Nutrition science isn’t broken, it’s just extremely hard (Of course nutrition science is hard, each individual body is unique in its own right; one body may not have a certain organ, while another may have a higher base blood pressure. Indeed, to make nutrition science respectable, the ideological spin needs to be taken out of it (like with everything in our lives). The same holds for the human sciences, and any other scientific field. Follow the data, draw conclusions based on said data and don’t twist and turn data to make it say what you want to say.)
Rethinking Mammalian Brain Evolution (Terrence Deacon has argued a lot over the years that brain size is the last refuge of progress in evolution. Indeed the overall size of our brains have increased over the years. But all the brain size fetishists do is proclaim ‘look at how big the brain has gotten!’ all the while they ignore the fact that the brains grow as bodies do. There is no ‘progress’ in mammalian brain evolution nor brain evolution as a whole.)
Fallacies of Progression in Theories of Brain Size Evolution (A paper full of fallacies in theories of brain size evolution. From the Bigger-is-smarter Fallacy, to the Numerology Fallacy, Deacon goes through a large list of fallacious reasoning in regards to the supposed brain size increase over time. Numerology fallacies are apparent correlations that turn out to be artifacts of numerical oversimplification. Numerology fallacies in science, like their mystical counterparts, are likely to be committed when meaning is ascribed to some statistic merely by virtue of its numeric similarity to some other statistic, without supportive evidence from the empirical system that is being described (Deacon, 1991b: 201). Most people just see a correlation and attempt to ascribe meaning to it and then fall down the rabbit hole of crappy theories all because of a correlate. Well…correlates don’t mean anything unless causation is show. Sure there is a relationship, but if you champion correlations all day every day and not discover causes, then you’d just end up being a psychologist. Brain size evolution is the last refuge for progressionists. Apparently, only looking at the size of the brain is enough to deduce that ‘progress’ has occurred. That will be covered at length in the future.)
Confusing size-correlated differences with phylogenetic “progression” in brain evolution (So-called brain size progress vanishes when effects of brain size and functional specialization are taken into account. That’s the final nail in the coffin for so-called progressive brain evolution. It’s funny how people still push this today when papers were written 30 years ago rebutting the same notion… I get it. Looking at the average size of brains, it did increase. But that’s not taking allometry into account and when allometry and functional specialization is taken into account, the relationship all but disappears. What’s funny is that this is literally a rebuttal to PumpkinPerson’s article ‘Marching up the evolutionary tree‘ which I rebutted here: Marching Up the ‘Evolutionary Tree’? Progressionists grasp on to whatever they can to attempt to ‘show’ that evolution is synonymous with ‘progress’, when natural selection is literally local change, and that’s what brain size evolution is; local change!)
Brain development, gender and IQ in children A volumetric imaging study (This one is sure to send brain size fetishists into a fervor. There seems to be a plateau and then, perhaps, a sharp decrease in the largest brains. This goes against the ‘bigger-is-better’ notion of some brain size fetishists. So it seems that after IQ 120, there is a sharp decrease in brain size… If IQ is meaningful for brain size, why is this so? Even then, larger brains have more myelinated axons and larger neurons connecting them, so larger brain size would not be expected to increase cognitive competence more than modestly. Fact of the matter is, brain size increased for expertise capacity, not IQ (Skoyles, 1999). This study lends credence to the fact that ‘bigger is not always better’. This is yet more ammo against the brain size fetishists clamoring that bigger brains actually mean something for having modern-day levels of intelligence.)
Evolution of the human brain: when bigger is better (Hofman argues that the theoretical maximum size capacity of the human brain is 3500 cc. That’s 3 times the size of our brains now! He states that after this enormous size, that cognitive power would begin to decrease. At a brain size of about 3500 cm3, corresponding to a brain volume two to three times that of modern man, the brain seems to reach its maximum processing capacity. The larger the brain grows beyond this critical size, the less efficient it will become, thus limiting any improvement in cognitive power. I don’t think it is physically possible for our brains to become that large. Imagine how large women’s hips would need to be to birth that monstrous head. Imagine how our bipedality and running would be affected. It’s a fun thought experiment, but it’s not realistic.)
Evolution evolves: physiology returns to centre stage (Evolution evolves. Once it was discovered that physiological systems can and do respond to the environment and make changes to the system, physiology was thrust back into the evolutionary spot light. Noble et al state that the Neo-Darwinian Modern Synthesis needs either extension or replacement (I argue replacement, will do so in a future article) since the gene is not the ‘star of the show’ so to speak. This also largely rebuts Dawkins and his Selfish Gene theory. That, too, will also be covered in the future.)
Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology (And rightfully so. The gene-centered view (Dawkins’ view) is archaic and we need to move on from it. Selfish genes have no place in physiology. The selfish gene theory, anyway, is just a metaphor, a metaphor that has seeped into our popular culture and has permeated our lives. Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology because genes are passive and do not do anything unless guided by the intelligent physiologic system that interacts with its environment and is homeodynamic in nature. This is a new and unique way of understanding the evolution of systems and organisms as a whole. The fact of the matter is, the organism is, again, front-and-center while the gene is relegated to where it belongs.)
Neo-Darwinism, the Modern Synthesis and selfish genes: are they of use in physiology? (No they are both obsolete in regards to physiology. Physiologist Denis Noble dissects Dawkins’ selfish gene theory through a physiologists point of view. He states that genes don’t do anything until directed by intelligent systems. DNA sequences only make sense in the context of the particular organism. Noble disagrees with Dawkins’ has contended that genes are ‘passengers’, while Denis Noble instead states that genes are ‘prisoners’ in our bodies (what Dawkins terms ‘vehicles’). Neo-Darwinists relegate the role of the organism as an ‘indispensable vehicle’. This is not true. I know that Dawkins and Gould had long back-and-forths on gene- and species-selection. However, it seems that Gould was in the right. Modern-day evolutionary physiology is proving the theory of Punctuated Equilibria correct. Noble concludes with this paragraph: “It is therefore time to move on and remove the conceptual barriers to integrating modern physiological science with evolutionary and developmental theory. The integrative approach can achieve this since it avoids the simplistic fallacies of the gene-centred differential approach and it is essentially what successful systems physiology has employed for many years.” The gene-centered view of evolution needs to go.)
Form and function remixed: Developmental physiology in the evolution of vertebrate body plans (heritable morphologic change can occur without a change in genes since physiology responds to what occurs in the environment. This is huge! The fact that there can be no change in gene frequency BUT heritable morphologic change occurs in species shows that intelligent physiology can take cues from the environment and direct development that way. This, too, lends credence to Eldredge and Gould’s Punctuated Equilbria theory. Species change DUE TO the environmental change which is DRIVEN by intelligent physiology, which is made up of smaller, intelligent cells. This stuff on intelligent physiology and evolutionary physiology is really blowing my mind the further I fall down this rabbit hole.)
As some of my readers may have noticed, I have changed a ton of my views in the past year. All of my view changes will be covered in a future article.
One of my problems with a lot of theories floating around is the concept of ‘reductionism’. There is a huge problem with reducing and dividing larger complex systems into smaller ‘more manageable’ parts.
Reductionism—in regards to the large complex physiologic and anatomic systems that make up the human body—is the theory that to understand human body (i.e. physiologic system), you must first understand its simplest, smallest parts. Of course, reductionism isn’t the only way to understand how complex physiologic systems work and interact with each other and the environment. Imagine looking at a bunch of car parts strewn across the floor. Looking at the simple parts of the car, you won’t be able to ascertain the inner workings of automobile transmission, the same can be said for the the human personality; you can never deduce how one’s personality would be with complete knowledge of the circuitry of the brain, nor the genetic sequence of DNA.
Holism is a complimentary theory that states that the whole system—and not the sum of its parts—should be looked at, to treat disease for instance.
So we must look at the whole of the system and not reduce things into a sum of smaller parts. Aristotle was hugely important to our understanding of the human body, but in regards to physiology and anatomy, holism makes more sense. I’m not informed on holism in regards to psychology, however. Here is a good article.
Reductionism and Holism in Psychology
I contend that physiologic systems are too complex to be reduced to a sum of smaller parts, and the whole physiologic system and organism must be studied to understand Y.
So why, for instance, does the human brain and body get ‘reduced’ to ‘simple parts’ when, to understand the nature of the whole system, the parts MUST be looked at working in unison with eachother? Imagine seeing a spleen on the floor. Sure, you may be able to guess at its use and function, but without actually seeing what it does in the body and how it interacts with other organs you’ll think something pretty underwhelming.
Reductionism has lead the way for holism—which is the study of the whole system and not the sum of its simpler parts. Studying whole organisms/systems and not their smaller, ‘simpler’ parts (genes) will lead to a better understanding of evolution as a whole and will prevent us from continuing to use metaphors such as the selfish gene. It now makes no sense to me to reduce the complex human physiological system—and the brain—into smaller parts to see how it works. The whole organism must be studied.