September 21, 2009 | Leave a Comment
Physicists maintain a reverence for process that transcends deity, the metaphors that deity is associated with and the battles that sometimes result from deep commitment to metaphor. Physics is a relatively nonmetaphoric undertaking. Reverence for process connects physicists across the world. There is evidence that this state of reverence, this respect for the awe-inspiring mathematics of the universe, often results in the practitioners of physics having an experience of everything being connected. Transcendence without mythology.
In the biological sciences, most practitioners are still enamored of the implications of Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), studies revolving around epigenesis and the work of heterochronic theorists such as Matsuda have not been integrated into a general understanding similar to that engaged in by the practitioners of physics. In biology, interconnections are viewed as contingent upon random circumstance leading to complexity. In physics, interconnection is often viewed as evidence of an integrated whole.
In biology, a central focus is natural selection’s insistence that the variation of progeny produced by a coupling is random, unrelated to environmental effects. Alternative theories (evo-devo, epigenesis and Matsuda) suggest that there may be little that is random in the proliferation of life upon earth. Physicists are not embroiled in this controversy. There are clear patterns that seem to govern universe ontogeny, how the universe unfolds. Physicists don’t assume that the birth of a universe has nothing to do with the environment that incubated that explosion, and they don’t assume that the features of a universe were randomly assigned. There is still enough mystery around the genesis of our universe that we don’t assume that everything occurred by random chance.
Biological theory has a way to go to catch up with physics. Physics often presupposes integration. Biology still mostly presupposes random contingency. Perhaps an understanding of society can help biologists think like physicists.
Society is at the beginning of a nonrandom, technology-enhanced proliferation of matrifocal features. Social-structure shifts are integral to species transformations. Stephen J. Gould offered both the theories of punctuated equilibrium and heterochronic theory (changes in the rate and timing of maturation and development) as influential in the transformation of species. The kind of transformation our species is experiencing qualifies for both.
Chris Knight, Riane Eisler, Marx and Engels, Lewis Henry Morgan and many others have posited that humans evolved while relating in matrifocal bands. Gould suggested that neoteny (click here), where the infant features of ancestors appear in adult descendants and maturational delay is prolonged, characterized human evolution for millions of years. Consider that matrifocal social structure drove neotenous evolution, bringing the features of our forebear’s children (upright stature, large head-to-body ratios, large eyes to head, curiosity, playfulness, sociality) to the grown-ups of the present day.
For at least 10,000 years, we’ve been on a detour. Brains grew smaller as men slipped into positions of authority, with women cooperating instead of sharing band and tribe command. Those days are ending. Hierarchy is ending. A huge surge of horizontal, transparent and diverse forces are leveling thousands of years of male domination. Women are on the pill, using abortion, choosing their mate, demanding divorce and becoming the breadwinner of the family. Globalization is making enemies into trading friends. Social media and the Internet are breaking down geographic, monetary, academic, media, ethnic and brand barriers, offering people access to people in ways unimaginable a decade ago.
This is nonrandom biological evolution. This is what occurs when a highly social species able to manipulate space and time through language transforms, following classic social-structure precepts, from a male-dominance to a female-authority frame of reference.
Imagine a chimpanzee-like forebear evolving into a bonobo. Consider violent chimpanzee-male-hierarchy conflicts transforming into sex-obsessed, female-led bands of horizontally structured bonobo. Except, we’re not doing so in hundreds of generations, but with the aid of communications technologies and language, it’s happening in maybe five generations. There are repercussions. With the huge surge of maturationally-delayed males, we’re getting males so delayed that for some, split brains (a reduced left hemisphere) and language hesitate to ontologically emerge. The autistic are appearing as a direct result of this matrifocal surge.
Biology has often bowed down to physics as physics has offered an integrated set of principles that make predictions about how our world works. Biology has its own integrated set of principles. Giving up the belief that the most important things are random, a belief that leaves the world to the survivors that can procreate, opens the door to an integrated set of principles that elevates females as major players in evolution. Observing the interplay between social-structure and maturation-rate changes, we can see our world change. We can make predictions regarding social change. A window into biology is society. We can understand how biology evolves by observing ourselves, right now.