Hi-Tech Human Brain Better Than Thought
The capacity of the human brain is stunning. We should use it more.
Memory: The memory capacity in your head is astonishing. Science Daily reports that human memory is 10 times what was previously estimated. Did you know you could store the World Wide Web in your head? Evolution News & Views used this finding as an argument for “superfluous design” that defies evolutionary explanation. Researchers at the Salk Institute found another super-feature, too:
The brain’s memory capacity is in the petabyte range , as much as entire Web, new research indicates. The new work answers a longstanding question as to how the brain is so energy efficient and could help engineers build computers that are incredibly powerful but also conserve energy.
Update 2/03/16: New Scientist adds another marvel about the brain: “memory recall works twice as fast as the blink of an eye.” A process that “was thought to take about half a second” can be achieved in half the time it takes to blink. Neuroscientists at the University of Birmingham measured the round trip from cue to hippocampus to recognition in volunteers, and determined it takes only 150 milliseconds.
Simulcast: Another article on Science Daily says that your brain operates on multiple frequency channels simultaneously. For instance, when your eyes are sending data on one frequency (“bottom up”) to your brain, your brain is transmitting signals on another frequency (“top down”) to tell your eyes what to look at. While the discoveries were made with macaque brains, humans have some unique abilities, the article says:
In their experiments, the researchers demonstrate that the human brain also uses different frequency ranges for bottom-up and top-down signalling. Furthermore, the neurophysiologists were able to describe the hierarchical positioning of additional areas, some of which only present in the human brain. A total of 26 areas were investigated in the human brain.
Brain size: The question came up once again: does brain size equate to intelligence? This is “a key question for those studying brain evolution,” PhysOrg says. A puzzle was presented to 140 carnivores from 39 mammalian species, including polar bears, tigers, cheetahs, snow leopards, meerkats, river otters, mongooses, wolverines and foxes. Each animal had to try to open a box with their favorite food in it that was locked with a bolt latch. Only 35% of the animals were able to solve it, with larger animals like bears doing best (70% success). In general, “Our results show that having a larger brain really does improve an animal’s ability to solve a problem it has never encountered before,” the scientists from Michigan State say. The findings appear to be unrelated to manual dexterity. However, the researchers found no support for the “social brain” hypothesis, the idea that social animals should be more intelligent.
This study, funded by the NSF for the “BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action,” has some obvious limitations. There’s more than size to consider. History shows that evolutionary studies of brain size in the 19th century, used to rank human beings by intelligence, were biased. Bob Enyart of Real Science Radio likes to point out that in math class, petite Asian women with small brains could outsmart NBA players with large brains. It’s not the physical brain, but its organization, training and living conditions that could be significant factors. Think of other factors that could skew the results:
- Are they sure the individual animals they picked were the sharpest of the bunch?
- Do animals in North American zoos compare well with those in the wild?
- Did the researchers or zookeepers interfere by giving nonverbal cues?
- Had any of the animals encountered something similar in their past? They say, “although we have no reason to believe that the enrichment histories of the animals included in this study influenced our results, it would be ideal for future studies to try to minimize variation in enrichment histories as much as possible.”
- Were all the animals equally hungry? Each animal was put on a 24-hour fast before the test, but small animals might get hungrier faster than large animals.
- Did the animals all have adequate sleep?
- Did the researchers control for gender, climate, and elevation?
- Do different kinds of reward food have different effects on metabolism and ability to concentrate?
- Could biological clocks have affected the animal’s ability depending on the season? Bears hibernate in the winter.
- Is this puzzle the best way to test for intelligence?
- Why didn’t they present the same puzzle to a crow (5/26/09) and an octopus (YouTube)?
- Why didn’t they test herbivores? Ask any rancher; horses learn to open bolt latches with their lips to get into the hay barn or escape from a stall (YouTube).
This many years after Darwin, it’s surprising how little experimental work has been done on this question. “Although there is circumstantial evidence suggesting an association between problem-solving ability and brain size, experimental evidence is extremely rare,” they confess.
Intelligence presents evolutionary biology with one of its greatest challenges. It has long been thought that species with relatively large brains for their body size are more intelligent. However, despite decades of research, the idea that brain size predicts cognitive abilities remains highly controversial; little experimental support exists for a relationship between brain size and the ability to solve novel problems.
In their paper in PNAS, the authors recognized some outliers from the evolutionary prediction that bigger should be smarter: “Although body mass is the single best predictor of brain size, some species have much larger brains than expected given their body size (e.g., humans and dusky dolphins), whereas other species have much smaller brains than expected (e.g., hippopotamus and blue whale).” This shows that species even within the same order (dolphins and whales) can differ. The researchers, furthermore, are aware that other evolutionary biologists doubt the applicability of brain size or problem solving as measures of intelligence. So despite the fun they must have had traveling to zoos and watching animals solve their puzzle, it’s not clear these researchers illuminated anything about evolution.
Human puzzle solving: Speaking of puzzle solving, a machine set a new record for the Rubik’s Cube: one second. Watch the blurring action in a video clip on Newsweek. This breaks the human record of four seconds (ENV). It must be remembered, however, that the machine was designed by humans with human brains. And the inventors—software engineers—didn’t do it for food. Would a bear or tiger try to solve a Rubik’s Cube just for sport?
There’s something very odd about humans with brains possessing the capacity of the internet and multi-frequency simulcast capability going out trying to prove brains evolved by blind, aimless processes. One might even call that dumb.
Each of the test animals has a magnificent brain fully capable for its needs. They show design, not evolution. Why would evolution give a small Asian female a 3-pound lump of tissue that can hold the entire internet’s worth of data?
Once again, too, we see bad science done in the name of Father Charlie. We pointed out just a few of the flaws in the zoo experiments; you could surely think of others. Nothing about evolution was demonstrated. Nothing improved the fiasco of 156 years of “rare” experimental support for one of evolutionary biology’s “greatest challenges.” To the evolutionary biologists, we challenge you: get off the Darwin bandwagon and use your designed brain for design purposes. Your science will improve, and you will get fewer headaches. Unfortunately, the NSF will cut your funding. That’s a conflict of interest that needs to be solved. Maybe a change of administration will help.
It’s amusing to watch the word “thought” in the PNAS paper:
- Recently, several comparative studies have revealed correlations between brain size and traits thought to require advanced cognitive abilities… However….
- Several studies have found an association between absolute or relative brain size and behaviors thought to be indicative of complex cognitive abilities…. experimental evidence is extremely rare….
- It has long been thought that species with relatively large brains for their body size are more intelligent. However…
Thought by whom? They never say, because they hide behind passive voice verbs. But clearly, evolutionists were the only ones thinking that. And in each case, the evidence didn’t support their thoughts! Think, man, think! Something is wrong with evolutionary thinking. It is your duty as a rational being to stop thinking thoughts that do not comport with the evidence. Anything else would be irrational. What do they call doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?