Misconceptions about Brain Evolution

Posted 29 Dec 2008 at 19:28 UTC by steve Share This

A new Scientific American article dispels a common misconception about brain evolution: the idea that the brains of other animals are the previous stages that led to human intelligence. Just as people once thought evolution meant humans "evolved from monkeys" it was commonly believed that the mammal brain evolved from the reptile brain which evolved from the fish brain. This incorrect view survived for longer than might be expected because of the linear scale of life called scala naturae developed by Medieval naturalists. It ranked creatures based on their imagined importance. Later researchers tried to interpret evolution, including evolution of the brain, in terms of this linear scale. It wasn't until scientists in the field of comparative neuroanatomy begin to learn more about brains that it became clear that "complex brains and sophisticated cognition have arisen multiple times in independent lineages of animals during the earth’s evolutionary history." Nature, it seems, shares the motto of Perl programmers, TIMTOWTDI (There's More Than One Way To Do It).

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