Saturday, October 01, 2005

You're Dead Meat... Many people find this picture vaguely disturbing. Offered for your amusement. Only in the Desert of the Real.Posted by Picasa



Just a short piece today. But this piece is about the most important thing that humans have (and it is not Paris Hilton’s sex tape), our ability to create and understand language. The Author is reading “The Ancestor’s Tale” by the preeminent evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. The book discusses the gene FOXP2. FOXP2 is present in many species, including chimps, mice and men. But humans have a strain of this gene (that mutated less than 200,000 years ago) that may be responsible for speech.[i] The human strain of FOXP2 produces two amino acids not present in the chimp or mouse flavor.

This position is arrived at through two lines of thought. First, chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, do not have speech and humans (homo sapien sapiens) do. But that is a correlation, not a direct causal link. But there is another line of evidence. Some members of a family code named KE have a mutation to FOXP2 that renders them unable to understand speech. Some researchers think that these family members exhibit “feature blindness”, the inability to grasp certain grammatical features like gender, tense and number.[ii] The structure of language.

The Author, who reads a good deal of science, has heard about the linkage between FOXP2 and speech before. If a mutation to FOXP2 occurred 200,000 years ago, then this mutation to FOXP2 has given our species nearly everything that makes us human. Including, you guessed it, Economics!

[i] Dawkins, Richard, “The Ancestor’s Tale”, p. 69.
[ii] Dawkins, p. 69.