The American Neo-Lamarckians of the nineteenth century, Hyatt and Cope, explored the evolutionary repercussions of prolonging and accelerating maturation rates of individuals over time as they manifested in changes in descendants.  Stephen J. Gould follows the attempts by theorists to understand these processes in his Ontogeny and Phylogeny.  New features would be acquired, added to an ontological endpoint to the adult of a species, and slowly move backward to earlier ontological stages through descendants.  At the same time, existing features evident early in ontogeny would prolong their way forward to appear later in ontogeny in descendants.  A feature could appear as an adult, move its way backward to an embryonic stage, and then move forward again, having metamorphosed along the way.  There is this inhalation/exhalation aspect of evolution not examined closely for almost 100 years.

In humans, social structure mediates this dynamic.  In a matrifocal social structure, cooperative males and commanding females are highly valued.  Males are maturational prolonged as cooperative neotenous features are selected.  Females are maturational accelerated as commanding attributes are chosen.  Features move up and down the ontogenetic ladder, manifesting earlier and later in descendants.

In a patrifocal trajectory, the reverse is in play.  Commanding non-neotenous males are valued and choose cooperative neotenous females as their mates.  Features still move up and down the ontogenetic pathway, manifesting earlier and later in descendants, except the currents are moving in opposite directions from their matrifocal counterparts.

Evolution is not seamless in one direction.  There are movements within a single population back and forth in the direction of the two social structures, depending on environmental influences, societal styles and band intermarriages.  The process can be exaggerated further with the appearance of culture.

Gesture evolved to speech, which evolved to writing to the printing press to the web.  On one hand, highly patrifocal, male, aggressive, hierarchical tendencies were riding in on horseback and subjugating societies, stratifying them, placing males in control.  On the other hand, the ground was being laid for eventual seamless communication that would break down barriers, horizontalize hierarchy and allow far more people to be engaged.  Just as social structure mediated human evolution before language and culture, after the emergence of symbol systems, social structure continued to drive evolution, except at extraordinary speeds.

Both patrifocal and matrifocal social structures are essential to the variety of features exhibited and the speed of evolution achieved over the course of pre-language biological evolution and societal evolution.  They are the right and left hand, the inhalation and exhalation of our unfolding.

Hyatt, Cope and their contemporaries did not see the societal applications of the processes they observed.  Over a hundred years later, relationships between social transformation and maturational adjustments that drive evolution mediated by social structure go totally unremarked.  This relationship is not complicated, just unfamiliar.  A large reason it is unfamiliar is that matrifocal social structure is considered relatively anomalous and noninfluential in our evolution.

The late nineteenth century had several theorists estimating that matrilineal societies may have had more than a little to do with how humans evolved.  With the ascendancy of Darwin’s theory of natural selection and Social Darwinism as a societal belief, the matrilinealists were rejected.  Now might be a good time to re-examine the power of the womb.


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