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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Toolmaking and Speech | Main | Speech, Community and Power »



I like this idea. Here is a metaphor: Early people had fire and they made it with a little bow. They also had darts or spears. They created a new weapon,the bow and arrow, that was very complicated compared to a spear. But they did not create it from scratch. They made the bow bigger and the spear smaller and then tweaked them a bit. All the stages of creating the bow and arrow were useful; the steps were each short etc. This is good evolution narrative with no big jumps and no useless bits being kept around too long.
I also like the idea of the tool making skill at the start of language because it is tracing back to a starting point in the 'hand' rather than the 'voice'. (That is just my bias showing.)


Hm, I'm not sure that spandrels will go away as easily as that. When you say at the end of your paper "Emerging from that process came something quite new: interest in neutral topics" - isn't there a whiff of the spandrel there? Discussion of spandrels should be complemented with a discussion of exaptation (also Gould's term) and surely there must be a role for exaptation when a detour through something "not crucial" (i.e. neutral topics) actually becomes a shortcut due to the exponential increase in coordinated action enabled by language - something which comes as an "unintended" consequence of these developments, but certainly feeds back on them and enables further evolution along that line. I don't think gradualism and spandrels are as irreconcilable as they seem to be at first sight.
BLOGGER: The crucial difference between spandrels and gradualism is selection. With spandrels it is the door that is selected, not the spandrel. With gradualism, you get what you select.

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