From Primitive Parts, A Highly Evolved Human Brain
August 09, 2010
From one perspective, the human brain is a masterpiece. From another, it’s 3 pounds of inefficient jelly. Both views are accurate, and that’s because our remarkable brain has been assembled from some very primitive parts.
“Although the things it can do are very wonderful and impressive, its design is very poor engineering in many respects,” says David Linden, a professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, the author of The Accidental Mind.
Linden says there’s a simple explanation: evolution.
“In evolution, you never build something new if you can adapt something you’ve already got,” he says. “It’s the ultimate tinkerer and the ultimate cheapskate.”
Our brain has been put together with parts from jellyfish and lizards and mice, Linden says. These parts may have been OK for their original owners, he says, but they aren’t ideal for us.
“If I throw a baseball at you, you’re going to reflexively duck your head, and there’s nothing you can do to override that with your conscious mind,” Linden says. “Your ancient, subconscious, lizard-like visual system is doing that task.”
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