Editor's Note

Editor's Note

September/October 2008

Inspired by this issue's cover story on the evolution of the human brain, our mild-mannered creative consultant, Dick Anderson, a 30-year veteran of the Networker, added an unexpected jolt of primal excitement to one of our recent staff meetings. He launched into a story about the time he was walking down a deserted street and a vicious dog darted out in front of him and started snarling menacingly. Suddenly, he heard a huge roar come out of his own mouth, a noise so loud, sudden, unexpected, and terrifying that it scared both him and the dog, which skulked silently away. Afterward, his jaw aching and throat sore, he wondered, "Where did that come from?"

Where indeed? That experience of visceral fear and the instinctive readiness to fight for his life was coming from the deepest, darkest, oldest parts of Dick's brain. Even after many millions of years of evolution, our modern neocortex—the thinking, reasoning, "civilized" part of our brains—awkwardly coexists with much more primitive parts that still have the power to vanquish our most determined efforts at high-mindedness. And it's a good thing! It wasn't the ability to think wonderful thoughts and make chitchat at dinner parties that allowed our predecessors to evolve from worms to fishes to reptiles to mammals to various forms of ape and apelike hominids and, finally, to our glorious, present selves. Rather, it was that vast, unconscious network of blind instincts for finding food,…

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