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The Mind’s Big Bang: Video Analysis Essay


Art: Discuss, separately, how ancient cave paintings and shell beads indicate changes in how humans have thought over time

Ancient cave paintings were the inception of human culture, communication, and technology. The cave paintings and shell beads indicate the birth of the human mind. They show how humans evolved from being only involved in survival activity with other pursuits in life, namely, social interaction. These shell beads indicate a human race distinct from their natural self into a social animal with a distinct social identity. Archaeologist Randale White excavated thousands of shell beads from a cave sight in France. He believes it is a tremendous finding as they indicate the first phases in human evolution where humans seized to be mere flesh-eating hunters but evolved as social beings.

Technology: The spear-use demonstration by John Shea and the pictures of the Neandertal and human burials are both dramatic. Give one example of how the human version of each of these might have helped humans survive and reproduce better than Neandertals

The experiment demonstrated by John Shea showed how the Neanderthals were at a disadvantage vis-à-vis modern humans in terms of weapon technology. Both used a spear for hunting, however, the spear developed by the Neanderthals were used as a weapon to go for the kill at a very short distance. The Neanderthals used the spear to kill the animal taking greater risk. Even if they threw the weapon, it just managed to go twenty meters. On the other hand, modern humans developed a spear that was lighter and used it to throw the weapon to a distance of forty-two meters, a clear advantage over the Neanderthals. Overall, the Neanderthals took a greater risk with a technology that was not as evolved as that of the modern man.

The burial ground of both the Neanderthals and the modern man was also dramatically different. The formers were dug into a pit with no attention or decoration given to the burial ground indicating that they did not have any importance given to the symbolism of life and death. On the other hand, the modern human burial ground found in Russia shows burials intricately decorated with weeds indicating great respect for death among modern humans.

Language: were you surprised to see that gossip might be central to how the human mind has formed? Why or why not? How do you think this might relate to the story about deaf children in Nicaragua?

One would expect to find gossip as the reason for which social communication has developed but when one thinks more intently it becomes clear that the need to speak, develop a language, to talk was not required if one just had to constraint oneself to the expression of diurnal needs. According to Robin Dunbar, two-thirds of all conversation is essentially gossip (Hemingway). Steven Pinker believes that gossip is essentially an opportunity to get hold of social standing, but it is also important for other activities. The story of the Nicaraguan deaf children demonstrates how a sign language can evolve on its own without the barrier of any pre-formed syntax to enhance communication. This essentially shows how language may have evolved in prehistoric times for the modern man.

Were you convinced by the information presented in this video that we understand all that happened during this long time?

The video very briefly presented the evolution of humans from chimpanzees through their social interactions and their communication skills. Chimps cannot distinguish between deceits, conceal the fact, and look at other’s points of view and ability that humans develop by the age of five. Scientists believe being socially competent is an important skill when the brain has to develop faster to gain greater social intelligence and, thus, the next generation has to be more socially complex.

Do you agree with suggesting that cultural evolution could suppress biological evolution?

Richard Dawkins of Oxford University believes that the evolution of the human race as we see it now is more of cultural evolution than genetic evolution (Hemingway). Sue Blackmore believes that it is more of memes i.e., the evolution of language, culture, technology, social bearing, that has evolved over the ages and not just the genes, which has evolved but not at an exponential rate (Hemingway). Memes are also copied, and they are copied by the brains and are passed one through generation. The documentary shows that social evolution could also subdue biological evolution. I believe evolution goes genes, and memes are moving simultaneously, but advanced technological and social skills have aggravated the process of evolution of the minds.

Works Cited

The Mind’s Big Bang. Dir. John Hemingway. Perf. Liam Neeson. 2002. Web.

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