Teleological interpretations of societal transformation conflict with the reductionist zeitgeist that demands that consciousness not be considered as a variable when exploring biological or social evolution because consciousness cannot be measured. To suggest that history, as it bridges from the past into the future, follows a deliberate path is not a useful conjecture if we seek an understanding of structure and process rather than bowing to the intentions of an outside force.

If teleology has structure, is it still teleology?

Many nineteenth century theorists focused on a specific process as they sought to understand the dynamics of biological evolution and its connection to individual ontogeny. Ernst Haeckel was a champion of heterochronic theory or the study of changing rates and timing of maturation and/or development when species and individuals transform. Neoteny is one manifestation of one of these processes. In neoteny, the features of the young, even the embryonic, manifest later and later in the maturation of ancestors. For example, our chimp-like precursors retained features such as relatively big eyes, small chins, upright stature, curiosity and playfulness that evidenced later and later in the stages of descendants until today we human adults exhibit many of the characteristics of grown-up, chimp-like ancestors.

Neoteny is not teleology. A process that prolongs or extends the features of an infant into the characteristics of an adult does not imply the deliberate or intentional manifestation of specific qualities in a future time. Biologically, neoteny can be understood to be the result of specific selective processes (natural selection, sexual selection, Lamarckian selection) upon maturation rates, mediated by changes in a mother’s testosterone levels.

Even though neoteny is not teleology, it does a very good job of simulating a teleological interpretation of societal change when one observes the effects of neoteny on societal transformation. As we observe society over time, it looks like there is an inherent purpose or final cause, a specific direction that we are headed. What we are observing is the heterochronic process called neoteny, thought to be only a biological dynamic. Neoteny drives the evolution of society.

The ongoing manifestations of early ancestor stages of society in later descendant states look a lot like a teleological or spiritual interpretation of history. Just as in biology a trajectory can be estimated of how a species will transform with time, societal transformations can be predicted based upon the features of early stages of the individual and early stages of society.

Understanding neoteny, we can predict the future.

Intuiting the future is about exploring our beginnings. Studying the embryo, the infant and the child while exploring aboriginal tribal customs, structures, processes and priorities offers insight into what we are becoming.

Society is biology. They are not just connected. They are the same.


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