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Thursday, September 25, 2014


We left off talking turkey.
Turkeys suffer from the general sterotype of having bird-brains, yet they have an innate, instinctual intelligence which has been honed by natural selection.  So, let's look at the lineage of a thanksgiving meal.

It is now generally accepted that birds are the modern descendants of a branch of dinosaurs.  Going back to the fossil record, we have evidence that some dinosaurs like hadrosaurs had well developed organs for communication.  Other dinosaurs cared extensively for their young for months after hatching.  They were social creatures.  They utilized memes.  Their memes were also closely tied to genetic concerns. 

For most organisms, memes remain in strict service to the genes.  Deviations from this servile position can endanger the individual and group (if the memes fail to promote survival behaviors) as well as expend too many calories (by stimulating activities unrelated to survival and reproduction). 

Human memes are a special case.  They are unique, they are more complex, but they may not be as advantageous as the commoner types of memes we see in the rest of the animal kingdom.  Environmental pressures select for small brains and caloric efficiency.  If most creatures had the capability to reflect on the human brain and its caloric consumption, they would no doubt conclude it is an aberration. 

Yet, the human brain is a product of natural selection.  Stripped of physical defenses, we were dependent on individual and group cunning to maintain our status among the living.  We fit into a niche: bipedal, defenseless omnivore.  The environment selected increased communication organs and large brains.

Dale Russell suggested that given other environmental pressures the dinosaur lineage might have produced humanoid creatures.  This theorizing is productive in that it allows us to understand the algorithmic nature of natural selection.  It is possible our niche could have been filled by creatures rather different from ourselves.  We are a special case, but we are not unique, elect or chosen.  We are natural.

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