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The Evolution of the Human Brain: How Does it Explain the Knowledge Explosion?

The Evolution of the Human Brain: How Does it Explain the Knowledge Explosion?



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Published by Mark
Why has the knowledge explosion only happened so recently? This article examines the issues of the knowledge explosion and the evolution of the human brain.
Why has the knowledge explosion only happened so recently? This article examines the issues of the knowledge explosion and the evolution of the human brain.

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Published by: Mark on Aug 04, 2008
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The Evolution of the Human Brain: How Does It Account forthe Knowledge Explosion?
The evolution of the human brain is a point of much debate amongevolutionary biologists. Paleoneurology, which studies the evolutionof the human brain, seems to be caught on the horns of a dilemma.In evolutionary biology, there is the thought that the human brainattained it's current size roughly 200,000 years ago: "The evolutionof a large, complex brain has been the defining feature of the humanlineage – although human brain size has not changed over the past200,000 years." (
This poses a huge question: if the incredibly complex human brainhas been around for that long, why has the great advancement of human knowledge only taken place within the last couple of thousandyears, leading to the great knowledge explosion we have seen inrecent history?
Human knowledge builds upon itself; why didn't the knowledgeexplosion take place 80,000 or 100,000 years ago, if the humanbrain has been roughly the same size during this time? Were humanbeings (homo sapien) out there "beating around the bush," huntingbugs and rodents, for all those thousands and thousands of years,even though they were walking around with an incredibly complexbrain?This apparent problem has indeed puzzled the great thinkers of ourtime. A recent approach has been to label the evolution of thehuman brain a "Special Event." The normal pace of evolution wassomehow set aside, and the human brain evolved much more rapidlythan normal. From a recent study:"Genes that control the size and complexity of the brain haveundergone much more rapid evolution in humans than in non-human
primates or other mammals, according to a new study by HowardHughes Medical Institute researchers."
"The accelerated evolution of these genes in the human lineage wasapparently driven by strong selection. In the ancestors of humans,having bigger and more complex brains appears to have carried aparticularly large advantage, much more so than for other mammals.These traits allowed individuals with “better brains” to leave behindmore descendants. As a result, genetic mutations that producedbigger and more complex brains spread in the population very quickly.This led ultimately to a dramatic “speeding up” of evolution in genescontrolling brain size and complexity."
People in many fields, including evolutionary biology, anthropologyand sociology, have long debated whether the evolution of the humanbrain was a special event,” said senior author Bruce Lahn of theHoward Hughes Medical Institute at the University of Chicago. “Ibelieve that our study settles this question by showing that it was.” 
Lahn and his colleagues reported their data in a research articlepublished in the December 29, 2004, issue of the journal Cell ."
(taken from an article on the Howard Hughes Medical Institutewebsite,
)This presents a recurring problem for the Darwinian theory of evolution. Evolutionary theory is built upon the premise thatevolution occurs gradually, over hundreds of thousands of years of time. Whenever data occurs that doesn't fit the theory, the theory of very gradual change through natural selection is set aside, and a newtheory of rapid change is introduced. This is how the Darwiniantheory of evolution "absorbs" evidence that contradicts the theory.However, once you allow various exceptions to the theory of evolution, you no longer have the foundation upon which the theory isbuilt, and the theory needs to be set aside. Then the search for newscientific theories, better aligned to the facts, can begin.
The idea of "punctuated equilibrium" is another example of changingthe theory of evolution to account for rapid change. Because there isa lack of evidence in the fossil record of very gradual change from onespecies to another, the idea of "punctuated equilibrium" has beenintroduced, which says that there have been sudden spurts anddramatic changes caused by mutations in various species. Again,gradual change is set aside, in favor of a theory of rapid change.Concerning the evolution of the human brain, there is a contradictoryschool of thought in Paleoneurology, that the evolution of the humanbrain has actually slowed down over the past couple of million years:
ScienceDaily (Dec. 29, 2006) — "Despite the explosive growth in sizeand complexity of the human brain, the pace of evolutionary changeamong the thousands of genes expressed in brain tissue has actuallyslowed since the split, millions of years ago, between human andchimpanzee, an international research team reports in the December26, 2006, issue of the journal, PLOS Biology."
"We found that genes expressed in the human brain have in factslowed down in their evolution, contrary to some earlier reports," saysstudy author Chung-I Wu, professor of ecology and evolution at theUniversity of Chicago. "The more complex the brain, it seems, themore difficult it becomes for brain genes to change...."
The article goes on to report, "Genes that are expressed only in thebrain evolved more slowly than those that are expressed in the brainas well as other tissues, and those genes evolved more slowly thangenes expressed throughout the rest of the organism."
"The authors attribute the slowdown to mounting complexity of interactions within the brain. "We know that proteins with moreinteracting partners evolve more slowly," Wu said. "Mutations thatdisrupt existing interactions aren't tolerated."
This article also acknowledges the problem presented by the apparent

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