Archive for January, 2015

This article showed up today, nicely confirming one of the suggestions I made in my post two days ago.

“Scientists have found compelling evidence for the co-evolution of early Stone Age slaughtering tools and our ability to communicate and teach, shedding new light on the power of human culture to shape evolution. . . .

“In testing five different ways to convey Oldowan stone-knapping skills to more than 180 college students, the researchers found that the demonstration that used spoken communication – versus imitation, non-verbal presentations or gestures – yielded the highest volume and quality of flakes in the least amount of time and with the least waste. . . .

“‘If someone is trying to learn a skill that has lots of subtlety to it, it helps to engage with a teacher and have them correct you,” Morgan said. “You learn so much faster when someone is telling you what to do.’ . . .

“‘At some point they reached a threshold level of communication that allowed Acheulean hand axes to start being taught and spread around successfully and that almost certainly involved some sort of teaching and proto-type language,’ Morgan said.”

I’ve had a number of follow-up thoughts since doing the previous entry. One is that the visions must go back much further than I’ve previously dared to imagine.

Based on various lines of evidence, I’ve dated the birth of the spirit vision to around 280,000 years ago, followed by the cosmic order vision and then the aristocracy vision at roughly 100,000 year intervals. This suggests that the kinship vision must predate spirit by at least as much — which would take it back to some 400,000 years ago, when our likely ancestors in the Middle East began showing signs of an enhanced mastery of space and time.

That in turn means the initial Vision of Everything must be older yet. And because of the air of immemorial antiquity that hangs over it, I would wager it ruled our lives for much longer than a mere hundred thousand years. It could easily date back another 500,000 years or even a million.

HandaxeThis isn’t as weird as it might seem on first glance. As I’ve discussed in the past, even the very earliest handaxes must have been the product of a well-defined algorithm that specified what actions to perform in what order. And the more elegant and symmetrical axes of 700,000 years ago imply a further advance in our ability to define and carry out rules-based processes.

The mental capacity required for tool-making may have prepared our minds for the more elaborate rule-based systems of language. And language in turn would have made more complex tool-making possible, creating a positive feedback loop between the work of our hands and the work of our tongue.

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