Thursday, February 17, 2005

Math skills evolved independent of language

"NOAM CHOMSKY'S theory that the evolution of language provided the portal to all higher thought has taken another knock. A study of people with language difficulties suggests that mathematical skill evolved independently.

"A team led by Rosemary Varley at the University of Sheffield, UK, studied three people with extensive damage to the brain's left hemisphere, including language areas. Two could not speak at all, and the third only in fragmentary sentences. All were competent calculators, though, able to solve simple subtraction, division and multiplication problems..."

I, for one, am not remotely surprised. I'm a typical "cultural creative" right-brainer with atrocious math skills. I hate linear thought. Things like calendars and spread-sheets give me the chills. On the other hand, I'm almost constantly drawing, writing and trafficking weird ideas.

Not long ago "Wired" predicted that the 21st century media landscape was the rightful turf of right-brained intuitives. I'm not convinced. But the idea is definitely appealing; I'd like nothing more than to leave the all-or-nothing empiricism of the left hemisphere behind, like making the transition from fossil fuel to solar.

Of course, in reality, we need both halves of the brain in more or less equal measure. But I'm selfish.