Is our species decaying?
10th April 2010
Yes it all goes against human vanity and we'll all struggle against accepting it but it may well be the way things are going.
On March 15th 2010 scientists announced that they have recreated a 28,000-year-old skull from remains found in France and have found indications that the human brain is shrinking.1 Cro Magnon1 was discovered among five ancient skeletons in 1868. An initial assessment of the fossil's skull suggested that the brain it encased was up to 20 per cent larger than modern brains, reversing an earlier trend towards bigger brains. This assessment involved the creation of a three dimensional replica of the brain known as an endocast, made by scanning the interior of the skull to obtain a picture of the impression left by the brain on the neurocranium.
Although this new evidence does not suggest that our ancestors were more intelligent as studies have found that the link between brain size and IQ is not well defined, it does raise some very interesting questions.
The researchers have speculated that the shrinkage in brain size might suggest that our brains are becoming more efficient like shrinking computers. But this may also be a sop to our vanity because if this is indeed the case, why did the human brain 'evolve' to be so big in the first place?
Evolutionary theory suggests that advantageous adaptations to the environment are naturally selected through time, in other words those individuals in any particular species who have those advantages will survive longer and produce more offspring. The more the brain grows, the more energy and nutrients it takes away from other vital organs. In fact the brain only takes up 2% of our body weight, but uses 20-25% of our energy intake by far the most of any organ. Thus the natural selection of a larger brain which is to a certain extent redundant and unnecessary is in complete contradiction to the selective mechanism that is presumed to govern human evolution.
Professor John Lorber did a study of individuals who somehow managed to function normally with an IQ over a hundred with only a sliver of brain tissue. One boy had an IQ of 126 and a first class honours degree in mathematics despite the fact he had "virtually no brain". A CAT scan showed that his skull was lined with a thin layer of brain cells to a millimeter in thickness. The rest of his skull was filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
Of approximately sixty cases of hydrocephalus patients who had 95% of the cranial cavity filled with cerebrospinal fluid, half were profoundly retarded. The other half had IQs greater than 100. He admits that CT scans are not easy to read with pinpoint accuracy but also points out: "I can't say whether the mathematics student has a brain weighing 50 grams or 150 grams, but it is clear that it is nowhere near the normal 1.5 kilograms." 2
So if a smaller brain is all that's necessary how and why did it 'evolve' to be so big, keeping all that wasted capacity for so long and wasting huge amounts of energy to maintain it? What then prompted it to shrink about 28,000 years ago? Could the larger brain could have belonged to a superior species who used it to full capacity? Did we devolve from them?
One of our greatest scientists Dr. Paul Maclean, at the Laboratory of Brain Evolution in Poolesville, Maryland, discovered that the brains of higher living organisms were divided into three distinct schemes of tissue. In other words, we have three distinct brains in our body. Dr.Maclean called it the "triune brain." The three distinct tissue schemes that make up our brain correspond to three distinct behavioural modes. He identified the three tissue schemes respectively as the neocortex, the limbic system, and the cerebellum. 3
Interestingly, despite the overall shrinkage in brain size there has been a growth in the size of the cerebellum, seen by Maclean as the most primitive reactive section of the brain. So any ideas that mankind is evolving into a species centred on the higher brained neo-cortex functions (which govern our ability to reason and think holistically) are without foundation. If the more advanced feature, the neo-cortex is more a feature of the past brain than the present brain then what does that say about the evolutionary premise.
Startling though it might be is it possible that humans and indeed all species once came from ancestries that devolved down from grander, perhaps more ephemeral forms? Forms that perhaps may have had incredible abilities to manipulate physical materiality (matter) as a function of mind empowered by a capacity maybe as much as twenty times larger than ours now.
Our universe is subject to the second law of thermodynamics that breaks all things up into greater and greater states of chaos with time. It could thus be argued that the ordered complexities of living systems could never have arisen from within this system. Sir Fred Hoyle has pointed out that the odds for the origins of life in the first place are outlandishly high. He calculates that the chance of the vital two thousand enzymes being formed in exactly the correct way, which they must be or else complex living organisms simply could not operate, is "about the same as the chance of throwing an uninterrupted sequence of 50,000 sixes with unbiased dice!" 4
Scientists studying mutational phenomena have discovered that there is a blueprint, "an ancestral body plan" that guides development from one species form to another. Instead of inventing a new set of body plan genes for each new type of animal, it seems that natural selection has simply tinkered with an old one, a set known as Hox genes.5 If all organisms that now exist had from their very inception into the evolutionary process a blue-print of how they should evolve, then where did that blueprint come from in the first place? How did the first multi-cellular animals evolving some 700 million years ago contain the basic template of information that only needed to be shuffled around in order to form a human being? All the myriad changing environmental factors and chance mutations-which allowed survival within changed environments and thus evolution through the survival of the fittest-had not yet occurred at that point. So where did the most basic of living organisms, or indeed the chemical soup that produced them in the first place, get this genetic blueprint?
How then can we explain the fossil record that seems to suggest an increase in brain size up to 100,000 years ago? Could it be that the fossil record does not present a single species line of development from Australopithecus to Homo Sapiens Sapiens but instead presents the end points of several species lines as represented by their hominid remains? Michael Cremo has presented evidence that over the past 150 years archaeologists have discovered forms of human skeletal remains, human footprints, and human artefacts tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of years old, going all the way back to about 2 billion years. According to Cremo the archaeological establishment have picked and chosen only those artefacts that conform with evolutionary theory.
A further implication of human devolution is the fact that only 2-3% of the human genome actually codes for the proteins that form the body. Of the remaining 97-98% a fraction has been found to have controlling or regulatory factors to this formation but the rest appears to be redundant. Could this spare DNA also be a remnant of the past, a fossil within the human genome of a superior genotype that used the full 100% of that DNA?
If devolution is the governing momentum that drives living species and prior states are superior to current states it would follow that the earlier state is existentially the more superior one. I am not saying that evolutionary processes like survival of the fittest have no place in ancestral demarcation. They quite clearly do. I am saying that Evolution within an overall Devolutionary process may be the truer and more accurate format of it all. The one that fits all the facts.
Does this imply creationism - would God create imperfect beings from his own state of perfection just to watch the fun? Intelligent Design starts from that same basic premise. Or does it imply instead a non-physical state that would explain the quantum reality that is now accepted by quantum physics? An implicit centre of perfection and therefore perfect freedom to know all options including the option to no longer be perfectly free, perhaps this could be a new frame for the concept of God, a concept that could unite physics, biology and religious belief.
2 John Lorber, "Is Your Brain Really Necessary?" Science (1980) 210: 1232-1234
3 Maclean, Paul, "Ritual and Deceit," Science Digest, (Nov/Dec 1980).
4 Hoyle, Fred, The Intelligent Universe, (Michael Joseph Ltd, 1983) 12, 19.
5 Reptiles Don't Leave Evolution To Chance. (New Scientist 16 September 1995)