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Author Topic:   Simultaneous appearance of written language and common man
Brian
Member (Idle past 3151 days)
Posts: 4659
From: Scotland
Joined: 10-22-2002


Message 61 of 86 (492835)
01-03-2009 7:15 AM
Reply to: Message 42 by Coyote
01-02-2009 1:45 PM


Re: Exact Year
They may also be able to do thermoluminescence

Isn't TL only usable on material that has been exposed to high temperatures? As far as I am aware ancient tablets were not fired, although I have heard that along with optical dating, TL can be used to date unfired materials.

I think that tracing how writng evolved is probably the best way to date written texts since dating mthods MAY only date the material itself and not when it was used.


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Dr Jack
Member (Idle past 297 days)
Posts: 3507
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 62 of 86 (492837)
01-03-2009 8:05 AM
Reply to: Message 61 by Brian
01-03-2009 7:15 AM


Re: Exact Year
The clay tablets from Uruk were used unfired, but we know of so many of them because a large number (a few thousand) were baked when the city went up in flames. That would give a upper limit to the age of the tablets.
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Tanndarr
Member (Idle past 3374 days)
Posts: 68
Joined: 02-14-2008


Message 63 of 86 (492841)
01-03-2009 8:32 AM
Reply to: Message 52 by Jon
01-03-2009 2:25 AM


Re: The Real Question
Thanks for the response Jon. I wasn't intending to be harsh with Peg, merely venting a little frustration. I've found I don't have the limitless patience that so many of you have...which is one good reason I tend to lurk here instead of actively participate.

Anyway...to the point:

The miscommunication here is that Peg's very definition of 'modern humans' is, as Rahvin pointed out (Message 4): "those organisms which are biologically identical to currently living humans and possess written language."

Exactly so, but I have asked Peg to show that there is a real relationship between the two by showing evidence. For example:
1: Describe a pattern of language and human development we should expect to see if her assertion is true (make some predictions).
2: Show evidence that this is indeed what is seen and explain the correlation between the two.

You ask Peg to prove that two separate items - modern humans & writing - arose at the same time. Peg finds this impossible, since her definitions/understandings do not have these items as separate. She does not state their co-arrival on Earth as an assertion to be backed, but as a simple definition in which, as in all definitions, each and every part is necessary for a complete definition. Accepting her definition, she cannot see how there is anything to prove. You should be trying to show how her definition is not acceptable, not how her timetables are wrong.

As mentioned above, I can define that modern man did not come about until the invention of e-mail or any other random technology if I'm allowed to make my own definitions. Unfortunately her own definitions aren't internally consistent and are not in line with the evidence I've seen. I'm asking her to show a correlation between what she says and what I see. I'm not asking for proof, I'm asking for evidence.

So, let's start off anew on a different foot. We will ask Peg to show why writing is a necessary piece of the definition of "humanness". We will point to the fact that humans exist the world over who only speak languages with no written forms. We will show how ancient cultures, such as the Inca, were very functional and operable human societies sans writing. Once these steps have been walked through, we can move to the timetables.

Okay, that works for me, although I'd like to stick with the concept of modern man since that's the term we started with. Perhaps she can also explain why writing is the defining aspect and not other technologies such as fire, agriculture or bronze working.
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 64 of 86 (492871)
01-03-2009 2:21 PM
Reply to: Message 55 by Peg
01-03-2009 3:25 AM


Re: The Real Question
those who cannot read or write can still speak a language and can 'learn' to read and write it

Except, of course, those humans who speak only languages that have no written form. In learning to write their language, how would they proceed? You say they are still human if they can learn to read and write [their language]. So, what if they cannot learn to read and write their language because their language has no writing system? Does this mean they are not human because of their inability to learn to read and write their language?

one animal that has anything remotely similar to human language and writing

Why can't you stop at language? No other animal possesses the ability to language in the way humans do by combining symbols in a rule governed manner to create infinite meaning. Stopping at language makes your position at least semi-defensible, but leaping into writing as a requirement makes your position absolutely silly.

So far, you've moved the goal posts at least once, from 'writing' to 'capability of writing'. Now, the latter is ridiculously vague. There is no reason to assume that simply because humans did not have writing 8kya that they were somehow incapable of it. They likely did not have need for writing. As the articles to which I linked explain, the development of writing is closely linked to the development of complex economic, government, and social structures.

Furthermore, depending your definition on 'capability of writing' still has all the problems indicated by Rahvin in the previous post - that it excludes children younger than 4 or 5, the mentally disabled, etc. from being considered human.

Would you care to address these issues?
Jon

Edited by Jon, : Plurals and duals and all those thing...s

Edited by Jon, : A and O are such similar sounding letters... yet they spell completely different words.


You've been Gremled!
This message is a reply to:
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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 65 of 86 (492874)
01-03-2009 2:53 PM
Reply to: Message 56 by Peg
01-03-2009 3:30 AM


Re: Exact Year
if i was a jew ..., i'd grab my old testament

:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:

You really are ignorant, aren't you? And just what does the Jewish 'new testament' look like?

:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:

Jon


You've been Gremled!
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19977
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 4.0


Message 66 of 86 (492875)
01-03-2009 2:55 PM
Reply to: Message 64 by Jon
01-03-2009 2:21 PM


apes, elephants, parrots and dolphins.
hey Jon,

Why can't you stop at language? No other animal possesses the ability to language in the way humans do by combining symbols in a rule governed manner to create infinite meaning.

Actually some apes, elephants, parrots, and dolphins can recognize and use symbols better than many humans. Several have been documented creating new symbols and new combinations of symbols. The abilities of different species overlap on a spectrum.

We've had this discussion before on the Science and Speech in Determining "Human" Kind thread (IamJoseph went on for ages, using his definition of language as what humans spoke, and of humans as the only species with language).

Enjoy.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand
Rebel American Zen Deist
... to learn ... to think ... to live ... to laugh ...
to share.


• • • Join the effort to solve medical problems, AIDS/HIV, Cancer and more with Team EvC! (click) • • •

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bluegenes
Member (Idle past 669 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 67 of 86 (492881)
01-03-2009 4:40 PM
Reply to: Message 66 by RAZD
01-03-2009 2:55 PM


Re: apes, elephants, parrots and dolphins.
RAZD writes:

Actually some apes, elephants, parrots, and dolphins can recognize and use symbols better than many humans. Several have been documented creating new symbols and new combinations of symbols. The abilities of different species overlap on a spectrum.

Sea lions are pretty good at it symbol recognition, apparently. I saw a documentary in which they tested a sea lion's ability to make rational associations between various different types of symbols. Then they went out on the streets of wherever it was in California and did the same with people. The sea lion did better than lots of the people, making for amusing viewing.

A bit off-topic, but related, I saw a bit of film recently about intelligence and tool use in animals. In one experiment, they put a piece of meat in the bottom of a tube and placed a rod on top of the tube to see if a crow would use the rod to spear the out of reach meat. It tried to do so, but couldn't successfully pull up the meat. So it flew with the rod to a hole in a wall, stuck the rod in, and bent it round to form a hook. It then returned to the tube, slid the rod down beside the meat, twisted, and successfully hooked it up. Wow!

So, does this mean that crows are more intelligent than creationists, I wonder? Measured in intelligence per neurone, almost certainly.

P.S. Please don't mention IamJoseph too often, for our sanity's sake. :rolleyes:


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Jon
Inactive Member


Message 68 of 86 (492884)
01-03-2009 5:31 PM


Topic to Topic
We can take that discussion over to the other thread. For this thread, however, I think we should stick with the majority (unanimous?) linguistic understanding that only humans have been observed with language in any useful and communicative capacity.

quote:
Wikipedia: Language

Although other animals make use of quite sophisticated communicative systems, sometimes casually referred to as animal language, none of these are known to make use of all of the properties that linguists use to define language.


If you want to challenge this view point, this is not the thread.

Jon


You've been Gremled!
  
bluegenes
Member (Idle past 669 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 69 of 86 (492888)
01-03-2009 7:47 PM
Reply to: Message 55 by Peg
01-03-2009 3:25 AM


Re: The Real Question
Peg writes:

please dont twist my words into something absurd
i was not saying that at all

please name me one animal with a language the doesnt consist of grunts and growls... one animal that writes its history in stone ... one animal that has anything remotely similar to human language and writing

humans of today are unique to this ability and even those who cannot read or write can still speak a language and can 'learn' to read and write it

I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to say, and why you see a connection between written language and the emergence of what you refer to as "modern man". Firstly, it's important to distinguish between written and spoken language. Spoken language is an innate biological characteristic of our species, so much so that if you put a group of babies on an isolated island with only deaf mutes to look after them, the kids would develop a spoken language amongst themselves as they grew up. Written language, on the other hand, is cultural, and it's a technical tool like the wheel, bow and arrow, or blow pipe, that some cultures of "modern man" invent and use, but others don't. It's just technology, like the invention and use of boats (the earliest known of which are older than the date you give for written language at 7,000 to 9,000 years, and probably go back much further).

So groups of biologically modern people may or may not invent a boomerang or written language and use them.

As you say, all (non-disabled) humans would have the capacity to learn a written language, and this would apply to those who were alive tens of thousands of years ago, and who invented clever tools and jewelery, carved fertility goddesses, and painted the walls of caves. These ancients didn't use written language for the same reason my grandparents didn't use desk top computers. The technology hadn't evolved in their cultures. But they were "modern man" in the scientific, biological sense of the expression.

It's your arbitrary association of the phrase "modern man" with one particular technological invention that's causing confusion, I think.


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DevilsAdvocate
Member (Idle past 1293 days)
Posts: 1548
Joined: 06-05-2008


Message 70 of 86 (492890)
01-03-2009 8:46 PM
Reply to: Message 56 by Peg
01-03-2009 3:30 AM


Re: Exact Year
i appreciate that and fully expect it.

Please keep in mind that i have no external evidence for these dates...it is purely based on biblical chronology so if i was a jew and wanted to know when the exodus was for instance, i'd grab my old testament and use the biblical chronology to work it out.

Umm, you do realize that the Jews of antiquity never attempted to match up their geneological family tree of the OT with contemporary events of other civilizations much less create a complete timeline of events. It really wasn't until the mid-17th century when Anglican Christian scholars like James Ussher and John Lightfoot created a complete and continuous (though inaccurate) chronology using the geneologies of the Old and New Testament. Further more exact dates for the Exodus of the Jews and other biblical events were not further refined until much later when Bible scholars attempted to match up these events to archaelogical discoveries made in the last 200 years. However, their is still much skeptism for the dates estimated for these events by Biblical scholars since many of these events still have no emperical evidence to back them up and very few if any contemporary written sources provides testimony to these Biblicalevents i.e. there is no written documentation from other civilizations that back up the Biblical claim of the Exodus events.

Oh, BTW Jews call the Old Testament the Tanakh not the "Old Testament".

Edited by DevilsAdvocate, : No reason given.


For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.
Dr. Carl Sagan
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Peg
Member (Idle past 3121 days)
Posts: 2703
From: melbourne, australia
Joined: 11-22-2008


Message 71 of 86 (492895)
01-04-2009 3:23 AM
Reply to: Message 64 by Jon
01-03-2009 2:21 PM


Re: The Real Question
Jon writes:

You say they are still human if they can learn to read and write [their language]. So, what if they cannot learn to read and write their language because their language has no writing system? Does this mean they are not human because of their inability to learn to read and write their language?

Even if a nation of humans had no language themselves...it does not mean that they could not learn someone else's language. Not everyone can run a marathon either, but that doesnt mean its impossible for them to train for it. Language is an inbuilt ability in our brains making us unique to all other animals.

Here is an interesting article about 'our' uniqueness
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/gazzaniga08/gazzaniga08_index.html

an interesting point is the first paragraph about a certain gene that sets us apart, take not of ...

article writes:

'They calculated that one genetic variant of microcephalin arose approximately 37,000 years ago, which coincides with the emergence of culturally modern humans, and it increased in frequency too rapidly to be compatible with random genetic drift or population migration. This suggests that it underwent positive selection.[xxi] An ASPM variant arose about 5800 years ago, coincident with the spread of agriculture, cities and the first record of written language.

to me, this is saying that the humans of around 5,800 years ago were the first to use agriculture, build cities and write. This is what i said pages ago but it seems most of you disagree. If its saying something other then that, could someone spell it out to me in laymans terms.


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Replies to this message:
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Peg
Member (Idle past 3121 days)
Posts: 2703
From: melbourne, australia
Joined: 11-22-2008


Message 72 of 86 (492896)
01-04-2009 4:40 AM
Reply to: Message 60 by Brian
01-03-2009 6:58 AM


Re: The Real Question
Brian writes:

If I said to you that there is zero evidence for the Exodus, and zero evidence for King Solomon and his Temple, would you be able to show me that I am incorrect?

archeologically speaking, there is evidence that what moses wrote about Egypt was accurate. Archeological evidence exists which shows that it was a custom of the Egyptians to allow foreigners to live in egypt in areas separate to egyptions. Bricks have been found made of straw, as moses indicates. Its not surprising that the Egyptions didnt make a written record of the event...would you exptect them to record such a defeat as 'our slaves turned on us and killed most of our army'? I cant imagine any nation would do so.

But perhaps you can tell me something...have you ever read 'The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage from a Hieratic Papyrus in Leiden, by
A H Gardiner ???

i read on a jewish website that this is based on a papyrus dating from the end of the Old Kingdom that seems to be an eyewitness account of the events preceding the dissolution of the Old Kingdom. The name of the writer on the Paprys is said to be an Egyptian named Ipuwer, and he wrote a testimony to events such as:

* Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.
* The river is blood.
* That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof? All is ruin!
* Trees are destroyed.
* No fruit or herbs are found...
* Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.
* Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.
* The land is not light [dark].


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 15201
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.4


Message 73 of 86 (492898)
01-04-2009 5:20 AM
Reply to: Message 72 by Peg
01-04-2009 4:40 AM


Re: The Real Question
quote:

archeologically speaking, there is evidence that what moses wrote about Egypt was accurate

Since we don't have anything that Moses wrote about Egypt how can it be proved accurate ? And, of course, the unknown writer or writers of Exodus could certainly have some knowledge of Egypt even if the Exodus never happened at all.

quote:

Archeological evidence exists which shows that it was a custom of the Egyptians to allow foreigners to live in egypt in areas separate to egyptions. Bricks have been found made of straw,

If these are simply general Egyptian customs then they are no use to you. It is entirely possible for the author to know such things whether the Exodus happened or not. Do you have anything that links these alleged facts to the Exodus ?

quote:

Its not surprising that the Egyptions didnt make a written record of the event...would you exptect them to record such a defeat as 'our slaves turned on us and killed most of our army'? I cant imagine any nation would do so.

Archaeological evidence covers far more than writings. The Exodus should have been a massive depopulation of Egypt - the Israelites leaving plus the deaths from the plagues. That in itself should show up. So should evidence of the massive deaths caused in the plagues. Egypt's military weakness should be evident in history. None of this appears at the right time for you.

quote:

i read on a jewish website that this is based on a papyrus dating from the end of the Old Kingdom that seems to be an eyewitness account of the events preceding the dissolution of the Old Kingdom. The name of the writer on the Paprys is said to be an Egyptian named Ipuwer...

According to you, the Exodus is dated to near the start of the New Kingdom. The Old Kingdom ended around 2150 BC. If the Israelite records are so "meticulous" as to allow the calculation of exact dates as you claimed then the Ipuwer papyrus can have nothing to do with the Exodus.

However, it is generally NOT thought to be an eyewitness account (the date of composition is usually held to be in the Middle Kingdom) and it is questionable whether it is intended to refer to any past event. And much of it does not match to anything in the Exodus account (see the text here.

(You should remember that Jewish websites are just as likely to be biased and inaccurate on the subject of the Exodus as Christian websites. Jewish websites can be the best sources for getting the views of modern Jews, but being Jewish hardly makes them experts on Egyptology !).

Edited by PaulK, : No reason given.


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Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 522 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 74 of 86 (492900)
01-04-2009 5:21 AM
Reply to: Message 71 by Peg
01-04-2009 3:23 AM


Re: The Real Question
Hi Peg,

That was a very interesting link (to the article by Michael Gazzaniga) -- thank you. What you are saying now makes more sense. Maybe the earlier disputes were due to misunderstandings that were caused by a poor choice of words or phrasing.

(Even in this latest post of yours, I would want to suggest a change of wording:

Peg writes:

Even if a nation of humans had no language themselves...

You mean "no written language" -- remember, you are using the notion of (human) language to define what humans are, so there can't be any humans that "had no language themselves".)

When I read (well, skimmed) the article you just cited, I understood this sentence: "This suggests that it underwent positive selection" to mean that the particular families and clans that shared these novel traits were able to spread very successfully. They achieved a degree of population growth that was never attained by the families/clans that lacked this genetic innovation -- indeed it's likely that the "farmers" expanded at the expense of the "hunters/gatherers", placing even more stress on the latter group, on top of their already difficult and limiting conditions.

But it's likely that the genetic advantage was of a more general nature -- it enabled more elaborate use of language (including better ways of preserving the knowledge expressed by language), but also enabled a lot more as well: better tool development, better methods of developing and assuring shelter, clothing and nutrition, better ability to anticipate and plan for future conditions; domestication of animals (especially horses) was also a huge factor. (Improved language ability would have enhanced all of these skills -- I think it could actually be difficult to view them independently.)

In any case, the key thing is that this change would have been relatively hard to notice in terms of overall physiology -- the ones with the these genetic advantages were only slightly different, physically, from other humans; there could still be interbreeding across groups, to the extent that other groups were in contact.

The ones lacking these special advantages were still pretty capable and smart -- they were well adapted to their environments, had lots of flexibility to adapt to other environments, made and used tools, and used languages that were structurally, fundamentally similar to those of the "farmers and city dwellers".

Just as all "modern humans" are still able to interbreed, their respective languages are all learnable by any human, and are all able to be codified into a written form using the same tools (letters or other symbols) or the same general strategies that have been applied to the historically literate languages.

It's not that the invention of writing by itself constitutes the arrival of a new species. Even the invention of agriculture doesn't do that. But what these inventions do is supply the inventors with much better odds for survival and population growth, and it is that side effect of the inventions that could lead, over a long-enough period of time, to divergent species, IF other conditions hold true for that long-enough period of time:

* two populations, one with these inventions and the other without them, continue to survive completely independently of each other,

* while developing independently (without contact or mixture of any kind), one or both groups continue to undergo genetic shifts within different environmental conditions, leading to selections of different traits in each group over time,

* eventually, if members of the two groups were to come into contact again, they would not be able to interbreed (mixed couples would not produce offspring, or would produce sterile offspring).

Actually, this sort of divergence could have happened regardless of presence vs. absence of particular inventions: if human populations remained isolated from each other, in different environments and with different genetic trends for long enough, they could become different species. It's the same basic process that applies to all living species.

In the case of humans, this could very well have happened within... who knows how many more millennia... But the genetic divergence has been cut short by the fact that various "inventive" groups have expanded so rapidly to such a large extent that they can't help but impinge on other groups.

Today, we've reached the point where the population of literate/agricultural humans is having an impact on every other pre-literate/non-agricultural group, with the net effect (over the last few thousand years) being that the latter groups have been either annihilated or "accommodated" (absorbed, or allowed to adopt usage of the improved tool sets).

For those fortunate enough to get the latter treatment, the divergence of language certainly poses problems and difficulties, but is not an insurmountable hurdle.

BTW, I hope you'll stop referring to the Tower of Babel story as an historical event. There was no such thing. Even as a myth or fable, it makes very little sense. There is still a lot that we don't understand about the origin of human language in general, the origins of the major language families (Indo-European, Semitc, Central African, American Indian and so on), and the complexities of the differences among the major families.

But the processes that cause language change, like the processes of biological evolution, are now fairly well understood, well documented, and directly observable, in spite of being essentially gradual. There's no need to invoke sudden and mysterious hocus-pocus by a deity in order to account for the known facts.

Edited by Otto Tellick, : No reason given.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.
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bluegenes
Member (Idle past 669 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 75 of 86 (492905)
01-04-2009 7:38 AM
Reply to: Message 71 by Peg
01-04-2009 3:23 AM


Brain genes and variations!
Peg writes:

an interesting point is the first paragraph about a certain gene that sets us apart, take not of ...

article writes: writes:


'They calculated that one genetic variant of microcephalin arose approximately 37,000 years ago, which coincides with the emergence of culturally modern humans, and it increased in frequency too rapidly to be compatible with random genetic drift or population migration. This suggests that it underwent positive selection.[xxi] An ASPM variant arose about 5800 years ago, coincident with the spread of agriculture, cities and the first record of written language.

to me, this is saying that the humans of around 5,800 years ago were the first to use agriculture, build cities and write. This is what i said pages ago but it seems most of you disagree. If its saying something other then that, could someone spell it out to me in laymans terms.

I'll try to explain some things. The ASPM variant that is thought to have arisen only 5800 years ago is not the cause of agriculture, city building and writing. I say this partly because it comes too late, and would only have had time to spread over a significant proportion of the population much later than the time those things were well established.

However, there may be a connection. The selection pressure on the variant (what makes it a positive trait) may possibly be due to agricultural societies, in the same way that agriculture seems to have caused selection pressure on the mutation for continued adult lactase production (which helps adults use milk products in cultures with a long term history of domesticating animals for food).

First, check out the timings of the history of agriculture.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture

Agricultural timeline

quote:

Since its development roughly 10,000 years ago, agriculture has expanded vastly in geographical coverage and yields...

Ironically, the ASPM variant may possibly be selected for if it slightly decreases brain size. The only connection to agriculture that I can think of is that mono-crop-cultures and restricted diet can lead to smaller body sizes, and a slightly smaller brain size makes birth easier for smaller women, but all this is very speculative.

It isn't actually known yet what effect the new variant has, and it doesn't seem to effect brain size much at all, although research shows a slight decrease to be more likely than an increase.

Here's a paper on it

The gist of that paper is that the variant is being selected for, but they don't know why!!! It could be for effects on the phenotype that have no relationship either to brain size or intelligence though, they suggest.

However, my main point is that the arrival and spread of the gene is too late for it to be regarded as an important factor in the development of the technologies you refer to. Remember, when it starts, only one person has it, and it takes many generations for it to spread over a significant proportion of the population and to move from region to region. So it's not a writing gene, because people in very different areas were writing before it could have arrived in all of those areas (and even then, only a minority would have the characteristic).

Agriculture and proto-cities or towns far predate its occurrence anyway.

But it is interesting, and the whole area of mutations in relationship to our brains over the last few million years since the split from the other apes is a very important area of research.

We are unique creatures, but that could actually be said of all species to some extent!


This message is a reply to:
 Message 71 by Peg, posted 01-04-2009 3:23 AM Peg has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 79 by Peg, posted 01-04-2009 5:51 PM bluegenes has responded

  
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