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Dolphin brain

Tim Tillman tillman at ithink.net
Mon Feb 1 02:48:05 EST 1999

----- Original Message -----
From: Michael C. Cheney <cheney at ucla.edu>
Newsgroups: bionet.neuroscience
Sent: Sunday, January 31, 1999 11:11 PM
Subject: Re: Dolphin brain

>In article <X8Ts2.265$mo2.902 at news9.ispnews.com>, "Tim Tillman"
><tillman at ithink.net> wrote:

>| I think that we as a species are egotistical to think that our
>| "intelligence" has greatly changed over time, particularly with the rise
>| Homo sapiens and and H. neanderthalensis.  What we may see as the
>| "intelligence" of our species, is IMHO nothing more than an accumulation
>| historical fact, amounting to a common memory.  It is from this common
>| memory that each generation builds.
>It sounds like you're trying to discredit the opinion that humans have
>evolved an increasing intellegence throughout recorded history.  I think
>that if you want to talk about whether higher intellegence is selected
>for, you have to compare H. Sapiens to chimps (or any species that you
>think humans evolved from).  It certainly does appear to me that extreme
>intelligence is favored by natural selection, if you assume we evolved
>from chimps.

It is generally accepted knowledge that humans and chimps evolved from a
common ancestor, not that humans evolved from chimps.

To clarify, I think that to the individual intelligence certainly enhances
the ability to survive.  But we must remember that a super genius (by
clinical testing) is not guaranteed any degree of fitness.  The individual
must be selected for mating and reproduce offspring, who in turn do
likewise.  Without some other quality, say physique, personality, power,
money, or social skills, the super genius will not reproduce.  I know of two
(yea small sample) high school classmates that would qualify as super
geniuses, neither of these guys now approaching 40, have passed their genes
on to the next generation.  And I'll go out on a limb here to say that it is
extremely unlikely that a super genius is fit without possessing some other

Witness the "dumb jock" in high school.  He may bed tens of girls while in
high school on the five year plan.  He may unwittingly become a father due
to his exploitations.  That offspring has a greater chance of coming into
existance, than one fathered by a super genius who lacks other qualities.
That offspring, by virtue of its existance, has an infinately better chance
of reproducing, than the non-existent offspring of a super genius who lacks
other qualities.

Bottem line is that intelligence alone is not sufficient to ensure fitness.

>| Dolphins may possess a primitive language, this is debatable.  But, they
>| not capable of remembering how to avoid the fish nets, a clear danger to
>| individual and a selective vector.  I say that for this reason, it can be
>| believed that dolphins are not truely intelligent.  A child can tell
>| child that a stove is hot.  A group of chimps in a room with knowledge of
>| particular threat, can warn a newcomer.  The dolphin gets caught in the
>| undoubtably taking an easy meal.  Not intelligent.

>I think you are saying that an individual dolphin will _repeatedly_ get
>caught by the same sort of net, in the same mannor.

No, here I am saying that the dolphin would choose an easy chance at a cod
dinner over the threat of the net.  I have never seen, but also never looked
for, data that would lead anyone to believe that a pod of dolphins, after
seeing members drowned in nets, would communicate to members that it would
be better to avoid the easy netted cod.

>Is there evidence for
>this?  I was under the impression (mistaken perhaps) that if a dolphin was
>caught in a net, and then set free, that the dolphin would avoid the area
>where it was first caught.

The individual dolphin might avoid an area where he narrowly escaped death.
But will it choose life over that afore mentioned cod?

> Also, are you saying that communication is a
>prerequisite to your definition of intellegence?

No.  Development of language may be indicative of intelligence.  It would be
difficult to describe an individual human born without the necessary brain
anatomy to utilize language in some fashion as intelligent.  Communication
is a valuable ability.  But, I did not equate communication with language.

Microorganisms can communicate by chemical signals.  The pressence of these
signals will induce the population to act in a certain way.   Inducing
biolumenescence pathways and aggregation of slime mold individuals into
reproductive structures come to mind.  This form of communication is not
considered a language.  Languages are vocal or symbolic in some form, and
allow the transfer of complex ideas.  Languages are not chemical.  Many
animals communicate vocally.  Do we assign the vicious growling of a dog to
language?  I think not.  Its communication goal is purely instinctive.  The
dance of the honey bee can communicate the location of nectar.  But, this is
not language.  This is the communication of a concrete fact, not complex
ideas.  Great apes and humans can communicate complex ideas.


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