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Old 07-02-2009, 09:18 AM   #1
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Default The Evolving Brain

I only put this on the main page because we had a long discussion in a main thread about brain evolution and how it effects our instincts/decision making today. Kristof has a column touching on this in today's times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/op...=1&ref=opinion


Our political system sometimes produces such skewed results that it’s difficult not to blame bloviating politicians. But maybe the deeper problem lies in our brains.

Evidence is accumulating that the human brain systematically misjudges certain kinds of risks. In effect, evolution has programmed us to be alert for snakes and enemies with clubs, but we aren’t well prepared to respond to dangers that require forethought.

If you come across a garter snake, nearly all of your brain will light up with activity as you process the “threat.” Yet if somebody tells you that carbon emissions will eventually destroy Earth as we know it, only the small part of the brain that focuses on the future — a portion of the prefrontal cortex — will glimmer.

“We humans do strange things, perhaps because vestiges of our ancient brain still guide us in the modern world,” notes Paul Slovic, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon and author of a book on how our minds assess risks.

Follow the link for the rest.
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Old 07-02-2009, 09:52 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by SonOfLe-loLang View Post
I only put this on the main page because we had a long discussion in a main thread about brain evolution and how it effects our instincts/decision making today. Kristof has a column touching on this in today's times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/op...=1&ref=opinion


Our political system sometimes produces such skewed results that it’s difficult not to blame bloviating politicians. But maybe the deeper problem lies in our brains.

Evidence is accumulating that the human brain systematically misjudges certain kinds of risks. In effect, evolution has programmed us to be alert for snakes and enemies with clubs, but we aren’t well prepared to respond to dangers that require forethought.

If you come across a garter snake, nearly all of your brain will light up with activity as you process the “threat.” Yet if somebody tells you that carbon emissions will eventually destroy Earth as we know it, only the small part of the brain that focuses on the future — a portion of the prefrontal cortex — will glimmer.

“We humans do strange things, perhaps because vestiges of our ancient brain still guide us in the modern world,” notes Paul Slovic, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon and author of a book on how our minds assess risks.

Follow the link for the rest.

I'm not exactly sure what you intend for the topic to be here, but regarding the brain's "evolution" I think that you have to use a different sort of tone when referring to the brain in the light of evolution.

A common misconception about evolution is the idea that evolution proceeds toward advancement, which is false. Evolution proceeds toward survival. An organism evolves over generations depending on the demands of its environment and the gene pool that it was thrust into that environment with.

Some of the most efficient organisms on the planet never even evolved central nervous systems much less cognition.
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Old 07-02-2009, 09:52 AM   #3
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Kristof's take is probably true. If we really thought about the true threat of terrorism we'd realize that it is miniscule. But the emotional response is enormous.
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Old 07-02-2009, 09:55 AM   #4
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I'm not exactly sure what you intend for the topic to be here, but regarding the brain's "evolution" I think that you have to use a different sort of tone when referring to the brain in the light of evolution.

A common misconception about evolution is the idea that evolution proceeds toward advancement, which is false. Evolution proceeds toward survival. An organism evolves over generations depending on the demands of its environment and the gene pool that it was thrust into that environment with.

Some of the most efficient organisms on the planet never even evolved central nervous systems much less cognition.
I posted this because when i brought it up on a different thread, there were lots of questions.
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Old 07-02-2009, 09:58 AM   #5
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Kristof's take is probably true. If we really thought about the true threat of terrorism we'd realize that it is miniscule. But the emotional response is enormous.
Exactly. Also, when you really think about it, its strange that a 4.0 earthquake in LA gets reported in NY as news, even though there were no casualities or damage at all. Its weird what people are afraid of and it has to do with society moving much quicker than the evolution of the brain's instinctive ability. In 10,000 we'll probably be better equipped to live in today's society...perhaps we wouldnt all be such a-holes to each other
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Old 07-02-2009, 09:58 AM   #6
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I posted this because when i brought it up on a different thread, there were lots of questions.
What kinds of questions?
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:04 AM   #7
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What kinds of questions?
haha about what the hell i was talking about. I cant remember how it came up, but we were discussing where our fear comes from. Like why we fear terrorist attacks more than car accidents even though car accidents kill many more people a year...etc. Cant remember which thread it was in, i think one of the racism ones.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:06 AM   #8
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Exactly. Also, when you really think about it, its strange that a 4.0 earthquake in LA gets reported in NY as news, even though there were no casualities or damage at all. Its weird what people are afraid of and it has to do with society moving much quicker than the evolution of the brain's instinctive ability. In 10,000 we'll probably be better equipped to live in today's society...perhaps we wouldnt all be such a-holes to each other
Thats assuming that 1) people who mutate genetically to produce phenotypes that lead to an affect on the complex integration of the cerebral cortex and the limbic system in a way that gives the people who have mutated a functional advantage over people who do not have the mutation(s)...and 2) that the acquired mutation will be selected for in an environment that prevents the people that do not carry the mutation from surviving to reproductive maturity, or being able to reproduce.

Evolution is not a directional thing in the way that people think. This is what I was referring to in my previous post. The end result is rarely an "advancement" in intelligence. It is only if sexual selection moves in that direction or if natural selection eliminates genes in the gene pool that are typical of less intelligent persons.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:10 AM   #9
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Thats assuming that 1) people who mutate genetically to produce phenotypes that lead to an affect on the complex integration of the cerebral cortex and the limbic system in a way that gives the people who have mutated a functional advantage over people who do not have the mutation(s)...and 2) that the acquired mutation will be selected for in an environment that prevents the people that do not carry the mutation from surviving to reproductive maturity, or being able to reproduce.

Evolution is not a directional thing in the way that people think. This is what I was referring to in my previous post. The end result is rarely an "advancement" in intelligence. It is only if sexual selection moves in that direction or if natural selection eliminates genes in the gene pool that are typical of less intelligent persons.
Well the first paragraph i barely understand But I wasn't suggesting an advancement in intelligence, but evolution suggests the body readjusting itself to better fit the environment around us. If we lived in a water based environment, im sure we'd eventually (thousands of years from now) get webbed feet...etc.

In 10,000 years, we will probably fear different things and probably will be better equipped, instinctually, to live in a society where we all are 1) close and 2) need to depend on each other for survival. All in theory of course, but it would be weird to think the evolutionary process would suddenly stop. So im not saying we will become more intelligent, just that we will think, on an instinctual level, differently.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:13 AM   #10
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Fear overrides other circuits that the brain uses. It's been a tool for a while.

I personally think hemispheric dominance needs to be more balanced for human evolution.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:16 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by McSkillet View Post
Thats assuming that 1) people who mutate genetically to produce phenotypes that lead to an affect on the complex integration of the cerebral cortex and the limbic system in a way that gives the people who have mutated a functional advantage over people who do not have the mutation(s)...and 2) that the acquired mutation will be selected for in an environment that prevents the people that do not carry the mutation from surviving to reproductive maturity, or being able to reproduce.

Evolution is not a directional thing in the way that people think. This is what I was referring to in my previous post. The end result is rarely an "advancement" in intelligence. It is only if sexual selection moves in that direction or if natural selection eliminates genes in the gene pool that are typical of less intelligent persons.
Solid post. In fact is quite likely that when humans still evolved (modern medicine and wellfare killed that) that there would have been selective pressure against abnormaly intelligent individuals, favouring individuals who have just enough intelligence to survive and reproduce, but not so much that it reduces other abilities or is wasted.

The same would be true in terms of many physical features, having enough is better than having abundance since abundance would often be associated with a higher cost in metabolism, reduction of other features or specialization that reduces overall survivability.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:28 AM   #12
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Well the first paragraph i barely understand But I wasn't suggesting an advancement in intelligence, but evolution suggests the body readjusting itself to better fit the environment around us. If we lived in a water based environment, im sure we'd eventually (thousands of years from now) get webbed feet...etc.

In 10,000 years, we will probably fear different things and probably will be better equipped, instinctually, to live in a society where we all are 1) close and 2) need to depend on each other for survival. All in theory of course, but it would be weird to think the evolutionary process would suddenly stop. So im not saying we will become more intelligent, just that we will think, on an instinctual level, differently.

I dont intend to be mean here, but your understanding of evolution is wrong. You see evolution through the same lens as Lamarck, who believed that an organism "readjusted itself to better fit the environment around (it)", when in reality, an organisms "adjustment" is done with no real directionality at all/

When a species undergoes natural selection (which is the meat and potatoes of evolution), a factor in its environment interacts with the gene pool by killing off all or most of the individuals who are not carriers of the mutated gene. Then, the mutated gene is propagated in the gene pool through reproduction.

What I'm saying is, and this is a very important aspect of evolution, is that it does not always lead to advancement in the sense that most people think it does. It does not always lead to intelligence.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:29 AM   #13
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Fear overrides other circuits that the brain uses. It's been a tool for a while.

I personally think hemispheric dominance needs to be more balanced for human evolution.
You guys need to watch more PBS and 60 minutes, and less OPRAH!

The last 2 weeks there have been 2 differnet shows on the Brain and how they are able to run Functional MRI procedures while people are doing things like listening or playing/singing music, thinking of images being flashed to them during procedure.

The left right dominance is eroding, they are finding by blood activity what area's are stimulated during different tests.

I could go on and on but my shoulder hurts and I want to lay down.

It is great stuff, something you should research and put in your mag.
http://www.fmri.org/fmri.htm

It opens the pandora's box of possible mind reading, to extents...
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:37 AM   #14
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Solid post. In fact is quite likely that when humans still evolved (modern medicine and wellfare killed that) that there would have been selective pressure against abnormaly intelligent individuals, favouring individuals who have just enough intelligence to survive and reproduce, but not so much that it reduces other abilities or is wasted.

The same would be true in terms of many physical features, having enough is better than having abundance since abundance would often be associated with a higher cost in metabolism, reduction of other features or specialization that reduces overall survivability.
Alright! Someone who speaks the language.

I am also of the opinion that humans have limited their ability to undergo natural selection. That idea was met here by a bunch of villagers with flaming torches.

But you are exactly right. The goal is to survive to reproductive age and for some number those offspring to survive to reproductive age. And the tendancy for sexual selection is for the selector to value the "most for the least cost". And that would be a more generalized representation of the species in the individual...tall, muscular, good skin, symmetrical features, etc, etc, and way down the line....intelligence.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:37 AM   #15
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I dont intend to be mean here, but your understanding of evolution is wrong. You see evolution through the same lens as Lamarck, who believed that an organism "readjusted itself to better fit the environment around (it)", when in reality, an organisms "adjustment" is done with no real directionality at all/

When a species undergoes natural selection (which is the meat and potatoes of evolution), a factor in its environment interacts with the gene pool by killing off all or most of the individuals who are not carriers of the mutated gene. Then, the mutated gene is propagated in the gene pool through reproduction.

What I'm saying is, and this is a very important aspect of evolution, is that it does not always lead to advancement in the sense that most people think it does. It does not always lead to intelligence.

Fine it might not always lead to advancement (im not an evolutionary scientist and you seem to know more than me, so ill defer), but that wasn't my point of this post. The point was how our minds are better equipped to handle life thousands of years ago than they are today's society.. So we will evolve as time goes on. Will it be beneficial or be an advancement? Who the f knows, but we will evolve based on current surroundings...i dont see how that is avoidable
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:39 AM   #16
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Alright! Someone who speaks the language.

I am also of the opinion that humans have limited their ability to undergo natural selection. That idea was met here by a bunch of villagers with flaming torches.

But you are exactly right. The goal is to survive to reproductive age and for some number those offspring to survive to reproductive age. And the tendancy for sexual selection is for the selector to value the "most for the least cost". And that would be a more generalized representation of the species in the individual...tall, muscular, good skin, symmetrical features, etc, etc, and way down the line....intelligence.
I dont think anyone is disagreeing with this. That was never the point
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:46 AM   #17
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Fine it might not always lead to advancement (im not an evolutionary scientist and you seem to know more than me, so ill defer), but that wasn't my point of this post. The point was how our minds are better equipped to handle life thousands of years ago than they are today's society.. So we will evolve as time goes on. Will it be beneficial or be an advancement? Who the f knows, but we will evolve based on current surroundings...i dont see how that is avoidable
Evolution does not move toward a goal, unless that goal is coupled with survival...and then evolution may not even move toward that goal, it may instead move toward survival in a roundabout way.

Evolution is for SURVIVAL. If the thing you are considering (in this case the ability to couple the cerebrum and the limbic system in a different way) has nothing to do with the raw survival of the species, then evolution will not under any circumstance pursue that end.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:47 AM   #18
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I dont think anyone is disagreeing with this. That was never the point
Sure...I was referring to another discussion on another thread. No problems.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:48 AM   #19
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You guys need to watch more PBS and 60 minutes, and less OPRAH!

The last 2 weeks there have been 2 differnet shows on the Brain and how they are able to run Functional MRI procedures while people are doing things like listening or playing/singing music, thinking of images being flashed to them during procedure.

The left right dominance is eroding, they are finding by blood activity what area's are stimulated during different tests.

I could go on and on but my shoulder hurts and I want to lay down.

It is great stuff, something you should research and put in your mag.
http://www.fmri.org/fmri.htm

It opens the pandora's box of possible mind reading, to extents...


Only if you USE those "circuits" - go check out my odditorium. Trust me, it's not based on oprah. :rollseyes:
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:54 AM   #20
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Evolution does not move toward a goal, unless that goal is coupled with survival...and then evolution may not even move toward that goal, it may instead move toward survival in a roundabout way.

Evolution is for SURVIVAL. If the thing you are considering (in this case the ability to couple the cerebrum and the limbic system in a different way) has nothing to do with the raw survival of the species, then evolution will not under any circumstance pursue that end.
I agree...and i am talking about survival, while specifically talking about where fear comes from (which is directly related to survival). But an off-shoot of how we handle fear is how we will interact with each other in the future. And if our fears change from something less primal to something more thoughtful, perhaps the way we treat each other will change (though it could change for the worse of course)
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:58 AM   #21
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Only if you USE those "circuits" - go check out my odditorium. Trust me, it's not based on oprah. :rollseyes:
A guitar player fires brain waves to move fingers, to listen/define pitch, to read sheet music, count time, sing.

Each of those things, and more happen all over the brain.

I guess if you don't do anything that uses more than one task at a time you could say someone was left/right Hemisphere.

It is no longer left vs right.

I will check out your odditorium, I am no expert, just evolving/learning.



PS the Oprah shot was not leveled at you.
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Old 07-02-2009, 11:06 AM   #22
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A guitar player fires brain waves to move fingers, to listen/define pitch, to read sheet music, count time, sing.

Each of those things, and more happen all over the brain.

I guess if you don't do anything that uses more than one task at a time you could say someone was left/right Hemisphere.

It is no longer left vs right.

I will check out your odditorium, I am no expert, just evolving/learning.



PS the Oprah shot was not leveled at you.
Best not have been leveled at me. The discussion was based on a book I read a while ago by an evolutionary behavoiral scientist..and Kristof was just speaking about the same subject.
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Old 07-02-2009, 11:22 AM   #23
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A guitar player fires brain waves to move fingers, to listen/define pitch, to read sheet music, count time, sing.

Each of those things, and more happen all over the brain.

I guess if you don't do anything that uses more than one task at a time you could say someone was left/right Hemisphere.

It is no longer left vs right.

I will check out your odditorium, I am no expert, just evolving/learning.



PS the Oprah shot was not leveled at you.

I play drums, and to me nothing was more evident then seeing how easy it was to eventually get the limbs impedance to each other. I used that and help my grandma get through her threapy for her stroke. She's done well.
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Old 07-02-2009, 11:25 AM   #24
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Evolution is not just for "survival." At some point in the very distant past some starlings (or birds very much like that) made their way down to what we know as New Guinea. They couldn't have found an easier place to survive. Massive amounts of food, countless open niches, almost limitless habitat, no predators, etc. What did they do? They evolved into these:







It seems likely that when the stress of "survival" is off the table, species start evolving all sorts of wild mutations. Perhaps we should expect far more evolution (and mutation) taking place in our species than less?

Last edited by Rohirrim; 07-02-2009 at 11:28 AM..
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Old 07-02-2009, 11:43 AM   #25
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Evolution is not just for "survival." At some point in the very distant past some starlings (or birds very much like that) made their way down to what we know as New Guinea. They couldn't have found an easier place to survive. Massive amounts of food, countless open niches, almost limitless habitat, no predators, etc. What did they do? They evolved into these:







It seems likely that when the stress of "survival" is off the table, species start evolving all sorts of wild mutations. Perhaps we should expect far more evolution (and mutation) taking place in our species than less?
Evolution will always conform to whatever selective pressure is applicable, when survival is not a selective pressure, reproduction becomes the predominant pressure and the strongest reproductive pressure is sexual selection, so in that situation the most attractive individuals will be favoured by natural selection causing what we would consider wild mutations.
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