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Long delay in posting! Or perhaps an enigmatic silence.

So, relative to other single-birth mammals, human are born premature (they can’t walk, for instance), and their heads are off-the-chart big at birth, and they possess general intelligence. The traditional explanation is that there’s a one-way causal relationship: we’ve evolved general intelligence, which requires big brains, which are difficult to squeeze through the birth canal when human infants are old enough to walk, hence we’re born relatively earlier.

But what if there’s actually a partial loop in the causality? What if being born relatively premature as a species also has the effect of giving our brain more opportunities to learn how to observe and engage with the outside world while it’s still relatively plastic, and orienting it more that way, as opposed to hardwiring everything inside the womb? I.e. what if as well as the simple physical logistics, there are important neurological reasons to get the brain out and about ASAP?

I thought this was just another random wacky idea, but then my partner told me that Vietnamese (and other Asian) cultures have this folklore that babies born before the due date grow up smarter (though very premature babies are obviously too sick and lose the advantage – this is only for slightly early bubs), and babies born late are more likely to be a bit slow.


Actually, I have no idea how you’d test something like this and what good it would do to know anyway. And it doesn’t explain litter animals, marsupials, etc, though some of them are born VERY prem. But it would be interesting to know whether there were observable neurological differences based on length of gestation. I think I’ll do some browsing.

—-random brainblip ends—-


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