Technology and Intelligence

Thu, 9 Feb 1995 09:57:56 CST

I don't understand D. Rindos's assertion of a lack of correlation
between brain expansion and tool improvement in hominid evolution. I
suspect he is reifying the rather arbitrary attempt, by human
paleontologists, to chop up an evolving continuum into so-called
"chronospecies." Once we recognize the artificiality of fantasizing
discrete species abruptly replacing one another, we are able to see that
as hominid brains expanded from c. 500 cc to nearly three times that
figure, stone technology improved from Oldowan, through Acheulian,
through Mousterian, to Upper Paleolithic, with a definite trend toward
ever greater efficiency in converting unworked flint into effective
cutting edge. That these changes don't correlate perfectly with
arbitrarily defined "species" seems to me quite unimportant. The fossil
hunters can be forgiven for identifying new "species" on a regular
basis, often with spectacular names ("A. ramidus"): they need to get
good press for their finds, and funding for their future expeditions.
But let's avoid believing in word magic: labeling a handful of fossils a
"species" does not make it one. As thoughtful specialists have
realized, the concept of species is inherently synchronic. --Bob Graber