Man's brain, like nearly every other organ in the human body, has changed and evolved over time. Man's ability to take in new information and process it proved invaluable to Homo sapiens, according to Charles Darwin. The ability to survive environmental changes was directly due to its size and its ability to process information and then act on it. "During the reign of the Ardipithecus Group of human ancestors, brains were very similar in size and function to those of a chimpanzee. Since the human ancestors of that time (about 6 million to 2 million years ago) were more ape-like than human, the brains needed to still function like that of a primate." Even though these early ancestors of man walked upright for part of the time, they did still and live in trees which required different skills than that of today's humans. The smaller brain of the human of this time was smaller than it is currently but was adequate for survival. And survive you did! Toward the end of this time frame, early man began figuring out how to make, and use very primitive tools. The opening sequence of 2001 A Space Odyssey may come to mind. These simple tools allowed them to hunt bigger animals which increased their protein intake.
Two million to 800,000 years ago, species began to move across the globe. This required adaptation to different climates and environments. To better process and adapt to these changes, their brains became bigger, allowing them to do more complex tasks. Humans of this time period became more proficient at tool-making. They got command of fire to keep warm and cook their food. "An increase in brain size and function required a more diverse diet for these species and with these advances, it was possible."
800,00 to 200,000 years ago, there was a large climatic shift on Earth. This shift caused the human brain to develop rather quickly. Without adapting to the shifting temperature and environmental changes, species would become extinct. Eventually, only the Homo sapiens remained from the larger Homo group. "The size and complexity of the human brain allowed individuals to develop more than just primitive communication systems. This allowed them to work together to adapt and stay alive. Species whose brains were not large or complex enough went extinct." The human brain eventually became large enough to have compartments that oversaw different functions, rather than only taking care of instinctual survival. The new, larger brain could process more complex thoughts and feelings. It could differentiate and specialize in doing various tasks. "The differentiation of the parts of the brain allowed humans to create and understand languages to communicate more effectively with others."
With the world seeming in constant chaos, it can feel as if humans are not thinking clearly at all; almost as though the human brain was beginning to shrink. I have the greatest confidence, however, that humans will figure out everything that needs to be sorted and that the world will be better off because of it. And as for the human brain, I do wonder if it'll continue to grow and adapt to the current climate and environmental changes that the Earth is experiencing.
I invite you back here tomorrow for another lesson from my wise old teacher, The Dharma Frog. Until then, though, I wish you