Sunday, July 25, 2004

Putting Two and Two Together
I used to imagine the Platonic Realm of the Forms as an enormous and rather dull museum in which, like the standard meter in Paris, the exemplars of every conceivable thing are in display under bell jars. But maybe the actual Noosphere is a more going place, a rave where cruising concepts troll for pickups and ecstasy. One recent meeting of strangers in the dark:

It has been recently reported that the human lifespan took a big jump some 32,000 years ago, the same time period as the great florescence of Paleolithic art. Increased longevity may have been a key feature in human evolution since older individuals are carriers of cultural memory and it is culture that makes it worthwhile to spend all that metabolic energy on a big brain. But there’s another connection, and that’s where the second idea comes in. We know from the research of Robert Zajonc and others that birth order correlates with intelligence. First born and only children tend to be smarter than the others, presumably because they spend more time around adults. But that explanation implies that anything that increases the amount of time children spend around older people is likely to increase their intelligence. Increasing longevity is likely to do just that. In turn, greater intelligence in the phenotypes means more cultural innovation, more longevity, and more selection pressure for the genotypes that correlate with intelligence. In retrospect, you can see how the thing got out of hand.

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