How about smaller brains? #187A –Robert M. Shelby, 1-3-13. [658 txt wds]

Right-wing insistence on smaller government would be more consistent were it coupled with a drive to breed humans back to smaller brains than they now have. They might have fewer and less discordant opinions. Studies indicate modern humans carry from 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal genes, maybe from times of interbreeding after 32,000 years ago or due to incomplete speciation (i.e., divergence of populations from common ancestors some half-million years ago.) Still, Neanderthal phenotype cannot be our goal. Although Neanderthal people were shorter and sturdier than we are, with stronger arms and hands, practical speech consisting of emotive and behavioral signals, use of fire, complex tool-making and group-hunting techniques, their brains were larger than ours. They were content to live in smaller groups than are we, who build cities and nations.

We must reach farther back into our evolutionary past, not so far as Homo Afarensis or Homo Habilis, say, but to Homo Erectus. Erectus was exemplified by the Lake Turkana specimens, “Java Man” and “Peking Man.” Homo Erectus from the neck down was very modern, about as tall as modern man but more lightly built, having slightly longer spine, narrower pelvis and shoulders, well suited to giving up heat during and after exertion and an excellent runner able to chase in groups to capture small herbivores by running them to exhaustion, killing and butchering them with sharp stone “hand-axes.” Erectus may also have used vocal as well as gestural signaling. Moving in groups, agile and noisy in danger, throwing sticks and rocks, they could intimidate large predators and cut in on, and usurp their kills.

While the Erectus brain was half the size of ours, its face was relatively bigger and bonier. Clearly, Erectus was smart enough to chip a hand-axe out of a larger flint or obsidian nodule and use it by holding its rounded side to smash the sharp edge against wood or flesh and gristle. To hold it by the sharp edge and pound the blunt side on something would result in severe injury to this early fellow’s own hand. You can see that such a degree of intelligence could well serve, say, in the United States Congress and possibly achieve a better record of work than that of the 112th House of Representatives. Homo Erectus was no more ideological nor conceptually fixated than to want something to eat when hungry and to keep from getting eaten by animals more predatory and less given to herbivorous foraging than himself; to keep cool in daytime and warm at night, hugged up against somebody friendly, in numbers sufficient for one or more close neighbors to be watchfully awake, perhaps needing bladder relief.

Sadly, there is evidence demonstrating that prior to departing from Africa, some part of the Erectus population had not yet learned the danger of ingesting predatory animal’s livers. The liver of lion and hyena causes long suffering bodily changes and irreversible death from hypervitaminosis with unmanagable levels of Vitamin A. American Indians knew not to eat liver from bear or cougar. One Pleistocene instance and its circumstances revealed long-lasting mutual bonds and loving care between family or group members. Inhabitants of caves and woodsy shelters would unlikely have been divided by partisanship or invidious conflicts. We should be so viably intelligent as were they, over one-and-a-half million years ago.

Big brains seem to have made big trouble. Maybe it’s not size alone that’s important but fine organization. The first computers filled warehouses with wiring, hot vacuum-tubes and whirling tape-reels. A thumb-sized flash-drive now holds more memory than my second desk-computer, a Macintosh G4 tower with three hard drives. Soon, space stations will be run by things the size of pencil erasers. So, don’t talk to me of shrinking our government until folks get smart enough to design an “operating system” to do efficiently everything our population needs without sacrificing any more people to ignorant ideas of social darwinism and genetic determination.

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