Animals Dancing

April 23, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology

Those of you following the threads of the evolutionary theory being pitched in these digital pages may have noticed that the various balances propounded (balanced polymorphisms, hormonal balances, the heterochronic mirror processes of neoteny and acceleration, matrifocal/patrifocal balance) have all been discussed in the context of human evolution and social transformation.  I hypothesize that by singing and dancing we propelled ourselves into abstract thinking.  The journey was/is mediated by these four balances.  Regarding these various dynamics, I don’t discuss animals.

There are two reasons for this.  First, I’m pretty much totally ignorant of nonhuman biology.  My understanding of human biology is extremely narrow.  Still, I feel drawn to understand humans.  Animals, not so much.  Not that I don’t personally relate to animals.  My dog was easily the most significant being in my life until I was sixteen.  Perhaps that is why I don’t study animals.  I worship them.

Second, the various human balances that I presuppose exist and then explore operate in a social realm.  How I understand human evolution to unfold is a social process.  It is not about natural selection or sexual selection where a single feature is obsessively selected.  Human evolution is about the interplay of several balance-oriented dynamics revolving around society as a whole and the individual at the same time.  I don’t observe animals generating their own social ecologies.  Who they are cannot be differentiated from how they’re integrated with their surroundings.  Humans are both part of the world and separate from the world.  That separateness has a lot to do with the several balances just noted, balanced polymorphisms, hormonal balances, the heterochronic mirror processes of neoteny and acceleration and matrifocal/patrifocal balances.  Those processes encouraged us to split and explore the abstract.

Those four balances are all connecting the same dynamic.  At this point we don’t have the language to describe a single thing with so many manifestations.  We will with time.  Yet, from what I can tell, this is a peculiarly human dance.

Certain steps in the dance and particular passages of the balance music are inherent in the processes of our animal brethren.  This is what the evolutionary developmental biologists study, particularly the acolytes of Matsuda.  The patterns are far more static, and animals show less an ability to transform than humans.  For example, the hyena female is genitally organized to exhibit male-like features and behavior.  No surprise that female hyenas have high testosterone levels.  If we selected for neotenous features in the female, how many generations would it take for biology to reflect the selective impacts?  Elephants seem potentially evolutionarily flexible.  If the elephant is a neotenous mammoth, can the species be encouraged to accelerate back in that direction?  Though in nature these transformations are common over time, particularly during punctuated equilibriums, there is no evidence that I am aware of where species were morphing with anything like the speed featured by human beings. Wolves and foxes come close.

We are unique.  What makes us unique is how we evolve and transform.  David Brin’s brilliant fiction on how sentient species might encourage not quite sentient species to become fully conscious is a fascinating exploration of consciousness in transition.  Once we figure out how to achieve peaceful equilibrium, we might consider teaching another species to sing and dance.


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