Human evolution Intelligent Design

New book from Harvard U Press: Childhood, not evolution makes us human

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Cover: Becoming Human in HARDCOVER

Michael Tomasello was director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology:

Virtually all theories of how humans have become such a distinctive species focus on evolution. Here, Michael Tomasello proposes a complementary theory of human uniqueness, focused on development. Building on the seminal ideas of Vygotsky, his data-driven model explains how those things that make us most human are constructed during the first years of a child’s life. Tomasello assembles nearly three decades of experimental work with chimpanzees, bonobos, and human children to propose a new framework for psychological growth between birth and seven years of age. He identifies eight pathways that starkly differentiate humans from their closest primate relatives: social cognition, communication, cultural learning, cooperative thinking, collaboration, prosociality, social norms, and moral identity. In each of these, great apes possess rudimentary abilities. But then, Tomasello argues, the maturation of humans’ evolved capacities for shared intentionality transform these abilities—through the new forms of sociocultural interaction they enable—into uniquely human cognition and sociality. The first step occurs around nine months, with the emergence of joint intentionality, exercised mostly with caregiving adults. The second step occurs around three years, with the emergence of collective intentionality involving both authoritative adults, who convey cultural knowledge, and coequal peers, who elicit collaboration and communication. Finally, by age six or seven, children become responsible for self-regulating their beliefs and actions so that they comport with cultural norms.

Becoming Human places human sociocultural activity within the framework of modern evolutionary theory, and shows how biology creates the conditions under which culture does its work.” — from the publisher

Two things: If the significant changes happen to humans between birth and seven years of age, it is not a theory of evolution at all, but of intellectual and cultural development.

Also, Tomasello seems not be following the party line that apes are just like us but we refuse to recognize the fact. That’s borderline heresy.

Maybe he doesn’t really mean it.

See also: Researchers: Apes are just like us! And we’re not doing the right things to make them start behaving that way… Back in 2011, we were told in Smithsonian Magazine, “‘Talking’ apes are not just the stuff of science fiction; scientists have taught many apes to use some semblance of language.” Have they? If so, why has it all subsided? What happened?

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4 Replies to “New book from Harvard U Press: Childhood, not evolution makes us human

  1. 1
    Brother Brian says:

    Two things: If the significant changes happen to humans between birth and seven years of age, it is not a theory of evolution at all, but of intellectual and cultural development.

    But the capability for intellectual and cultural development were driven by evolution. But this also lends more support for the idea that or morality is governed through subjective societal consensus than through some poorly defined objective morality.

    Also, Tomasello seems not be following the party line that apes are just like us but we refuse to recognize the fact. That’s borderline heresy.

    No, his research compared all of the great apes.

  2. 2
    ET says:

    Brother Brian:

    But the capability for intellectual and cultural development were driven by evolution.

    Question begging.

  3. 3
    Fasteddious says:

    Yes, childhood is when humans develop their various mental potentialities, but apes simply do not have the same potentialities, so need less time in childhood to develop what they can. The book is “Becoming Human”, i.e. how humans become fully developed people, via the process of childhood. I doubt the author thinks apes could become human if they were given a similar childhood.

  4. 4
    ET says:

    Fasteddious:

    I doubt the author thinks apes could become human if they were given a similar childhood.

    Just the less humane of us, perhaps. They could have turned out human had they had a different upbringing.

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