steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

What Big Eyes They Had...

Neanderthals had larger eyes and sockets than we do, and therefore less brain-room with which to perform "higher" cognitive functions. This, it is suggested, is why they died out.

There seems to be a term missing from this argument - namely the bit that explains why higher cognitive function is a more advantageous adaptation than good vision in low-level light. The northern latitudes (with their attendant dark winters) that were said to have encouraged the latter didn't go away, so why did gloaming-vision and the ability to carry out crepuscular hunts suddenly not count for much - as compared with the ability to decorate cave walls? There may be a good explanation, but on the face of it this seems like evolutionary parochialism and a circular argument: "Anything that resembles us is more likely to have survived than anything that doesn't - since, after all, we're still here."

We pique ourselves on our intelligence, but that doesn't make it an evolutionary trump card. The most successful species - sharks, ants, horseshoe crabs, etc. - aren't known for their smarts.
Tags: maunderings
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