Complicated

December 31, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society

Every once in a while, when I receive a complimentary email regarding my theory, the emailer notes how complex it is.  It feels to me at this point like my job is making the theory easily understandable.  A problem is that as I seek to refine an explanation, new aspects get revealed and the theory deepens.  I can see how others interpret deepenings as additions in complexity.  I experience the deepenings as new subtleties revealed.  It’s not clear to me how to tell this story so that the meaning is clear.  I expect I’ll have to tell it in many ways and see what sticks.

Several of the concepts seem unfamiliar to Western ears.  Perhaps the most confounding is that to understand human evolution, a transformation characterized by a change in consciousness, it is useful that the theorist have at least a working definition of what exactly “consciousness” is.  I suggest that just stating that consciousness is a contingent or accidental result of a process, and it can be ignored as if not relevant to the transformation, is a little odd.  Also, there are the theorists that do say that consciousness is integral to how we evolved, but they often neglect to define it except as exhibiting self awareness.  Almost all theories exclude a larger consciousness, also excluding that understanding that the unconscious is integral to human evolution.  I presuppose that understanding consciousness is integral to understanding how humans evolved, and I posit a working definition grounded on Gregory Bateson’s interpretation of Freud’s primary process.  For some folks, I think, this makes my theory complicated.

I am now calling my theory “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution.”  I had called it “Shift Theory” for 11 years, and last year I called it “The Theory of Waves.”  Perhaps the most unique and difficult feature of my theory is the understanding that maturation is integral to understanding evolution.  Evolution is a multiscale process occurring at many, if not all, scales of experience.  Exploring the dynamics of maturation, we at the same time grasp evolution.  I examine patterns in a discipline or evolutionary scale by watching, listening or feeling for patterns that reveal a carrying forward of younger stages into older stages over time, or the carrying backward of older stages into younger stages.  At the four scales we live in–biology, society, ontogeny and psychology/biography–I hypothesize that maturation is guided by changing levels of testosterone and estrogen as social structure and environmental influences affect those levels.  I enter a discipline seeking evidence that maturation dynamics are having an effect on outcomes.  If I see the effects, I reverse engineer the cause.  Then I make predictions.

This feels simple to me.  Nevertheless, it seems not simple to explain.  One of the reasons it is not simple to explain is that to deeply grasp the paradigm, it is useful to be able to at least conceptually give up personal identity and relieve oneself of the idea of narrative time.  To follow evolutionary or maturational patterns across barriers of scale, it helps if time and identity are flexible.  Again, familiarity with concepts of consciousness influence understanding of process and structure.  There is a way that this “Orchestral Theory of Evolution” seems to be informed by physics in that not only is time relative, but so is individuality or personal identity.

An agendaless consciousness is embraced as a feature of the system.  One of the reasons that consciousness is integrated into the theory is that when time becomes relative and identity is in play, there emerges a powerful experience of feeling part of something larger than the self.  In other words, when it becomes easy to understand the theory, when its premises are grasped, connections among disciplines become relatively easy to see.  An alternative experience of self emerges that suggests that consciousness is not a contingent accident of human evolution, or even that which propelled evolution, but is simply a feature of the system.

If what is required to understand a theory this “complex” is a shift in identity and understanding of time, I can see why this feels complicated to people.  It is my opinion that a theory is really only useful when it offers an alternative way of perceiving experience, providing answers where they were not obvious before.  But, more than being able to provide answers (for example, “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution” purports to explain some forms of autism), a theory such as this, I hope, provides a foundation from which to interpret experience.

I am hoping that the user of “The Orchestral Theory” will not only be provided answers but will achieve the ability or leverage to create theories that offer useful explanations.


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