Brain evolution and hominid socialization Open Classroom THE HUMAN BRAIN: A SCIENTIFIC AND PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE

Brain evolution and hominid socialization

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Eudald Carbonell


  1. Eudald CarbonellEudald Carbonell

    Director del ciclo

    Director del IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social) y  catedrático de Prehistoria en la Universidad Rovira i Virgili de Tarragona. Se doctoró en Geología del Cuaternario por la Universidad Pierre et Marie y en Historia por la Universidad de Barcelona. Ha publicado libros y más de 300 artículos científicos y de divulgación. Colabora con prestigiosos centros de investigación españoles y extranjeros. Entre sus hitos científicos más destacados está el reconocimiento del poblamiento antiguo de la Península Ibérica, lo que condujo a desarrollar el Programa de Investigación multidisciplinar en Atapuerca, del que es co-director. Entre los galardones recibidos, destaca el Premio Príncipe de Asturias de Investigación Científica y Técnica en 1997.

The brain has contributed in a very specific way to the construction of operative intelligence. This organ and its structure are a product of the biological, ethological and technological evolution of the genus Homo. The elements contributing to our cerebral tissues' increase in complexity are, apart of the biological evolution, the generic sociability that we posses due to being part of the Hominidae family, and also our extra-somatic adaptation capacity through tools that we conceive and produce with our upper extremities.

The neuromechanical feedback that occurred along the last three million years between our brain and our upper extremities is in our opinion responsible for the morphology and structure of our brain. Thus, the co-evolution of brain and tools, and the posterior conversion of technical capacity to technology, have configured a being with capabilities that no other mammal animal has.

Together with the productions of tools, language is another adaptive capacity that does not appear consistently in other groups of primates. Thus, we need to understand how the human brain has been selected based on the perspective of the association of properties. In opposition to other, the specific contribution of neuromechanics, ability, and language are key elements to understand the social brain of our linage.

The evolution of the genus Homo across the different species that build its phylogenetic tree, in which only our branch remains represented through our species Homo sapiens, offers evolutionary questions about the size and social use of the brain, and the future of our species. The brain of the hominids within our genus has increased from the average 500 cubic centimeters in the Pliocene, around 3 million years ago in the African savanna, to the brain of the Homo neanderthalensis (1600 cc.) and the Homo sapiens (approximately 1500 cc.). With the exception of the Homo floresiensis, which presented an average capacity of 350 cubic centimeters -an epiphenomenom-, the cerebral increase in volume has been fundamental for our social development.

We hope that the socialization of science will allow us to take advantage of having a larger and well structured brain, and that this will facilitate solutions for problems that in the past were only solvable through natural selection, which now cutural selection has qualified into technological culture provoking social circumstances that had never occurred in the past.

For the first time in the historical evolution of our genus, logic and knowledge can substitute the random adaptive processes of the human primates. Hominization and humanization are interrelated processes, although the later has taken the lead within well structured societies. We will see how our brain adapts to the new situations provided by the scientific-technological revolution. Only the transformation of knowledge into thinking can be efficient for our survival in this planet. The brain, thus, continues to be the fundamental organ for the conscience progress of our linage.