MadSci Network: Evolution

Re: Why didn't intelligent life start in the ocean first instead of land?

Date: Mon Dec 14 05:12:18 1998
Posted By: Steve Marvell, Independant Researcher
Area of science: Evolution
ID: 910906785.Ev

Well, how's that for an open question.

On the one hand, the answer depends on your definition of "intelligent". If 
this definition is purely based on "human intelligence", then that's one 
thing, but intelligence can be manifested in many forms.

Dolphins, for instance, use language, have a social structure and exhibit 
many qualities that could be deemed intelligent. However, they don't have 
technology and houses.

Anyways, here's my answer.

There have been a couple of milestones in the evolution of what we call 
intelligence. These are the use of tools and the discovery of fire. 
Clearly, the land animals which had "hands" had a serious advantage when it 
came to tools. Dolphins may use tools in their own way, but without hands, 
complex tools cannot be used. Fire is clearly out of the question in a wet 

It has been said that intelligence came about when the apelike creatures 
which predated man left the jungles and moved to the plains. At this point 
they met big beasties like lions and something had to change for their 

Already quite dextrous, an increase at this level would have been very 
"difficult" in evolutionary terms, so there were two clear paths for those 
who would gain an advantage; power and cunning. It happened that cunning 
prevailed and then it was a fast track towards washing machines and mobile 

In the sea, it would appear, there is no huge divide in environments. 
At least there is not a divide like from jungle to plains. Nor, it would 
seem, is there a huge overcrowding problem, which is what forced the apes 

The sea presents a very large, bland environment which contains no 
historical reasons for a huge need for an increase in intelligence. Having 
said that, it does contain a huge diversity of life, which is indicative of   
co-evolution as opposed to evolution which has strong environmental 

It is not always the case that intelligence is the best way to be selected 
in evolutionary terms. Insects represent a very successful group of 
creatures which survive very well with only rudimentary intelligence.

If you wish to discuss this further, I'm happy to talk over email.

The next question, for me at least, is all about conciousness and self 
awareness. Now there's a wonder.

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