Saturday, February 19, 2011

305: The Brain in Evolution

In my former lecture I showed you, that the idea we have of ourselves as rational beings with an absolute free will, is not exactly accurate.

If it is for free will, the neurosciences have shown what an immense machinery is already at work in the brain before we enter the realm of conscious action.

As such the idea is not new, It was Freud who forced us to drastically revise our view of the human being as the rational beings with a absolute free will.

A lot of our actions are caused or influenced by what he called the subconscious. A realm of our inner self which we not could enter by means of introspection, for instance.

With respect to the content and ensuing drives generated by this subconscious, Freud was wrong, although there are some features in his theory, that can be interpreted in an other way.

The homo sapiens has come a long way, more than 4 million years of evolution. In the ongoing interaction between organism and environment our brain has developed into the most sophisticated tool for survival.

But keep in mind,that this has been a process of millions of years, while the prefrontal cortex, which is almost 80% of the brain volume, only was fully operational about a 35.000 years ago.

I sometimes wondered, if mankind really was making progress in its development. Sure, we witness an incredible scientific and technological development.

But then I looked at man himself, his literature. There you read always the same stories about love and hate and friendship. Nothing seems the have changed in that respect.

But when you put is in an evolutionary perspective the picture changes completely and it becomes clear which error I made. The brain took millions of years to evolve into what it is now.

What I take into consideration is only the past 2000 years and only the past 300 years are characterized by scientific development and only the past 150 years by technological development.

A huge and fast development which changes our environment in particular. Evolutionary changes take more then thousands of years, while these days environmental changes take less than a 100 years.

The organism homo sapiens has to adapt, while the wiring of his brain is still in an evolutionary stage that was used to a completely different environment. In a way you could say that the brain is evolutionary behind on schedule.

35.000 years ago we lived in caves and survival was our core business. The brain enabled us to develop social behavior, which proved to contribute to the chance to survive.

You could say that the life of the homo sapiens in those days was controlled by instincts, emotions and some reasoning, which enabled him to develop tools.

It leads me to the thought, that the brain structure of those days is largely still the structure of our brain. This could be an explanation for why mankind nowadays shows such a variety in social behavior.

This earth shows social groups from the tribes in the Amazone to the complex social organization of a country like the Netherlands. And all humans use the same tool to survive: the brain.

Freud was right in his observation, that a lot of our behavior is determined by drives which we are not aware of. He was just mistaken about what drives it were.

The brain generates basic emotions, emotions you find in all human beings. Responses to the environment, to the social group, which have a long evolutionary history.

What I mean by emotion, I'll define most accurately in the next lecture to tell it apart from feelings. Thus we'll enter a next stage in our quest to understand the Mystery of the Brain.

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: Thank you... ㋡
[13:21] herman Bergson: You have the floor
[13:21] herman Bergson: If you have any question or remark...feel free...
[13:21] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): One might come top the conclusion that we are only wolves in sheep's clothing.
[13:22] BALDUR Joubert: how about other survival tools...
[13:22] herman Bergson: some extend I think so Aristotle....
[13:22] Mick Nerido: The technological revolution and industrialization have changed everything, why did it even happen?
[13:22] herman Bergson: What we call culture and civilization is just a thin layer of varnish...
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: because one of our instincts is to be curious and develop tools
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: unique ability for humans
[13:23] herman Bergson: One of the things in evolution Mick is that it has no goal...
[13:23] herman Bergson: so the question why doesn't apply here
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: and also curiosity, one of our basic drives is to understand things around os and make use of that
[13:24] Mick Nerido: It was not inevitable just a chance occurrance
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: us
[13:24] herman Bergson: unless you ask the question within the historic context
[13:24] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): The evolution of the cerebral cortex is the camoflage for our primal selves
[13:25] herman Bergson: A way to put it Aristotle.. :-)
[13:25] Mick Nerido: Dalphins have complex brains with no technology
[13:25] BALDUR Joubert: i think i repeat myself..but for me brain has not undergone evolution since propably 100000 years..if yes..of minor importance
[13:25] BALDUR Joubert: technology is not evolution..
[13:25] herman Bergson: That is what I have said too Baldur.....
[13:26] herman Bergson: To give you an example...
[13:26] herman Bergson: Based on the evolution of the brain...
[13:26] herman Bergson: the observed which brain areas were active when making a simple fist ax...a shapend stone...
[13:27] Merel Heron: i have the feeling that this way of looking at the evolution is very male like
[13:27] Mick Nerido: I bring up technology because we are all sitting at our computers around the world and yet in the same room connected
[13:27] herman Bergson: from that they could conclude that certain of our ancestors weren't able to make such tools because they not yet possessed those brain areas
[13:27] Merel Heron: being a woman it feels that way
[13:28] herman Bergson: A male like view of evolution ??? Merel?
[13:28] Merel Heron: may be i am wrong i came very late in this conversation
[13:28] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): hmmm
[13:28] Merel Heron: i am from Amsterdam
[13:29] herman Bergson: What suggests the male like approach, Merel?
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: unfortunately we don't know anything about the brain of our far away ancestors.. just skulls as indicators
[13:29] Merel Heron: and had a study about philosophy
[13:29] Merel Heron: but it is very interesting to listen to you
[13:29] BALDUR Joubert: hm.-.the durch connection..grin
[13:30] herman Bergson: That is not true BALDUR...
[13:30] herman Bergson: we know about the evolution of brain volume pretty much as well as the ensuing skills of the hominides
[13:30] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): Merel may have a valid observation in the maleness of acknowledged views
[13:31] herman Bergson: Just look at the table on the wall
[13:31] Mick Nerido: Is the a male and female mind?
[13:31] Merel Heron: very clinical to me but i can see now your approach is special for the brain
[13:32] herman Bergson: yes Merel...we try to reveal the mystery of the brain.....and in the end the mystery of how the brain can generate consciousness
[13:32] Merel Heron: aha
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: we know about skills.. but the brain volume differs from one species to another..
[13:32] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): how much subjectivity is involved in the release of newly found 'truths'?
[13:32] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): i didn't tell her that...yet..
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: some hominoides had bigger brains than we did
[13:32] herman Bergson: But before we reach that I dissect the brain from the neurobiologicalperspective...
[13:33] herman Bergson: /.
[13:33] herman Bergson: Only the Neanderthaler had...was about 1500cc while the homo sapiens had 1400
[13:33] herman Bergson: oops ㋡
[13:33] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): boom
[13:33] bergfrau Apfelbaum: wow :-) schöne aura!! herman
[13:34] Mick Nerido: Is there physical differences between Male and female brains
[13:34] herman Bergson: Danke Bergie
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: size mick
[13:34] herman Bergson: Not that I know of Mick.....
[13:34] herman Bergson: lol Baldur
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: smile no joke but fact..
[13:35] herman Bergson: I'll check it out....:)
[13:35] Mick Nerido: I mean if you dissect is the any difference
[13:35] herman Bergson: So far I havent read about it....but I don't assume that it makes much difference…
[13:35] Merel Heron: i am wondering if there is a difference
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: volume propably doesn't automatically mean more neurons..
[13:36] Mick Nerido: male and females act so differently
[13:36] herman Bergson: I don't think such a difference has any relevance for our cause here
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: and connections
[13:36] herman Bergson: That difference is interesting for psychologists
[13:36] Merel Heron: no volume must not be the difference
[13:36] Mick Nerido: Hormones...
[13:37] Merel Heron: it is the approach
[13:37] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): thankfully, primally thinking, there remains a differnce between women, cerebrally....women may possess the advantage
[13:37] Merel Heron: i think
[13:37] herman Bergson: Yes Mick...but men as well as women are sentient conscious beings...there is no difference from a philosophical point of view to me
[13:38] Merel Heron: mmmm good to hear
[13:38] herman Bergson: Don't mix up psychology and philosophy....
[13:38] Merel Heron: yes ha ha that is what i did !!1
[13:38] herman Bergson: the philosophical question is about the brain and consciousness.....
[13:39] herman Bergson: and it doesn't matter at all in what kind of body that brain resides ㋡
[13:39] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I agree, the power to think critically is unisex
[13:39] Mick Nerido: The mystery is that there is conscioucness at all
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: the emotional side could be different..
[13:40] herman Bergson: More than that Aristotle....we all have what they call the reptilian brain.....
[13:40] herman Bergson: the oldest parts of the brain in an evolutionary sense
[13:40] herman Bergson: This will be our next area of investigation....
[13:41] herman Bergson: And yes...there are differences between men and women....
[13:41] Merel Heron: reptilian brain... I have a look what that is .
[13:41] herman Bergson: But they have special consequences for the evolution of social behavior
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: snakes merel.. eve and the us the reptile brain
[13:42] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I am sure the female reptilian brain is now scaly like a mans
[13:42] herman Bergson: It is a name for the limbic system and what is below that part of the brain
[13:42] Merel Heron: mmmmmm thanks
[13:43] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): yes! the limbic system
[13:43] herman Bergson: We will discuss the man/woman differences....
[13:43] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the go between
[13:43] herman Bergson: especially if you go back to the early homo sapiens... and procreation
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: this could be the next 100 lectures herman-man/woman difference
[13:44] herman Bergson: No ..philosophically uninteresting unless you refer to our Women Philosophers project...
[13:45] herman Bergson: There you can read about the shameful thing named male beginwith Aristotle...
[13:45] herman Bergson: But that is all in the blog ㋡
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: just because the ancient philosophers ignored the subject..doesn't mean it could not have philosophical interest:)
[13:45] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): yes, I remember :)
[13:46] herman Bergson: The ancient philosophers didn't ignore it at all Baldur..THAT is the problem...
[13:46] herman Bergson: Aristotle describes the woman as a being closer to an animal than to a human
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: may be not ignore..but they were ignorants on the subject :)
[13:47] Merel Heron: oh la la
[13:47] herman Bergson: and that idea was (eagerly) adopted by the roman catholics....
[13:47] herman Bergson: with al consequences...
[13:47] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): some people do think that in these days too
[13:47] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): males have shown their desire to maintainthe status quo at any cost
[13:47] herman Bergson: that education was a wast eon women....
[13:47] herman Bergson: to beginwith
[13:48] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): cost to the revelation truth
[13:48] Merel Heron: this is a very interesting statement
[13:48] herman Bergson: It took 1500 centuries before the first woman attended formal education
[13:48] Mick Nerido: Are there noted female philosophers?
[13:48] herman Bergson: A lot....
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: whats really scary is that in ancient egypt the position of women was vbery close to our time
[13:49] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): indeed, you should read the blog of the Herman's lectures on them
[13:49] herman Bergson: Related to our subject here...Patricia Churchland....
[13:49] herman Bergson: She introduced the discipline of neurophilosophy....
[13:49] herman Bergson: If I am not mistaken she published the book with that title in 1986
[13:49] herman Bergson: Very influential
[13:49] Merel Heron: what about Heloise?
[13:50] herman Bergson: Teh girlfriend of Abelard?
[13:50] Merel Heron: yes the girlfriend
[13:51] herman Bergson: Of course through history there were women who helped themselves with education.....
[13:51] herman Bergson: but what it is all about is that education for women is socially accepted...
[13:51] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): education and enlightnement are the keys
[13:51] herman Bergson: that had to wait till 1850 or so
[13:52] herman Bergson: So to conclude....
[13:52] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the denial of education are censorship or it is the way to hold folks back
[13:52] herman Bergson: The difference between the male and female brain is from a philosophical point of view irrelevant... ㋡
[13:53] Mick Nerido: Thats good news
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:53] herman Bergson: My pleasure Mick ^_^
[13:53] herman Bergson: Well thank you all for this pleasant discussion ....
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: |:)
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: nice
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: as usual
[13:54] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): Thank you Professor!
[13:54] herman Bergson: let's see what evolution will tell us further about the brain next lecture
[13:54] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): and....'thank goodness for little girls'
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:54] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:54] Mick Nerido: You were great as usual
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[13:54] herman Bergson: thank you Mick
[13:54] Josiane Llewellyn: Thanks professor, everyone
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: grin a maurice chevalier fan..:)
[13:55] Merel Heron: thank you Professor
[13:55] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): :)
[13:55] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): indeed
[13:55] Merel Heron: something to think about !!!!
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:55] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): it was very interesting..thank you Herman
[13:55] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): and a marvelous thing this 'thinking'
[13:55] herman Bergson: There is a blog Merel....
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: ok cu soon all ㋡
[13:55] Ciska Riverstone: Thank You Herman - thanx all - enjoy the rest of the day /night
[13:55] bergfrau Apfelbaum: thanks, herman! was very interesting!
[13:55] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): bye Ciska
[13:56] herman Bergson: Thank you ciska....
[13:56] bergfrau Apfelbaum: and class :-)
[13:56] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): thank you Bergie
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: cu ㋡
[13:56] herman Bergson:
[13:56] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): bye Bejiita
[13:56] herman Bergson: Bye Bejiita
[13:56] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): bye Bejitta
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