Technology and Intelligence

Mon, 6 Feb 1995 16:57:38 CST

J. Barnes says, in crowning his defense of the social-intelligence
hypothesis, that "frankly, technology has been done to death." Not so, I
would say: recently biological anthropologists including Pat Shipman and
Randall Sussman have reported clear fossil evidence that even the robust
australopithecines were equipped with the muscle flexor pollicis longus,
meaning that they had an excellent precision grip. Fine manipulation
therefore clearly preceded brain expansion. Temporal priority is a
desirable feature in a factor being put forth as having caused high
intelligence to have special selective value. It's not that "technology
has been done to death" as the reason for brain expansion; evidence
continues coming in to support it. The social-intelligence hypothesis
has no such evidence. As for the admittedly outrageous formulation that
the human intellect evolved for social manipulation *rather than* the
solution of "practical problems": this gem is not my own, but is from
Matt Ridley's 1993 book *The Red Queen*, as quoted recently on this list
by B. Katz; according to whom Ridley was presenting the "classic"
social-intelligence hypothesis by N. Humphrey. What I get from J.
Barnes is that he too finds the technology hypothesis boring--"done to
death." Again, I confess to finding that a singularly unadmirable reason
to reject a theory consistent with a large and growing body of evidence.
--Bob Graber