in fact apparently include the wolf samples as part
of the general dog clade. I am not familiar with the literature on this,
but the general conclusion would appear sound. Breeds are phenotyically
marked lineages, for sure. But presuming a significant difference
between them may be incorrect.

> For that reason,
> it should be easier to examine the nature of genetic differences and trace
> their neuro-organizational differences.
of course, if there is not genetic differnce of significance, then not
much useful will come out of this study, eh?

> I think that Holloway is dead on
> when he says that gross comparisons like brain sizes tell us nothing. The
> major differences are more likely to be found in how the nervous systems are
> organized.
not quite sure what this is all about. It would seem that the nervous
system organisation of Homo (minimally H sap sap) has to be presumed
constant since the origin of the species. Yet, the IMPORTANT things we
study as archaeologists and anthropologists seem to bear NO correlation to
any observable changes in phenotype.

> I'm waiting for Jerome Barkow or anyone else familiar with
> "learning bias" to explain it to us. I don't think this thread will go any
> further, except for reproductive humor of course, in our present state of
> ignorance.

"Learning bias" may be useful at one level -- when speaking of the origin
of a human cultural capacity, it is certainly relevant. However (IMVHO),
the REAL 'learning bias' AFTER such time as cultural processes are
functioning will occur WITHIN cultures -- the cultural 'rules' and all
that stuff ARE the biases in human culture. THe genetic/physiological
underpinning are just that -- potentials. They carry no CONTENT (and
bias is a kind of content if we are speaking in terms of comparing
cultures in our species, their similarities and differences).


Dave Rindos
20 Herdsmans Parade Wembley WA 6014 AUSTRALIA
Ph:+61 9 387 6281 (GMT+8) FAX:+61 9 386 2760 (USEST+13)
[you may also reach me on]

Rabbits exist, hence we may speak meaningfully to the evolution of
the rabbit. Some people attempt to study the evolution of
human intelligence. We may well have a real problem here.