Monday, June 21, 2010
A really excellent book: Not a Chimp: The Hunt to Find the Genes that Make Us Human by Jeremy Taylor, published by Oxford. This ought to end the diehards who still think that chimps have anything within light-years of human intelligence. But it does more than that. A chapter on the intelligence of birds [ yes - birds!] which in some ways surpass chimps casts serious doubt on the thesis that intelligence in in the genes. After all, crows [the species most studied] supposedly diverged from our line much earlier than chimps, so we share relatively few genes with them, and yet their intelligence is at least as good as that of chimps in certain ways. My only reservation - in the last chapter he takes seriously the "just-so" stories of the evolution of intelligence. By the way, I do not think I have ever seen before this a book on current science written by a science film maker - not a researcher - published by Oxford. But it is very good. Also - there is a considerable amount of new evidence that so-called junk DNA is really functional.