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[evol-psych] Re: Evolution of human intelligence

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  • Derek Bickerton
    On September 29th, Mark Finn wrote ... So why can t they be answered at a specfic level? Or can they? If so, by all means go ahead ... although both
    Message 1 of 47 , Sep 29, 1999
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      On September 29th, Mark Finn wrote

      > (2) Alexander's model explains the challenges suggested by
      >Bickerton (albeit at a non-specific level)

      So why can't they be answered at a specfic level? Or can they? If so, by
      all means go ahead

      >2) The pace of change of the brain and the pace of change of >"culture,"
      although both explained by Alexander's ruanway selection >model, are not
      predicted to mirror each other.

      Why not? How much could they differ, and why?

      >The changes in the information pool in
      >human minds ("culture") is expected to change in response to the >level of
      competition in that domain, e.g., social complexity increases >in response
      to the level of competing groups (state level societies >emerge out of
      competition with complex chiefdoms, not band level >societies).

      When are we talking about? It's questionable whether there were even
      "complex chiefdoms" prior to agriculture, let alone "state level
      societies"--these didn't exist until a few thousand years ago. We're
      talking human evolution, not recent prehistory.

      .>And we expect a similar runaway process,
      >given our extraordinary social learning abilities.

      Wonder where those came from?

      >Unfortunately tests of
      >the model are vague, and need paleoarcheological expertise.


      Which doesn't confirm the model now, and probably never will.

      In short, the criticisms I made of Alexander's model remain unanswered.

      Derek Bickerton
    • Derek Bickerton
      On October 6th Robert Levy wrote ... This idea goes back a long way. Otto Jespersen proposed it about the beginning of the century in his book on language
      Message 47 of 47 , Oct 6, 1999
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        On October 6th Robert Levy wrote

        >I'm looking for information on theories of the evolution of language which
        >fall roughly into the domain of "language evolved from song".

        This idea goes back a long way. Otto Jespersen proposed it about the
        beginning of the century in his book on language (sorry I'm away from any
        good source of reference) and it sticks in my mind that he had a quote from
        Darwin that seemed to hint at it, though I may be wrong about that.


        >I am familiar with the problems and questions in the "evolution of
        >language" debate, and I don't see any glaring flaws in this theory. I
        >suppose the main problem is historical and empirical. Are there any good
        >reasons why this theory or something like it should not be a candidate for
        >being the one which reveals the mysteries of the origins of language?

        Well, it really doesn't explain very much. Nobody, to the best of my
        knowledge, has ever tried to explain how you would get from song to discrete
        units (words or signs) that carry discrete chunks of inmformation, let alone
        how those discrete units would then be assembled to form syntactic
        structures. Without such a scenario, there's really nothing to discuss.

        >From what I have read, it seems that theories of language evolution >often
        >go unnoticed because there are so many equally valid theories, >none that
        >surface as being extraordinarily explanatory.

        Things aren't quite that bad! I suggest you read Calvin and Bickerton,
        "Lingua ex Machina" (MIT, 1999 we still hope, but you can find it on line
        at. www.WilliamCalvin.com/LEM.) We try to get over some of the problems
        faced by previous accounts, how successfully if up to others to judge.

        Regards,

        Derek Bickerton




        Derek Bickerton
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