From: Ray Recchia (email@example.com)
Date: Sun 01 Jun 2003 - 04:16:20 GMT
They had a series on evolution on American Public Broadcasting TV recently
and I rented a DVD of an episode entitled '''The Mind's Big Bang" the
other night. For more on the series you can go to
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/ Dawkins and Blackmore were interviewed
but didn't say anything we haven't heard here before. There were some
interesting things on language and human development though.
Judy Kegl of the University of South Maine does work with deaf people in
Nicaragua. People who are born deaf and are raised in isolation lose the
capacity for language. Apparently if you aren't exposed to language in
some form by the time you are 7 or 8 you become incapable of acquiring it
in any form. She also studied deaf people who were raised around other
deaf people but had no exposure to language. It appears that in even the
absence of exposure to language of any sort, these folks developed their
own proto-sign language to communicate with one another suggesting that our
capacity for language is so innate that even in the absence of pre-existing
language groups of people will spontaneously develop it. At some I'm going
to take a close look at Kegl's research to see if it it supports the
theories about symbolic thinking proposed by Terrance Deacon in 'The
Symbolic Species' (1998).
Another interesting point brought out by someone named Robin Dunbar was
that 2/3 of all linguistic communication involves social gossip. This
suggests that the role of language as a social tool was as important if not
more important than its role in transmitting new behaviors.
In discussing the concept of 'mind' I've mentioned the human ability for
empathy: the capacity to recognize emotions and thinking processes that
occur in others. Andrew Whitten of the University of St. Andrews has shown
that children acquire the ability to recognize the difference between what
they know and what others know somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5. Dr.
Whitten demonstrates this using a simple experiment. A child observes a
person (or actually a doll) place a marble under a blanket and then
leave. Then a second person takes the marble out from under the blanket
and places it in a box. Then the child is asked to show where the first
person will look for the marble when they come back. Children three and
under consistently say that the first person will look in the box, while
children five and older consistently understand that even though they know
that the marble is now in the box, the other person will not. No other
animal has shown the capacity to recognize the difference between what they
know and what others should know.
Anyway, it was an entertaining piece. It was the first time I'd heard
Dawkins speak. Always figured he'd be a baritone.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun 01 Jun 2003 - 04:21:36 GMT