World I Prof. Francisco De Paula Module II The Brain, Origin and Evolution of the Human Mind.
II. The Brain, Origin and Evolution of the Human Mind. Today, we must incorporate biology to our theories on knowledge and language. In order to do so, we must develop what I have called “biological epistemology.” Then, in the light of evolution, we will learn how it is we know and are conscious. Gerald M. Edelman Neuroscientist
Modern neuroscience is concerned with two main issues:
Validity of the cognitive limitations as a characteristic of the “mind that studies the mind.”
2. Given the complexity of its structure and physiology, and since the brain is more complex than intelligent; it may not have the ontological possibility to understand itself.
The emergence of this faculty can be explained within the formal framework that biology offers as a basis for studying man’s mental processes, by which we perceive, associate, learn, remember and, miraculously, achieve awareness of ourselves .
Our brain is precisely the part which constitutes the ultimate boundary of our knowledge.
The development of this self-knowledge makes possible to identify:
the foundations of the nature of our behavior
the phenomenon surrounding the chemical and electrical activities of our central nervous system,
mental representation of reality
memorized and intelligent association
This associational capacity could be regarded as the source of evolution of man’s self-consciousness (self-knowledge).
Brain & Self-consciousness
The actual state of the brain is the result of millions of years of evolution in genetics, morphology and competitive interaction and dialectic in the pressure of natural selection environment in their development.
It integrates more than one hundred billion neurons (nerve cells) in its complex network architecture.
From man’s intelligence arises creativity, emotions, memory and, finally, his self-consciousness
The brain has a bilateral symmetry : its left and right hemispheres are united and connected by a callous substance and its base , which is constituted mainly by the medulla and the cerebellum.
Neuroscientists specialized in neurolocalization have determined the placement of brain’s attributes and functions within the brain’s anatomical map, leaving a good part of its unexplained physiology to the field of scientific conjectures.
Inside the brain, the limbic system extends into various heterogeneous structures which take part in the formative process and coordination of the higher functions of living beings, such as emotional and sexual behavior and memory.
The upper part of the brain houses the cerebral hemispheres. They are enveloped by the cerebral cortex which, if extended, has an area approximately of 1.5 meters and is 2 millimeters thick.
The hemispheres are divided into sections called “lobes ”. They are delimited by natural fissures according to their Cartesian regions: frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital.
From a physiological viewpoint, and in relation to their localized functions, each area of the brain’s lobes is differentiated by a sensorial, motor and associational function, also known as motor, somatosensory and visual cortex . However, the disperse associational function remains topologically less defined.
The cerebral hemispheres and the cortex are considered the most recently existing and evolved parts of the brain.
Paul McLean: Theory of the Cerebral Trilogy ( Triune Brain )
Reptile brain : is responsible for the irrational and instinctive behavior in human beings.
In 1970, he established that the brain of the Homo sapiens developed in three identifiable stages of “ archeological evolution”, that is: Main Theories
The limbic system or middle brain: (includes the hippocampus, the thalamus and the amygdalae): is responsible for an incipient production, although, still automatic, of the emotions and the memory, predominating in the most evolved species of paleomammiferous.
Theory of the Cerebral Trilogy
The cerebral cortex : marks the earliest stage in the brain’s phylogenetic evolution, it gave man the associational faculty of abstraction, imagination, and the ability to anticipate the events concerning his existence.
Gerald Edelman: Neodarwinian Theory.
Explains how man’s consciousness of having self-reflecting thought, emerged as a result of the Darwin evolution of the neuronic groups of cells interacting with genetics, morphology and experience.
At the end of this long evolutionary road, abstraction, imagination, and the ability to anticipate the events concerning his existence have been essential in the emergence of human self-consciousness in its different evolutionary manifestations.
Edelman defines two systems which are also evolutionary stages:
Stage 1. “Limbic stem”: Founded upon the special relationship that exists between the network of functions of the anatomical units of the brain stem and the limbic system.
Stage 2. “Cortical-Thalamus”: Founded upon the relationship between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex.
He established these two stages and systems as two independent nervous systems.
During its lengthy development, the first system, the “limbic-stem”, became specialized in controlling the organism’s autonomous (independent) behavior, enabling the regulation of the heart, the endocrine system and the digestive functions, among others.
According to Edelman and recently many other neuroscientists, during its last evolutionary stage, the second system, the “cortical-thalamus”, developed the cerebral cortex.
These two systems signified an unprecedented leap in the history of evolution, especially regarding the cerebral cortex where higher mental activity takes place.
Gerald Edelman: Neodarwinian Theory.
Surprisingly, this gave way to the development of the most complex neuronic equipment imaginable.
Acquisition of Knowledge
Hence, we find the recurring epistemological idea of attributing man two fundamental ways in which he acquired knowledge:
One springs from sensitive experience , which is limited by the perceptual capacity of the senses : vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste, and
The other originates in the mental and rational process of man’s advanced neourophysiology.
Others Theories about the acquisition of Knowledge:
Plato and Aristotle proposed their principle of divided epistemology: “ Sensibilia and Inteligiblia” - of the senses and of the intellect- which means there is a “previous and posterior to knowledge”.
Descartes , based on his dualistic vision of man regarding the development of knowledge, also defined two states in the evolution: a priori and a posteriori .
Kant evidenced the differentiation between pure and empirical knowledge by dividing the study of knowledge into the criticism of “pure reason” and “practical reason”.
Locke established that the fundamental sources of knowledge are those emanating from contemplation and the intellectualization of experience.
Dualistic Evolution of Thought
Following an identifiable and similar topic and line of reflections, all of these philosophers set forth, at different times, and with different tools, the general idea of the dualistic evolution of thought.
Considering these important stages in the evolution of the human brain, Edelman reflects: what led to the appearance of man’s self-consciousness? Why has man revealed himself, and continues to do so, as an heterogeneous and asymmetric being who consents to sequels of inequality which constitute the stigma of his universal culture?
The answer, according to Edelman, has to be referred to the interrelated phenomenon of genetics, morphology and experience as part of the integrated process of evolution.
In his Theory of Evolution , Darwin established the idea that, in the evolutionary process of their intelligence, human beings are subject to the same laws that have governed all living species during their development.
Evolution is a result of competition and environmental demands –given the heterogeneous capabilities of living creatures.
Morphology gives a man competitive advantage to meet the unpredictable challenges of environmental requirements in nature and, at the same time, resulting in anatomical equipment deemed necessary to preserve the hostility of their habitat.
Genetics, Morphology and Experience: the Architects of Evolution
Darwin & the Functional Level
It is the structural and functional abilities of living things what ultimately makes evolution possible.
It is indispensable to determine the role that genetics have played in the merely informative process of evolution, as well as the role of morphology and experience, which in their dispute and configuration have caused the great evolutionary change in species.
In the case of man , his cranial capacity, the space in the temporal plane of the cerebral cortex and, in a especially outstanding manner , the supralaryngeal , gave him, in the last moment of his development, the final impulse that would allow the definitive conformation of the attributes and abilities of his intelligent conduct.
Recent discoveries reveal that the factor of morphology is the determining ingredient in the development of the evolution of human conduct.
The Case of Man
As he found himself before the evolution of his morphology, his genetic heredity and abilities to compete efficiently in the arena of natural selection in order to survive, man found it necessary and possible to represent the world of his experience in his mind in a symbolic manner.
Man constructed and memorized conceptual images from his observation of the world. Subsequently, in trying to verbalize and associate them, these images determined the logic and syntactic order of his mental organization , and therefore of his thought.
Language, a Prelude to our Self-discovery
Like self-consciousness and the consciousness of being self-conscious, language is also a unique and exclusive attribute of man.
From the self-consciousness, we know how evolution equipped the cerebral cortex with an area specialized in language and comprehension.
These areas, called Broca and Wernicke’s Areas, in remembrance of its discoverers, are related fundamentally to memory .
The coordination of their functions enables the formulating and interpretative functions of language, as well as its synthesis and its subsequent evolution.
In the history of language, the symbol was created first as a means of representing reality, and later, as the symbol of a symbol , which was expressed by a name in an infinite succession of semantic representations.
Reasoning evolved exponentially due to its capacity for representation –symbolic and conceptual- of reality, without limit, in the increasingly large and synthetic construction of knowledge.
Man’s internal viewpoint of his complex evolution can only be explained within the scope of the external social consequences of his recently acquired property of language.
Language Prof. Francisco De Paula
Robert Ornstein: Man’s Future Evolution
Man’s future evolution will occur through the development of his intelligence from the emerging evolutionary attribute of a conscious selection as a substitute to natural selection.
To decipher the genetic map of our biological structure will permit the prerogative of modifying it, intentionally substituting the natural task of evolution regarding our configuration.
This knowledge will liberate us, for the first time in history, from the constraint which the information contained in our inescapable genetic code signifies.
Man’s Future Evolution
“ Our old civilization” and its dangerous structures must be transcended only by consciously knowing our origin, which will lead to the creation of a new human order.
Will permit the task – from the standpoint of our selfcriticism - of objectively revising the recurring conduct of our culture’s insecurity.