Why? Over millions of years (of evolution), natural selection has favored those members of our species who have developed brains best able to relate, in each generation, to their immediate environment, in other words, able to learn. That’s what humans are all about – learning.
In your brain you have inherited all those useful adaptive systems – different forms of intelligences; preferences for seeing things in a masculine or a feminine way; preferred learning styles; peripheral as well as focused perception; inherited preferences; the ability to deal with wholes and parts simultaneously; to work collaboratively as well as independently, and so on. These predispositions combine in different ways in each of us.
Strong evidence suggests that our brains – our very minds that make us who we are – have not changed in essential form in 30,000 years. “You can take man out of the Stone Age, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of man,” stated the Harvard Business Review in late 1998.
A 100,000 years ago, it seems humans started to talk, and we haven’t stopped gossiping ever since! Our brains started to grow, and that in turn increased the size of our skulls.
“The evolutionary trends of brain and pelvis are on a collision course, and the result is that our brains at birth are constrained to be no larger than those of chimpanzees…. After birth, the development of the human brain takes a dramatically different turn than that of the chimpanzee. Once it has been released from the constriction imposed by the size of the birth canal, the human brain explodes in size. By age four it has tripled in size.”
— Christopher Wills
The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness, 1993
Here is the problem; every other mammal delivers its young with its brain virtually fully developed. If the human were to do the same you women would have to carry your babies for 27 months…and the infant would never get down the birth canal.
So evolution compromised. Humans deliver babies (often with great difficulty) at nine months with brains only some 40% fully formed. Here’s the magic. The human brain comes equipped with a whole series of intellectual predispositions to learn incredibly rapidly from our environment. Providing, that is, they are properly stimulated at the stage (age) immediately after birth which, in our distant past out on the ancestral savannah, was most critical to our survival. Hold on to that concept of Predispositions.
A bone pressure plaque from Blanchard, France, dating from about 30,000 years ago. The sequential phases of the moon have been engraved from observation over two and a quarter months. Nothing comparable for the next ten thousand years has been as yet uncovered. It is the first known conceptual performance of Homo Sapiens.
— Sir John Eccles.
Evolution of the Brain, Creation of the Self
Some years ago archaeologists digging in the South of France uncovered a 30,000-year old Stone Age encampment. Amongst the artifacts was the shoulder blade of an ox, and on it were these inscriptions. The archaeologists could make no sense of these…they were neither a tally, nor a pattern, nor any recognizable form of writing.
Then one of them noticed the moon. Something in its shape caught his curiosity. In three days he had worked it all out. Here on this bone was a lunar calendar complete with 72 observations…made something like 1500 generations back. One of our common ancestors (statistically we would each be related to this person) 30,000 years ago had the intellectual curiosity to watch the moon, night after night, and then transcribe those movements, at scale, onto the Stone Age equivalent of a back-of-an envelope! I’m stunned by the implications of that bone!