Neural Reuse and the Evolution of Higher Cognition

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker recently examined a problem with understanding human cognition, particularly how the processes of biological evolution could explain the human ability to think abstractly, including the higher cognitive abilities for logic and math (hereafter, HCAs). Pinker credits the formulation of the problem of understanding human cognition and the evolutionary development of HCAs to the co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russell Wallace. Pinker states the following response to the question raised by Wallace:

…Nonetheless it is appropriate to engage the profound puzzle [Wallace] raised; namely, why do humans have the ability to pursue abstract intellectual feats such as science, mathematics, philosophy, and law, given that opportunities to exercise these talents did not exist in the foraging lifestyle in which humans evolved and would not have parlayed themselves into advantages in survival and reproduction even if they did?


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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