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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

« Step by Step from Apes to Shakespeare | Main | The Riddle, the Mystery, and the Enigma »


J. Goard

Seeds can germinate in the lungs?!? Damn.... Why haven't I seen a single PSA about this?

Great post, as usual. As you know, my position is that our best guess about the environmental features behind selection of the hominid developments is that it was an established, fairly rich, linguistic environment. Not only does Deacon argue this, but I think it's the main implication of his subtitle.
BLOGGER: Seeds germinating in the lungs are pretty unusual but I have heard news reports about it.

Raymond Weitzman

There is an interesting article relevant to this discussion at Here is the first paragraph of their conclusion:

"Taken together, our results suggest that human vocalization is
not exclusively regulated by neocortical or visceromotor
mechanisms, but by a combination of both. That the PAG and paramedian cortices — elements of the species-specific call system that regulates vocal production in lower species — are selectively activated during vocalization in humans, may represent the process of ‘exaptation’ (Gould, 1999), whereby features previously designed for one function (species specific vocalizations that may convey information about emotional state) are co-opted for a different purpose (linguistic and paralinguistic use of voice during propositional speech) in the course of evolution."

I may be mistaken, but my impression is that neuroscientists seem to define "voluntary" as having to do with any movement that is mediated by the neocortex, while "involuntary" as having to do with any movement that is mediated by the visceromotor system. If that is the case, then "voluntary control" simply means behavior mediated by the neocortex. So where does "free will" come in? Are we going back to Cartesian dualism?

Raymond Weitzman

The blogger's comment " more and more control becomes dependent on context the individual becomes increasingly unpredictable." seems rather contradictory to me. If behavior becomes dependent on context, isn't it the case that behavior is actually more predictable? All one has to do is know what the context is in order to predict the behavior.
BLOGGER: When somebody looks at a painting, what do you think the person will say? --Looks Dutch. --Remember last summer? --On the whole I'd rather be in Philadelphia. --This is a wonderful painting. --Isn't the frame slightly tilted?

Raymond Weitzman

Since I don't know (1) what particular painting the person is looking at, (2) who is with that person, (3) what encounters with paintings the person has had in the past and how he has responded to them, (4) the past interactions that person has had with the other person who might be with that person, (5) the painting's spatial location, etc. I have no idea what the person might say or do, if anything. In other words, I don't know the context, past and present, in which this person has interacted with paintings and other people, so how can I predict with any degree of accuracy what that person will say. Making up situations in which contextual information is almost totally lacking doesn't prove or demonstrate anything. One thing I can predict, however, is that if the person is a monolingual speaker of English, he/she is not going to say, "totemo kirei desu."
BLOGGER: Hmm. Given the context, I had predicted you would catch the allusion to Chomsky's rebuttal to Skinner when he discussed the predictability of a response to a painting.

Raymond Weitzman

I did get the allusion and I would say the same thing in rebuttal to Chomsky. But you were the one who brought it up.

Raymond Weitzman

When are you going to reply more substantively to my comments?

J. Goard

Play nicely, gentlemen.

Blogger, remember this key line from MacCorquodale (1970):

"Multiple causality is never mentioned in the review; it is mentioned throughout Verbal Behavior."


The percieved similarities and/or differences of humans with other life forms cannot yield anything of value.

Fir a start, the audio dexterity of many birds and animals are much greater than of humans. Yet speech never evolved, which stands as the greatest blow of all to ToE, despite the advantage of time, which evolution depends on. The sub-set of adaptation is also foiled here: no other life form adapted to the most powerful tool in the universe - 'speech'.

Amazingly, all the multitudes of rationalisations of fossils cannot prove a single speech endowed creature before 6000 years; speech appeared suddenly and aligns with history per se, human populations and mental prowess grads. Does no one find it amazing that we do not have a NAME, the pivotal mark of speech, pre-6000? To boot, we also have no kings, wars, nations, monuments.

I say, don't believe everything told by the white gowns - ask for surrounding on the ground proof to match their theories. Speech is too important an issue to swallow neo age jargon. Demand a NAME - and know that the escapist 'NO WRITINGS' is also a slight of hand casino science - because this inclines only with speech being a tad less than 6000!

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