“Humans and chimps are almost identical in structural gens, yet differ markedly in form and behavior. This paradox can be resolved by invoking a small genetic difference with profound effects—alterations in the regulatory system that slow down the general rate of development in humans. Heterochronic changes are regulatory changes; they require only an alteration in the timing of features already present.” (Gould, S.J. (1977) Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge: Belknap Press. p. 9)

Monkeying with our regulatory system evidently helped make us what we are. By engaging in neoteny, or the prolonging of infant states into the adults of descendants, we have evolved ourselves large brains, small jaws, a proclivity to wonder, a compulsion to play and an inclination to be dependent. Altering regulatory systems can have profound positive effects if creativity is your goal.

With the economy quivering on a brink, there has been no small amount of talk about the effects of the last generation’s adjustments in the regulatory system of the American economy. Much discussed is how much freedom large corporations are allowed and if transparency and accountability are necessary if large corporations prefer they not have to be so constrained. Social Darwinism has a new name. Free markets have allowed those with the most power and the greatest wealth the opportunity to write the laws and manage the agencies that were designed to monitor and regulate how America conducts its business.

Regulatory legislation over the last thirty years provided the older, established, more powerful corporations within American industry the advantages that they requested to make them more “competitive.” With fewer constraints, less government oversight, fewer inhibitions to growth, less accountability to labor, consumers or the environment, corporations found it easier to make money. Free markets meant an opportunity to be less impacted by those factors in their environment that informed their growth and their existence. Evolutionarily, corporations lobbied for and received a less free market, one with far fewer interconnections with contiguous areas in their environment. As in Social Darwinism, business wanted and received special treatment, legislation targeted to inhibit the effects of competing influences, such as labor, environment, safety, consumer rights and taxes, so that there would be an infrastructure that the corporations could freely use.

Opaque to the interconnected, interdependent nature of evolution, “free markets” behave as if entitled to freely destroy the ties that bind them to a healthy society if it results in their short-term gain.

Inevitably, disconnected from their environment, they wither.

Regulation is not only central to our biological evolution; regulation deeply informs how our society evolves. Deregulation is another name for regulating from the top down. It’s time to regulate from the bottom up. Adjusting regulation to unfold features existing at the bottom to appear at the top is what is called neoteny. This way is how human beings evolved. This way is how society evolves.

Regulate to encourage growth at the level of the individual, the family and small business. Offer resources to the lowest level of authority, and creative surges will result. Free college education, free health care and free child care are deregulating in a direction that puts power in the hands of the formerly powerless, powerless because government regulation preferred to provide corporations no constraints and allow them to be separated from their environment.

Social Darwinism and free markets are not natural. They are philosophies that support disconnecting business from their environment to achieve short-term business gain.

Free services such as health care, education and child care all combine to encourage interconnection and interdependence by providing healthful forms of interaction. By encouraging the lowest level of societal authority, we invest in the area where we are most creative, our children, at the level where we can have real impact, the individual.

We evolved from a chimpanzee-like progenitor by encouraging the features of the youngest to manifest in adults by picking mating partners that were young at heart. We evolve as a society by manifesting the characteristics of the individual in our institutions, by encouraging businesses that respect individuals. Re-regulating business to care for the individual is our evolutionary imperative. We do so by regulating business to have a heart.


This entry was posted on Monday, August 18th, 2008 at 5:46 am and is filed under 10-Most Commented, Neoteny, Political, Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
3 Comments so far

  1. Tim Grable on August 24, 2008 9:07 pm

    Your insatiable desire to reveal convergencies connecting politics, biology and spirituality is an incredibly informative read! I especially like your “Regulation” article and completely agree with you. I discovered this site while I was researching psychological neoteny, which I learned more about after reading some of your work. I speculate that the consumerist culture in America, given it supports neoteny, is also the catalyst for ever-accelerating evolution in homo sapien. The psychological form of neoteny encourages societal revolution. So given all that I stated above is correct, which it may not be for I am a novice, I pose this question: is the Beatnik Movement of the 60s or the current Service Economy atmosphere more indicative of psychological and biological neoteny? I would love feedback!

    Sincerely, T. Grable
    N. Canton, OH, 44720

  2. Andrew on August 24, 2008 9:44 pm

    Hi Tim,

    Oddly, this morning I was ruminating on your exact point (though not posted yet). I’ve been playing with the hypothesis that the consumer economy reflects a neoteny based societal runaway sexual selection as a matrifocal focus reestablishes itself after a several thousand year absence. The runaway seeming about to end.

    Yes, neoteny is encouraging social revolution. The most profound metaphor for what is happening is that the appearance of the Pill in the 60’s is still knocking the underpinnings out from patrifocal conventions.

    At this point I’m having a hard time differentiating between psychological and biological neoteny, or what I would call individual (biological) and societal. If one views the transformation we’re in the middle of now as both biological and societal, which I believe to be the case, then we’re exploring a model that transcends the division between the two.

  3. Brian Gates on December 1, 2008 11:43 pm

    This is quite possibly the stupidest fucking shit I’ve ever read. Die in a meth lab fire.

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