The Evolving Now

September 9, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society

It may be possible that we are approaching a way of looking at social and biological evolution that provides us a synthesis perspective or integrated discipline.  Its name might be something like “Evolutionary Endocrinology.”  This new perspective might be characterized by an exploration of evolution in the present, not just over time.  This would integrate evolutionary developmental biology with social structure theory.  It might even provide a place for evolutionary psychologists by framing their contributions as the human dynamic evidenced by patrifocal social structure.  With the new paradigm we’d be encouraged to integrate the biological now with the arc of evolution over time.

Thomas Kuhn described and framed the evolution of science in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  He started off by presupposing that there was structure to the way that science transformed over time.  To presuppose that something is possible it is necessary to recognize that the something exists.  I presuppose that everything is connected and awareness or consciousness is a feature of the system.  A benefit of this presupposition is that I look for connections in places where a reductionist model suggests they are unnecessary.

The questions are:  What useful outcomes does a presupposition offer and can mutually exclusive presuppositional models coexist?  Are your assumptions useful?  Can users of these presuppositions tolerate noncomplementary models?

In physics you have noncomplementary models rubbing up against each other all the time, seeking resolution through mathematics.  On occasion, two seemingly incompatible models are forced to coexist as model proponents recognize usefulness in both perspectives.  Pluralist perspectives are not uncommon in the hard sciences.  Competing paradigms find ways to coexist.  One of the reasons that this occurs is that many practitioners of the physical sciences seek a unified theory.  There is often a presupposition of all things being connected.

In the biological sciences, particularly evolutionary theory, there is usually no such overriding perspective.  There is often no innate pluralism.  It is not often expressed that everything biological is connected with underlying principles suggesting a subtle yet complex, interrelated, nested hierarchy of process.

Biological evolution’s followers have trouble integrating the several established models.  In physics, different models seem to explain different phenomena.  In evolutionary biology the usefulness of the conclusions are often in dispute.  Whereas in physics there may be battles of ego, in evolutionary biology it feels more like hubris combat.  There seems an almost self-destructive compulsion not to recognize the potential usefulness of another subdiscipline’s maneuvers.  Several celebrated evolutionary psychologists write in a fashion that is mean spirited, with an evident desire to diminish the work of other schools.

Endocrinology explores the structure of disease and anomalous conditions.  Evolutionary developmental biology traces the effects of the environment on ontogeny, mapping the epigenetic aspects of early development.  Social structure evidences the hormonal constellations at the root of human behavior.

What useful outcomes might be available by presupposing that these disciplines are all connected?  Like the physicists, we can embrace the power of conjectures put forth by seemingly incompatible models by assuming they are all interrelated in the end.  Even the evolutionary psychologists have contributions, though many would have to give up refusal to integrate.

Many physicists manage to believe that everything is connected without a mythological construct.  Some believe in a larger consciousness, no stories attached.  In exchange, they are provided opportunities to intuit connection where connection may not be obvious.  Sometimes they are rewarded with integration.

Biologists would do well to begin with a similar presupposition.  We might begin by exploring evolution in the now.


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