Hypothesis 14

Mother and newborn 2

Funerery Rock, Machu Picchu, Peru
Funerery Rock, Machu Picchu, Peru

The newborn baby cannot develop its own activities; it orients itself towards the mother and tries to anticipate her actions and to share her intentions. This is the origin of the shared intentionality observed only in humans.

Intentional communication and cooperation have their phylogenetic origin in the communication and cooperation of mothers and newborns during the newborns’ helplessness in the first year of life.


The starting point of my considerations here is the study by Michael Tomasello on The Origins of Human Communication (German: Die Ursprünge der menschlichen Kommunikation Frankfurt/M. 2009). His comments on pointing gestures as the beginning of communication are convincing.

As far as the evolutionary beginnings of typically human communication and cooperation are concerned, however, I have come to different conclusions on the basis of theoretical considerations. Tomasello describes the phylogenetic origins in Chapter 5.

For him, the central context of the beginning of human cooperative communication is the mutualistic (mutually beneficial) joint activity of adults (p.183). He thinks of the process in such a way that in a first step, in the groups of selfish monkeys, more tolerant and generous individuals come together and 1. they cooperate; and 2. they find common goals and communicate them (pp. 208s).

However, Tomasello’s scenario is too strongly influenced by somehow finding a path from selfish monkeys to cooperative humans. Without humans as the known target of evolution, his scenario is not plausible.

The hypothesis lacks two facts that would be decisive for their viability:

1. There is no proposal for the situation in which the first step was taken.

2. There is no proposal for the individual who took the first step.

The idea of postulating a gradual transition from one fact to another reminds me too much of purposeful evolution, which is excluded according to Darwinian Theory (Hypothesis 2).

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