GREENBERG (2008) The Natural History of Narrative (notes)

interdisciplinary colloquy on the history and philosophy of science and technology:

symposium on the evolutionary biology of narrative

DRAFT and NOTES

THE NATURAL HISTORY OF NARRATIVE:

the neuropsychology of belief

NEIL GREENBERG

Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Adjunct Professor, Departments of Medicine and Psychology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

25 November 2008

 “Truth” it has been said is a “ripple on the ocean of reality.”  We test our experiences (including thought) and behave as though we believe they are “true” to the extent that we have confidence in their empirical and contextual validity.  

Two complementary cerebral processes ordinarily work in lockstep to provide us with more-or-less confidence as well as the strength of ensuing beliefs:  These processes involve an estimation of the validity of correspondence and coherence. 

“Correspondence” involves “reality-testing” of a percept, the cerebral representation of an experience in the world. 

“Coherence” involves “theorizing,” reality-testing of a percept by how well it relates to previous and ongoing parallel and collateral experiences.  A valid correspondence is consonant with a theory, a valid theory is corroborated by correspondences.  In large measure, these reciprocal, consilient processes are lateralized in different hemispheres of the brain. 

As information moves through us from sense organ to action system it is vulnerable to an assortment of problems, some of which involve sites important to these processes and are serious enough to require the attention of clinicians. 

Ordinarily, these processes are more-or-less balanced, but asymmetry in neuro-activation in concert with our gifts for resolving cognitive dissonance and making virtues of necessities, can undermine our effectiveness in the real world.  The biological significance of “truth” and “belief” will be reviewed from the integrative perspective of ethology.

 

 

TALKING POINTS:

NEW or MAJOR REVISION

I have heard it said that “Philosophy is to science as pornography is to sex!” [1]  So I am here in part in an attempt to purify my thoughts.  Or at least reconcile myself-indulgences.


I wish to explore some philosophical ideas related to BELIEF and indirectly to NARRATIVE with some recent observations about the brain that suggest some tantalizing hopes of consilience — less in the sense that E.O. Wilson has popularized, and more in the sense that when insights from disparate disciplines appear to converge, we might be on to something.

And in any event, when empirical evidence,  particularly that of brain science, corroborates my intuition, my confidence is enhanced and I find that pleasureable.

My interest in Narrative is energized by my interest as an ethologist that studies social displays—in the evolution of behavior, and as a neurobiologist interested in the proximate causation of these behavior patterns.

For example – I think it is useful (not necessarily correct) to consider narrative as the peacock’s tail of a cerebral sequencer (You are probably familiar with the classic story of how this striking social display began humbly, as a thermoregulatory reflex, undergoing the evolutionary process known as ritualization.)

At the center of this enterprise is a definition of NARRATIVE as an ensemble of adaptive traits that acknowledges its role as either a process or a product of human behavior.

Complementing this definition is an adaptation of the traditional ethological model of  the interaction of internal and external forces in causing behavior.

The ethological model … effectively an integrative biology of behavior representing all aspects of its natural history.  In this model, narrative is the interior component of the process of reality testing (the external component articulates with the world by means of senses, establishes correspondence of percept with the real world, once subjected to error detection validation and interiorized, it is the expression of contextualized percepts.  The expression of its coherence

 

You could, in fact, argue that the primal function of what we now call narrative was a modeling of strings of plausible causal relationships, enabling extrapolation to hypotheses that are more or less fun to test, particularly when we experience a pleasant surprise.   We are, after all, infovores, to borrow Bierderman & Vessel’s term

    • Predictably, environmental (including social) stimuli affect different individuals differently because of variability in such as level of physical development, experience (surface or deep memory) and the activity of naturally occurring psychoactive agents such as sex steroids or  stress‑sensitive hormones that can facilitate or inhibit specific neural structures that influence behavior.  My research interests developed toward understanding subclinical stress in recent years ….
    • Part of that is coming to appreciate that stress – that is a suite of physiological responses to phenomena that challenge your ability to meet biological needs – also indicates a neurobehaviorally orchestrated prioritizing of adaptive needs.  An instinct for urgency. 

But whatever the primordial source of narrative, I want to call your attention to its key function in the cerebral process of reality-testing …  the process of validating beliefs and concentrating confidence in them.  They are, after all, imperfect though they must of necessity be, the basis for all adaptive action …  that is responses to the world that make the best of the situation one finds themselves in and tries to turn it to a fitness advantage

 

The Adaptationist Definition

NARRATIVE involves both the process and product of assembly of particulars into a coherent whole; it is a means by which perception, thoughts, or actions of an organism [or group of organisms] communicates with themselves or others to help cope with present or potential changes in the composition and structure of its environment. 

It reflects a spontaneous or elicited intensity of neural processing that can relate and integrate variables not ordinarily associated with each other. 

I think there are two fundamental mechanisms that have become yoked together here:

    • a reality-tester: something that validates percepts –checks to see if they correspond to the real world; and
    • a sequencer: something that assembles percepts into coherent wholes.

When working together, these can externalize narratives to meet needs or otherwise provide an advantage to the individual or its kin.

 

Mechanisms.    We have been brought up on Kant’s observation that “The senses cannot think.  The understanding cannot see”  (or sometimes,  “Perception without conception is blind, while conception without perception is empty”).[2]  And the familiar advice of Bertrand Russell[3]:

Deductive logic is useful when general premises are known, and also when they are assumed to see whether their consequences agree with experience. . . . But when it is used in practical ways, it always has to be combined with other premises which have been obtained by induction.  So long as it remains pure, it is a game, like solving chess problems; it differs from such games by the fact that it has applications”  (pp. 38-39).

 

Clearly there are two ways in which we relate to the world.  But we bring some equipment to all this, and that is what I want to relate these observations to.  There is, as Kathryn Morton (1984)[4] put it, “A warp in the simian brain [which] . . . made us insatiable for patterns‑‑patterns of sequence, of behavior, of feeling‑‑ connections, reasons, causes:  stories.”   It is that warp– and what animates it–  that I am most interested in.

 

For example, at a superficial level we know about cerebral functional and even morphological asymmetries:

    • The RIGHT hemisphere is the non-speaking hemisphere one, sensitive to simultaneous patterns such as pitch and chords in music.  People with damage here also often have trouble getting the gist of narratives, they seem to lack framework, or schema, for understanding” (Donald 1991:81);  while
    • the LEFT hemisphere is especially adept at interpreting music, speech and other sequential patterns.

 

Dueling Hemispheres.  Left brain (quantitative, divides problems to conquer them, orderly, mechanistic, syntactically expressive –more human) and right brain (qualitative, holistic, iconically expressive – concerned with more primitive survival skills)

 

Unfortunately, much of the non-scientist’s sense of the utility of this perspective has been discarded with other scraps of overgeneralized nonsense —

 

For a beguiling example of neural structure and function, Michael Gazzaniga and Joseph LeDoux probed the left hemisphere’s capacity for problem solving[5]

 

 – each hemisphere solved a problem, and the corresponding hand would point to the selected answer  – They then asked of the subjects’ left hemispheres [recall, the one that can talk] why the left hand [controlled by the right hemisphere] was pointing to the object.  “Yet quick as a flash,” Gazzaniga and LeDoux observed, “it made up an explanation.”  They dubbed this “creative, narrative talent the interpreter mechanism” ( pp53-54). 

 

Interestingly, when memory was examined, if unable to recall details, the left hemisphere –but not the right– will generate false reports.   Are false memories errors in encoding (occur at the time of experience) or errors in reconstruction?  – “The left hemisphere has exhibited certain characteristic that support the latter view.”  –The left hemisphere excels at developing schemata and it can contextualize memories – it places memories in broader context while the right hemisphere doesn’t go much beyond the stimulus (Gazzaniga citing work of Elizabeth Phelps and colleagues). 

In other words, the right hemisphere tends to particularize while the left hemisphere tends to  generalize and rationalize … seeking coherent stories even when there is none.

 

Sequences.  The machinery of all sequential movements[6] has in Calvin’s (1989) view,  probably emerged from a ballistic movement sequencer[7] — the brain’s construction of chained memories and actions, plans and sentences, all employing serial buffers –holding queues– in which alternative strings of schemas are “graded” by memories of similar strings and weighted for present relevance, the best of them perhaps becoming conscious. (p.262-263).  Calvin quoted Darwin: “Parallel trains of thought [are the] necessary heirs of every action [and are] always running in the mind.” (M Notebook, 1838).

Dysfunctional behavior involves actions that do not satisfy or accommodate the needs of the organism. 

This begs an exploration of an individual’s fitness in the evolutionary sense of survival and biological success.

 

“Knowledge,” which in the famous 13th century dictum of Averroes, is ” the conformity of the object and the intellect,”[8] is referring to the particulars of the world, of the environment, as they are harmoniously integrated into or accommodated by the generalities they construct in the mind.

 

Another dimension of this was described by Coleridge when he spoke of “The imagination… organizing (as it were) the flux of the senses… [and thereby] gives birth to a system of symbols. . . consubstantial with the truths of which they are the conductors[9]

 

Narrative serves the needs of individuals in establishing their relationships to their environment, community, and even themselves.  Narrative works with logic to confirm or disconfirm our mental models of the environment in which the consequences projected actions must be evaluated; but narrative, like all deductive theorizing, must be confirmed by correspondences.  

 

In confirming a model, experience and memory alone cannot always be trusted, so we seek to establish confidence in the position of an experience in a pattern and we do this by establishing the validity and reliability[1] of a phenomenon.  These aspects of beliefs necessary to one’s “truth,” are, in fact, viewed by some as the dual aspects of human intelligence.  Further, this view, is consistent with ideas about naturalism that underlie the ethological approach to understanding behavior.

 

Unsupported image type.The knowledge of self, like all beliefs are constructed from an amalgam of two complementary processes:

    • Scientific truths involve both validity (external correspondences)
    • and reliability (internal coherence). 

In cognitive development, truth is established by the continuing accommodations and integrations of correspondences and coherence (Piaget?), often mediated by the social context (Vygotsky? Social constructivists).  These two dimensions are also related to dual aspects of intelligence — accordingly, Sternberg (1997) has stated that “A more intelligent, adaptive person has achieved a higher degree of external correspondence and internal coherence in his or her knowledge based and belief structures.  People think unintelligently to the extent to which they make errors in achieving external correspondence or internal coherence.”[10]

 

 

Elements to be considered include

    • truth as an amalgam of coherence and correspondence, including the role of cognitive dissonance
    • determinism of beliefs, including locus of control
    • aesthetics as a guide to validity, including the role of motivational and affective forces[11]
    • stress as an indication of a neurobehaviorally orchestrated prioritizing of adaptive needs

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ANALYSIS: what kind of statements (in discourse dynamics[12]) suggest a predominance of correspondence (external locus) and coherence (internal locus); what sorts of BALANCE is there?

 

So I conclude, appealing for alertness for evidence from more or less effective narratives to help reveal the relationship, if not deep identity, possibly rooted in the organization of cerebral modules responsible for processing different kinds of data, between correspondence and coherence (much of the mischief of recent years (for example Rorty Versus Searle) is from the tendency to dichotomize experience and base “reality” in one of these or the other.)

 

Take away a search image, a question: “What problem does narrative solve?” What need does it accommodate (up and down the Maslovian need hierarchy)?

 

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DISCUSSION and Ideas / comments emergent during or from presentation:

    • we are the products of our plots
    • I confessed — announcing that in recent years my favorite insights (that I heard about) popped unbidden and unexpected during lectures (and as in dreams will be gone without a trace unless someone’s taken notes or reminds me of it after a lecture in a question).  I speculated that it is because I am stressed when presenting, lecturing and that insights often  emerge because of this, I assume attributable to the energizing effects of stress on the nervous system, expanding the semantic field of possible creative connections.
    • Gave thermoregulatory cascade of response as an example of stressor un reconciled or accommodated by coping responses moves up the hierarchy of activating neural centers until consciousness itself is breached.
    • used example of stress hormone effects on rat activation
    • mentioned that the stress response is designed to return the system to the lowest energy state Neimeyer taken with this and asked lots of questions that I couldn’t readily answer – but should!
    • Commented on the fact that the normal condition of the nervous system is on and that stimuli focus and shape the best channel or pathway through it- and that these pathways are often in competition with each other and that the most efficient (energy state again?) Wins!

 

 

NOTES

Unsupported image type.Correspondence: relates to the external world; particulars, validated by reality testing; identity of percept with empirical reality; elements of inductive reasoning;

    • Validity reflects the accuracy and specificity of an observation or experience, as well as its applicability to the question being asked;
    • Locus of control: external
    • Determinism: external, environmental, contextual
    • Causation: ultimate, evolutionary: selection for adaptive traits.  “Why?”questions
    • Genetic program is open
    • There IS an external reality that we might or might not know – “reality is independent of mind” – “The Western Rationalist Position”[13]

 

Coherence: relates to internal world; generalities, reliability tested by repetition; narrative; consistency;

    • Reliability refers to precision, consistency, and appropriate resolution;
    • Locus of control: internal
    • Determinism: internal, biological, genetic
    • Causation: proximate, physiological: immediate needs of organism.   “How?”questions
    • Genetic program is closed
    • There IS no reality but that constructed by and for the adaptive use of the mind in a specific context
    • Rorty [reinforced by Kuhn and Derrida] is disdainful of Searles position, nicknamed The “Western Rationalistic Tradition.”  Among its claims is the idea that reality is independent of mind and propositions are true if they accurately reflect reality.[14]  With Kuhn, Rorty denies that there are  successively improved approximations of reality; with Hilary Putnam, Rorty believes that language penetrates so deeply into “reality” that it cannot be regarded as independent.  With Kuhn, Putnam, and Derrida, Rorty feels that “it is futile to either reject or accept the idea that the real and the true are ‘independent of our beliefs’” (p180).[15]

 

But my mind is not at rest –a state of affairs that Friar Roger Bacon understood: “There are two modes of knowing, through argument and experience.  Argument brings conclusions and compels us to concede them, but does not cause certainty nor remove the doubts in order that the mind may remain at rest in truth, unless this is provided by experience” (Opus Maius 1268).

 

 

Truth is assembled[16] from fragments of experience organized by a sense of pattern and sequence[17], probably in much the same matter as dreams[18]

 

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NARRATIVE is Creative

Nick Humphrey (1976) emphasizes the “creative” aspect of intelligence: he builds on a definition of intelligence as manifest when an animal “modifies its behavior on the basis of valid inference from evidence” (and he also distinguishes “low-level” intelligence (inference based on past patterns) from “high-level” intelligence (inference based on novel conjunctions of past experiences) (p 304).  As a rhetorical device he imbues a straw man with creative intellect –meaning functioning to facilitate acts of practical invention – discovery of new ways of doing things.  But while important, practical application, Humphrey argues, is not as important a role for creative intellect as is holding society together.  

 

Like the shadows of the poor souls chained in Plato’s Cave,

    • Idiography and Nomothesis reflect a historic concern with the distinction between  approaches that emphasize natural events (naturwissenschaftliche) and those that focus on the development of ideas within the study of history (geisteswissenschaftliche)
    • Nomothesis (integrative), of course,  cannot function alone, it must be preceded  by idiography.  It is from the integrated use of these two methods that adaptive action emerges.  With regard to the philosopher, Rychlak’s view that the most abstract conceptualizations applicable to knowledge is from the “dialectic” (rather than “demonstrative”) tradition, Marceil (1977) believes the Kantian view that “In one form or another, the contrast between the demonstrative and dialectical traditions had manifested itself in every issue in every age, because such is the nature of human thought itself.”[19] (p. 1053), and thus the nature of human inquiry and science.
    • The Skilled Charioteer of the Phaedrus[2], managing the unruly dark horse of id yoked to the silver horse of ego

 

The most recent expressions of duality have, in neurobiology, represented bold leaps of the imagination off the springboard of neuromodularity.   The brain itself has been viewed as possessing regions that are dominated by integrative functions associated (however superficially) with evolutionarily primitive –animal– functions and those associated with the more recently evolved functions often clustered under the rubric, “uniquely human.”

Unsupported image type.Confidence:  Scientists that explore the boundaries of what is known of the world are especially wary. They are often confronted with information for which there is little or no precedent to guide their judgment about the meaning of their data. For example, having an emotional investment in a particular outcome of an experiment is a notorious source of unconscious bias. The objectivity of a researcher is highly admired as is their efforts to assure the validity and reliability of their data.

VALIDITY of data refers to its accuracy and specificity, as well as its applicability to the question being asked.

RELIABILITY refers to data’s precision, consistency, and appropriate resolution

 

Usually there are objective tests ‑‑but ultimately observations are embedded in a network of plausible expectations based on experience ‑‑even cumulative social experience.

CONFIDENCE IN THE VALIDITY OF A BELIEF is usually established on the basis of converging information ‑‑ one source is rarely sufficient: the principal means by which confidence is increased are

     Anecdote (powerful, often compelling narrative examples of phenomena)

     Statistics (reveals patterns and tests validity of apparent associations and deviations from chance)

     Explanatory power (utility of an idea in helping in the integration and coherence of other ideas)

OBSERVATION

a. perception: what do you select to observe? What are the constraints on our observations? perception? understanding? Why are we anthropomorphic? where do expectations come from?

b. observational methods and data collection: validity and reliability: (accurate, specific, applicable to question being asked) and precise (consistent, appropriate resolution); accuracy of aids, technology, prostheses; appropriateness of sampling methods; Observer effects and interobserver reliability

 

EXPERIMENT

a. selection of variables (sometime subconscious?) Is the experiment a good “model of nature” (EXPLAIN:

“THE EXPERIMENT IS THE ABSTRACT ART FORM OF THE SCIENTIST”)

b. controls and variables (dependent and independent variables)

 

Field and Laboratory Reciprocity

TC Schneirla advocates the view that there is no clear distinction between careful field studies and simple controlled experiments.

 

Sampling decisions in the field are a level of abstraction just as the configuration of a laboratory set‑up is. Lab set‑ups are generally designed to test the consequences of a particular configuration making it DEDUCTIVE; Gathering data with no preconceptions is INDUCTIVE. In the real world these two strategies INFORM EACH OTHER.

 

They contribute differentially to

INTERNAL VALIDITY (the validity of an assertion is more‑or‑less limited to the sample)

and

EXTERNAL VALIDITY (the validity of an assertion can be more‑or‑less generalized to other cases)

 

 

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NOTES

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FROM PRESENTATION:

 

These processes are exquisitely sensitive to the relative maturity and activities of information processing and storage functions of the organism…

 

Neuroplastic change is results from genetically programmed growth in constant interaction with experience of the environment…

 

 Neural change focused or catalyzed by experience enables progressively more effective assessments (of reality) as the brain accumulates memories — and thus expectations!

 

Not least, the contexts of experiences including physiology and the hormones of the stress response, of social relations such as trust and bonding.

 

WHAT is BELIEF

Belief is the psychological state in which an individual is more-or-less confident in the validity of an ongoing or remembered percept (or constellation of percepts; confidence translates into fitness)

Confidence is derived from the concordance of two complementary processes of reality testing  (cerebral activities at specific sites that establish and validate correspondence and coherence)

 

Belief is the psychological state in which an individual is convinced of the truth of a proposition. Like the related concepts truth, knowledge, and wisdom, there is no precise definition of belief on which scholars agree, but rather numerous theories and continued debate about the nature of belief.

Mainstream psychology and related disciplines have traditionally treated belief as if it were the simplest form of mental representation and therefore one of the building blocks of conscious thought. Philosophers have tended to be more rigorous in their analysis and much of the work examining the viability of the belief concept stems from philosophical analysis.

The concept of belief presumes a subject (the believer) and an object of belief (the proposition) so like other propositional attitudes, belief implies the existence of mental states and intentionality, both of which are hotly debated topics in the philosophy of mind and whose foundations and relation to brain states are still controversial.

Philosopher Lynne Rudder Baker has outlined four main contemporary approaches to belief in her book Saving Belief:

1. Our common-sense understanding of belief is correct – Sometimes called the ‘mental sentence theory’, in this conception, beliefs exist as coherent entities and the way we talk about them in everyday life is a valid basis for scientific endeavour. Jerry Fodor is one of the principal defenders of this point of view.

2. Our common-sense understanding of belief may not be entirely correct, but it is close enough to make some useful predictions – This view argues that we will eventually reject the idea of belief as we use it now, but that there may be a correlation between what we take to be a belief when someone says ‘I believe that snow is white’ and however a future theory of psychology will explain this behaviour. Most notably philosopher Stephen Stich has argued for this particular understanding of belief.

3. Our common-sense understanding of belief is entirely wrong and will be completely superseded by a radically different theory which will have no use for the concept of belief as we know it – Known as eliminativism, this view, (most notably proposed by Paul and Patricia Churchland), argues that the concept of belief is like obsolete theories of times past such as the four humours theory of medicine, or the phlogiston theory of combustion. In these cases science hasn’t provided us with a more detailed account of these theories, but completely rejected them as valid scientific concepts to be replaced by entirely different accounts. The Churchlands argue that our common-sense concept of belief is similar, in that as we discover more about neuroscience and the brain, the inevitable conclusion will be to reject the belief hypothesis in its entirety.

4. Our common-sense understanding of belief is entirely wrong, however treating people, animals and even computers as if they had beliefs, is often a successful strategy – The major proponents of this view, Daniel Dennett and Lynne Rudder Baker, are both eliminativists in that they believe that beliefs are not a scientifically valid concept, but they don’t go as far as rejecting the concept of belief as a predictive device. Dennett gives the example of playing a computer at chess. While few people would agree that the computer held beliefs, treating the computer as if it did (e.g. that the computer believes that taking the opposition’s queen will give it a considerable advantage) is likely to be a successful and predictive strategy. In this understanding of belief, named by Dennett the intentional stance, belief based explanations of mind and behaviour are at a different level of explanation and are not reducible to those based on fundamental neuroscience although both may be explanatory at their own level.

(ie, Explanations of mind and behavior based on belief are not reducible to those of neuroscience, but both are explanatory at their own level)

 

 

Scientists are building explanatory structures, telling stories which are scrupulously tested to see if the stories are about real life.” (Peter Medawar)[xx]

 

we are searching for coherence and continuity; as a result we tend to minimize anything which interrupts the ‘flow’ of the narrative.  Because we are searching for narrative truth, we are always attempting to write the best possible ‘story’ from the available data…” (D.P. Spence. 1982.Psychoanal Q)[xxi]

 

 

 

 

Program Objectives:

1. Participants will learn of the complementary neurobehavioral processes that give us confidence to act in the world.

2. The fixed and the flexible ways in which the two processes are related to behavior will be reviewed as well as the biological relevance of “confidence.”

3. Behavioral patterns and clinical syndromes related to dysfunctions of excess or deficit in the processes or their coordination will be explored.

4. Participants will be introduced to anosognosia, a clinical syndrome in which disease or dysfunction is denied by the patient.

Clinical aspects:    Is “truth” a spectrum disorder?  A spectrum disorder is one in which each individual with the disorder may present a varying combination of symptoms from a set of defined behaviours. Two people with autism may not exhibit the same characteristics. The disorder can range from the mild to severe.

 

Other similar disorders are Asperger’s disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Rett’s Disorder and Childhood Disintegration Disorder. … A “spectrum” disorder displays comparable symptoms that span a wide range of more-or-less dysfunctional deficits or excesses of activation—it has a relatively continuous gradation. This suggests a wide range of neural circuits or developmental slowdowns contribute to the disorder, rather than a single cognitive function.

 

 

 

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ENDNOTES

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[1]VALIDITY of data refers to its accuracy and specificity, as well as its applicability to the question being asked.; RELIABILITY refers to data’s precision, consistency, and appropriate resolution

[2] In Phaedrus, inspiration is as important as formal rules: http://www.evansville.edu/~tb2/plato/phdr.html

 


[1]. I wish I said that, but Steve Jones did –and was quoted by David Concar to explain why he regarded Daniel Dennett as “a veritable factory of impure thoughts.”in his review of a Daniel Dennett collection in New Scientist 25 April 1998:48

[2].  Kant in CPR cited by Wechsler 1978:2

[3]. (Bertrand Russell in: The Art of Philosophizing and Other Essays, 1968, Philosophical Library)

[4]. Kathryn Morton “The Story-Telling Animal” Dec 23 1984 New York Times Book Review.

[5].  Michael S. Gazzaniga. 1998.  The Split Brain Revisited Scientific American July 1998 pp 50-55.

 

[6]. William H. Calvin (1983) identified “precise throwing” as a primal adaptive need and suggested that the precision needed for throwing rocks at prey was accommodated by “paralleled timing neurons” that were able — by virtue of their organization– to “overcome the usual neural noise limitations via the law of large numbers.”  This indicates “that enhanced throwing skill could have produced a strong selection pressure for any evolutionary trends that provided additional timing neurons. This enhanced timing circuitry may have developed secondary uses for language reception and production.”

 

“Neural machinery for motor sequencing.”  “Judging from the delight which infants and young children take in throwing and hammering, and from right‑handedness being strongest for such tasks, the neural machinery for rapid manual‑brachial movements may have been under substantial selection at some time in evolution probably in hominid evolution, as these features are far more pronounced in humans than chimpanzees. Here I report that throwing spears or small rocks requires an unusual timing accuracy beyond the known accuracy of single neurons, and that the only known solution to the problem (the Law of Large Numbers) requires large increases in the numbers of neurons applied to the task. This emergent property of parallel timing circuits has implications not only for brain size but for brain reorganization, as another way of increasing the numbers of timing neurons is to temporarily borrow them from elsewhere in the brain, perhaps switching them into the throwing circuitry as one “gets set” to throw.”

 

“One method for increasing the timing precision beyond that of the individually imprecise neurons is to use redundancy, a method whose use may be seen on the voyage of the Beagle where 22 chronometers were used to reckon longitude precisely from local noon. Enright (1980a,b) examines the properties of a simple neural circuit for decreasing the variability of a circadian oscillator, addressing the problem of individual pacemaker neurons’ periods having a much larger standard deviation (SD) than the overall organism’s circadian behavior. Essentially, the many primary timers in the first stage could feed a summating neuron; not until a critical number (e.g., 30%) of first‑stage neurons have fired does the second‑stage neuron discharge. Computer simulations show that the times to second‑stage discharge vary much less than does the firing time of any first stage neuron: the resulting SD is reduced from the SD of the N primary timers by a factor of the square root of N. Clay & DeHaan (1979) show exactly this decline in SD when observing clumps to embryonic heart cells beating in culture: the more electrically‑coupled cells in the cluster, the more rhythmic the beat. Even though the equivalent circuit is quite different from Enright’s, the result is the same. Hence fine timing precision can be an emergent property of parallel neural circuits.”

 

“That precision timing capabilities correlate with bigger brains can be seen from the animals with some of the largest brains (relative to body weight), which are the mormyriform fish (Bullock, Orkland & Grinnell 1977); they engage in precise timing for electrocommunication between individuals. Sonar in chiroptera and Cetacea involves a high order of precision timing; they also have among the largest of mammalian brain/body ratios. Note, however, that this does not imply a backward correlation: all animals with big brains do not show present‑day evidence of a precision timing skill exposed to selection pressure. The location of the extra timing neurons may be midbrain or cerebellum, as in the cases just cited, but there is also some likelihood that premotor cortex is involved in humans.

 

Secondary Uses of Timing Circuits.  Hammering uses most of the same manual‑brachial motions as does throwing. One might suppose that better circuitry for throwing would improve hammering skills; indeed, judging from female chimpanzee nutcracking skills (Boesch & Boesch, 1981), skillful hammering may have preceded precision throwing. While throwing is of primary interest in hominids because of its immediate exposure to selection pressures and long growth curve, the motor sequencing neural machinery is hypothesized to have additional secondary uses (Calvin. 1982a, 1983): language, memory, and motor mechanisms of the dominant hemisphere have many important interrelationships (Ojemann, 1982). In particular, motor sequencing lateralizations in the dominant hemisphere are thought to provide a possible foundation for language specializations. Ojemann & Mateer (1979) show that the core of the peri‑Sylvian language cortex is a region involved with both phoneme discrimination and with oral‑facial motor sequencing (as in mimicking a series of facial expressions. Deficits in manual sequencing with either hand are often associated with aphasia produced by strokes damaging this same general region of the dominant hemisphere (Mateer & Kimura, 1977, 1982), raising the issue of sequencer machinery shared by manual and oral‑facial tasks (Cai%,in, 1982a; Ojemann, 1982).

Timing and/or sequencing specializations seem quite important for both phonemic and motor aspects of language (Mateer & Kimura, 1977; Ojemann & Mateer, 1979; Ojemann, 1980, 1982) as well as for the dominant hemisphere’s temporal‑order judgments (Efron, 1963; Lomas & Kimura, 1976; Cowey & Weiskrantz, 1976; Sherwin & Efron, 1980; Bradshaw & Nettleton, 1981; Tallal & Newcombe, 1978; Tallal & Schwartz, 1980). This suggests that cortical circuits with timing specializations that are widely used in modern humans were perhaps originally selected via hominid throwing success. Redundancy might allow “language” timers to contribute to precision “motor” timing and vice versa; indeed, language timers might have evolved by utilizing the idle redundant timing circuits used for precision throwing in between throwing occasions.”

 

Temporal lobe timing specializations?  The temporal lobe is a region of human brain which is unusually prone to seizure activity (as is motor strip), and one particularly refractory to improvements in anticonvulsants (which are often thought to augment inhibitory mechanisms). Because so much of our knowledge of the perisylvian region suggests specialization for timing and sequencing, it may be that the epileptic tendencies are a side‑effect of, literally, “reverberating circuits” ‑ that this region is a sympathetic oscillator (in the engineering, not the neurological, sense) which reproduces rhythmic interictal and ictal activity that might originate elsewhere. For example, from media] temporal structures damaged at birth by herniating (Wvler & Bolender, 1983).

 

The throwing theory for encephalization must be viewed from the essential background of Miocene and Pliocene developments, particularly hominoid reproductive strategy and the carry‑while‑gathering aspect of bipedality, as in the theory recently put forward by Lovejoy (1981). Possible Pleistocene interrelationships between handedness, tool‑making, and language are discussed by Montagu (1976) and Calvin (1982a, 1983). In particular. Lee (1979, appendix E) has noted how throwing could give rise to a need for the carrying bag, a key hominid invention.

 

 

 

Though the throwing theory suggests a continuous selection pressure. punctuated evolution may mean that such selection pressures operate most rapidly and effectively upon small, geographically isolated, inbreeding populations near the time of speciation (see Mayr, 1982; Eldredge & Tattersall, 1982), rather than upon established species with large and widespread numbers to buffer and stabilize the genome via a well‑stirred gene pool. Thus, even if the main population did not rely upon throwing for subsistence, throwing’s usefulness in marginal habitats could have episodically shaped the genome.

 

One of the final steps in hominid evolution has been the tripling of hominid brain volume in the last several million years (Jerison, 1973; Holloway, 1976; Cronin et al., 1981). As Lovejoy (1981) notes, most other important hominid features may have been well‑established before the great encephalization; with the exception of language, they may not be parallel developments with brain enlargement. And, important as they are to humans, it has been difficult to see how bipedalism, tool‑making, problem‑solving intelligence, culture, altruism, and the two‑parent family could have rapidly driven encephalization: each occurs to some degree in various smaller‑brained animals without having produced a notable growth spurt.

“Thus a bigger brain could have been under continuing selection for several million years based on ever‑improving throwing skills, with the size requirement escalating in power‑law relationship to precision. Unlike hypertrophy with use, there is no reason to presume that such enlargement is restricted to the part of cerebral cortex used for timing sequences ‑ a simple genetic tendency towards global enlargement of neocortex seems a more likely postulate. Such a simple scheme for larger brains is neoteny, with selective slowing of some developmental rates retaining the juvenile brain/body size ratio (Gould, 1977) as well as some of the behavioral plasticity of juveniles. By arresting somatic growth at ‑ by ancestors’ standards ‑ a juvenile form, adults would come to have the larger juvenile brain/body ratio. Nonspecific enlargement suggests that selection for throwing success could enhance other cortically‑based abilities as a by product or exaptation, e.g., increasing intelligence in general and language in particular, because of shareable timing‑sequencing circuits. In this sense, perhaps bigger brains for hominid precision throwing promoted human intelligence and language, much as feathers for reptilian thermoregulation are thought (Ostrom, 1974) to have set the stage for bird flight.

 

“There emerges from this view of our brain, with its relentless reorganization and enlargement for ever more precise pitching, some glimpses of the neural foundations on which we construct our utterances and think our thoughts. The brain may have begun precisely uncocking the elbow while hammering nuts in the tropics. Overextended on the Ice Age frontiers, however, our ancestors staved off starvation according to their inborn throwing abilities. Faster and faster was always better and better. Those with bigger and better organized brains survived with the aid of the Law of Large Numbers; eventually even their babies came to hammer and throw instinctively.

 

From such an evolutionary ratchet jacking up brain size, there arose unbidden our own brain of unbounded potential. In basketball to tennis, this mosaic brain expresses its ancient pleasure in precisely timing a sequence. Transcending its origins, our brain can now create novel sequences using grammar and music, even contemplate how our enlarged consciousness evolved and is evolving.”

 

(from William H. Calvin 1983.   A Stone’s Throw and its Launch Window:   Timing Precision and its Implications  for Language and Hominid Brains. Journal of Theoretical Biology  104, 121‑135)

[7]. William H. Calvin 1989 in The Cerebral Symphony p. 196.

“While throwing is of primary interest in hominids because of its immediate exposure to selection pressures and long growth curve, the motor sequencing neural machinery is hypothesized to have additional secondary uses (Calvin. 1982a, 1983): language, memory, and motor mechanisms of the dominant hemisphere have many important interrelationships (Ojemann, 1982). In particular, motor sequencing lateralizations in the dominant hemisphere are thought to provide a possible foundation for language specializations. Ojemann & Mateer (1979) show that the core of the peri‑Sylvian language cortex is a region involved with both phoneme discrimination and with oral‑facial motor sequencing (as in mimicking a series of facial expressions. Deficits in manual sequencing with either hand are often associated with aphasia produced by strokes damaging this same general region of the dominant hemisphere (Mateer & Kimura, 1977, 1982), raising the issue of sequencer machinery shared by manual and oral‑facial tasks (Cai%,in, 1982a; Ojemann, 1982).

Timing and/or sequencing specializations seem quite important for both phonemic and motor aspects of language (Mateer & Kimura, 1977; Ojemann & Mateer, 1979; Ojemann, 1980, 1982) as well as for the dominant hemisphere’s temporal‑order judgments (Efron, 1963; Lomas & Kimura, 1976; Cowey & Weiskrantz, 1976; Sherwin & Efron, 1980; Bradshaw & Nettleton, 1981; Tallal & Newcombe, 1978; Tallal & Schwartz, 1980). This suggests that cortical circuits with timing specializations that are widely used in modern humans were perhaps originally selected via hominid throwing success. Redundancy might allow “language” timers to contribute to precision “motor” timing and vice versa; indeed, language timers might have evolved by utilizing the idle redundant timing circuits used for precision throwing in between throwing occasions.”

 

Temporal lobe timing specializations?  The temporal lobe is a region of human brain which is unusually prone to seizure activity (as is motor strip), and one particularly refractory to improvements in anticonvulsants (which are often thought to augment inhibitory mechanisms). Because so much of our knowledge of the perisylvian region suggests specialization for timing and sequencing, it may be that the epileptic tendencies are a side‑effect of, literally, “reverberating circuits” ‑ that this region is a sympathetic oscillator (in the engineering, not the neurological, sense) which reproduces rhythmic interictal and ictal activity that might originate elsewhere. For example, from media] temporal structures damaged at birth by herniation (Wvler & Bolender, 1983).

[8]. Averroes in Destructio Destructionum”

[9]. Coleridge, The Statesman’s Manual 1816

[10]. Sternberg,  (p.1031).

[11]. The anatomy of aesthetic judgement:

      1. all else being equal, aesthetics guides in making decisions about validity of beliefs
        1. attractive people more believable
        2. statements in rhyme and eloquence more true
          1. Eloquence and rhetoric always suspect –since ancient Greeks invented it
          2. American Indians were persuaded by eloquence in council

b.     Metacommunications (sensu Ekman)

[12]. Parker, Ian.  1992.  Discourse Dynamics: Critical Analysis for Social and Individual Psychology Routledge, New York. 169 pp.

[13]. Searle (1992) identifies basic tenets of the Western Rationalistic Tradition:

    • Reality exists independently of human representations.
    • At least one of the functions of language is to communicate meanings from speakers to hearers, and sometimes those meanings enable the communication to refer to objects and states of affairs in the world that exist independently of language.
    • Truth is a matter of the accuracy of representation
    • Knowledge is objective
    • Logic and rationality are formal [“ two kinds of reason: theoretical reason, which aims at what is reasonable to believe, and practical reason, which aims at what is reasonable to do.” but in Searle’s view it is important that “they do not by themselves tell you what to believe or what to do.”  “Logic does not by itself tell you what to believe.  It only tells you what must be the case, given that your assumptions are true . . .” (Searle p 207)

[14]. Searle (1992) identifies basic tenets of the Western Rationalistic Tradition:

    • Reality exists independently of human representations.
    • At least one of the functions of language is to communicate meanings from speakers to hearers, and sometimes those meanings enable the communication to refer to objects and states of affairs in the world that exist independently of language.
    • Truth is a matter of the accuracy of representation
    • Knowledge is objective
    • Logic and rationality are formal [“ two kinds of reason: theoretical reason, which aims at what is reasonable to believe, and practical reason, which aims at what is reasonable to do.” but in Searle’s view it is important that “they do not by themselves tell you what to believe or what to do.”  “Logic does not by itself tell you what to believe.  It only tells you what must be the case, given that your assumptions are true . . .” (Searle p 207)

[15]. But there are bad guys. The America Council of Learned Societies published a document stating that “. . . claims of disinterest, objectivity, and universality are not to be trusted, and themselves tend to reflect local historical conditions”.  And Rorty agrees with Searle that the notion that the University has no need of concepts is “disinterest” and “objectivity” is dreadful.  But that objectivity and disinterest can only be explained by reference to function, to “the good which these universities do, their role in keeping democratic government and liberal institutions alive and functioning.” Not by “reference to the notion of ‘correspondence to mind-independent reality.’” (p. 181). Rorty, in short, is convinced that we will be more honest and clearheaded if we replace epistemological justification with socio-political justifications

Rorty points out that where Searle feels that if we do not believe in mind-independent reality, one can believe in and insist upon objectivity, he responds that “nobody ever said that there was no such thing as objective truth ad validity. . . . [but] that you gain nothing for the pursuit of such truth by talking about the mind-dependence or mind-independence of reality” (p. 183-184).  Objectivity is not about corresponding to objects, it is about connections with other subjects –“intersubjectivity.”  “What Kuhn, Derrida, and I believe is that it is pointless to ask whether there really are mountains or whether it is merely convenient for us to talk about mountains” –are neutrinos real or are they heuristic fictions (p. 184).

[16]BRICOLAGE Francois Jacob’s perception of evolution –assemblage based on whatever elements are available– is equally appropriate for dream formation: a neural-sequencer assembles the most coherent narrative it can given the imagery available from cerebral activation.  And the final product for most of us is a gestalten –a perception necessarily apprehended as a whole.  William Calvin (1989) uses the idea of color mixing to make the point that a committee of (in this case) three provides the information that converges on the perception of color.   Comparable examples may be taste and the perceptions that converge on facial recognition (so dramatically upset by prosopagnosia -see Oliver Sacks, MWMWH).  But the general idea has been dubbed  Young’s Principle by Calvin.  ( bricolage (brê´ko‑läzh´, brîk´o‑) noun.  Something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be available [French, from bricole, trifle, from Old French, catapult, from Italian briccola, of Germanic origin.] (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition, Copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.))

[17]The Throwing Madonna’s sequencer. The machinery of all sequential movements has in Calvin’s (1989) view,  probably emerged from a ballistic movement sequencer — the brain’s construction of chained memories and actions, plans and sentences, all employing serial buffers –holding queues– in which alternative strings of schemas are “graded” by memories of similar strings and weighted for present relevance, the best of them perhaps becoming conscious. (p.262-263).  Calvin quoted Darwin: “Parallel trains of thought [are the] necessary heirs of every action [and are] always running in the mind.” (M Notebook, 1838). 

“Might stringing things together be a core facility of the brain,” Calvin asks (1994), one commonly useful to language, storytelling, planning, games, and ethics?  If so, natural selection for any of these talents might augment their shared neural machinery, so that an improved knack for syntactical sentences would automatically expand planning abilities, too.  Such carryover is what Charles Darwin called functional change in anatomical continuity, distinguishing it from gradual adaptation.”  Secondary uses of the core sequencing ability would be music and dance, but at the heart of this “sequencer” may well be the need for precision planning needed by ballistic movements such as throwing. Or hammering.

Calvin also argued that intelligence is the result of a core brain specialization that underlies language, planning of hand movements, music, and dance (1994).  This core ability would involve the ability to juggle multiple ideas simultaneously (as in analogy questions) and versatility (that an omnivore might profit from) and find them serving social needs brilliantly, especially when enjoying an extended opportunity to learn in a socially tolerant family setting before facing the challenges of non-kin in the real world.

 

Is there a candidate for such a neural sequencer?  Calvin nominates the premotor and prefrontal cortices and the lateral language areas because, as he points out, left hemisphere damage that causes aphasia also creates difficulty in executing novel hand-arm sequences (apraxia).  Also, a nearby left lateral perisylvian region apparently specialised for listening to sound sequences also controls oral-facial motor sequences.   

Sequencing –and the foresight needed for safety since once initiated many sequences cannot be easily stopped– should be yoked together, and this may, in Calvin’s view, be the source of the entire “high end of intelligence and consciousness” – a cerebral player of mental games to “shape up quality before acting.”

[18].  How we dream can give clues as to why we dream.  Given the truth of evolution, the countless descents with modification, the reality of behavioral fossils embedded in our brains as genetically orchestrated dispositions to behave one way or another, the pathological hypertrophies or atrophies of selected aspects of the dream machine that thereby highlight their potential function — all suggest why.

Could the assembly of dreams mirror the assembly of all coherent sequences?  Simply handicapped by a much more limited repertoire of elements to assemble.

[19]. Demonstrative thought, associated with Aristotle, is regarded as a cornerstone of modern science and emphasizes the linearity of events and the idea that nature is best explained through its individual constituents, while the dialectical tradition emphasizes nonlinear, multidirectionality of the world which is thus best understood through conceptual understanding of patterns (Marceil’s reading of Rychlak 1968 chap. 1, and p. 458)    Al Burstein, at breakfast today (February 6, 1999) says that both demonstrative and dialectical traditions are within the integrative/nomotheitic tradition (I think I keep mistking nomothesist and idiography because by “nomo” I keep thinking of the “naming of particulars”  

[xx]. Peter Medawar cited by H.F. Hudson, 1980)

[xxi]. Slavney and McHugh 1984 cite DP Spence (1982. Narrative truth and theoretical truth; Psychoanal. Q. 51:43‑69