Volume 2, Number 1 Winter, 1989
Editor : Dr. Charles Laughlin, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1S 5B6, Phone (819) 459-1121, E-mail CHARLESL@CARLETON.BITNET.
EDITORIAL: WE'RE OFF AND RUNNING
Roughly 75 copies of the letter and NNN you each received were originally sent out. So far, 26 of you have responded positively to the idea of starting an informal neuroanthropology network, a couple wrote to say it wasn't their thing, and the rest have yet to respond. There certainly exists a real interest in the project, and so we will go ahead with the newsletter. A reminder will also be sent to those who have not responded in order to snag the more forgetful of our colleagues. After that we will just let nature take its course. The directory of members is also on its way to completion.
You will notice that the network now has an E-mail address (there are five of us now on E-mail), so if you wish to receive your copies of NNN via that medium, let me know. For present I will send a hard copy as well to everyone by "snail mail" (as Bill Calvin is rumored to call normal mail). I am new to electronic mail, but I am already favorably impressed with the medium. I have already reaped the benefits of the speedy response possible using this kind of communication. It is fast, intimate, responsive and easy to learn, yet it is happening in "black and white." It has to be experienced to be believed. I have asked Jerry Barkow from Dalhousie University to write a piece for this issue on the advantages of E-mail.
There are a few people who want to receive the NNN , but who for one reason or another feel they are not really full
members of the network. So we will have two types of members: full and adjunct members. The only difference is that in the directory, full members will have a paragraph and adjunct members will be listed by name and address only.
Our network has already been announced in both the Quarterly Newsletter of the Washington Evolutionary Systems Society (Bob Crosby, the Secretary of that network is a member of our network; see article below), and in the bulletin of the Anthropology and Sociology Network (a Canadian based E-mail network that may be contacted via Professor Bill Reimer at Concordia University (REIMER@CONU1.BITNET). It will soon be announced in an issue of the Journal of Ritual Studies courtesy of the editor, Ron Grimes, and in the spring issue of Lehigh University's CogSci News (see article below). I will be sending a copy of the NNN to the American Anthropological Association for an announcement in their bulletin. If you can think of any other way of getting the word out, let me know, or feel free to make the contact yourself.
It is clear now that a really useful contribution to our networking will be mini-articles and mini-reviews included in the NNN . A couple of examples are included in this issue. What I have in mind are short, page-length, pithy introductions into some topic or literature source. They present just enough information to set interested members off in the right direction, or inform them about material that might be useful in research or teaching. You are invited to submit pieces of that sort, along with other newsy bits, for the next issue. If you just want to drop a note about some interesting source you have tripped across, it will be included in the "Sources Received" section at the end of the issue. Remember, this newsletter will only be as useful as the extent of our individual participation!
PROFILE IN RESEARCH: DEAN FALK
Dean Falk received her Ph.D. in biological anthropology from the University of Michigan in 1976. Since then she has taught in a number of institutions (anthropology, gross anatomy, neuroanatomy) and is presently a Professor of Anthropology at the State University of New York in Albany (address: Dept. Anthro, SUNYA, Albany, NY 12222; phone: 518-442-4713, E-mail: DF356@ALBNY1VX.BITNET).
She is in the third year of a collaborative research project with Michael Vannier and Charles Hildebolt at Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (Washington U. School of Medicine) and James Cheverud at Northwestern University. The study is based on over 400 endocranial casts (endocasts) that were prepared from rhesus monkey skulls associated with known ages at death, sex, and maternal genealogies. Cortical sulci were identified on each endocast and digitized in three dimensions at Mallinckrodt and shape features (e.g. petalias) were also recorded for each specimen. Jim Cheverud analyzed the data with an eye toward quantifying significant heritabilities of sulcal lengths (and other features). Their results are presently under review, so it will be awhile before they are published.
In a nutshell, these are are findings to date: cortical sulci are as heritable as osteological features investigated in the same population of rhesus monkeys. Numerous sulcal lengths are significantly heritable, and so is cranial capacity and some shape features. It also turns out that some sutures (which they also scored) close sooner on the right than on the left side, but none close sooner on the left side than the right. Their work on this project continues and they hope to turn their attention to cortical sulci in people, using what they have learned about macaques as a guide. It is also gratifying that sulci reproduce well enough on endocasts to yield the above results; i.e., some have questioned whether or not endocasts really reproduce cortical features accurately. They know of no other explanation that would account for the lengths of sulci digitized off of endocasts running in families.
Falk also does research on the hominid fossil record. She is interested in brain evolution, cranial blood flow, hominid systematics, and the origins of language. Recent publications include: "Hominid paleoneurology," Ann. Rev. Anthropol . 16:13-30 (1987); "Brain lateralization in primates and its evolution in hominids," Yrbk. Phys. Anthropol . 30:107-125 (1987); "Directional asymmetry in the forelimb of Macaca mulatta" (with L. Pyne, C. Helmkamp, and C.J. DeRousseau), Am. J. Phys. Anthropol . 77:1-6 (1988); and P.V. Tobias & D. Falk, "Evidence for a dual pattern of cranial venous sinuses on the endocranial cast of Taung (Australopithecus africanus)," Am. J. Phys. Anthropol . 76:309-312 (1988).
Electronic mail is a positive feedback phenomenon, a snowball effect. Most people will want to use it when most people are already using it, so let's give that snowball a good kick to speed it along.
E-mail means a turn-around time of hours instead of days. It means no long-distance charges, or busy signals, or time-zone problems. It means not having to depend on secretaries. But it also means learning a bit about your local mainframe, how to upload and download from your PC (anything already in electronic form can be sent e-mail), and how to type.
You need some motivation. For me, it was editing a book with the co-editors on the other side of the continent and the contributors scattered over Europe and North America. For you, maybe it is bouncing ideas and meeting papers around. Sending manuscripts and criticisms back and forth without letters and envelopes and secretaries is the only way to do it.
Do you have a critical mass of people at your university who share your interests and provide intellectual support and criticism? If not, you may need an e-mail network. With a simple distribution list, you can send a letter or your latest draft to a dozen or more people at once, and receive quick replies. One gets the feeling of having a conversation, not of writing letters; and the sense of being part of a scholarly community becomes permanent, instead of limited to the first few days after your favorite annual meeting. (But watch out for flames --an instantly sent, emotional remark, and you may be in for a "flame war" of angry argument. And do check your e-mail regularly.)
Of course, you may have a magnificent intellectual community available locally, an unlimited budget for courier service and long-distance calls, vast travel funds, plus a personal secretary; and you may not know how to type. If so, forget about e-mail. But if you do not have access to these resources, and you can type a bit, e-mail is for you.
Jerome H. Barkow
EVOLUTIONARY SYSTEMS SOCIETY
For years there has been an informal discussion group in Washington, D.C., that calls itself the Washington Evolutionary Systems Society ( WESS ). They have just gone more formal and international, and have put out a quarterly newsletter. They sponsor meetings and speakers on a diverse range of topics including "The evolution of mind and consciousness," "Are species conscious?" "Can a cell be constructed solely from its gene?" They are sponsoring a series of lectures at the Smithsonian during 1989 (Jan 23 - Mar 27). WESS has established an electronic conference system that includes e-mail and bulletin boards.
Cost of becoming a Corresponding member and receiving the newsletter is US$10. An associate membership at US$20 allows you to attend meetings. Address inquiries and subscriptions to Robert Crosby, Secretary, WESS, 646 E. Capitol St. NE, Wash., DC 20003, USA.
PRIBRAM AND NEUROEPISTEMOLOGY
Karl Pribram , a neuropsychologist who has given us a number of studies of use to NA, including his classic Languages of the Brain (Prentice-Hall, 1971), has recently published an interesting article, "The Cognitive Revolution and Mind/Brain Issues" ( Amer. Psych. 41(5): 507-520, 1986). In this article Pribram takes up anew the mind/brain problem and proposes a solution to various dualistic views based upon a "neutral monism." The neutrality stems from focusing the issue on concepts such as information, energy and entropy that are epistemologically neutral to dualistic theories. A monism is possible that incorporates the pluralistic epistemologies as limited scopes of inquiry into a much broader view, and that does not require the rejection of any particular limited view, be that view "mentalistic" or "materialistic." He addresses some of his criticisms of the dualistic epistemological notions of K.R. Popper and J.C. Eccles in their book, The Self and Its Brain (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1977).
If you are interested in epistemological issues from a neuroscience point of view, you might also check out these recent sources: B. Kissen, Conscious and Unconscious Programs in the Brain (NY: Plenum, 1986); R. Fischer in B.B. Wolman and M. Ullman, Handbook of States of Consciousness (NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1986) and in J. of Social and Biological Structures 10: 343-351 (1987); J.Z. Young, Philosophy and the Brain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987); P.S. Churchland, Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Body (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986); H.R. Maturana and F.J. Varela, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding (Boston: Shambhala, 1987); H. Kuhlenbeck and J. Gerlach, The World of Philosophy ( The Human Brain and Its Universe , Vol. 3, New York: S. Karger, 1982).
Have you run across any other recent sources of interest in the field of neuroepistemology? I would like to hear about them.
Professor V. Csanyi at the Department of Behavior Genetics, ELTA University of Budapest, Hungary, has a new book coming out in 1989. It is entitled, Evolutionary Systems and Society: A General Theory (Durham: Duke University Press). The book describes the author's replicative theory of biological and cultural evolution. His perspective represents a theoretical synthesis between the life sciences and the social sciences. It is a work with broad scope, spanning material from system sciences, genetics, cell biology, ethology, evolutionary biology, cultural anthropology, psychology, and economics.
Csanyi shows that replication , the basic copying mechanism of biological evolution, is also the prime mover of cultural transmission. The replicative theory of evolution explains a number of problematical features of evolutionary systems, such as the direction of evolution, the mechanism of emergence of organizational levels and compartments, how complexity arises spontaneously, etc. Processes of mental development are also accounted for by this organizational principle. Ideas, thoughts and other mental components form an evolutionary system which proceeds, for internal reasons, toward increasingly higher levels of replicative organization.
The author argues that this theory may serve as a basis for a new paradigm in the social sciences. Society is regarded as a complex component-system, constituted by ideas, artifacts, human beings and other living beings that are exploited by humans. It is shown that this component-system has a replicative organization: the information represented in its components feeds back into the process of creation of these very components. It follows from the nature of the replicative information that the processes in society converge towards a unique, encompassing organization of the whole global biosocial system.
MEMORIES OF AMNESIA
Lawrence Shainberg sent me a copy of his latest effort, a novel entitled Memories of Amnesia (New York: Paris Review Editions, British American Publishing, 1988). As in his previous work, Brain Surgeon: An Intimate View of His World , Shainberg is interested in this novel with the interaction between mind and brain. Memories is a comic story of a neurosurgeon, Isaac Drogin, who, while operating one morning, finds his own brain behaving erratically. He forgets the name of his patient, feels an uncontrolable urge to laugh, and contradicts himself from moment to moment. Such is his enthusiasm, however, for the new light his behavior casts upon his own brain that he undertakes, with perverse delight, a relentless examination of the "adversarial relationship" which now exists between "my brain and what it calls 'myself.'" Soon Drogin -- and the reader -- are walking the line where neurology merges with mysticism, where the distinction between "sick" and "healthy" brains becomes even more unclear. This novel is unique in my experience, witty as hell, and a really great read.
LEHIGH UNIVERSITY'S COGNITIVE SCIENCE PROGRAM
In the Fall of 1988, Lehigh University began offering an interdisciplinary bachelor of arts degree in Cognitive Science. The Program draws on thirty-one faculty from eleven departments, with psychology, philosophy, and computer science being the best represented fields. Anthropology's contributions to the curriculum include an introductory course in human evolution and an upper-level course in mind, self, and culture.
For further information about Lehigh's Cognitive Science Program, contact its director: Edwin J. Kay, CSEE Dept., Lehigh Univ., Bethlehem, PA 18015 (email@example.com). Lehigh's Program also publishes a newsletter twice each year, which is distributed free of charge to about 500 scholars across the United States and Canada. Anyone interested in receiving copies of CogSci News or in submitting materials to it (e.g., book reviews, course syllabi, short essays, line drawings) should contact: John B. Gatewood, Editor, CogSci News , Price Hall #40, Lehigh Univ., Bethlehem PA 18015 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Fischer, Roland (1988) A Story of Meaning , Memorandum obtained from WESS (see above).
Singer, Wolf (1986) "The Brain as a Self-Organizing System." European Arch Psychiatric and Neurological Sci 236: 4-9.
Gackenbach, J. and S. LaBerge (1988) Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain: Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming . New York: Plenum; esp. chapter by LaBerge on the psychophysiology of lucid dreaming.