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    Lewis's Avatar
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    The Artificial Ape

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    Timothy Taylor: The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution

    I haven't read the book yet, but I just read a fairly enthusiastic review of this book in Current Archaeology by an American emeritus professor of anthropology.

    http://www.amazon.com/Artificial-Ape...dp/0230617638/

    It sounds like it's quite an important book. The reviewer says that even where the reader might not agree with the author there's so much interesting food for thought that he'll get a lot out of the book.

    Taylor is the "baby sling" archaeologist who was mentioned in an earlier thread. What seems to be original about him is his belief that our technology helps to shape our biology, whereas traditional biological theory would see our biology (indeed, perhaps every aspect of us) purely in terms of biological forces - Natural Selection.

    One area where Taylor departs from current thinking about human evolution is in the importance of tools. The current view is that because we became more intelligent we were able to make use of tools. Taylor, however, turns this on its head. He points out that tool-making pre-dates any creature very like us by a good way. He says because our precursors had tools they we're able to eat better, hence they could have bigger brains. IOW, in his view our intelligence is a consequence of our having tools: they have shaped our biology.

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    Thanks for this. Have you read Bruce Lipton's The Biology of Belief? Another insight about the effect of environment on biology.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lewis View Post
    He says because our precursors had tools they we're able to eat better, hence they could have bigger brains. IOW, in his view our intelligence is a consequence of our having tools: they have shaped our biology.
    Neat. Makes sense to me. (Not to say that additional food made us have big-brain genes, but that having more allowed us to more easily afford having and passing big-brain genes.)
    "Trust me, you will soon enter a magical land full of delicious steakflowers, with butterbacons fluttering around over the extremely rompable grass and hillsides."

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    Sounds like an interesting book. But I've made my best efforts and I honestly cannot see how the idea that "tools helped to shape our biology" is at all out of line with "traditional biological theory". Because, while every aspect of us reduces to biological forces, there is no reason at all to suppose that the innovations that emerge out of those forces do not or cannot play a role in "shaping biology" from that point onward. In fact, it would only make sense for those innovations to do so.

    I mean, one could substitute any biologically emergent phenomenon for "tool making" and then write about the causes, consequences, and supposed confusions. Let's take language for example...

    Current biological thinking posits that our big brains allowed us to develop language. But sit back while I turn your world upside down. It was actually language that allowed us to develop big brains!! Yep, that's right. See, there are precursors to language throughout the animal kingdom. How then, can we say that the big brains allowed for the development of language? We can't!

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    All I can say is necessity breeds technology

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