From: Jesse S. Cook III [SMTP:jesse_cook@...
Sent: Friday, November 05, 1999 12:13 PM
Subject: Web sites of interest
The latest issue of *Natural History* (11/99) has a short piece entitled
"Virtual Hominids" (pp. 66-67) in which are listed some interesting web
siites. Here is one of them:
(Please note that there are two "els"-after "head" and "htm"-and two
"ones"-after "/e" and "_h".)
On it, you will find:
Tattersall, Ian; *The Origin of the Human Capacity*; American Museaum of
Natural History, New York; 1998
This is the 68th James Arthur Lecture on the Evolution of the Human Brain.
"Just what is it, that strange quality of our consciousness that sets us off
from all other living organisms and which, as importantly, makes us feel so
entirely different from them all, even those to whom we know ourselves to be
quite closely related? And, whatever it is, how and when did we acquire it?
[Although] these questions come close to being unanswerable except in the
broadest of terms, they beg to be asked [because] they encapsulate the most
basic and profound of all the many mysteries posed by our strange and
(occasionally) wonderful selves..."
Here are some more excerpts:
"...[T]he tools [of the first toolmakers] mark a major cognitive leap
forward among hominids. They allowed the exploitation of a new source of
protein-animal carcasses-that had previously been largely off limits...
"These early stone tools were crude...but highly effective...What's more, it
takes considerable insight, well beyond what any ape has achieved, even with
intensive coaching...to stike a cobble with another at precisely the angle
necessary to detach a sharp flake...With the invention of stone tools, we
have the first unequivocal evidence that hominids had moved cognitively well
beyond the ape league..."
"...[S]ome Japanese investigators (Ohnuma, Aoki, and Akazawa, 1997)
have...carried out an elegant experiment in which two groups of college
students were taught to make 'Levallois points', a tool type favored by many
Neanderthal [sic] groups. One [student] group was taught by direct,
nonverbal demonstration, while the other.was also given verbal explanations.
Significantly, there was no difference in performance between the two
groups, either in quality...or in speed..."
"...[T]he potential for the unique human capacity was born with our
species...as a byproduct of some other change, and...it lay fallow, as it
were, until unleased by a cultural (rather than biological) stimulus...What
might that releasing stimulus have been? Like many others, I am almost sure
that it was the *invention* of language...[B]y the time Homo sapiens came on
the scene, the peripheral equipment that allows articulate speech had been
around for several hundred thousand years..." (Emphasis added.)
Jesse S. Cook III
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