Topics: Evolution, Charles Darwin, Limbic system Pages: 5 (1687 words) Published: October 15, 2012
Gaston Havandjian
Proffesor Hubbell
English Comp I
Essay Two
Did you know that in this exact moment people are being born without wisdom teeth? Probably after reading this you are thinking about how great will it be for these lucky ones not experiencing the pain you had to go through when those wise bones were growing out or the anxiety you felt the day the surgeon removed them for good. You also might be asking yourself a question: Why this is happening? The answer can be found in Charles Darwin's most important legacy: The Theory of Evolution.

Scientific research shows that wisdom teeth are vestigial molars that originally evolved in ancestral humans when our jaws were bigger and our diets included hardier plant material. Today our jaws are smaller and our diets changed significantly, and the reason why they must be removed is because their presence disrupt all the other teeth. Humans in the future will not need for professionals to remove their wisdom teeth anymore because nowadays 35 percent of people are already born without them and many others are born with just one, two or even three. This is an evolutionary explanation which proves that when a human trait is no longer necessary it disappears. Some other explanations analyze the beginning and evolution of a trait with a similar perspective.

Lets take a look to V.S. Ramachandran's work for example. Ramachandran is a prominent neurologist and a professor of psychology. As an author he published the book “Phantoms of the brain” (1999) and more than 180 papers in scientific journals. In one of this papers, “The Woman Who Died Laughing”, he argues that laughter is a trait that evolved in humans; a trait which “Allows an individual to alert in a social group that a detected anomaly is trivial, nothing to worry about. The laughing person in effect announces her discovery that there has been a false alarm” (Ramachandran 774)

How is it possible that something as trivial as laughter might have its origins in a dangerous situation? The author will lead us to the answer. He starts his dissertation telling two stories about the appearance of an uncontrollable laughter in people going through stressful situations such as the feeling of a strong pain or the death of a loved one. In both stories the protagonists die a few days after the laughter was manifested and the postmortems revealed that the cause of death was that a hemorrhage had occurred in their brain. These cases give Ramachandran a reason to believe that a laughter circuit exists in the limbic system of the brain, “a set of structures including the hypothalamus, mammillary bodies and cingulate gyrus that are involved in emotions” (Ramachandran 770) But what the writer is trying to prove is not the existence of this circuit; he wants to discover the biological function of it. In other words, the question asked by “the Marco Polo of neuroscience” is: Why laughter exists?

A concept strongly associated with laughter is humor. Humor and what people find funny is influenced by cultural factors but the author is convinced that there is a deep structure that underlies all types of humor. In order to prove this point the author introduces two jokes just to show us the logical structure of a joke and then defines humor and laughter. “When a person strolls along a garden path of expectation and there is a sudden twist at the end that entails a complete reinterpretation of the same facts and the new interpretation has trivial rather than terrifying implications, laughter ensues” (Ramachandran 774). This is what the author calls “the false alarm theory” and he claims that setting off this false alarm mechanism distracts the anxiety felt when dealing with genuinely disturbing anomalies by laughing. Ramachandran concludes that “the limbic system produces an orienting response to a potential threat or alarm that is also involved in the aborted orienting reaction in response to a false alarm”...
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