Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Interesting Links

There are some very cool posts I've stumbled upon in the last week.

- First, the lates Four Stone Hearth carnival is hosted over at Ionian Enchantment

- Second Greg Downey over at Neuroanthropology has an interesting post on a new paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society by philosophers Michael Wheeler and Andy Clark. The paper focusses on the relationship between culture, embodiment and genes and Downey does a nice job of putting it into a broader context amd extracting the key issues.

Here's the abstract:
"Much recent work stresses the role of embodiment and action in thought and reason, and celebrates the power of transmitted cultural and environmental structures to transform the problem-solving activity required of individual brains. By apparent contrast, much work in evolutionary psychology has stressed the selective fit of the biological brain to an ancestral environment of evolutionary adaptedness, with an attendant stress upon the limitations and cognitive biases that result. On the face of it, this suggests either a tension or, at least, a mismatch, with the symbiotic dyad of cultural evolution and embodied cognition. In what follows, we explore this mismatch by focusing on three key ideas: cognitive niche construction; cognitive modularity; and the existence (or otherwise) of an evolved universal human nature. An appreciation of the power and scope of the first, combined with consequently more nuanced visions of the latter two, allow us to begin to glimpse a much richer vision of the combined interactive potency of biological and cultural evolution for active, embodied agents."
- There's also an interesting guest post by Robert Logan, author of the book the "The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind and Culture" - which I have mentioned briefly in the past- in which Logan sums up the main issues of his book.

-Simon Greenhill of Henry links to an interesting post in the Times Higher Education about the great divide in modern anthropology:

"Today, anthropology is at war with itself. The discipline has divided into two schools of thought - the social anthropologists and the evolutionary anthropologists. The schism between the two is simple but deeply ingrained. Academics in the subject clearly align themselves with one side or the other; once that choice is made it defines their career."
- Then, Kambiz Kamrani of, announces that he will stop posting because he's going to medical school. I found his posts interesting and informative and will miss this great blog.

- Lastly, John Hawks sets right some of the myths about Neanderthals, such as "[They'd] probably grow up into a kick ass middle linebacker.", or "Would Neanderthals be allowed to compete in the Olympics? There are events such as fencing where they would do exceptionally poorly, but there are other events such as weight lifting where humans would have no chance." which makes for a very interesting read.

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