Missing Piece

December 26, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Uncategorized

I often write of four facets tracing evolution’s pathways:  biology, society, ontogeny and personal experience.  Philosopher Ken Wilber offers a similar map with his Integral Theory and four quadrants.  Hundred-year-old theories of recapitulation offer rich details on multiple-scale evolution processes.  For example, Stephen J. Gould in his Ontogeny and Phylogeny describes Freud’s fourfold parallelism:  Western child, adult aboriginals, Western primitive ancestor and the contemporary adult neurotic.  Freud was a passionate supporter of recapitulation, evolution following several discipline pathways.

What was missing in these hundred-year-old parallelistic models was a dynamic.  These theories described what theorists observed with no specific estimation of the operational details.  Darwin offered a theory, pangenesis, which he thought could fill in gaps.  It was conjecture.  Excellent conjecture, as it turned out.  Darwin suggested that sexual organs produced something that was influencing changes in physiology based upon environmental influences.

The piece that Darwin, and the recapitulationists such as Freud, was missing was the profound role social structure plays upon biological and human evolution.  Perhaps if they had known that human maturation rates are set by the mother’s uterine testosterone levels before birth they would have been able to intuit the role of testosterone in evolution.  A mother with high levels of testosterone creates males with low testosterone and females with high testosterone.  A mother with low levels of testosterone creates males with high testosterone and females with low testosterone.  These two pairings are the prototypes of matrifocal and patrifocal social structure.  These two social structures selectively reinforce, through sexual selection, specific evolutionary trajectories.  Matrifocal societies exhibit female choice.  In matrifocal societies, commanding females mate with neotenous, cooperative males.  In patrifocal societies, neotenous or cooperative females are awarded to competitive, often combative, males based on how high a status the male or the male’s family has achieved.

In neoteny, infant features are prolonged in ontogeny to appear in the features of descendant adults.  In acceleration, ancestor adult features are condensed to later appear in the infant features of descendants.  Social structure manifests both dynamics at the same time, with males and females simultaneously and literally evolving in different directions.

Is it any wonder that communication between the sexes is so challenging?

And, trajectories change over time.  A band or society can oscillate between social structures impacted by surrounding societies, environmental impacts, intramale competition, access to resources, female infanticide and cultural innovations.

Societies can evidence the two social-structure polarities simultaneously with individuals attracted to their complementary opposites while all mixed up.  Imagine all four examples engaged in a massive square dance.  At the end of the dance, the cooperative women match up with the commanding men while the commanding women pair with cooperative men.

In these types of societies, the U. S., for example, one would expect to see large-scale cultural innovation.  Not incidentally, ancient Greece was a rare, successful hybrid between the indigenous matrifocal societies (represented by the many goddess cults) and the Indo-European new arrivals.

In the West, we’ve been deeply influenced by the 6,500-year-old Indo-European incursions into indigenous matrifocal cultures.  It has been difficult for us to notice that other half of evolution’s social-structure dynamic, societies founded on female choice.  Darwin’s and Freud’s prejudices reflected a 6,500-year-old tradition, biases that obfuscated the actual operational processes behind biological, social, ontogenetic and personal transformation.

Though it seems to me that the implications of the thesis set forth in this blog have ramifications in several disciplines, consider that of the several hundred books and papers I’ve read that have contributed to the synthesis, almost nothing has been written about estrogen in these contexts.  If Darwin and Freud did not know anything about testosterone, consider that we still know almost nothing about estrogen.  I suspect that estrogen, as the other half of the hormonal dyad, offers a lot as we learn about how biology and societies evolve.


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