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smaller brains?

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  • Bob Muckle
    A piece on LiveScience about human evolution says that brain size has been shrinking in recent millenia http://cli.gs/qUEHZ This kind of reminds me of that
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 14, 2009
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      A piece on 'LiveScience" about human evolution says that brain size has been shrinking in recent millenia http://cli.gs/qUEHZ

      This kind of reminds me of that movie called 'Idiocracy' or something like that, with Luke Wilson. It was a lame movie with an interesting premise: Everybody keeps getting dumber (except normal guy -Luke Wilson - who went into some kind of coma) and when he came out a long time later, he was the smartest guy in the world).

      Does anybody know of any good scholarly source showing that brain size is shrinking?

      Bob
    • Andrew Petto
      There are a couple of things here to consider. 1. It is true that the Neanderthals had larger brains than we do, so in one sense, we do have smaller brains, on
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 14, 2009
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        There are a couple of things here to consider.

        1. It is true that the Neanderthals had larger brains than we do, so in
        one sense, we do have smaller brains, on average, than Neanderthals did,
        on average.
        2. There has been a pretty well documented gracilization of modern
        humans (mostly males) over the last several thousand years. I am not
        sure that there is any significant decrease in brain size, but smaller
        bodies do tend to come with smaller brains (though the brain:body ratios
        in smaller individuals --- like females, for example --- tend to be
        greater).
        3. In terms of evolutionary trends, there is no evidence of
        significantly smaller brains. Except for those with pathologies, none of
        the brains of normal-sized modern humans is small enough to fall out of
        the range that separates H sapiens from other hominan species.

        Even so (and I did manage to sit through about 20 minutes of that film
        on cable --- ugh!), within species, there is no good evidence that brain
        size relates to intelligence (no matter how we measure it). The
        differences that relate rain size to intelligence are all INTERspecific
        and very generalized.

        So, unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to use to evaluate
        this claim, because there is no scientific evidence that would support it.

        This is not new, but it does discuss the issues: BRUNER E
        Encephalization and allometric trajectories in the genus Homo: Evidence
        from the Neandertal and modern lineages
        <http://apps.isiknowledge.com.ezproxy.lib.uwm.edu/CitedFullRecord.do?product=WOS&db_id=WOS&SID=4CDG3hjgI8iip62mAN3&search_mode=CitedFullRecord&isickref=132633641>

        PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF
        AMERICA 100 : 15335 DOI 10.7073/pnas.2536671100 2003
        (http://www.pnas.org/content/100/26/15335.full.pdf+html)

        Anj
        Bob Muckle wrote:
        >
        > A piece on 'LiveScience" about human evolution says that brain size
        > has been shrinking in recent millenia http://cli.gs/qUEHZ
        > <http://cli.gs/qUEHZ>
        >
        > This kind of reminds me of that movie called 'Idiocracy' or something
        > like that, with Luke Wilson. It was a lame movie with an interesting
        > premise: Everybody keeps getting dumber (except normal guy -Luke
        > Wilson - who went into some kind of coma) and when he came out a long
        > time later, he was the smartest guy in the world).
        >
        > Does anybody know of any good scholarly source showing that brain size
        > is shrinking?
        >
        > Bob
        >
        >

        --
        Andrew J Petto, PhD
        Senior Lecturer
        Department of Biological Sciences
        University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
        PO Box 413
        Milwaukee WI 53201-0413
        414.229.6784
        fax: 414.229.3926
        ajpetto@...
        https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/ajpetto/www/index.htm
        http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/Biology/Docs/Faculty/ajpetto.html

        *************
        Now Available!!! Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism.
        https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/ajpetto/www/scc2.htm
        *************


        "There is no word in the language that I revere more than teacher. None. My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher and it always has."

        -- Pat Conroy
        The Prince of Tides
      • anthropmor@AOL.COM
        apologies for cross postings, but this is exactly what Niteline tonight will be discussing- especially in the gracialization+ wimpiness angle. Students may be
        Message 3 of 3 , Dec 1, 2009
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          apologies for cross postings, but this is exactly what Niteline tonight
          will be discussing- especially in the gracialization+ wimpiness angle.
          Students may be asking about this in the morning.
          Mike Pavlik


          -----Original Message-----
          From: Andrew Petto <ajpetto@...>
          To: SACC-L@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Sat, Nov 14, 2009 11:43 am
          Subject: Re: [SACC-L] smaller brains?


          There are a couple of things here to consider.

          1. It is true that the Neanderthals had larger brains than we do, so in
          one sense, we do have smaller brains, on average, than Neanderthals
          did,
          on average.
          2. There has been a pretty well documented gracilization of modern
          humans (mostly males) over the last several thousand years. I am not
          sure that there is any significant decrease in brain size, but smaller
          bodies do tend to come with smaller brains (though the brain:body
          ratios
          in smaller individuals --- like females, for example --- tend to be
          greater).
          3. In terms of evolutionary trends, there is no evidence of
          significantly smaller brains. Except for those with pathologies, none
          of
          the brains of normal-sized modern humans is small enough to fall out of
          the range that separates H sapiens from other hominan species.

          Even so (and I did manage to sit through about 20 minutes of that film
          on cable --- ugh!), within species, there is no good evidence that
          brain
          size relates to intelligence (no matter how we measure it). The
          differences that relate rain size to intelligence are all INTERspecific
          and very generalized.

          So, unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to use to evaluate
          this claim, because there is no scientific evidence that would support
          it.

          This is not new, but it does discuss the issues: BRUNER E
          Encephalization and allometric trajectories in the genus Homo: Evidence
          from the Neandertal and modern lineages
          <http://apps.isiknowledge.com.ezproxy.lib.uwm.edu/CitedFullRecord.do?prod
          uct=WOS&db_id=WOS&SID=4CDG3hjgI8iip62mAN3&search_mode=CitedFullRecord&isi
          ckref=132633641>


          PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF
          AMERICA 100 : 15335 DOI 10.7073/pnas.2536671100 2003
          (http://www.pnas.org/content/100/26/15335.full.pdf+html)

          Anj
          Bob Muckle wrote:
          >
          > A piece on 'LiveScience" about human evolution says that brain size
          > has been shrinking in recent millenia http://cli.gs/qUEHZ
          > <http://cli.gs/qUEHZ>
          >
          > This kind of reminds me of that movie called 'Idiocracy' or something
          > like that, with Luke Wilson. It was a lame movie with an interesting
          > premise: Everybody keeps getting dumber (except normal guy -Luke
          > Wilson - who went into some kind of coma) and when he came out a long
          > time later, he was the smartest guy in the world).
          >
          > Does anybody know of any good scholarly source showing that brain
          size
          > is shrinking?
          >
          > Bob
          >
          >

          --
          Andrew J Petto, PhD
          Senior Lecturer
          Department of Biological Sciences
          University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
          PO Box 413
          Milwaukee WI 53201-0413
          414.229.6784
          fax: 414.229.3926
          ajpetto@...
          https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/ajpetto/www/index.htm
          http://www.uwm.edu/Dept/Biology/Docs/Faculty/ajpetto.html

          *************
          Now Available!!! Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism.
          https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/ajpetto/www/scc2.htm
          *************


          "There is no word in the language that I revere more than teacher.
          None. My
          heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher and it always has."

          -- Pat Conroy
          The Prince of Tides




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