Okay, I am confused. I have never put much stock in what evolutionists and anthropologists say cause sometimes what they say seem less about science and more about making a creative guess. Their latest discovery has really got me confused or ………… is it because of the small size of my squirrel brain!
The latest controversy has to do about brain sizes. Now, I don’t know about you but I grew up with these guys pointing out how superior we (Homo sapiens) are to all other Homo species. As I recall, one of the evidence for this was that Homo sapiens have the largest brain capacity of the genus. A typical explanation would be similar to the one quoted below;
“In the last 3-4 million years brain volume within the hominid lineage has increased from less than 400 ml to roughly 1400 ml. The first clear increase in hominid brain size is seen in early Homo at c.2 m.y.a. in East Africa (most reliably in cranial specimen KNM-ER 1470). This is an evolutionarily significant change that cannot be simply accounted for in terms of increased body size alone. From the appearance of H. erectus at c.1.7 m.y.a. to the present, the brain increases nearly twofold: from c.800 ml to 1500 ml in Late Pleistocene H. sapiens, without any apparent change in body size.” (from http://www.massey.ac.nz/~alock/hbook/brain.htm)
This rationale is based on the presumption that a larger brain in this case was due to increased intelligence and brain sophistication. The exception to this is in the case of the Neanderthals (who are no longer considered an ancestor of modern humans but as cousins). Neanderthals had larger brains than humans but are not believed to be as intelligent. It is argued that the bigger brain in this case was due to the larger overall size of the creature and the brain was needed to be larger to deal with a larger body size and to cope with the more complex (i.e. dangerous) environment in which they lived. Based on this, humans dubbed themselves, Homo sapiens, which is Latin meaning “wise man” or “knowing man”.
With me so far? Now, the water has gotten murky. In a recent interview for Discovery Magazine, famous evolutionist and University of Michigan anthropologist, John Hawks revealed that studies have discovered that the human brain has been getting smaller in the last 30,000 years. In fact, the human brain had decreased in size by about 10% during that time. This is equivalent to losing brain material the size of a tennis ball.
Cro-Magnon man, our ancestor from 17,000 years ago is now believed to have the largest brain. Oh dear. Does that mean modern humans are dumber than those guys who drew paintings in caves? No! Declares the scientists emphatically. Professor Geary of University of Missouri claims that the larger size of Cro-Magnon’s brain has to due with having to deal with a dangerous environment and not that they were smarter. Professor Geary also believes that as population and social complexity increases, the human brain became smaller but different and more sophisticated.
Okay. If I got this right, modern man is the smartest because modern man has the largest brain with the exception of our ancestor, the Cro-Magnons and our distant relative, the Neanderthals. But in those two cases, the larger brain is not a measure of their intelligence but about their brute size and how hard life was. Also, the fact that human brains continue to shrink is because the brain is becoming more sophisticated.
Did you get all that? I see one fundamental assumption above that is seriously flawed – that modern humans are smart and getting smarter. I propose that humans are dumb and getting dumber. As evidence please watch any reality TV show but for a good laugh I suggest American Idol (the audition episodes), Jersey Shore or “I’m Not Smarter than a Fifth Grader”.
As a squirrel of little brain, I am not surprised that smaller brains are more intelligent and sophisticated. That implies that us squirrels are pretty intelligent and sophisticated. I can agree to that. On the other hand, some of my rodent brethren (see below) are very upset with the allegation that larger brains have more to do with brute size or living in a brutal world.