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Joad
Wordsmith
*****

Reged: 03/22/05

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5935347 - 06/22/13 09:01 PM

There are no "summits" in evolutionary biology. There are simply the dynamically various ways in which random mutation and natural selection result in species whose survival is enabled by a virtually innumerable number of morphologies. It is a common, and unfortunate, error to believe that biological evolution is a kind of pyramid leading to some sort of human summit.

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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Joad]
      #5935388 - 06/22/13 09:24 PM

Joad,

Using the word "mind" to speak of self-awareness, choice, understanding, reasoning; do you have any thoughts about future developments/improvements/changes we might see in human "mind" in a distant future?

Do you have any thoughts of what could be possible, in the way of "mind" or beyond "mind" in places operating under possible other types of evolution?

Otto


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UND_astrophysics
sage


Reged: 01/19/13

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5935426 - 06/22/13 09:54 PM

Quote:

UND...what's EQ? Seriously, I believe your conclusion is correct; that our smaller brains work better. How is that accomplished? What is the physiology behind it? (chemistry? biology?)

Otto





EQ is encephalization quotient.


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: UND_astrophysics]
      #5935461 - 06/22/13 10:18 PM

Ah, yes, the "brain mass to body mass ratio."

Why is this ratio significant for cognitive ability increase?


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WaterMasterAdministrator
Moat Keeper
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Reged: 02/17/10

Loc: Southeast Idaho, USA
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5935555 - 06/22/13 11:17 PM

Quote:

Why is this ratio significant for cognitive ability increase?





Now that's a big question (probably more than a few dissertations worth). Without being familiar with recent research, my guess would be that the human brain is as big as it needs to be.

I'm not trying to be trite. Evolutionary biology is a complex science, and it's hard to explain natural selection in just a few hundred words. I hope it will suffice to say that it appears as if a bigger, or perhaps even better brain, at this point in our evolutionary history and in our current ecology, does not offer a selective advantage. But that is an entirely different discussion...


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UND_astrophysics
sage


Reged: 01/19/13

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: WaterMaster]
      #5935563 - 06/22/13 11:29 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Why is this ratio significant for cognitive ability increase?





Now that's a big question (probably more than a few dissertations worth). Without being familiar with recent research, my guess would be that the human brain is as big as it needs to be.

I'm not trying to be trite. Evolutionary biology is a complex science, and it's hard to explain natural selection in just a few hundred words. I hope it will suffice to say that it appears as if a bigger, or perhaps even better brain, at this point in our evolutionary history and in our current ecology, does not offer a selective advantage. But that is an entirely different discussion...





You nailed it. Hence the 300 CC decrease in the past 24,000 years. Since the brain uses 24% of the bodies energy budget, no need to have a bigger brain, and actually it has streamlined a bit.

Excellent job
.
.
.


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llanitedave
Humble Megalomaniac
*****

Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: UND_astrophysics]
      #5935600 - 06/23/13 12:04 AM

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:

This new energy from cooked meat created a rapid increase in brain size, from 800cc to around 1100 cc. That is why we have the ability other animals lack; A well developed neocortex.





That's Richard Wrangham's thesis in "Catching Fire -- How Cooking Made Us Human". My wife and I read and debated the book, and we felt that while the idea makes sense to a certain extent, he overstated his case, and made a less than compelling argument. As a nit, I would rather say that cooking enabled the continuation of a trend in human brain size expansion that was already ongoing. The consumption of raw organ meats has been popular among many human populations even after the mastery of fire and cooking, so it's not an all or nothing proposition.




I think you are missing the point. There is no other explanation for the rapid growth in brain size. and we are talking about cooked meat, not raw meat. raw meat takes 10 times the calories for the human body to digest, an inhibitor leaving no energy budget for brain increase over generations. If one counts the calories needed for hunting ,and then digesting raw meat, only the use of fire can explain the sudden brain increase. This happened form Homo erectus through Homo Ergaster, and there is archeological evidence in the form of fire pits in the strata to back that up. It is simply a matter of calorie counting. The lipids were already broken down by the fire, increasing calorie delivery and decreasing calorie use for digestion.




The assumption that cooking is responsible for the increase in brain size carries with it the assumption that the ONLY thing keeping brain size down was the lack of cooked food. But this isn't necessarily true. Bottlenosed dolphins don't cook their fish, yet they have very large brains, with highly complex cerebral folds.
(You could argue that their brain to body mass ratio is still smaller than that of humans, but factoring in the amount of poorly enervated blubber that dolphins carry reduces that difference considerably -- an average bottlenose dolphin has a brain to body mass ratio not that far below a very obese human).

Also, domestic dogs have been eating cooked food now for tens of thousands of years, but though they have very quickly evolved some pretty distinctive and diverse forms during that time,there's no evidence they've experienced any selection for larger brains relative to their wild relatives. If anything, domestic dogs have smaller brains and less intelligence than wild wolves.

So there has to be another explanation than cooking for increased brain size, especially since this increase began prior to the advent of cooking.

Another point being missed is that even with cooking, meat makes up a minority of human calorie intake in most populations. Cooking may be more important for releasing nutrients from vegetables such as roots and grains than it is for meat. And here's where Wrangham's argument is the strongest, since this behavior seems to have allowed the selection of smaller, weaker jaws and teeth, with extensive chewing no longer such a necessity. And collecting plant food generally expends fewer calories than hunting, so the calorie count you mentioned isn't necessarily valid.

There are other ways that a preference for meat could have been used by evolution to enable larger brains. We could have evolved a more efficient digestive system similar to that of specialized predators, to get more out of the meat we eat. Raw meat need not require excessive energy to digest if the biology is focused on and specialized for that particular food type. But we didn't. We retained a hybrid, omnivore's digestive system.

As I said before, and as you pointed out in your post, there's no argument that the use of fire enabled the rapid development of large brains, because it enabled the more efficient absorption of nutrients from the food available. But it could have alternatively enabled the the evolution of many other physical features besides brain size, if they were already being selected for -- larger size, faster running, greater physical strength, to name three. Enabling is not selecting, and cooking didn't select for larger brain size, and therefore did not cause it in any evolutionary sense. The selection pressure for larger brains came from elsewhere, and cooked food simply removed impediments to it. But had that selection pressure not already existed prior to cooking (as it apparently does not in dogs), then the extra available calories would have not been more likely to enable larger brain size than the enhancement of any other trait.

At best, what cooking did was accelerate an already existing trend. If that selection pressure had remained over time, the well-developed neocortex would have appeared without cooking, just a bit more gradually, and with other adaptations in the digestive system to enable it.

Edited by llanitedave (06/23/13 12:12 AM)


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Joad
Wordsmith
*****

Reged: 03/22/05

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5935610 - 06/23/13 12:11 AM

Trying to stay away from anything political or controversial, I'll simply say that "natural selection" is ineluctably tied to sexual selection. Larger brains, under the conditions of current human society, do not lead to the selection of larger numbers of sexual partners, or larger numbers of offspring. It is the gene pool that governs biological evolution, and intelligence is no predictor (unless it is a negative predictor) of an individual's contribution to it.

I do not expect any further growth in the size of the human brain.


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UND_astrophysics
sage


Reged: 01/19/13

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5935614 - 06/23/13 12:13 AM

I never said the lack of cooked food kept the brain size small, I said that cooked meat Was responsible for Homo Erectus. and that is pretty much the scientific consensus. period. There is no doubt that uncooked meat caused a slower brain increase.. but not like cooked.
If you can cite where this larger brain size came from, an alternative explanation, I will be happy to listen. Because in any caloric study that I have done in evolutionary psychology, there is no other way to account for the calories, and yes, calories are needed for brain mass. Brain sizes do not increase from thin air. The brain development also came from having to catch the food, and the creative ways that were needed to achieve this. Like I pointed out using Boisei as an example. Boisei was a herbivore and an evolutionary dead end. You cannot dispute that fact. If you can show me where those extra calories came from, I am all ears. But I seriously doubt you will be able to do that. The Body uses 24% of it's energy budget alone just to think. Growing 500 cc's in brain size so quickly through simple evolutionary pressure? I promise you that is not plausible.


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llanitedave
Humble Megalomaniac
*****

Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Joad]
      #5935616 - 06/23/13 12:18 AM

The conditions of current human society are pretty ephemeral, and I would hesitate to attribute any long-term significance to it one way or the other.

Anyway, it's very possible that "natural" selection with respect to human evolution may be nearing its end. With the mastery of the genetic code (and the removal of patentability for existing human genes), it's highly probable that future human evolution will be a result of deliberate selection.

"Intelligent Design" is certainly no explanation for our evolutionary past, but it may indeed be a valid concept for our future.


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Joad
Wordsmith
*****

Reged: 03/22/05

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: UND_astrophysics]
      #5935617 - 06/23/13 12:19 AM

"The Body uses 24% of its energy budget alone just to think."

I didn't know that.

Pardon me, folks, but I am going to go now and get rich selling millions of copies of my new book . . .











wait for it . . .













you know it's coming:










The Thinking Man's Diet.


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Joad
Wordsmith
*****

Reged: 03/22/05

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5935622 - 06/23/13 12:24 AM

Quote:

The conditions of current human society are pretty ephemeral, and I would hesitate to attribute any long-term significance to it one way or the other.

Anyway, it's very possible that "natural" selection with respect to human evolution may be nearing its end. With the mastery of the genetic code (and the removal of patentability for existing human genes), it's highly probable that future human evolution will be a result of deliberate selection.

"Intelligent Design" is certainly no explanation for our evolutionary past, but it may indeed be a valid concept for our future.




You make a good point, but there is the problem of scale to consider. The deliberate selection that may indeed appear in our near future will most probably be limited to a very small number of affluent people. Meanwhile, there will be over seven billion people who will not be deliberately selecting their genetic inheritance. The ratio of the deliberately selected to the ordinarily selected will be too large to make up.

But, quite frankly, I don't give human life much more than a century or so, at the most, so the discussion is moot as far as I'm concerned.


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llanitedave
Humble Megalomaniac
*****

Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: UND_astrophysics]
      #5935627 - 06/23/13 12:31 AM

Quote:

I never said the lack of cooked food kept the brain size small, I said that cooked meat Was responsible for Homo Erectus. and that is pretty much the scientific consensus. period. There is no doubt that uncooked meat caused a slower brain increase.. but not like cooked.
If you can cite where this larger brain size came from, an alternative explanation, I will be happy to listen. Because in any caloric study that I have done in evolutionary psychology, there is no other way to account for the calories, and yes, calories are needed for brain mass. Brain sizes do not increase from thin air. The brain development also came from having to catch the food, and the creative ways that were needed to achieve this. Like I pointed out using Boisei as an example. Boisei was a herbivore and an evolutionary dead end. You cannot dispute that fact. If you can show me where those extra calories came from, I am all ears. But I seriously doubt you will be able to do that. The Body uses 24% of it's energy budget alone just to think. Growing 500 cc's in brain size through simple evolutionary pressure? I promise you that is not plausible.




But boisei was not a human ancestor, and it's dietary habits are pretty much irrelevant to ours. As I mentioned, the increase in brain size began before cooking, and therefore cooking could not have supplied the selection pressure for it. Certainly the social cooperation required for group hunting would have played a role in this selection pressure -- but it can't be the sole explanation either. Wolves and wild dogs are extremely sophisticated social group hunters, yet their brain sizes do not seem to have increased significantly in the time they've been in existence, and that time is longer than human ancestors have been hunting. Human behavior is complex in ways other than hunting, and there are a number of possible triggers for selection in human intelligence that don't relate to it.

It's not incumbent on one criticizing a hypothesis to advance an alternative explanation. It's the hypothesis being presented that is subject to criticism; refutation and falsification are just as valid in the absence of an alternative as in the presence of one. A valid alternative to a falsified theory is "I don't know".


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Otto Piechowski
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 09/20/05

Loc: Lexington, KY
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Joad]
      #5935637 - 06/23/13 12:36 AM

Joad, you wrote, "But, quite frankly, I don't give human life much more than a century or so, at the most,..."

Please say more. Why do you say that? What do you mean? etc.

Otto


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UND_astrophysics
sage


Reged: 01/19/13

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: llanitedave]
      #5935638 - 06/23/13 12:36 AM

Boisei was a Branch, and you are correct, a distant cousin, but an evolutionary dead end. and you are right, the pressure began before cooking. But we must consider an energy budget once again.. without cooking Homo erectus would have spent 6.2 hours per day just eating, and that is not counting it;s body breaking down the lipids. My point is, that there is no other way to account for this energy other than cooking. Even evolutionary pressure needs to get that energy from somewhere, it cannot come anywhere else that anyone can account for, no magic energy drink, etc. That energy through caloric intake must have come from somewhere.

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Joad
Wordsmith
*****

Reged: 03/22/05

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Otto Piechowski]
      #5935644 - 06/23/13 12:41 AM

There are some who think that the expiration date, which they call "Nightfall" after an Asimov story, is going to in 2045 or thereabouts. I don't think it is going to be anything so precise as that.

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llanitedave
Humble Megalomaniac
*****

Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" new [Re: Joad]
      #5935646 - 06/23/13 12:43 AM

Quote:

Quote:

The conditions of current human society are pretty ephemeral, and I would hesitate to attribute any long-term significance to it one way or the other.

Anyway, it's very possible that "natural" selection with respect to human evolution may be nearing its end. With the mastery of the genetic code (and the removal of patentability for existing human genes), it's highly probable that future human evolution will be a result of deliberate selection.

"Intelligent Design" is certainly no explanation for our evolutionary past, but it may indeed be a valid concept for our future.




You make a good point, but there is the problem of scale to consider. The deliberate selection that may indeed appear in our near future will most probably be limited to a very small number of affluent people. Meanwhile, there will be over seven billion people who will not be deliberately selecting their genetic inheritance. The ratio of the deliberately selected to the ordinarily selected will be too large to make up.

But, quite frankly, I don't give human life much more than a century or so, at the most, so the discussion is moot as far as I'm concerned.





I've thought about the "have's vs have nots" aspect of human genetic enhancement pretty extensively, and some of the implications are not pretty. But nothing's cast in stone yet, and while at first, the non-selected percentage of humans will be overwhelmingly large, it's very possible that over time that ratio will began to even out. Especially if the "enhanced" individuals are seen as having practical advantages in life, the choices will be to either prevent more enhanced individuals appearing, or to force the "spread of the wealth". Either way will lead to major social upheaval.

The primary beneficiaries of this technology from an evolutionary standpoint will be the descendants of those who have left the Earth and have made their homes among the asteroids and comets. They will have the advantage of:
1. Smaller populations that can be consistently modified population-wide, and
2. Genetic and cultural isolation that will allow these changes to fix, while minimizing conflict with other outside groups.
3. Larger numbers of population centers that imply a tremendous diversity of modifications between colonies.

At my most pessimistic, I still give the species a lot more time than you do. However, there's a limit. If we don't at some point develop practical and relatively compact fusion power plants, I suspect that as a civilization, at least, we'll be eventually doomed.


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Joad
Wordsmith
*****

Reged: 03/22/05

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" [Re: llanitedave]
      #5935674 - 06/23/13 12:57 AM

It isn't worth arguing about (I mean in the sense of coming up with debate-worthy arguments). My sense is that Nightfall will not be in our lifetimes and there is nothing that anyone can produce in a debate that has any particular weight.

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llanitedave
Humble Megalomaniac
*****

Reged: 09/26/05

Loc: Amargosa Valley, NV, USA
Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" [Re: UND_astrophysics]
      #5935676 - 06/23/13 12:58 AM

Quote:

Boisei was a Branch, and you are correct, a distant cousin, but an evolutionary dead end. and you are right, the pressure began before cooking. But we must consider an energy budget once again.. without cooking Homo erectus would have spent 6.2 hours per day just eating, and that is not counting it;s body breaking down the lipids. My point is, that there is no other way to account for this energy other than cooking. Even evolutionary pressure needs to get that energy from somewhere, it cannot come anywhere else that anyone can account for, no magic energy drink, etc. That energy through caloric intake must have come from somewhere.




Those calculations assume, I think, our existing digestive system and its efficiency, or lack of it. Enhanced digestive efficiency is a possible evolutionary path that could supply more calories from food.

"Breaking down lipids" is an enzyme-mediated process, is it not? We don't have the same suite of enzymes that other carnivores do, and therefore our breakdown process is less efficient. Cooking essentially plays the same role in our digestion as specialized enzymes do in dedicated predators.

Again, I agree that cooking allowed the increase in our brain size to proceed faster than it otherwise would have, but my nit is with the claim that cooking was the cause of our brain size.

As an analogy, had I lived 200 years ago, I could have ridden on horseback to a town 50 miles away. Two hundred years later, I can get to the same destination much more quickly in my car. But if I wanted to go to town, neither the horse nor the car were the cause of my arrival at that destination. They affected the timing and manner of my arrival, but the cause of that journey either way could have been the same need for a sack of flour.


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Joad
Wordsmith
*****

Reged: 03/22/05

Re: Sentient, Intelligent, or Human? or "Sapient" [Re: llanitedave]
      #5935685 - 06/23/13 01:03 AM

I think that the concept of a biofeedback loop obtains here. A growing brain enabled the mastery of fire and the cooking of food in the first place, and then the cooking of food provided a fast track energy conservation source that headed off the evolution of a more efficient digestive system in favor of a growing brain.

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