Defining a framework for normality in the human lineage
The whole purpose of my research was to get to the bottom of the evolutionary process that led to the unique cognitive condition of humans which is observably abnormal and in order to define normality we have to look further down the lineage into the early evolution which can supply the apparatuses for the emerge of the human lineage.
Since the current data of our linage early evolution divergence is based on genetic analysis of existing primates and human DNA and since we don’t have a spectrum (understatement..) of primates skeletons from the dates of the divergence of Catarrhini to Anthropoidea and the Anthropoidea Hominoidea to the Hominidae (Pan, Homo etc.) and Hylobatidae (gibbons and siamangs).
I will use one of the Hylobatidae, the Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) a member of the Hominoidea outgroup as the reference group to represent our common ancestor, (although the members of the Nomascus concolor (black crested gibbons) are according to some researchers higher on the evolutionary tree) the similarity of the Siamang in size, color and other attributes to the Pan and early humans make it easier comparison.
The Siamang with the rest of the Hylobatidae is the outgroup to the Hominidae (wiki: outgroup is a group of organisms that serve as a reference group when determining the evolutionary relationship among three or more monophyletic groups of organisms. The outgroup is used as a point of comparison for the ingroup—the set of organisms under study that specifically allows the phylogeny to be rooted. Because the polarity (direction) of character change can only be determined on a rooted phylogeny, the choice of outgroup is essential for understanding the evolution of traits along a phylogeny, the outgroup is hypothesized to be closely related to the other groups but less closely related than any single one of the other groups is to each other. The evolutionary conclusion from these relationships is that the outgroup species has a common ancestor with the ingroup that is older than the common ancestor of the ingroup. An outgroup may be a sister group to the ingroup or may be more distantly related).
Normality in the human lineage can be defined by the outgroup, e.g. the Siamang, in the same way normality for dog breeds can be defined by the dog’s outgroup the gray wolf: we can track the deviation from normality in dog breeds by comparing each breed physical and mental characteristics to the wolf.
Outgroup normality exist in the natural constrains of the stage of speciating of the outgroup therefore the natural condition in which the outgroup evolve are the normal conditions for the lineage.
Background and apparatus for the cognitive evolution of humans
Using the Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) as an example and reference for our lineage common ancestor
The difference between physical and cognitive adaptation
Most of the evolutionary changes are gradual changes accruing in active traits and developed slowly over time in accordance to the fitness needs of their concurrent environmental conditions, for example when conditions demanding intraspecies aggressive struggle for limited resources, an increase of body mass and a boost of strength in certain muscle groups can be very useful in improving the fitness, physical changes are also very easy to present and advertise for sexual partners. Physical changes need generation of sexual reproduction to evolve: bigger size and stronger muscles can’t occur overnight.
But unlike physical changes cognitive changes can evolve in a slow graduate process, their drivers are not necessarily pure fitness as the main factors for survival will always be based on the minimal needs of physical and cognitive traits which maintain it. Basing survival on the sufficient minimal physical and rudimentary cognitive traits means that the evolution of cognition will follow the same slow and graduate path as physical evolution
But Human’s lineage evolution took a very different path since the days of our common ancestor with the chimpanzee, our cognition have evolved in a very different ways.
Although we still observe normal evolutionary pace of cognition which was maintained throughout our evolution process, we can also observe stages of major leap forward as the (in)famous one that took place ~50,000 years ago which gave birth to our current civilization (unnatural colonization).
The cognitive leaps forward
Cognitive evolution in the human lineage incorporates a unique attribute due to our unique circumstances, starting with the modern primates: we possess a brain that contains an arsenal of dormant traits. Our unique evolution path left layers over layers of evolutionary cognitive adaptations for the different habitats and conditions in the form of brain tissue and parts:
From the beginning of life on earth, in the first stage of evolutionary life on earth for eons we swam the oceans, on the second stage of evolutionary life on earth over countless centuries our ancestors transit to the land, over tenth of millions of years of supremacy of our mammalian-like ancestors, through the hundreds of millions of years of living in the shadows of dinosaurs and predatory birds, trough the rise of the modern supremacy of our mammalian lineage tens of millions years ago, follow the arrival of the lineage of the monkeys and primates the masters of the rain forest canapé until the resent transition from the rain forest canapé to the African grasslands.
Every historical cognitive adaptation to new environments or for specific habitats leaves all the layers of brain parts developed over the millennia, left different absolute adaptations intact – Unlike physical adaptation which completely replaces previous ones. Our brain evolutionary process had left all the stages of our evolution as layers of brain parts, which can be easily observed today. These layers of brain parts from our basic rudimentary traits to the latest frontal cortex are the “secret weapon” of human’s unique cognition.
These layers contain the unique adaptations to different environments, habitats and survival fitness strategies for each of the concurrent conditions driven such fitness strategy, routed by our unique historical circumstances; the long periods of perfecting our adaptation for different habitats left many cognitive tools which were crucial for our survival at that time.
But many of this adaptation layers have become obsolete when new condition which occur rendered them as such. But nevertheless many of the obsolete layers have stayed and carried along our evolution process in a dormant form.
Most animals’ unique circumstances led them into perfecting their adaptation for a certain environmental fundamental, such as living in the water on land or in the air, within these fundamental environments they had to developed specialization to certain habitat’s fundamentals such as living on the ground or living in trees.
When a species evolution reaches an adaptation equilibrium point in which their survival is ensured, (can be easily observed by long period of evolutionary stagnation in long-term stable population) an outgroup is being established. When an outgroup species is being established the evolutionary process take a different course of more subtle adaptations for specific habitat niches hence sistergroup starts to emerge (in which their superiority to the fundamental environmental adaptation remain and plays the main role e.g. great white sharks vs. manta rays and hammerhead sharks).
Moving between fundamental environments is the main factor in a species cognitive abilities but another important factor is the level of adaptation needed to reach equilibrium of an outgroup to each of the specific fundamental environments that is sufficient enough for the emerge of sistergroup adapted for specific nieces in the fundamental environment.
As a consequence of the change in conditions, the length of the equilibrium periods is usually short and as soon as the outgroup adaptation spread to the extent of its environment boundaries the species will reach the maximum limitation of its environment caring capacity, at this point a species evolution will stagnate but as conditions changes it will start to develop into sister groups and branch into new variations with similar cognition but not necessarily similar physical characteristics.
Every time a species achieves a complete transition between two environment fundamentals the species had also experienced a leap forward in its cognition.
The main factors in rudimentary and non-rudimentary cognitive evolution are the combination of the environment fundamentals and selected fitness strategy of movement (fitness strategy).
The environmental fundamental factors:
- The dimensions available movement in the environment – 2D vs. 3D
- The complexity of the environment – the quantity, distribution and variation of objects available for both movement and orientation.
- The distribution and location of energetically resources available for consumption
Dimensions available for movement are the initial adaptation to an environment and the real driver of a cognitive evolution
The most fundamental rule for rudimentary movement in an environment is the number of available dimensions for movement, there are 2 types of fundamental environments:
3 Dimension spheres – bodies of water (oceans), bodies of gas (atmosphere) and bodies of mass (underground)
2 Dimension spheres – objects surface (ground)
The three dimensional (3D) environment movement fundamentals
Animals swimming in the water, flying in the air, digging tunnels under the ground surface or move between branches in a forest canapé have three dimensions available for their movement (X,Y and Z: up/down, forward/backward and left/right). All the animals with adaptation for 3D movement in 3D environment obeys the same fundamental rules
The two dimensional (2D) environment movement fundamentals
Animals moving on a surface (ground, branches, rocks, ocean bed etc.) have only two dimensions available for their movement (X and Y: forward/backward and left/ right). All of the other adaptations are just a derivative of these fundamental adaptations. All the animals adapted for 2D movement in 2D environment obeys the same fundamental rules
All organisms moving in 3 dimensions will obey the same environment movement fundamentals but their method of movement in their specific habitat may differ: fish and squid living in the 3D environment of water bodies, bat and bird living in the 3D environment of gas bodies and monkey living in the 3D environment of the forest canapé will be subject to the same fundamentals of a 3D environment, while a dear, bear, snake and spider will obey the fundamental rules of moving in a 2D environment.
Species primary adaptation strategy – the main fitness strategy to environmental fundamentals
A fundamental environment obtain a certain limitations that are dependent not only on its essential properties of liquid or gas (air or water) which define the rules of physics for movement in such environmental biosphere but rather by the complexity and orientation which define the available movement and navigation in it, different environmental fundamentals presents different type of approaches and methods for an intentionally moving organism.
There are few factors in a species adaptation to a fundamental environment factors:
- Dimensions available for movement will define the movement strategy
- The level of complexity that is utilized for moving and navigating: Complexity of the objects and the methods of their utilization for orientation and navigation will define the orientation and navigation strategies
- Resources distribution, concentration and energetic value will define the feeding strategy and the agility strategy: The speed of movement in the environment: Agility – high speed movement vs. passivity – low speed movement (stationary objects or passively drift organisms have no need for cognition).
The fundamental fitness strategy of a species is the methods of utilization of the environmental fundamental factors and that will determine its cognitive adaptation in the limitation of the inherit physical attributes of the organism, which affect its size weight and tough brain size
The basic rules of adaptation and transition between fundamental environments
Every time a species transit from one fundamental environment to another, the first main adaptation is a major cognitive change needed in order to achieve the basic stage of fitness – moving and navigating in the environment, which is the ground rule for survival, the movement and navigation in a 3D environment and in a 2D environment demand very different cognitive tools.
Extreme complexity or lack of complexity of an environment are the real driver of a cognitive leap forward in cognitive evolution
The most fundamental rule for non-rudimentary (cognitive) movement in an environment is the availability and complexity of objects for orientation and navigation, there are many types of fundamental orientation and navigation strategies defined by the complexity of the environment.
The main factors in cognitive leaps forward are the transition between fundamental environments:
- Fish achieved rudimentary cognition for the only environment they have evolved
- Birds and bats that evolved from fish to land animals (3D to 2D to 3D) have achieved a low non-rudimentary cognition do to the extreme limitation of the weight of their head size in order to fly (insect’s limited size due to the breathing method of tracheae).
- Land mammals (including mammals that walk on the surface of branches) that evolved from fish (3D to 2D) have achieved a higher non-rudimentary cognition do to the moderate limitation of the weight of their head in order to be supported by their neck (the variation of cognition is usually defined by the complexity of their environment)
- Ocean mammals like dolphins that evolved from fish to land mammals (3D to 2D and back to 3D) have achieved the third highest non-rudimentary cognition do to the lack of limitation of the weight of their head that is supported by the water but they didn’t evolve further do to the low complexity of their environment (sea lions and other animals that need to breed on land are still limited by the size and weight of the head)
- Primates that use the movement strategy of brachiation that evolved from fish to land mammals and then to forest’s canapé (3D to 2D and back to 3D) have achieved the second highest non-rudimentary cognition do to the lake of limitation of the weight of their head (hanging from branches align the head with the center of gravity) supported by their neck coupled with extreme agility and complexity of their environment (the primates that made the adaptation for living between the 3D of the canapé and the land (such as the pan members achieved the highest non-rudimentary cognition of primates (3D to 2D to 3D to semi 2D)
- Humans that evolved from fish to land mammals and then to forest’s canapé primates and back to the land (3D to 2D to 3D and back to 2D) have achieved the highest non-rudimentary cognition do to the lake of limitation of the weight of their head (inherit from their ancestors brachiation).
Achieving absolute adaptation to environment fundamentals creates a species
The absolute-adaptation process is deemed as success if survival equilibrium was achieved
The absolute-adaptation process is deemed as success if survival equilibrium was achieved – the absolute-adaptation usually is achieved by one ancestor in each species lineage:
In any species’ lineage there was one species which achieved the absolute-adaptation for example there was one species in the human lineage that complete the transit from the 3D environment of the oceans to the 2D environment of the land and the absolute-adaptation reached an equilibrium in a certain species of amphibian and from that point it started to branch into sister groups that obeys the same fundamental of the 2D environment while adapting different fitness strategies of movement methods in accordance to specific habitat’s niece attributes (e.g. resources, terrain etc.).
For a species to reach the absolute-adaptation point is the most challenging of all other evolutionary processes and it demands the most fundamental cognitive changes which are firmly correlated to specific species outgroup cognitive potential boundaries (the cognitive change in the simple nerve system of an insect transit from land to water is not as major as for a big brain mammal going the same path and becomes a whale).
If an animal never changed it environment after reaching the equilibrium of the absolute-adaptation it’s brain will remain almost the same as long as is still lives in the same fundamental environment, same for all of its descendants and branches of sister group species: they may have extreme size and weight variations but their cognition will be very similar until one branch will go through another absolute-adaptation, for example one fish species have reached equilibrium point hundreds of million years ago and although they since spread into almost every 3D underwater habitat niches, their cognition have stayed mostly unchanged since it reached the point of absolute-adaptation which was developed only for one fundamental environment, Dolphins on the other hand had the same evolutionary adaptation for 3D environment fundamentals as fish, than they moved out of the ocean and adapt for living in 2D environment on the ground, and once more moved to the oceans where again they adapt to 3D environment and although the physics of Dolphins evolved to be very similar to the fish, the baggage of three absolute-adaptations can be clearly observed by their different brains and cognition.
Fish have never changed their original fundamental environment absolute-adaptation and its cognition has stayed at the same very primitive stage, Dolphins changed their fundamental environment 3 times and their cognition is highly developed as a result.
Dolphins’ intelligent is also supreme to all the land animals that went through 2 absolute-adaptations such as dogs and cats, and is in similar level to animals reached the equilibrium point of the absolute-adaptation the same number of times – the Primates (water (3D), land (2D) and forest canapé (3D)), and all of their cognitions are inferior to the one possessed by Humans which achieved 4 absolute-adaptations.
A species cognitive abilities and intelligence goes hand in hand with the number of transitions between fundamental environments
We are the species with the highest number of movements between fundamental environments which explain the superiority of our cognition:
We had the same evolutionary adaptation for 3D environment in the early oceans, than we moved to the ground and adapt for living in 2D environment on the ground, then we moved into the 3D environment of the forest canapé and ones again we moved to the ground and adapt for living in a 2D environment.
The real first evolutionary leap forward
Our superior cognition is mainly due to our unique evolutionary path which forced us to move to one more fundamental environments than our closest relatives combined with the inherit attribute of head center to gravity which removed the limitation of brain size and weight, that represents the real leap forward of the human lineage.
Moving between fundamental environments always represents a leap forward in cognition and our main leap forward of cognition occurred when we completed the transition from the fundamental 3D environment of the canapé to the 2D fundamental environment of the African savannas.
The roots of the human condition
Our last transition of moving from the 3D fundamental environment of the canapé to the 2D fundamental environment of the grassland was very sharp in evolutionary terms and this period of an exceptionally rapid transition was also when we developed our human condition.
The Human Condition is rooted in evolutionary events which occurred ~6.5 million years ago at the end of the Miocene and that was when we made our first leap forward but the Human Condition which we developed during that time had become dormant shortly after, until something else triggered it’s eruption 60 to 40 thousand years ago which I will refer to as the second leap forward.
When a cognitive adaptation to an environment precede a physical adaptation
But unlike other transition we experienced in the past, the one we experienced ~6.5 mya was very different, unlike previous and later transitions which took us long period of evolutionary adaptations of physical evolutionary changes followed by cognitive adaptations, this one was very swift and brutal and our cognitive adaptations was first, followed by a physical evolution, we are the only organism on earth that his physical evolutionary process was preceded and driven by cognition.
Instead of developing a new layer of cognitive traits following the success of our physical fitness, in a graduate process over long periods of time, we awaken and altered of an older “dormant” traits and adjusted them to fit a certain reality over short period with insufficient time for developing physical fitness to answer for the urgent need determined by sudden conditions and circumstances.
So we resurrect old dormant parts of our brain and render them useful once again for our fitness in the face of the sudden introduction of new conditions resulting from our transition.