[Neuroscience] Re: why did humans grow a bigger neocortex?

Matthew Kirkcaldie via neur-sci%40net.bio.net (by Matthew.Kirkcaldie from removethis.utas.andthis.edu.au)
Wed Sep 5 07:53:31 EST 2007

In article <46dda088$0$17755$ed362ca5 from nr2.newsreader.com>,
 "Glen M. Sizemore" <gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com> wrote:

> Well, I'm sure you know your view, but I'm not sure you know mine. Indeed, I 
> still see points of contact, whether you do or not.

I think I misinterpreted your post as a characterisation of the paper, 
but I realise now that you were making a response to it.  Sorry.

> >Instead we argue that
> > *qualitative* changes, "higher order" complexity in behaviour if you
> > like, could come from quantitatively expanding the size of the cortex.
> > I'd agree that there are specialised regions of the brain, I just don't
> > think they need to be explicitly genetically specified to arise from an
> > enlarged cortex.
> This does not seem to me to be inconsistent with behaviorism. Perhaps you 
> don't understand behaviorism?

The "opposite" thing was in response to your characterisation of 
behavioural changes as quantitative - I believe they would change 
qualitatively as I mentioned. I would agree that I have an essentially 
behaviourist perspective; I suppose I just don't see that as 
particularly relevant to the paper.  In fact we explicitly begged off 
the question of "mind" and "consciousness" in order to ask how you could 
generate a richer set of cortical abilities without needing to design 

But now that I think about it, the sort of "passivity" of a behaviourist 
perspective is an underpinning of where we were coming from. I tend to 
believe that the systems governing the brain and behaviour are much 
simpler than many people make out. In that spirit, if I had to pick an 
"ism", I'd pick behaviourism. To be perfectly honest it isn't really a 
choice - I love to grapple with the abstract at times, but I don't think 
there is a lot of point in a non-philosopher like myself, trying to 
reason about anything beyond the empirical.

> >Behaviourism and conditioning aren't really related to
> > the arguments of the paper.
> Needless to say, I disagree.

I think possibly I do as well, on reflection. I think Oscar Wilde said 
something about contradicting yourself being an indication of a broad 
mind ... or perhaps I posted without thinking it through. Behaving it 

      Cheers, MK.

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