When I was a kid, my sisters and I would place a marble in the middle of the dining room linoleum floor and watch it begin rolling toward the hallway. Quickly, it would pick up speed, pass through the dining room door and then start lolling back and forth (north and south), and it careened more or less westward across the house. The history of the nearly 100-year old structure, since torn down, was represented in the pathway of the marble.

Tracing the path of societal ideas is compromised by an interpretation protocol that traces only the productions, not the origins, of the mind. We don’t think of biology or genetics as informing a discussion of the evolution of ideas. Exploring the connection between physical and mental when seeking an understanding of culture is not an intuitive choice. It has a lot to do with our not consciously knowing how we evolve biologically and societally. We are left watching the marble, guessing at what might have influenced its path.

No single variable influences our evolution more powerfully than changes in the rate and timing of maturation. Neoteny, or the prolongation of infant features into the adult of descendants by the slowing down of maturation, is the single most influential factor in our divergence from chimpanzee-like progenitors. Variations in a mother’s testosterone levels while her child is in the womb adjust maturation rates, modifying the personality, physical features, strengths and interests of her child. For example, high testosterone levels in combination with other factors can lead to autism. An extremely powerful determinant of testosterone levels is the degree and duration of exposure to light.

Daily testosterone levels are influenced by diurnal light variations. In Africa and the Middle East, equatorial light patterns throughout the year are relatively constant and do not impact daily testosterone levels to variations of more than 30%. Those variations stay within a constant yearly range.

Africans made slaves and carried to America were forced to labor in the American South, a South subject to very different light cycles than their society of origin. With early 20th century migration to Northern cities, additional latitudinal differences came into play. Light varied seasonally and testosterone levels fluctuated wildly relative to the latitude of origin.

The Jewish Diaspora drew Semitic peoples away from regions near the middle of the earth to Europe, where light varies more radically, seasonally, the farther North one goes.

The pineal gland interprets summer as daytime and winter as nighttime, based upon a multimillion-year equatorial calibration in Africa. Africans in America, as well as Semitics in Europe and now in America, find themselves exposed to radically different light levels from their societies of origin. The result is fundamental change in maturation rates in both the directions of neoteny and acceleration because mothers’ testosterone levels are moving either up or down, depending on the season. Also influenced by the season would be when the mother’s parents were born, because they would be subject to the same light impact. Over generations, if relations are born in the same season, you can get multigenerational exaggerations of the pineal-influencing testosterone effects.

In African and Jewish cultures, you get far wider variations of personality, physical features, strengths and interests than you would get in a culture not impacted in this way. I hypothesize you’d also get more cases of conditions characterized by maturational delay (autism, Asperger’s, stuttering, OCD) and maturational acceleration (aggression disorders). Jews have had a huge influence on American culture in the arts and sciences. Blacks have had a huge influence on American culture in the arts and athletics. I would suggest this influence is directly related to both cultures having origins in or near Africa, near the equator, and having moved or been forced to move away. I predict that comparisons of African Americans and equatorial Africans living in their society of origin, and American Jews compared with multigenerational Israeli Jews, will exhibit notable differences in exhibition of conditions characterized by maturational delay.

Recently it was discovered that Somalis relocating to Minnesota are having children with autism a far higher percentage of the time than is normal. The change in light is an explanation. This being the case, the birthdays of these children exhibiting autism should be congregating in certain times of the year. (For other variables that cause autism, click here, here and here.)

Tracing a moving marble through the hallways of our minds is not as easy as noting the effect of a single variable. Still, the history of culture involves a lot more than the tracing of ideas. It also requires following the bouncing ball as it travels from continent to continent, guiding us to note the influence of light. How we evolve socially and biologically is integrally tied to the ideas we have, our creative proclivities and our inhibiting conditions. Noting light’s influence on this process, we might say that no small amount of who and what we are comes from above.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 6:39 am and is filed under 10-Autism, 10-Most Commented, 10-Most Visited, Autism, Environmental Effects, Neoteny, Ontogeny, Somali Autism, Somali Autism & Ethnicity, Testosterone & Estrogen. 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.
7 Comments so far

  1. Stan on November 22, 2008 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the link to your work in your posting to the Somali article on Age of Autism, Andrew. I’m finding your thinking on this subject very interesting. I have some questions and thoughts on the subject, but for now, I would just like to get clarified in my mind as to your explanation for the link of light to the Somalis in Minnesota. I assumed you were saying that increased light would increase the pineal gland effect would elevate testosterone levels would result in (more) autism. But there is less light in the northern clime than in Somalia. So – ??

    Also, would you care to comment on the possible effect of prenatal ultrasounds on women, in this regard (a more and more common cultural phenomenon). Their heating effect has not been given sufficient attention; in any event, could that heating effect have something of the same effect as light, in the increasing of testosterone levels, and subsequent increased autism?

  2. Andrew on November 25, 2008 7:55 am

    Hi Stan,

    There is less light in the North in winter, more light in the summer. Whereas in equatorial regions the rhythm is consistent, in the North it is wildly wobbly.

    Light is not the only variable to strongly influence the testosterone (and estrogen) levels in migrating populations. Diet is very powerful, tobacco, alcohol, stress, exercise….

    I’ve not researched ultrasound effects and have no information to respond with.

  3. Peter Andrews on January 26, 2009 8:54 pm

    This website section on autism and vitamin D was very intriguing: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/health/autism/

  4. Estrogen Play : Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism - how they all connect on March 17, 2009 10:21 am

    […] an earlier piece (Minnesota Somali Autism: Geography and Light), I hypothesized that because diurnal light cycles affect the pineal gland (see Geschwind and […]

  5. Ruminations : Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism - how they all connect on March 17, 2009 10:24 am

    […] to the possible origins of autism. Consider the emergence of autism among Somali Minnesotans. (Click here to note the autism-inducing implications of equatorial populations migrating to extreme Northern […]

  6. Tentative Conclusion to the Estrogen Discussion : Neoteny, sexual selection, cause of autism, human evolution, social transformation, left organizing and internet activism - how they all connect on April 3, 2009 2:53 pm

    […] same light-influencing, pineal gland-impacting testosterone levels in the uterine environment. (See Minnesota Somali Autism: Geography and Light for an explanation of how radical changes in light compel the extremes of both male and female […]

  7. cindy on April 29, 2009 1:06 pm

    wondering what the effects of the longer days in the north might bring? if less light might mean autism, then more = what? ADD?

Name (required)

Email (required)


Share your wisdom