Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Embodied Encephalon

Encephalon #59 is hosted this fortnight by Michael Meadon at Ionian Enchantment. One highlight is a post at Neuroanthropology on embodied cognition and cultural evolution, which discusses a paper by Michael Wheeler and Andy Clark:
I must admit a certain morbid fascination with how one of my favorite streams of thought — embodied cognition — would fare combined with cultural evolution — an area of scholarship that, well, to put it nicely, is uneven (before you get all defensive, let me just stop you with one word: mimetics). It’s sort of like watching one of your good friends get hit on by a sleazy guy at a bar. She looks happy, but you’re sort of cringing at the chance that she might actually take him home. In spite of this instinctual cringe, this special edition of Philosophical Transactions has some really interesting work on cultural evolution, especially because many of the pieces focus tightly on the enormously problematic issue of cultural transmission.
And the result of this tawdry hook up is commendable, according to Greg:
...Wheeler and Clark map out a path toward reconciliation between evolutionary theory and interest in the brain that isn’t the same one — massive modularity, instinct, universal grammar, etc. — that seems now to be so out of step with both contemporary evolutionary theory and brain sciences. The result is really outstanding and thought provoking, and I can’t recommend the article highly enough if you can get your hands on it. [I couldn't.]
Go check it out, along with other great posts that include the Neurological Correlates of Poverty and the Neuropsychology of Paranormal Experiences and Belief.

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