Scientists have hypothesized the existence of a critical mass of neurons as a prerequisite for the explosion of intelligence.
Credits: RAFAEL AMORIM, EXCLUSIVE FOR UFO MAGAZINE
In the long evolutionary path of human beings, a special event was fundamental to make our ancestors come down from the trees and begin their own trajectory, moving away from other primates. We’re talking about brain size, which since chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest descendants, has grown three times to its current size. The determining factors for this significant increase in brain size are still controversial. Anthropologist Richard Wrangham, from Harvard University, for example, argues that the act of cooking food increased energy consumption, giving a boost to the growth of brain volume. “Maximizing energy consumption through food has allowed us to lose a third of the gut and experience massive brain expansion,”
However, analysis of 94 skulls from 13 species covering a period of nearly 3,000,000 years shows that the story may have been different. The increase in brain volume was gradual and consistent, starting before ancestral primates discovered that cooking food would make it easier to eat. In the study, led by Andrew Du, a paleobiologist at the University of Chicago and lead author published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society, the researchers show that, rather than an isolated fact, the trend towards increased brain volume was mainly caused by evolution. randomness of the organ of some individuals within a given species.
intelligence and science
At the same time, new species with larger brains began to emerge, leading to the extinction of those with smaller volumes. “Early hominids had a brain the size of a chimpanzee, and they have increased dramatically since then. That’s why it’s important to understand how we got there,” says Du. The intelligence that has accompanied the evolution of brain size is another fascinating topic. It offers us the key to understanding ourselves, our origins and — prophetically — our destiny.
It also helps us decipher the mystery of our status as the planet’s dominant species. However, the evidence gathered by scientists about intelligence is obtained indirectly from observation of the increase in the size of cranial capacity, of artifacts produced as a result of human intelligence, such as tool making, cooperative hunting, warfare, use of fire and cooking of food, art, burying the dead, and more.
According to Renato Sabbatini, a doctor in neurophysiology at the University of São Paulo (USP), scientists have raised hypotheses about the existence of a critical mass of neurons as a prerequisite for the evolutionary explosion of intelligence. In other words, below a certain number of neurons (or brain size), intelligence is highly limited and doesn’t lead to invention, imagination, symbolic social communication, and other things that don’t exist in non-human brains. This critical mass would have been reached at the time of the appearance of the first hominid of the species Homo.
With intellectual development, our ancestors began to observe and try to understand the world around them. Documents from Ancient Egypt already described methods of medical diagnosis, but it was in the culture of Ancient Greece that the first signs of the scientific method began to appear. A major advance in the method was made at the beginning of Islamic philosophy, about 1,000 years ago, with the contribution of Ibn al-Haytham. The Arab scientist, in his research on optics, organized what many consider the foundations of the modern scientific method, which were consolidated with the emergence of physics in the 17th and 18th centuries.
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