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Evolution and intelligence

Discussion of everything related to the Theory of Evolution.

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Evolution and intelligence

Postby dmvprof » Mon Nov 21, 2005 6:39 pm

I've been pondering the relationship between evolution and intelligence.

It seems to me that both exist to address problems between the needs of our bodies and our environment. Intelligence provides a "soft" adaptation to the environment and evolution provides a 'hard' adaptation to the envronment.

The implications of this relationship are very interesting to me. It would seem that while intelligence would increase the adaptability of a person to their environment, it would also retard the rate at wich 'hard' evolution would take place, thereby sustaining undesirable evolutionary characteristics that would have been corrected by evolution without intelligence.

A distinction between the solutions these provide to the organism is that a 'hard' adaptation isn't dependant on the environment. But a soft adaptation will typically require some manipulation of the environment such as burning wood to stay warm, making a coat of goosedown, etc.

Doesn't this explain a lot about the situation we're in today?

And if this is true, can one say that the smarter you are, the less you evolve?
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Postby mith » Mon Nov 21, 2005 9:45 pm

Correct me if I'm not interpreting it correctly but are you saying that our intelligence makes us less likely to die and therefore not select for individuals who possess more powerful limbs or other physical prowess?

You might be overlooking the fact that intelligence does have a "hard" basis:brain size.
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Postby Timo » Tue Nov 22, 2005 3:13 am

But brain size is not the only factor in determining intelligence. For example, I don't think I'm particularly smart, but I consider my head to be normal-sized. And plenty of people have small heads and are unusually intelligent or vice-versa.

And you are basically right that it does maintain less favorable adaptations. Look at humans: we are not particularly fast, strong, or well-armoured; we do not have particularly good ears or eyes or noses. Our only real advantage over other animals is our intelligence. If evolution were selecting only for the strongest or the most powerful, humans would not be the way we are today. Instead, we might have better bodies and smaller brains.
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Postby tropicbirder » Tue Nov 22, 2005 3:16 am

Timo wrote:But brain size is not the only factor in determining intelligence. For example, I don't think I'm particularly smart, but I consider my head to be normal-sized. And plenty of people have small heads and are unusually intelligent or vice-versa.

That's not what he's saying. Compared with monkeys or apes, we do have big brains.

As for the statement 'the smarter you are, the less you evolve,' I would say that this did not apply until very recently. Until there was an equal supply of food and a stable human population, Homo sapiens as evolving. Now, this has probably nearly stopped.
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Postby DJ » Tue Nov 22, 2005 4:31 am

dmvprof, can you elaborate on what you mean by "soft" and "hard"? Do you mean a "hard adaptation" to be a morphological change? If so, what constitutes a "soft adaptation"?
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Postby dmvprof » Tue Nov 22, 2005 4:52 pm

Hi guys,

What I mean by hard and soft is a hard adaptation may be a thick layer of blubber and a thick coat of fur. Developed over large spans of time.

A soft adaptation may be a fire and a warm coat made of animal hide. Developed whenever it gets cold.

So if intelligence provides a solution to an environmental stress, then evolution doesn't have too.

One thing I find interesting about the two is that the 'soft' adaptation will always require us to manipulate something in the environment. While a 'hard' adaptation doesn't.

Eg, Cheetah's run fast catch their prey. We use gunpower and steel to make guns to shoot our prey.

And I can't help but inject the analogy between this conjecture and computer architecture.

Software is easily adaptable and can be utilized and adapted much easier and quicker than hardware.

Imagine a typewriter and a computer. The typewriter being physically created to accomplish one thing. Because of these physical attributes, doing anything else is not possible. So a fish can't decide to breath air if he can't find water.

A computer however can be applied to accomplish many different things because of it's ability to process data and make decision. Ie, intelligence.

As I ponder this more, I think that while intelligence may retard what we have historically considered attributes that were selected, speed, strenght, agility, what is happening is that in addition to selecting for intelligence, our bodies are adapting to a machine that can best apply intelligence. A

Consider the opposable thumb. An evolutionary accomplishment by any measure. Many evolutionary scientists mark this as a turning point in primate evolution. Yet, I think it's just as important that evolution selected for a thumb type that best allowed the animal to apply it's intelligence.

Apes that had the physical ability to manipulate small things survived better than one's that didn't. Even if they were equally intelligent.
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Postby baikuza » Wed Nov 23, 2005 4:45 am

hai, dmfprof.

i have read journal about the relationship between the human evolution which is more rapid than it should be. so human intellegence increases with a high velocity, it is unpredicted.

the journal is Nagoya Journal of Medical Science Vol.67 no. 3,4 june 2005.

title : Evolution of Humans outside the genome by Izumi Nakashima, M.D., Ph.D., vice precident, Nagoya University, Futo-cho, Chikusaku, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan. (ups.. the address is writen to)

I think it is a great journal. I hope it whould help.


(^ ^)
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Re: Evolution and intelligence

Postby DJ » Thu Nov 24, 2005 8:32 am

dmvprof wrote:The implications of this relationship are very interesting to me. It would seem that while intelligence would increase the adaptability of a person to their environment, it would also retard the rate at wich 'hard' evolution would take place, thereby sustaining undesirable evolutionary characteristics that would have been corrected by evolution without intelligence.


Actually, there's a pretty good thread about this that was started a while ago about whether humans are still evolving or not. I'm sure one of the mods could point you to it.

Someone made a statement about the average human height increasing over time since the dark ages as a sign of evolution still in progress among humans. But since this is due to improved medicine and dietary standards, and height is not a factor when it comes to survival rate, it doesn't really count as evolution.

If selective breeding or something along those lines were in place among human society to weed out undesirable traits, then we could say that artificial selection were taking place, but still not true evolution.

In short, evolution is no longer taking place in humans, mainly because technology has enabled us to overcome many factors that are prohibitive to our survival.

EDIT: BTW, I really liked your software analogy. Good way to clarify your point :)
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Postby chicoguardian » Tue Nov 29, 2005 1:35 pm

I think some people are right in theis thread, sure we only have intellegince over animals, but thats only because we used it more often than any of our other senses, and so our senses are not as adapted to nature. plus anyone could be smart, some just have to work harder than others. Evolution and intelligence has led us to be less bulky, but more intellectual beings. There you have it! :P
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Postby cool A-level student » Tue Nov 29, 2005 1:57 pm

tropicbirder wrote:
Timo wrote:But brain size is not the only factor in determining intelligence. For example, I don't think I'm particularly smart, but I consider my head to be normal-sized. And plenty of people have small heads and are unusually intelligent or vice-versa.

That's not what he's saying. Compared with monkeys or apes, we do have big brains.

As for the statement 'the smarter you are, the less you evolve,' I would say that this did not apply until very recently. Until there was an equal supply of food and a stable human population, Homo sapiens as evolving. Now, this has probably nearly stopped.


if you look at monkeys or apes ect... you see that they have evolved to be better than us in many ways for instance they are generally far stronger than us, they have fur to protect there skin, then look at us and see skinny boney things that can't survive in rough environments if it were not for our intelligence, had we not had our intelligence then we wouldm have eveolved further into a different creature in which can survive with out certain knowledge, or at least thats what i think
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Postby dmvprof » Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:59 pm

Consider the evolution into computers.

50 years ago, technology was circuitry. We would envision a solution to a task and stamp out a board that performed that single solution. Or built a machine that performed a single task. Remember when calculators were all the rage? They performed their jobs flawlessly.

Leap forward a few years, the Operating System was born. Our machines achieved awareness. And we soon learned how to use this operating system to execute commands not from a hard circuit board, but from typed statements.

At this point, the development of technology took a major turn. We began to see these typed commands or "software" as the most efficient way of performing a series of tasks instead of having them hard wired into a board.

So, we went from providing technology that accomplished individual tasks to technology that supported this new platform which can perform almost any task by using software.

So now we have two types of technology, software and hardware that are bound together. But the development of hardware is no longer pursued as an end solution, but it is pursued to support software which will be the end solution.

It's not hard to see how this is analagous to human development. Our bodies no longer need to evolve speed, strength, agility, or fangs, things which are end solutions to an environmental pressure. We simply need to evolve our ability to capitalize on our intelligence which will address most environmental pressures we encounter.
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Postby mith » Tue Nov 29, 2005 10:09 pm

My history teacher loves to stress how every invention promised to make life easier, and how they all turned out to making life more complex. We almost seem to be stuck in a feedback loop, we are intelligent so we make more inventions which makes the world more complicated, forcing us to evolve greater intelligence to cope with the new complexities.

The scary thing is there are many of us who can't cope with the new world. Notice how education is taking longer and longer. It used to be that you'd just pick up a pitchfork and farm, now you have to go to school for a good 20+ years of your life. Technology and our environment are advancing exponentially but most of us are only advancing arithmetically, if at all....
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