Gray/grey matters

Chris Burford cburford at
Sat Apr 22 07:54:10 MDT 1995

On I think 18th April Lisa wrote authoritatively:

These and other independent lines of evidence have never
supported the view that big fat brains could happen by such
accident.  This is partly because they are very energetically
expensive.   .....

Therefore, if the engorged gray matter is not useful,
if it does not pay its way in EVERY GENERATION
it will not come to exist in the first place.

You ruled out bipedalism as a reason for large brains.
How much would the interaction with our unique hands explain the
size of the brain? I guess some but not all.

About a year ago there was a popular psychology book that
suggested we need our big brains because we are all liars. We
spend such a lot of time concealing the truth about what we
really feel about each other, and most of the rest of the time
in espionage operations against our fellow men and women
who are trying to do the same. (Only Ralph disdains to conceal
his true feelings !). That anyway was the headline that
presumably sold the book.

Despite the shallowness of this idea there is an element of truth
in it. We are not a species of solitary organisms that meet up
only for sexual reproduction. Nor are we programmed as collective
organisms like bees. We are capable of complex flexible
cooperation that can be repeatedly adjusted, like higher
mammalian carnivores such as lions in hunting food.

There is a marxist thread (see Engels: "The Part Played by Labour
in the Transition from Ape to Man") that argues that speech
played an important part in human evolution. But most
communication is non-verbal. If we agree that humankind is among
the most gregarious of animals (Engels again also), the brain
could be beneficial for very complex sussing out of the matrix
of attitudes among immediate companions.

In a sense their size would be consistent with brains being a
sort of biological modem, that doesn't require telephone cable.

This too would be consistent with saying that as a species we are
born, maintain ourselves in the environment and reproduce as a
sort of living network.

How does this grab you Lisa as an answer to the riddle you posed?

Chris B

[Our bargain is still OK about conflict. Most biological feedback
is negative and this is vital to keep any system relatively
stable. Much of human interaction is about conflicting roles and
perceptions. It is only superficially a paradox to say that this
conflict is necessary for the coherence and creativity of the
biological system whether it is a single organism, a colony, or a
living network.]

     --- from list marxism at ---


More information about the Marxism mailing list