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View Diary: Creation myth update #3: Maybe we are not in Mr Rogers' neighborhood anymore Toto. (85 comments)

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  •  Doing anything for the hell of it (0+ / 0-)

    is immensely important from the standpoint of consciousness.

    My personal theory, not based on much of anything, is that the critical “moment” in human evolution came as the result of a shift in balance between the brain region associated with olfaction and episodic memory. These regions are very close and are interconnected. Furthermore, although it isn't obvious and I've never read anywhere about it, olfaction and immediate memory often fulfill the same purpose, basically, awareness of the immediate situation. With vision, your prey/enemy disappears when they go behind a tree; with hearing, they disappear when they are quiet. Almost all species stop being aware of hidden or silent prey or enemy, but not human beings: we are conscious and can create a memory network to represent our environment that includes things we sensed but no longer sense. This phenomenon is based in the hippocampus and in the olfactory regions surrounding it. It is easy to imagine how this property could have existed to a slight degree in non-human primates, but since olfaction is so important, it dominated. What if modern man's olfactory system lost out, perhaps due to a mutation of some sort, and the episodic memory system overdeveloped to compensate? This would create an organism that had a human consciousness and a human memory system. Perhaps there is some sort of advantage to those things; at any rate, that group appears to have had survival value.

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