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Re: [bookclub-792] The Science of Success

From: user 5.
Sent on: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 1:54 PM
Looking at human social suffering in oversize groups, I'm not inclined  
so readily dismiss the concept that humans have let their groups outgrow
their brains. "Civilization" and its discontents.

Historically, it has occurred to many writers there's a poor fit  
between our
evolved brain and the niches we now occupy. I think Dunbar was working
on such a hypothesis.

Do you think we fit our niches? What other animal has spread so weirdly
and widely, even affecting the climate, not to mention other species?

Unless one abandons ecology as purposive (and that point can be easily
refuted), one is then stuck with specifying the place of humans in it.

I'm damned if I can do that. I think we're a rogue species, and some
tiny genetic change caused it. Handwaving is not a bad thing.


On Nov 18, 2009, at 1:32 PM, Peter B wrote:

> What's the inverse term for anthropomorphic, or is there one?
> I too read the passage and went "wow, interesting parallels" and then
> thought "now, if someone was generalizing to animal behavior based  
> on a
> human study, a lot of folks would point and laugh and anthropomorphic
> would be the term of art."
> But I don't know the inverse term.  Is there one?
> In this particular case, human social groups got so much larger than  
> the
> largest Rhesus troop so long ago that although we may think there is a
> clear analogy, obviously the human social groups kept right on scaling
> past it where in the Rhesus example the argument seems to be that they
> don't scale past it.  Once some of the behaviors start being  
> obvious, the
> group fissions.
> I just read the Wiki summary of the Dunbar number, and obviously the
> context there is not 'social groups' meaning city-scale (or county,
> nation, etc. scale) aggregates, but people are thinking about who- 
> all we
> interact with in a somewhat regular way, rather than share a larger  
> area
> with.
> As a recovering neuroanatomist, I laughed out loud about the attempt  
> to
> correlate the Dunbar with neocortical size in the Wiki entry. <ironic
> tone> However, this might explain how it is that bats are able to nest
> together in huge aggregations, as they have such a large amount of  
> cortex.
> Converseley, bird social groupings are harder to fit into this theory,
> since birds have relatively very little brain organized in cortical
> structures, and much larger volumes of brain organized in nuclear
> structures. </ironic tone>
> -Peter

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