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Re: [ontolog-forum] Cultural variation in cognitive machinery

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2010 10:32:55 -0400
Message-id: <4BCC6997.3040704@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat, Ali, and anyone else who might still be listening,    (01)

Trading opinions about poorly defined terms that various people
interpret in different ways is never going to converge.    (02)

I'd like to recommend some books by people who have actually
done research on related topics and have some useful facts
to add to the speculation.    (03)

The first book is a collaboration by two authors -- a psychiatrist
who spent many years in studying the psychology of young children,
especially from the ages of zero to three, and a philosopher who
had been highly skeptical about the claims of apes learning to
use language-like symbols until he spent an extended period of
time actually working with them:    (04)

    Greenspan, Stanley I., & Stuart G. Shanker (2004) _The First
    Idea:  How Symbols, Language, and Intelligence Evolved from
    Our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans_, Da Capo Press,
    Cambridge, MA.    (05)

The second book is a good summary of the recent research on
the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons (up to the end of 2008):    (06)

    Fagan, Brian (2010) _Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth
    to the First Modern Humans_, Bloomsbury Press, New York.    (07)

My only criticism of Fagan's book is based on issues discussed
by Greenspan and Shanker:  Fagan tends to underestimate the
abilities of the Neanderthals because their technology was
not as advanced as the newcomers who came from Africa.    (08)

But much of that difference in technology could be explained
by the fact that the Neanderthal society in Europe was much
smaller than the societies in Africa, which was a much larger
continent with a much more diverse range of climates and
environments.  The greater number of interactions in Africa
would have stimulated an enormous amount of the innovation.    (09)

Fagan admits that point, but I believe that he underestimates
its importance.  Just look at the difference between the
European technology and the indigenous technology in the
Americas and Australia.    (010)

John    (011)

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