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The Domesticated Brain: A Pelican Introduction Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Length: 316 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2842 KB
  • Print Length: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Pelican (1 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141974869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141974866
  • ASIN: B00I9PVKI4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #239,695 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 25 Jun. 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, the title of this book needs clarifying: what does the author mean by ‘domesticated’? The human brain is not domesticated in the sense your dog is domesticated – it means that the brain has evolved because we are social animals. So the book opens with a startling fact: our brains have been getting smaller as we have become more social. Does that mean we are getting dumber? No, it is not size that counts but density, especially in the number of connections the brain is able to make. Some mammals have brains almost as large as ours, bigger even, but they are no way near as powerful or as complicated as the ones we possess. And our brains are complicated because our social nature is complicated. We humans make deals with one another, keep score, sign contracts, invent dress codes, morals, ethics, religions, political parties, sporting teams and so much else besides, and devise all manner of laws, codes and customs to regulate relations among ourselves. No other animal does all that.

This is why we feel things like shame and embarrassment (emotions that have not been detected among our nearest relatives). We see how peer culture shapes children’s development. Parents are right to be concerned at what sort of company their children keep. To the age-old question of whether it is nature or nurture, then the answer is that it’s both, but with a twist. Your environment can determine which genes are switched on – epigenetics. These in turn can be passed to your offspring. It’s still Darwin and not Lamarck – if you are blacksmith, your children won’t inherit your muscular biceps. But if you have a gene for strong arms, you might pass that on, if the gene for them is activated, and they might grow strong biceps, if they make use of them. The same goes with the brain.
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Very worthwhile all-round. Those who are interested in the social influences on the evolution of the brain would find this of great benefit, I think. In small compass, the author has condensed much current scholarship and research evidence into an easily readable and very cheap book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The «Domesticated Brain» is a must-read for all those who look to understand our common evolutionary past and the evolution of our brain. This work should be required reading for every evolutionary scientists. I strongly recommend this book to all my colleagues and to my students.
PF
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Lots of good points made., but more about socialisation in modern times than evolutionary domestication. An oversimplification of multifactorial transitions.

There were some irritating omissions/errors re prehistory. Humans lived a settled life in the Paleolithic, before the glacial pushed them south. People had to co-operate to hunt large animals in the Paleolithic. ---Mesolithic: co-operation to erect huge wooden pine rows and build halls. Neolithic: immense co-operative action to carry out massive landscaping projects from Orkney to York vale to south coast. Bronze age co-operative long distance trade. No firm evidence that paleo/ meso/ neo people were aggressive but possible killing of non cooperative thieves/freeloaders.

The brain possible got smaller as Neanderthals struggled to reproduce as quickly as sapiens, and sapiens predominated in the population. The critical diet factor was fat. Brains are made of fat, (nuts and marrowfat) not meat (protein). It also got smaller in the Neolithic (6000BP) due to poorer diet, people were 6 inches shorter than in the mesolithic. A classic example of how ‘civilisation’ benefited those in power at the expense of the masses.

Some serious lack of clarity re selection, inheritance and epigenetics. Misanalysis of game theory. John Nash’s major point was the win-win situation not the theoretical equilibrium of loser/winner. We all benefit if we cooperate; that has driven the evolution of humans/society. We cooperated because it increased survival of all,against great odds in the glacial. We also cooperated with other scavengers, dogs in hunting (37,000 BP) and possibly birds, which identified dead animals, carrion. It may have been the weaker hunters who had to scavenge more, so were the ones who replaced muscle with intellect.
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