Mark Changizi postulates a theory in which language and music are responsible for our evolution.
How Language and Music Imitate Nature to Help us Evolve /
Language and music are, up till now, our two most fundamental forms of communication, and though we are extraordinarily good at using them, their limits are still a mysterious intellectual whole. Language, according the evolutionary neuroscientist Mark Changizi, has evolved to perfectly fit the design of our brains (and not the other way around, as is commonly thought). Changizi shows us profound evidence for how these two domains (language and music) separated us from our ancestors—primates.
Our brain’s tight fit to writing and speech is not because we evolved by natural selection to read or comprehend speech, but, rather, because the structure of writing and speech culturally evolved to fit our brain…by looking and sounding like nature, just what our brains can brilliantly process. I call this nature-harnessing — that’s the secret sauce.
That is how the researcher explains it in his book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man.
Changizi examines how it seems that we are designed to read, when in reality don't have any “instinct” for reading.
The answer is that, rather than our brains being designed for reading, reading is designed for our brains. Writing is a technology that has been optimized over time by the forces of cultural selection to be good for our visual system. We have no reading instinct. Instead, writing has a brain instinct (i.e., is designed for the brain), something neuroscientist Stanislav Dehaene calls ‘neuronal recycling.’
In almost all of our interactions with the world, it seems that we're imitating the sounds of things ongoing around us by producing timbres and vibrations. Every time we speak, we find the three same auditory consonants: fricatives, stops and sonorants. Something similar happens with music: compositions are based on natural sounds and patterns of sound that date back to the beginning of time.
Harnessed... shows that both speech and music culturally evolved to simulate nature, making our brains believe that the two are actually intuitive domains.
It's interesting to pose the question: If language helps us evolve by taking from nature, what is happening with language in the age of the Internet or in the digital age? Is it helping us evolve to simulate nature, or on the contrary (as the digital sphere is not the same as the natural sphere) is it reducing us to a counter-intuitive and anti-natural cerebral mechanism.Tagged: mind, neuroscience, music, language, human brain, language and music, evolution