The Rise of The Hominid Mind — A Thought Experiment

An image from the Planet of The Apes franchise, with a human alongside 3 other intelligent primate species. Presumably a chimp, a gorilla, and an orangutan with highly evolved intelligence. Image credit here.

Early Australopithecines And The Rise of The Mind

I’ve heard quite a few speculations about why our early ancestors would have developed larger and more complex brains. Some of these included the idea that changes in the jaw size allowed a larger brain to grow, others included the idea that a high-fat diet made intelligence possible. Certainly, a combination of these sorts of changes could have contributed to our evolution however, such superficial explanations leave a lot to be desired. Plenty of animals enjoy a high-fat or high-calorie diet but clearly have not evolved a great deal of intelligence. And something as superficial as a change in jaw shape is bound to have occurred many times in many mammalian clades, but without creating something with a high level of intelligence.

Image Credit Here

The World of The Lucies

Even with this thought experiment, I still had a few other questions. Namely, what would drive evolution towards high intelligence in this instance, but not in others? What was it that so affected our early ancestors that this was the time that a living organism here on Earth was driven towards a higher intelligence than anything that has ever been documented?

Concluding Thoughts

My goal with this article is only to play with this thought experiment. I don’t want to make more of this than what it is. A lot of what I propose here is armchair speculation, but speculation is often the first step in any intellectual pursuit. Without this first step, we would never go anywhere. Gould rightly pointed out the criticism that we should not conflate “just so” stories with empirical science. And he was right, speculation is not data, but perhaps there is something important here.



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