Being Blessed With These Gifts

Not only there are amazing things within the design of animals but humans have incredible gifts. Some interesting research on Amazon tribes people been published. They were known in the early 1770s for raiding Portuguese settlements along the Amazon. In response, the governor of Pará sent a military expedition which used guns, as a result, the military soundly defeated the Mundurucu, who fought only with bows and arrows. The Mundurucu learned to tap and cure rubber latex and became part of the patronage system that controlled the rubber trade.

But there is one amazing thing discovered with these tribesmen in the amazon. The Mundurucu have an understanding of Euclidean geometry, without ever learning it at school! In the BBC Jason Palmer reported…

“Tests given to an Amazonian tribe called the Mundurucu suggest that our intuitions about geometry are innate. Researchers examined how the Mundurucu think about lines, points and angles, comparing the results with equivalent tests on French and US schoolchildren. The Mundurucu showed comparable understanding, and even outperformed the students on tasks that asked about forms on spherical surfaces.”

“The Mundurucu people’s responses to the questions were roughly as accurate as those of the French and US respondents; they seemed to have an intuition about lines and geometric shapes without formal education or even the relevant words.”

This is the year for people whom I know are having babies, so it seems even more fitting that I cover this topic! One of the things that is turning up about them in research is that babies are showing more cleverness than previous thought. Live Science has a whole list of them…

“As early as 10 months of age, babies figure out that might makes right. When shown scenes of big and small cartoon blocks interacting, infants stare longer (indicating more surprise) when the big one yields the right-of-way to the small one than they do when the small one is subservient. The finding, published in January 2011 in the journal Science, suggest that babies understand social hierarchies and know that size can determine who’s in charge. The results suggest that the blueprints of social interaction are built into the human brain.”

“Even before they can say more than “mama” and “dada,” babies can decipher emotions … of dogs…While your infant still might not speak, he or she likely knows when you’re feeling down. As young as 5 months of age, babies can accurately pick out an upbeat tune from a gloomy one, according to a study published in 2010 in the journal Neuron.”

“Babies can apparently learn even while asleep, according to a 2010 study. In experiments with 26 sleeping infants, each just 1 to 2 days old, scientists played a musical tone followed by a puff of air to their eyes 200 times over the course of a half-hour. A network of 124 electrodes stuck on the scalp and face of each baby also recorded brain activity during the experiments. The babies rapidly learned to anticipate a puff of air upon hearing the tone, showing a fourfold increase on average in the chances of tightening their eyelids in response to the sound by the end of each session.”

“In a 2007 study published in the journal Science, researchers had 36 infants watch silent videos of three bilingual French-English speakers reciting sentences. After being trained to become comfortable with a speaker reciting a sentence in one language, babies ages 4 months and 6 months spent more time looking at a speaker reciting a sentence in a different language —demonstrating that they could tell the difference between the two.”

A study in Science called, “Pure Reasoning in 12-Month-Old Infants as Probabilistic Inference”, the abstract says…“Many organisms can predict future events from the statistics of past experience, but humans also excel at making predictions by pure reasoning: integrating multiple sources of information, guided by abstract knowledge, to form rational expectations about novel situations, never directly experienced. 

“Here, we show that this reasoning is surprisingly rich, powerful, and coherent even in preverbal infants.  When 12-month-old infants view complex displays of multiple moving objects, they form time-varying expectations about future events that are a systematic and rational function of several stimulus variables.

Some animals are great swimmers, but humans design boats, engines, and submarines. Birds of prey are great at flying but humans design jets, rockets, and satellites. Certain animals can make gestures, some birds can talk, but humans are able to reason. Humans are blessed with gifts that are far beyond what animals have and they too are amazing themselves!

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6 thoughts on “Being Blessed With These Gifts

  1. Michael: ” Humans are blessed with gifts that are far beyond what animals have and they too are amazing themselves!”

    You should say ‘other animals’, not just ‘animals’, as humans are one of many, many animal species that populate this planet, each being unique, and lots having capabilities far beyond that of our own species.

  2. But there is one amazing thing discovered with these tribesmen in the amazon. The Mundurucu have an understanding of Euclidean geometry, without ever learning it at school!
    </blockquote.

    This sentiment points out a limitation in Michael's worldview. He considers that certain phenomena are "primitive" and certain others are "advanced," depending upon how long we humans have been consciously aware of them.
    This is a form of arrogance that one does not find among scientists..

    Why is it strange that the folk, that Michael archly refers to as uncivilized, have a working knowledge of Euclidean geometry? At the scale of human senses, the whole world is Euclidean. Euclid did not invent Euclidean geometry—he merely formulated in Attic prose the principles that everyone already knew and used every day, without thinking about it.[1]

    Why is it noteworthy or unexpected that an Amazonian jungle people, can employ Euclidean principles better than creationists?

    Because of his view that everything must have been specifically designed, Michael is amazed at the wrong things:[2] That butterfly wings use waveguide optical phenomena. That photosynthesis involves quantum mechanics.

    Evolution takes no notice of human-designed categories. An ability with Euclidean geometry confers fitness. Natural selection need not know why something works—only that it does work.

    ===============

    [1] Not to imply that explicitly writing these down was “mere.” Like so many other inventions, a seemingly small step unlocked a vast potential. Euclid’s monumental achievement was to formulate a system of logical reasoning about his principles—“axioms” we now call them. This logical system allows the obvious axioms to be built up to produce unobvious results—such as that the bisectors of any triangle always meet at a single point. This logical system is what the Mundurucu do not possess.

    Another benefit of writing down the principles of our innate geometry is to allow people to consider what would happen if one of the principles were not true. It took 1800 years, but someone finally did find out that one could formulate a consistentnon-euclidean geometry. Non-euclidean geometry is something that the Mundurucu do not excel at.

    [2] If Michael were the least bit curious, he might justifiably be amazed that retinal processing in the eye uses Euclidean constructs—that visual signals to the brain are encoded in terms of lines and angles, not pixels. That’s why you can “see” negative boundaries that do not actually exist. (Cartoonists excel at this skill.)

  3. You should say ‘other animals’, not just ‘animals’, as humans are one of many, many animal species that populate this planet, each being unique, and lots having capabilities far beyond that of our own species.

    Eelco, this is merely another form of Michael’s arrogance. He must put down other species in order to feel good about his own.

  4. Olorin, it does sound like arrogance. Nothing wrong with homo sapiens, but we’re not alone. Which I think is actually quite a good thing.

  5. One capability , which humans share with most other primates and some other species is the ability to learn how to do a task by watching others perform the task.

    This learning ability requires “mirror neurons” in the brain, neurons which couple directly from the visual centers to the motor-control areas. To Michael and his ilk, this seems a natural skill–why should any animal not have it? Yet most animals cannot learn a skill by watching only.

    You may remember that Plato argued that nothing is ever actually learned. He gave a logical argument showing that all we can do is recollect knowledge that the soul already knew from a previous life. Obviously, he never heard of mirror neurons.

  6. Not only there are amazing things within the design of animals but humans have incredible gifts.

    One of the gifts that humans enjoy is the hippocampus, a brain region in the limbic system that is involved with emotion and memory formation.

    However, some of us have a smaller volume in this important brain region. More specifically, a recent PLoS paper reports a statistically significant atrophy of the hippocampus in older people who reported life-changing religious experiences, as opposed to those who did not. For example, born-again Protestants had smaller hippocampus volumes than Protestants who reported not having been born again.

    The original study had been conducted for an entirely different purpose, cognitive outcomes of depression in the elderly. However, participants were asked about their religious beliefs, and this pattern fell out of the data.

    .

    This finding surprised the investigators. But there you are. If you are a scientist, you must follow the evidence wherever it leads.

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