Primal Melody

November 5, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Ontogeny

It interests me how Einstein perceived the relationship between speed and time by identifying with the kind of Doppler effect that he imagined to occur when a light beam left a train station, compelling two different rates of time.  He then capitalized on this exercise of imagination by conceptualizing it as equations, music of the spheres.

I’ve been playing with a concept that I’m feeling integrates a lot of the various patterns I’ve been observing and exploring over the last 12 years.  It is as follows… If heterochrony is the study of the rates and timing of maturation, with testosterone levels impacting rate and estrogen levels controlling timing, then those environmental or social structure adjustments that influence levels of testosterone and estrogen determine the speed, timing, features and direction of evolution.

This is a description of the influence of time on biology.  Maturation is usually understood to be associated with the stage-like development of an individual.  Maturation in an individual is also an unfolding of the maturational record of all preceding individuals in the lineage of life on earth.  I’m not just describing Haeckel’s recapitulation, but the back and forth play of waves of both neoteny and acceleration, waves paradoxically appearing in individual ontogeny.

In other words, we each as individuals also carry with us a record of life on earth.  And, if you take into consideration that the environment has everything to do with the rate and timing of evolution, each individual also carries within himself or herself records of the environment that formed individuals in his or her lineage.

What I’m slowly coming around to understand is that there is an physics-like revelation waiting, regarding biology, having to do with the nature of time as it integrates with evolution.  A physicist’s insights offered leverage in understanding how the universe unfolds.  By integrating the understanding that speed informed relationship, useful patterns emerged.  I’m thinking a similar process is engaged at the biological level.  The speed of maturation, its rate and timing, informs feature and behavior.

Again, maturation is not just occurring in an individual but, at the macroscale, is engaged in by every individual that ever lived upon the earth.

Whereas velocity in physics features speeds equal to or less than the speed of light, velocity in biology seems related to variation between parent and progeny, and the accumulation of those variations over the number of generations since the first variation emerged.  In physics, we cross space using the speed of light as a grounding variable.  In biology, we cross time using a generation as our basic unit.

When looking for patterns as we seek an answer to how the universe works, we look at the universe as one thing with patterns exhibited throughout that structure.  Perhaps it would be useful to look at earth’s biology as one thing with patterns exhibited throughout the structure.  One such pattern is that the speed, timing, features and direction of evolution are stored within the body of every individual, and each individual is integrated with an environment engaged in the same process as it unfolds in every individual.

I’m not thinking that a description of this process will be anything as crisp as an equation.  Biology is wet.  But there may be a simple song.


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