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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Distributed Attention | Main | Right All Along »

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TLTB

Its always strange to see how these things get reported. I am actually down here at the Biolinguistics conference in Santo Domingo and was talking with Marc Hauser and Tecumseh Fitch about this today. We all had a laugh about an image of a chimp getting ready to throw a spear across the plain.

Of course, "using a spear" evokes this image, but that's not what happened. The chimp basically stabbed a bushbaby with a stick. Big deal. They stab termite mounds with sticks all the time.

Hauser told me about some of his interesting work looking at ability rather than behavior. He's found that animals that never use tools in nature are perfectly capable of using them if put in the right situation. Makes you wonder what else they can do that they just don't.
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BLOGGER: That last sentence touches on an interesting question. We are used to the fact that people start living in ways they never lived before. Do other animals do that too? Maybe natural history contains more real history than we have guessed.

TLTB

Btw, you may be glad to hear Fitch mentioned joint attention briefly in his talk. His main point was that language evolution isn't something that can be completely explained by one set of factors. He mainted that syntax/grammar is central and there's no getting away from it, but if we want a full picture, he argued, lots of other things have to be taken into account. Joint attention was on the board as one of those "other things" we have to keep in mind when working on the problem.

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