This is taken from page 154 of Steven Pinker's book How the mind works as supporting argument against the assertion that We only use 10% of our brain.

the same disadvantages would face any creature pondering whether to evolve a humanlike brain.

First, the brain is bulky. That design compromise kills many women during childbirth and requires a pivoting gait that makes women biomechanically less efficient walkers than men. Also, a heavy head bobbing around on a neck makes us vulnerable to fatal injuries in accidents such as falls.

Secondly, the brain needs energy. Neural tissue is metabolically greedy; our brains take up only 2% of our body weight but consume 20% of our energy requirements and nutrients.

Third, brains take time to learn to use. We spend much of our time either being children or caring for children.

Fourth, simple tasks can be slow. (he goes on to note how insect reflexes are much faster than human)


I created this node/quotation in order to argue against We only use 10% of our brain. It works well as such. I agree with both mcc and Mr.Option, though I get the impression that they think that they are disagreeing with Mr Pinker. Far from it. I used a brief quote from a large work which does discuss these issues. It's a great book, go read it. I highly recommend it if you are into this kind of thing.

I quoted thus to help point out that it makes no sense at all to have a brain that gets only 10% use in spite of these costs. So we would not have evolved this brain unless it was fully utilised to great benefit.

This data also leads to a different conclusion: the particular level of average human intelligence is a compromise, an evolutionary stable point not just between "too smart" and "not smart enough"; but a balance point between intelligence and its biological costs.

The costs and benefits are however on a balance sheet drawn up by the hundreds of thousands of years of survival of the fittest in the paleolithic. This has all changed for modern first world people - our access to food is not limited (indeed the overabundance of food is a problem for some) and the benefits of intellignce have been increased.

> Third, brains take time to learn to use. We spend much of our time either being children or caring for children.

Not quite.

The fact is that the human brain is large enough that, evolutionarily, you simply can't fit a brain that size through a pelvis. Any pelvis capable of doing so would be a huge liability, and would be evolutionarily selected against. It just doesn't work.

The way humans get around this is having the children born with the brains only partly formed. It isn't that it takes a long time to "learn to use" the brain; it's just that the brain isn't finished being created yet. So we wind up with humans leaving the womb as virtual vegetables, while some other less "advanced" species are able to function relatively well immediately after birth, because humans can only form the bare framework of a brain before birth or else the birth just doesn't take place at all.

The funny thing is, while evolution (as a blind process) could not possibly have been "planning" this, this has all turned out to be almost more of an asset than a "cost". Because humans are essentially helpless for the first four years of life, and not even really fully capable for the next ten or so after that, humans are *forced* to stay with their young and keep them safe or the species dies out. This winds up evolutionarily selecting toward things like motherliness, which leads to caring and more complex emotions. Between this, the extreme difficulty of caring for a child in a wild environment, and the necessity of "learned" knowledge rather than instinctive, humans are forced toward intraspecies interaction in ways that eventually become complex family structure, and then complex social structure, and then civilisation.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.