Evolution and Intelligence
Name: Harold D.
Date: December 2002
In the process of human evolution, how was it possible
for humans to get so smart in such a small amount, (~3 million years), of time?
Interesting question...Although I consider 3 million years quite a while to
evolve (about 10,000 human generations!). First off it depends on what one
considers "smart". My dog must think I am pretty dumb by missing many of
the sounds and odors that allow him to detect so much of the natural world
that passes me by. Our intellectual ability is partially tied to our
advanced ability to communicate in speech and written form. This has
allowed the human species to advance and accumulate its knowledge rapidly.
This is somewhat supported by the impact movable text had on our history.
No doubt the human is an amazing species but so also are its primate
cousins. As a physiologist I often find many of what many people take for
granted in their body as minor miracles of complexity...swallowing, tasting
If I choose any one of the senses and try understand it I am
overwhelmed by the amount of detail, integration and complexity that makes
the sense work...much of which we do not understand. I find most of the
"understanding" of the sensory organs is exhibited in our mimicry of them in
the crude machines we build, any single one of which seems ingenious...a
video camera for example. But any mammal is such a complex system. I have
heard said that even our basic biochemical pathways are so complex that
evolution could not have created us...sometimes referred to as irreducible
complexity. Some scientists/philosophers have used the mouse trap as an
analogy and stated that if any part of the trap is eliminated it cannot work
so how could it have evolved? To me this is a supreme example of dearth of
understanding of simple animal systems and evolution in addition to an
equivalent absence of imagination.
I consider it a different way. I
consider living systems as INCOMPREHESIBLY COMPLEX. I nevertheless, believe
we are products of evolution from the immense amount of evidence that
supports it and from how no other explanation fits so well with the
Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Office of Science
Department of Energy
A very complex question. A new article in online Scientific American
addresses the question:
Click here to return to the Molecular Biology Archives
Update: June 2012