Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hmm ...

... Book Review: The Believing Brain - (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Mr. Shermer marshals an impressive array of evidence from game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. A human ancestor hears a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind or a lion? If he assumes it's the wind and the rustling turns out to be a lion, then he's not an ancestor anymore. Since early man had only a split second to make such decisions, Mr. Shermer says, we are descendants of ancestors whose "default position is to assume that all patterns are real; that is, assume that all rustles in the grass are dangerous predators and not the wind."

This doesn't look like evidence to me. It looks like pure imaginative speculation. I have no idea -- and neither does Shermer nor anybody else -- what thoughts ran through the minds of our distant ancestors. These are Shermer's thoughts. I suspect that our ancestors were far better attuned to variations among rustles in the grass than any of us can imagine. Of course, that also is pure imaginative speculation.

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