Rosanna and I are conducting an overview of matrifocal societies around the world, seeking correlations with the primary elements of the thesis.  I’m estimating that a matrifocal society will have females with higher testosterone and higher estrogen than a modern conventional society, males with lower testosterone and lower estrogen, more frequent anomalous cerebral dominance with both cerebral hemispheres more often the same size, a leftward shift of Annett’s handedness distributions (more left-handers), delayed puberty and tendencies to exhibit specific diseases and conditions characterized by the hormonal tendencies just mentioned.

There is the possibility that matrifocal societies will have language structures characterized by an emphasis on the present tense as in the Hopi and Trobriand Islanders.  This would suggest an affinity to primary process in waking consciousness:  one time, one place, no negatives.  An implication might be a different kind of sense of humor and a possible different kind of creative imagination.

Elia and I were talking last night about the relevance of myth.  Elia suggested that the structure of the mythology of matrifocal societies may reflect the unique neurological constellation we are proposing.  We considered that the myths might show a single story line, main character almost always present (no cut away to other times or places), little exhibition of a theory of mind in gods or goddesses and few references to other myths or stories.

A position taken in the more detailed piece, “Introduction to the Theory of Waves,” is that aboriginal matrifocal societies will exhibit populations with larger percentages of people exhibiting conditions characterized by maturational delay, such as autism and Asperger’s.  I’m estimating that a caveat to that position might be necessary.  There might be such increases and increases in diseases featuring high estrogen and testosterone women, low estrogen and testosterone men, only if there have been radical changes in child rearing practices accompanied by sudden diet and environmental rhythm modifications.

I’m starting to consider that the highly ritualized environment of aboriginal matrifocal societies, along with the ways children are raised and what they are fed, are preventing the further leftward shift of infants and toddlers.  These conventions might be engaging young neurologies in ways that there is far less autism, fewer people lost in an isolated, waking, primary process.

This thesis would suggest that aboriginal children taken from their mothers at birth or shortly thereafter, adopted by a conventional, modern, patrifocal family, might show high percentages of conditions exhibiting maturational delay and diseases associated with the hormonal extremes this thesis has been tracking.

Whereas matrifocal societies embracing modern culture will more likely exhibit the kinds of disease and condition anomalies this thesis proposes, aboriginal matrifocal societies will manifest these derivations far less often.

Perhaps the most profound connotation is that moderns raising their children using aboriginal techniques (constant rhythm, ritualized behaviors, specialized diet, unique touch or kinesthetic conventions), particularly those women with high testosterone levels mating with males with low testosterone levels, could reduce the number of children unable to exit from primary process, the maturational delayed, the autistic.

This is another suggestion of the ouroboros, the snake with her tail within her mouth, a thesis that suggests that aboriginal child rearing practices may usefully inform a society with an increasing number of neotenous characteristics with matrifocal tendencies.  This feels right to me.  Just as the features of our infant forebears manifest in the contemporary features of our species, what we would call classic neoteny, there are possible signs that characteristics of our societal forebears, aboriginal matrifocal societies, are characteristics that may usefully inform the features of contemporary times.

According to this thesis, tattoos and piercings among our youth will likely lead to other aboriginal borrowings.  I would watch for an increase in ritualized behaviors.  Music has reflected aboriginal themes for decades.  If our young mothers and fathers were to start changing the way they raise their children, how might conventional ancient practices be reflected in modern practice?

Connections between the past and present seem to be growing stronger.  There may be a reason for this.  Our future may be integrally tied to our ancient past.

If I’m not mistaken, primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh came up with her “Theory of Mind” to explore differences in great ape behavior and other species that seemed not capable of estimating that another individual retained separate consciousness.  Simon Baron-Cohen applied this principle to autism, calling it “mindblindness,” to offer an explanatory paradigm that parsed out differences between the autistic and the nonautistic mind.

Last week, I was exploring some unique language structures of two matrifocal societies, the Hopi and the Trobriand Islanders.  The languages display a unique attitude toward tenses, reminding me of Gregory Bateson’s interpretations of Freud’s description of primary process.  It seems that aspects of dream consciousness and primary process thinking are characteristic of these two languages.  This included only one time or tense (you can’t imagine another time without being there), one place (you can’t imagine another place without being there) and no negatives (you can’t image what something is not without imagining the something).

Stephen J. Gould would sometimes write of three-fold and four-fold parallelisms.  He was alluding to late nineteenth century and early twentieth century hypotheses that there are equivalencies between different scales of experience:  biology, society, ontogeny and personal experience.  Regarding Sue Savage-Rumbaugh’s “Theory of Mind,” Simon Baron-Cohen’s mindblindness, Hopi/Trobriand present tense orientation, and conventional Western dream consciousness, we possibly have an example of a pathway that evolution uses to travel across time and space.

Biology:  Great ape behavior
Society:  Hopi/Trobriand Islander language structure
Ontogeny:  The autistic
Personal Experience:  Dream

The reason that the autistic are assigned to the ontological level of this four-fold parallelism is because  those with autism often feature extreme maturational delay, by definition an ontological experience resulting in the prolongation of infant or young features or characteristics into later developmental ages.

The American philosopher Ken Wilber has explored in detail a hierarchy of individual and societal developmental stages, equivalencies that he believes inform each other.  The works of Jean Gebser and Jurgen Habermas were influential in guiding Wilber to his conclusions.  Wilber proposes that evolution naturally unfolds through seven stages on its way toward achieving a Pierre de Chardin-like Omega Point fruition.

In other places on this website, I have detailed why Omega Point teleological interpretations of evolution seem unnecessary if heterochronic (neoteny and acceleration) processes are presumed to unfold on societal scales.  Let me make an addition to that sense-based rather than religious interpretation of history.  Consider that the near future will be characterized by a return of dream time to society, the proliferation of matrifocal aboriginal primary process thinking and the integration of autistic associational present moment thinking with conventional consciousness.

I’ve been experiencing a powerful feeling that we’ve re-entered the mythological age.  In ways that an individual can have a dream that powerfully informs that person’s life, we have entered a period in our societal unfolding that will serve as both cautionary tale and heroic cycle for perhaps the time that remains to our species.  In the way that an unconscious informs an individual life, the collective unconscious is molding the zeitgeist.  I feel like we are living in a story, a mythic story, with the future chapters not impossible to intuit.

Having hierarchialized for several thousand years, informed by patrifocal social structures, we are now quickly horizontalizing, neotenizing, with society prolonging the features of youth and the aboriginal into society writ large.  Along with surges of creativity, narcissism, associative thinking and cooperation on massive scales with the advent of the web and global commerce, we are also seeing changes in neurology with the maturational-delayed emerging more and more often as the neurology of choice.  In addition to our society reflecting features of our youth, dream consciousness in the everyday is being prolonged into the adult of our species.  Primary process is appearing in waking life; aboriginal intuitions are manifesting in the way our teenagers think.

In other words, the past is becoming the present, dream is bleeding into waking, biology is emerging in society and the natal is manifesting in the adult.

The future is also the past.  The tenses are blending.

What we are becoming is also what we were and always have been

Future Predictions

November 20, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Future, Society, Web

This work observes the effects of sexual selection and social structure on testosterone levels influencing changes in maturation rates propelling neoteny in human evolution and then follows that same trail while watching societies transform.  By matching observed matrifocal trends (neotenous males, accelerated females) with the imminent necessity of global societal conversion to sustainable living practices, one can make the following predictions about the future.

Universal health care for all humans will demand right-eating practices.  The community won’t want to pay for individual dietary indulgences that result in costs to the community.  There will be a dramatic drop in animals consumed to make sure there is enough food for all.  The resulting low-fat, relatively low-protein diet will result in puberty returning to 16-17 years old, dramatic increases in brain size and higher synapse numbers and reverence for aesthetics as central to life.  (Early puberty testosterone surges halt brain growth, curtailing synapse production.)

Mother’s testosterone levels will be evaluated two months before birth.  If elevated, embryo ipods will be carried by pregnant mothers providing rhythms and melodies running in sync with variations with the child’s and mother’s heartbeat.  Music will continue to be delivered after birth.  It will be discovered that artificial interventions to change a mother’s testosterone levels to adjust the maturation of a potentially autistic child will have unpredictable negative effects.  Children will be taught to dance when they learn to walk.

Social networking will evolve quickly to become an extremely powerful political intervention tool used by very high percentages of young people, all having registered to vote.  The influence of political parties will break down as politics becomes issue/date based as temporary ad hoc coalitions build around social networking imperatives driven through very specific legislation.  Politicians put in power by networking blocks will vote less predictably as they seek to maintain their constantly changing coalitions, adjusting votes depending on their highly networked constituencies.  The influence of corporations will plummet.  Politicians will become faceless as their constituencies become all powerful.

Corporate media will be replaced by citizen media mediated by numerous rating intermediaries.  On the Internet, citizens will be able to choose between a vast number of services offering their particular selection of local and world news and stories created by local teams.  Taxes will supply governments with funds that are redistributed according to how long net users linger on a location on the web.  If a news story in Tibet produced by a local videographer achieves notoriety and is watched across the planet, that videographer is paid according to how long each viewer watched his piece.  High quality news will be produced as talented purveyors are rewarded for their work.

Evolution cultists will emerge seeking to transform culture and society in specific directions through deliberate hormone manipulation and targeted mate choice.

Spirituality and art will converge, characterized by spiritual visions informing aesthetic directions with an emergence of countless unique societal subcultures.

Music will become ubiquitous.  Many educated people will never learn how to read.  There will be a return to auditory art forms mediated by computers and the web that won’t require keyboard use, instead taking auditory input or lip reading by camera.  As more and more children are observed to be geniuses at creation and communication without the ability to read or write, reading and writing will fade.  Third world peoples and ethnic minorities previously hampered by societies emphasizing the visual over the auditory or kinesthetic will become globally revered for their contributions to the new aesthetic society.

The aesthetic economy propelled by transparency, collapsing hierarchy and resource accessibility will make possible global sustainability.  Observing these effects of neoteny, we can predict how the future will unfold.

I study conditions characterized by maturational delay with the idea that those individuals represent an older matrifocal social-structure precursor to the patrifocal people around today.  Our time is an era of synthesis as a very ancient matrifocal and a 6,500-year-old patrifocal social structure merge.  This merger is the social equivalent of our two brain hemispheres becoming balanced, with the unconscious and the conscious becoming friends.  Imagine what life would be like if our unconscious didn’t feel that so much content needed to be hidden.  Imagine the resources that would be available if energies weren’t devoted to keeping up barriers between conscious and unconscious material.  Ways to cross the line to the unconscious is one of the specialties of the matrifocal-focused.  It is one of the gifts they bring to the integration.  These are the artists, dancers, musicians, gifted athletes and the autistic.

I make a number of predictions concerning autism.  Some have been supported by the literature, some have been ambiguously supported and some go unsupported where no studies have been done.  I propose that the following apply to autistics that come from families exhibiting maturational delay, such as left-handedness.  The specifics of how this model makes these predictions can be viewed at sexualselection.org and originsofautism.com.

Autistic males have larger brains than nonautistic males.  Autistic females have brains that are slightly smaller or the same size as the brains of nonautistic females.

Autistic males and females gestate longer in their mothers, almost two weeks longer, 295 days.

Autistic males and females will trend toward being the youngest child coming from the older mothers.

Autistic males will tend to have longer legs, particularly if puberty is delayed.

Autistic males will have relatively low testosterone, females high testosterone.

Autistic males and females will be compelled to express themselves in rhythm.  Studies have concluded that perfect pitch occurs more frequently than in the general population. Sound will be discovered to be integral to health.

Autistic males will have smaller teeth and jaws than the general population.  Autistic females will have larger teeth and jaws than most other women.

Autistic males will exhibit neotenous characteristics.  Autistic females will reveal less neoteny than the general population of females.

Autistic males and females will have a higher percentage of siblings exhibiting maturational delay and left-handedness than the general population.  For example, the siblings would stutter or have Down’s syndrome or Tourette’s syndrome.  However, Tourette’s is a special situation I discuss in other entries. (Because maturational delay in families of origin is my criterion to separate the genetic-autistic from the brain-traumatized autistic, I realize I’m cheating by making this criteria part of my predictions.)

Autistic males will have larger testes than other males.

Autistic males will exhibit noncompetitive personalities.  Autistic females will tend to be relatively domineering and comfortable exercising authority.

I would suggest that diet is extremely important when addressing children that are autistic.  It’s not just gluten and casein, inappropriate for a Neolithic physiology/neurology, but the host of high-fat, high-carb foods that have contributed to the lowering of the onset of puberty by four years in the last 100 years.  Autistics desperately need those four years of brain growth to achieve the number of synapses that their brains naturally require to reach maturity.  Puberty freezes brain growth with testosterone surges, true for girls and boys.  Those four years of brain growth are essential for the autistic mind.

As the integration of the two social structures continues to accelerate through the century, puberty will slowly return to 16-18 years of age.  I predict a return to equivalents of the Neolithic diet, with meat substitutes.  These changes will provide for several extra years of brain maturation that will encourage an integration at the neurological level that will mirror the integration of society at large.  The millennia of our feeling strangers from ourselves will come to a close as barriers between the unconscious and the conscious fall.  The return of the autistics from their matrifocal societies of origin followed by changes in diet and the integration of the two social structures can result in a new, hybrid human being.

In 2006, Steven Johnson came out with a unique little book called Everything Bad is Good for You. In this book, Johnson explores the possible positive repercussions of constant exposure to specific elements of popular culture, including gaming, reality TV, online experiences and film. His conclusion is that there might be powerful positive effects from these peculiarly self indulgent endeavors that include increased IQ, sensitivity to associational understanding and an ability to defer satisfaction to achieve long-term goals.

Counter intuitive, indeed. Fascinating, nonetheless.

When I was young, I did not often eat sweets or candy. My eyes were on a different prize. Before I could read, I was “reading” comic books. All my allowances and other monies went toward DC and later Marvel hero comic magazines. On Saturday mornings, I would walk, usually by myself, almost three miles to Winnetka, to the only comic book store in the region. In the 50s, a seven-year-old could wander miles in many suburbs with no concern.

Able to buy perhaps a third of the titles I adored, every week I was faced with a decision. With a quarter, I could buy two comics. Justice Leagues of America was my favorite followed by Superman, then Batman.

Occasionally, I caught wind of how despised my passion was outside the world of boys. Society had concluded that these rags were somehow unsafe and unsavory. We were encouraged to treat our comic books like trash. I was a closet worshipper of story. My closet was filled with sacred texts.

Before the age of ten, I was wrestling with the nature of time paradox, alternative universes, interstellar culture conflict and countless moral and ethical decisions concerning whom to save first during a multiple threat crisis. I was presented with ways to use images and words to tell a story, feeling challenged to find my own ways to do the same.

Comic books became integral to my thinking process as I both learned to walk a narrative time thread while observing the maps to other places that a picture implied. With a picture equal to a thousand words, comics were guiding to me millions. I doodled ceaselessly. Stories, like nearby Lake Michigan, lapped constantly against the beach of my conventional kid life.

It seems to concern parents today that so many of the obsessions of childhood are solitary events. That is changing. Whereas television and gaming have isolated while they’ve educated, children are graduating into multi-player, online communities and television shows that require feedback. Plotlines are becoming astonishingly convoluted. The tube has become literally a window to the world with reality show content generated by American subcultures and cultures far away. With the emergence of self-generated content on Youtube, we have the equivalent of kids composing their own comic books and displaying them for the world to see. I expect that combining words and pictures in video communications requires more access to personal resources than making comics. This medium demands that you be able to work with people.

One of the twists frequently used in comic book plotlines was that the necessary resource, tool or secret weapon was there all the time, introduced in disguise in the first few frames of the story. Despised indulgences of childhood are being revealed as exactly the right training for a future that will be needing skills not yet invented. I would like to see another book by Steven Johnson. Perhaps he could call it I See the Future in the Passions of Our Kids.

Listening to the Future

June 24, 2008 | 4 Comments

Category: Society

An equitable, robust educational system, voting integrity and widely dispersed media control are three long-term structural legs or foundations that encourage a transparent, diverse and nonhierarchical organized society.  These are infrastructure issues that empower the proponents or advocates of specific concerns by nurturing a society that offers its citizens high quality information and the resources and beliefs that they as individuals can make a difference.

Watching the not-so-slow-motion collapse of our economic system, I wonder how specifically we’re going to get from here to there.

The arc of societal evolution from the age of god kings to the present day can be followed by tracing the transformations of these three conceptual threads:  transparency, diversity and horizontal communication.  The path is clear.  Until recently, it might have taken more than one lifetime to see the unfolding of the pattern.  Where we stand now, one lifetime is more than enough to see the elements align and realign.  The transformation is happening all around us.

Focus on where the greatest tumult congregates and ask yourself how these deeply disturbing events can result in the ascendance of the opposite.  Individual and societal attention on those places where society has most gone awry can suggest the path to the transformative other side.  This path would be one characterized by transparency, diversity and horizontal communication.  Paying attention, we can see the passage or route, a snakelike trail, that this wax and waning leaves behind.

Implied in our economic implosion is an alternative economic paradigm that suggests/demands world oversight of national economies, transparency, communication systems capable of transmitting high quality information (a media that will share news bad for corporations), an education system that values integrity and encourages diversity and a voting system that allows noncorporate representatives an ability to legislate.

The play of balance and the play of evolution are the same play.  In the same way that the snake moves forward by pushing itself in opposite directions, society evolves by pushing against or exploring the limits of the medium of life.

We know in what direction we are evolving.  A fair and equal educational system, voting integrity and media control returned to the people are signposts that will tell us when we’ve turned the corner on another winding of this road.

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Difficulties hearing obvious subtleties. (Flickr CC image by armincifuentes)

Reluctance to Relent

March 23, 2010 | 1 Comment

Category: Biology, Theory

Physics somehow, somewhere along the line, grew accustomed to behaving in a fully functional fashion while embedded in paradox. That light behaved like both a particle and wave contributed to this unusual space. Then, we discovered that while seeking to know something, using instruments that could provide the answer, we not only influence what we seek to know, making it impossible to know certain things, but the speed of the information of that which we can know becomes instantaneous, which is supposed to be impossible.

Physics has embraced ambiguity. Perhaps the supporting structure of mathematics offering opposite answers has made that possible. What would it take for evolutionary biology to acquire a relativistic perspective, bowing its head to the impossible, integrating with that which seems to deliberately contest reductionist interpretations?

Susan Oyama writes books that lambaste hard core genetic interpretations of evolution. She uncovers the many ways that biological theorists refuse to recognize the paradox that is integral to biology. What was called the nature/nurture debate for several decades has settled down to an understanding that the two are integrated. Nevertheless, practitioners of biology mostly seem incapable of fully realizing this. Most still reflexively offer deep allegiance to the genome as central to development, except when something happens where it is clear that the genome is not central to development. Instead of embracing a paradox, they display a continuing belief in the power of code to explain life, except when it doesn’t work.

A physicist does not default to light being a particle, except when a wave. A physicist accepts that light is both.

How best does a biologist seek solutions to a paradox when a biologist does not accept that a paradox is in play? Or, perhaps better than a solution would be the physicist’s disposition to accept noncomplementary paradigms as both true.

My work is deeply imbedded in the biological paradox that the environment influences the lives of parents in ways that the progeny’s physical and behavioral features are affected, so much affected that the acquired features become heritable. This is paradoxical. Evidence supports Watson and Crick’s Central Dogma that genes control evolutionary outcomes. Yet, there is also evidence that the environment heavily impacts development, with the result of those impacts being passed on to future generations.

Instead of accepting that light is both particle and wave, that the speed of information can exceed the speed of light, evolutionary biologists seem loath to consider that both genetics and Lamarckian principles are in play. It is still provocative to use Lamarck’s name when discussing these issues.

Why the deep reluctance to accept that we are confused?

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The Left not behaving globally. (Flickr CC image by puroticorico)

Big Picture, Extended Time

March 18, 2010 | 1 Comment

Category: Activism

Most Sundays, I make over 60 phone calls to Left/Progressive activists across the country. Mostly I leave messages on machines. The conversations I have are usually pretty short. I’m looking to find out what specifically local organizers are working on so that I can get those actions, events and projects posted to the statewide networking websites that my PJEP colleagues and I facilitate. Often activists express astonishment that there are people out there working hard primarily on helping other activists and organizers achieve their goals rather than focusing on a particular personal social change issue.

I think big-scale, long-term and larger patterns. Immersed in evolutionary theory and the evolution of humans and their unique form of split consciousness, focusing on current politics and social change, I find myself attracted to the bigger picture and longer-term goals or transformations. It’s partly personality, partly habit and partly what I’ve found interesting over time that attracts me to how interconnections form and larger systems function.

Making those Sunday phone calls, I’m struck again and again by how focused organizers are on what is happening in their immediate area and how little they feel attracted to making sure that what they are doing is available for exploration on a larger scale, a broader geographic region. Organizers, generally, don’t think big.

This is particularly obvious to me when I send an email to a large group of organizers that are the heads of chapters or affiliates of national organizations. I note that my communication is authorized or sponsored by their central office. A very small percentage of the organizers respond. Or, a central office emails the affiliates or chapters, urging them to contact PJEP to become part of a statewide network. Few respond. What local organizers are focused on is what they are doing at the moment. Thinking outside the moment to consider how that individual and the local organization will benefit from connections to numerous other organizations is a relatively uncommon occurrence.

In other words, most members of the Left/Progressive movement that I am in contact with, and I’m in personal contact with over 700 organizers in 30 states, don’t think big in the context of interconnections with organizations across their state and in other states around the country. Not thinking big is the same as not thinking in an interconnected, horizontal, transparent fashion. I believe this is because most of the organizers I work with are old (over 55). Organizers often also have low expectations regarding the benefits of working with other organizations or letting other organizations know what they are doing. This sense of isolation seems characteristic of Left organizers of all ages.

I haven’t hit upon a solution, a way of successfully encouraging activists to think big, take risks and see a larger picture across larger periods of time. The American Left/Progressive movement is rife with disappointed, frustrated organizers that keep their focus close to home. This is another reason why I believe the coming changes will be enacted largely through young folks and those with communications technology expertise in Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. For the young, big picture is effortless and ubiquitous. All they need is an expanded sense of time. Then, everything they’d like to see won’t just seem possible; it will feel achievable in an immanent future.

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I'm hoping the book comes out in about 3 weeks.

The Longer Work

March 9, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art, Auto-Biography

I’m just finishing this ~140-page work, Evolution, Autism and Social Change, which summarizes most of the principles I’m playing with.  It skips all the political commentary that is scattered throughout this blog.  The work also does not spend numerous pages exploring the presuppositions behind the principles of, and the presuppositional differences between, a maturational theory of evolution and the Neo-Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest frames focusing on mutation and adaptation.  Explaining differences between evolution theories ended up requiring a need to explain integral differences between paradigms by detailing how theory is created.  This felt like too much for a 100-page piece.  I’ll save it for the larger work if I ever write it.

A larger work would also describe a short history, most influential theorists and currently accepted theories in the disciplines being explored.  Most of my writing falls within anthropology, neuropsychology and evolutionary biology.  Still, I discuss primatology, psychology, consciousness, medicine and endocrinology.  It is impossible in a short work to offer a several-discipline context.  It’s even unwieldy in a longer work, particularly one that seeks to communicate with a lay audience.  There is also the fact that though I am somewhat familiar with what I am talking about in anthropology, neuropsychology and evolutionary biology, I am woefully unqualified to provide much depth in the other disciplines I touch upon.  Intimidated by what I am doing, I prefer to avoid behaving like I know what I am talking about in a discipline outside where that discipline touches upon my basic thesis.  So, in Evolution, Autism and Social Change, I offer about ten pages where I review classic heterochronic theory, or the subdiscipline of evolutionary biology most integral to understanding what I am doing.  I’m worried those ten pages may lose three-quarters of my readers.

There are many philosophical implications to Evolution, Autism and Social Change.  That also gets saved for a larger work.  I estimated 17 sections of implications.  That was way too much for what is essentially an introduction.

The future implications of the theory also seemed too much information for a short work.  Those ten threads were left for the larger work.

One principle or concept has emerged since Evolution, Autism and Social Change went to the editor.  The central thesis of my theorizing condensed to the following sentence about nine months ago:  The Orchestral Theory of Evolution is the study of the rates and timing of maturation, with testosterone levels impacting rate and estrogen levels controlling timing, with those environmental or social structure adjustments that influence levels of testosterone and estrogen determining the speed, timing, features and direction of evolution. It feels lately like it has condensed even further.  The word maturity now summarizes the central thesis.  Whereas Darwin focused on conception and death with his theory of natural selection, which merged survival of the fittest with heritable traits, I find that the word “maturity” suggests all that which occurs between conception and demise that influences evolution.  I’m not sure how to integrate this understanding with the work now with the editor.

When I first wrote this stuff up in 1998 in the website serpentfd.org, estrogen’s connection with the dynamic was not at all clear or understood.  It was all about testosterone.  The model was expressed as a four-layered process unfolding in the push-and-pull way a serpent crawls.  Though I understood that the timing of maturation was integral, I had no idea what informed timing.  So I concentrated only on changes in rates of maturation.

With what I’m finishing now, I feel a whole is communicated, even though much has been left out.  Nevertheless, as someone who is not an academic–I am an artist by training–I am now left with the choice of how exactly the book is to be framed.  I am concluding that it is more genuine and reasonable to make this a book with an artistic rather than an academic slant.  Joining sections with illustrations seems right.  It makes it more accessible.  To pitch the work to fit academic conventions would probably be a waste of time.  Academics don’t offer attention to the work of nonacademics in their field.  It’s just off their radar.  Academics don’t even often offer attention to multidisciplinary theories that include their discipline.  They are used to regarding the work of those that have put in the time to get a degree in their particular discipline, those that have something to lose if they don’t perform.

Maybe 30 years ago a book came out with many diagram-like illustrations describing the spiritual transformation that was going to occur as a result of several planets aligning in a certain way.  The book was called Harmonic Convergence and was written by Jose Arguelles.  Even though I’m writing a book on evolution grounded in conventional science, there is really no format precursor to this book I’m finishing.  The closest thing that comes to mind is that weird astrology book.  Bummer.

Trying to find a publisher for what I’ve done seems a prescription to feel rejected.  Though some well-known authors, scientists and theorists have said kind and/or respectful things to me in emails, or just asked questions (Simon Baron-Cohen, William Irwin Thompson, Elaine Morgan, Riane Eisler, Tom Robbins), none has gone so far as to offer firm support for what is clearly an unproven theory, though they have usually had encouraging things to say.  I don’t think a publisher interprets encouragement as support.  I will self-publish.

I have several friends that have written books and found publishers.  Just because a publishing company puts a work into print does not mean it promotes the work.

So, I’ll publish this myself, if I bring it to print.  I’ll begin by posting this as a free pdf download. April 1st is my target date.  It will be difficult to categorize.  I’ll mull over ways to promote it.  How many books are out there purporting to explain autism from an evolutionary perspective using a new feminine theory of evolution, with illustrations?

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Science and art can be the same. (Flickr CC images: jessk09 & volante)

Science and Art

March 5, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art

As an artist who has worked with several media, I am familiar with feeling attracted to a particular medium, imagination engaged, and having to wait until I can exhibit some facility before I have an experience of creative closure.  It took almost a year of sowing before I was fairly facile at creating puppets.  Watercolor skills were long in coming.  I practiced with pencil and ink, literally for years, before I felt confident that what would come out was close to what I had to say.

I’m now slowly building writing skills.  My first book-length work posts shortly.  It was built from the short essays that comprise this blog.  At the same time, I’m learning video production, accompanying these short blog essays with Elia’s and Jordan’s music and Creative Commons contributions by artists and amateur photographers and videographers from around the world.

Engagement in theorizing on human origins and the dynamics of human and biological evolution is similar to, if not identical to, creating art.  Participating in art, I feel drawn toward a medium while experiencing that which wants to be expressed.  Medium and content feel closely allied.  The process or medium used to express the experience, and the experience itself, feel closely related.

By merging a medium with my own experience, art emerges that is based upon making sense.  Theorizing how evolution operates, like art, I at first feel drawn to particular ideas, books, disciplines and authors, intuiting that here an answer lies.  I feel that once I have accumulated and stored the content I am looking for, patterns will emerge that will offer an experience of integration.  Congregations of ideas, books, disciplines and authors feel to me like an artistic media.  My attraction to a knowledge cluster is predicated on my intuiting a hidden integration that when matched with my experience will offer epiphany.

Right now, I am feeling aware of a congregation of information in an area I don’t know well.  I don’t know if I’ll find myself flinging my attention in that direction.  This information area has to do with the relationship among nonhuman animal populations, social structure, sexual selection, neoteny, acceleration, endocrinology and ontogeny.  My studies have revolved almost exclusively around humans.  I’m sensing a deep and evocative story accompanying an understanding of how these principles work outside humans.

What I’ve been drifting toward is evolutionary theory based upon principles of maturity.  This is a complement to evolution based upon conception and death.  Darwin’s theory of natural selection, as an exposition on the survival of the fit, describes both the impact of demise on the survival of specific traits, and the power of a belief in heritability, how a being is conceived to inform a future life.  Between death and conception, or conception and death, is ontogeny, or maturation.  Integral to understanding evolution is how maturation influences and is influenced.  Exploring social structure, sexual selection, neoteny, acceleration, endocrinology, pubertal timing, environmental influences and ontogeny, we can begin to get an idea of how evolution operates outside of death and conception.  The artist in me intuits that an evolutionary epiphany accompanies an understanding of evolution’s other half, the part which happens while beings are alive.  It’s not just about when they are conceived and die.

An artist presupposes that integration is inevitable once a medium is respectfully explored.  A theorist can enter discipline explorations with similar sensitivities.  Presupposing connection is easy for an artist.  No violation of orthodoxy is implied.  Presupposing connection for a theorist can be heresy.  In a reductionist milieu, to behave as if something is true (connection between not obviously connected parts) that has not been proven true is often considered deeply inappropriate.

As an artist, I often feel compelled to find connections among two or more things which are not obviously related.  It is an obsession.  It is an obsession that periodically offers an experience of integration.  As a theorist, I feel compelled to discover and reveal connections among things not obviously related.  For me, epiphany results.

Presupposing connection offers an experience of integration.  It’s the same in science and in art.

030210-visionshare

The United States, dissociation and Afghanistan (Flickr CC image: visionshare)

Scales of Dissociation

March 2, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Auto-Biography, Society

It is December 4.  Preparing to write this entry, I considered describing the process of working with Lee Goodman to create the video describing the December 1 and December 2 Afghanistan escalation protests occurring across the country.  Those of us working as facilitators with PJEP kept 1,500 local organizations across the country in touch with the other small organizations across the country conducting protests.  We then requested video and photos of their events.  That stuff poured in.  On December 3, Lee and I cobbled the content into a five-minute video.

Becoming aware that this essay would not be published until March (after sending it to an editor), I considered what the view of these events would be from a season in the future.  Then, I became aware of myself conducting a dissociation to achieve an alternative perspective.  This was followed by my being aware of my being aware of my conducting a dissociation.

There is a difference between debilitating dissociation that leads to an experience of feeling removed or separated from an integration with the environment and the kind of dissociation that offers an ability to achieve both an experience of integration accompanied by a grasping of the relationship of the constituent parts at several levels.  Dissociation can be characterized by division or integration.

The line between these two kinds of dissociation can be pretty thin.  I spend time in both places.  The people I am close to in my life note that I’m engaged in debilitating dissociation usually before I am aware that that is what is happening.  They then call my attention to it, providing me a reminder to associate and engage.

The United States also features both debilitating and integrative dissociations.  This country has offered an astonishing ability to engender alternative perspectives propelling the world into new creative directions.  This does not always occur in an awareness vacuum where competing parts jostle for achievement with no oversight, but in a larger context where it is understood that the community is renewed by an independence of its parts, while those parts that contribute to the community are most revered.  Dissociation featuring integration does occur.

At the same time, the United States exhibits a shocking disregard for understanding the implications of violently intervening in the affairs of other countries.  Instead of defining U.S. national security in the context of a larger global whole, U.S. foreign policy often revolves around what works best for corporations and the access of those corporations to resources that benefit American investors.

Protesting the Obama escalation in Afghanistan, citizens call attention to government behavior that is resulting in a less integrated, less socially aware, less communally involved population.  Intervention is required.  So we protest.

Dissociation can be characterized by division or integration.  The choice to escalate in Afghanistan has compelled, in me, an association.  A deep sadness often establishes itself in my body.  When a choice by some invests sadness or anger in others, it’s often a sign that integration will only happen after grief is faced.

The escalation in Afghanistan is founded on dissociation, leading inevitably to grief.

The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis

February 25, 2010 | 1 Comment

Category: Biology, Neoteny, Society

“Forest-dwelling apes efficiently conserve their water reserves, which they obtain primarily from fruit and vegetation, such that they need only rarely to visit predator-frequented watering holes.  By contrast, humans active in hot desert can lose up to 28 liters of water and up to 10% of bodily salt reserves per day (Morgan, 1982).  This incredible profligacy with water and salt suggests that early hominids must have enjoyed no shortage of either: they probably dwelled fairly close to fresh and salt water when not foraging.  Rivers and lakes would have provided not only drinking water, but also allowed body-washing and food-washing, offered fish, aquatic crustaceans, and shellfish for eating, and, because the thermal conductivity of water is much higher than that of air, quick swims would have allowed for efficient cooling-off after a long, hot day of foraging.  Note that these conditions would make the aquatic ape hypothesis (Hardy, 1960; Morgan, 1982) a bit more plausible…”  (Geoffrey F. Miller, “Evolution of the Human Brain through Runaway Sexual Selection:  The Mind as a Protean Courtship Device,” unpublished thesis (1994), p. 164.)

The aquatic ape hypothesis overlaps in two ways with the theorizing I’ve been conducting the last few years.  What I’m now calling The Orchestral Theory of Evolution and the aquatic ape hypothesis both have strong feminist components.  Elaine Morgan presented her thesis, one where male survival of the fittest was not the focus, as an alternative theory to Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape.

Both Morgan’s hypothesis (Alister Hardy was the original creator of the theory) and my work feature an emphasis on neoteny.  The aquatic ape hypothesis states we lost our body hair to better spend our time in water, and that by evolving in a neotenous direction, access to hairlessness was encouraged.  An upright stature is also associated with neoteny, and estuary or river waders often acquire upright positions.  I’ve shown that lower testosterone levels can be associated with longer limbs.  Both low testosterone and long limbs are associated with maturational delay and neoteny.

Feminism and neoteny are closely tied to both our theories, and interestingly, Elaine Morgan and I are both nonscientists and artists who are thinking outside conventions in perhaps complementary fashions.  We are both in the origin myth business, working with similar material, constructing pasts that support an emerging zeitgeist.

“From Neolithic villages to organized state, from gardening to irrigation farming, from inconography to writing, from disorganized raids to institutionalized warfare, from custom to law, from matriarchal religious authority to patriarchal political power, from mystery to history; the transformation was so complete that the past itself was reinvented to create a new foundation for a radically altered present.  Now that we ourselves are moving into a radically altered present, it is small wonder that the patriarchal image of prehistory is disintegrating.  The movement into the future always involves the revisioning of the past.”  (William Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light (New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 1981), p. 208.)

One of the things Elaine Morgan was often criticized for was that though her conjectures explained a number of unique human features, there was no obvious way to prove the thesis.  Her subjects did not easily fossilize where they lived by shores.  Regarding human theories of evolution, we have such an astonishingly small amount of information to work with that it surprises me that proof would be the main criticism.  Barely grounded hypotheses are common among human evolution theorists.  I suspect she was more derided for her feminist positions.

Getting Wet

January 27, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art, Society, Unconscious, Web

Exploring human origins and social change paradigms is far more than the specialty of evolutionary biologists and anthropologists.  To understand our origins, it is necessary to understand human consciousness, human consciousness as it relates to prehuman consciousness, and whatever alternative consciousness is necessary to put the other two in context.  In other words, to understand ourselves and our society’s changes, let’s consider an alternative intervention.  Let’s try less dry explorations.  Let’s get wet.

What began as a creative exercise several years ago has evolved into an unconscious routine.  I used to make believe, or run an “as if” frame, that said that if society is changing according to a hidden yet overarching dynamic, the future could be intuited or predicted by patterns or trends observable in the present.  I’d place myself in a meditative space and listen.

The deepest, most impact-filled presupposition that I live with is Descartes’ conclusion that because I am aware, I’ll accept that I exist.  Next in importance is this presupposition:  Because I experience feeling part of something larger than myself, I will accept the experience as valid, even though I began meditating almost 40 years ago with that experience as a goal.  In other words, I accept spiritual experience on a relative basis, based upon the fact that by seeking spiritual experience I assume that it exists.  As a student of Ericksonian hypnotherapy and as a follower of the work of the psychoanalyst/dolphin researcher/altered-state specialist John C. Lilly, I can relate to Lilly’s basic premise, “What I believe to be true is true or becomes true, within the limits to be found experientially or experimentally.”

Although there is a suggestion here that truth is relative, there is also a suggestion that our mind/self is so powerful a creative force that truth can be designed.

Listening for patterns, I sit in a deeply relativistic place, aware that my unconscious presuppositions deeply inform the patterns I can be aware of, and I am aware that my choice to believe that there is overarching pattern impacts what I perceive.

I theorize that there is primary process consciousness (the one time, one place, no opposites consciousness displayed by protohumans, small children, animals, the unconscious, dreams and the autistic), split consciousness (normal waking consciousness) and a third consciousness that features aspects of the other two.

So, when I engage in the exercise of seeking understanding, I use “as if.”  Placing myself in “as if,” also called “don’t know mind,” I encourage the emergence of patterns.  I get wet.  I’m playing with the notion that this kind of getting wet is becoming common.  I’m playing with the idea that grasping human origins and social change is best conducted outside an academic environment and inside the Internet, where the process of communication is showing signs of primary process, split consciousness and the unnamed transcendent third position all at once.

One of the current default beliefs among academics is that art was a contingent, accidental, emergent feature that resulted from the evolution of our unique large brains, language and self awareness.  Geoffrey Miller has suggested that perhaps we’ve got that direction reversed.  Miller writes that art drove our evolution.  I agree, and I would go a step further.  That which we experience as art is a direct reflection or manifestation of very early ontogenetic embryonic epigenetic process.  Art was encouraged to emerge in the adult of our species via neotenic runaway sexual selection, which emphasized song and dance.  Human adult consciousness in no small way reflects the actual creative process of life on earth.  Art is a direct reflection of that process.  We think like life creates.

Right now we are creating the Internet.

I’m thinking that the best way to understand ourselves is to share.  Giving our conjectures to the Internet, an automatic citation system embedding idea lineage into its very fabrication, we can relieve ourselves of the academic compulsion to father or mother every idea into a peer-reviewed journal, with every parent knowing exactly where every child is.  Yes, there is anonymity and loss of identity when words or works of art emerge and proliferate without it being obvious who might have been an “owner.”  This is the wet world of the Internet.  Boundaries are far less distinct.  Ownership is less important.  Control is not possible.

If we are going to understand human origins and societal evolution, we have to give up control.  The third consciousness that provides an understanding of the other two is one that presupposes that former boundaries can disappear.

For many, the question is:  How can we understand something if we don’t draw lines?

It’s OK to draw lines.  We just draw them with our temporary minds.  And, observe.

Amateur Status

January 13, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society, Web

I’m in the process of refining a nearly 100-page introduction to what I’m now calling “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution” or maybe “Neoteny, Evolution and Autism”. I haven’t decided yet.  The 13-page introduction to “The Theory of Waves,” posted last February, has been made less condensed and more accessible, with societal applications included.  The name has been changed with the integration of estrogen as the hypothesized agent controlling the timing of maturation.  I see estrogen as the conductor of the symphony of evolution.

Whereas most not-particularly-grounded amateur theorists with big ideas usually find themselves thinking of Einstein, I wonder about Darwin.  A couple things come to mind right now.

I often write about the nature of the Internet and its future.  It’s not just my profession, but it feels to me to be a particularly evocative part of the contemporary manifestations of neoteny-driven social structure transformations.  A half dozen blogs pick up my pieces regarding the Internet, some with respectable circulations, such as Counterpunch, The Public Record, BuzzFlash and The People’s Voice.  In the world I see forming, the amateur is gaining influence insofar as a person with few or no credentials now has an ability to acquire a relatively large audience.  New communications technologies are integrating with our primate compulsions to socialize to form massive hub-and-spoke relationship structures built on a horizontal rather than a pyramid premise.  With a bachelor’s degree, emphasis in art, I get to discuss biological and social evolution with a bunch of folks.

Weird effects emerge.  About four months ago, a blog picked up a piece I had written on the Internet, social evolution and the future.  About 30 Twitterers that specialized in social media picked it up, many with over 5,000 followers.  Over the course of maybe 24 hours, close to 100,000 Twitterers were transmitted a link to my piece.  Twitter has a low read rate for transmissions, so fewer than 1,000 people of the 100,000 read the essay.  I received three emails asking questions.  This blog receives a comment or email for about every 300 views.

What I’m trying to get a feel for is how exactly are new ideas on evolution emerging and being distributed outside the conventional context of publishing in a peer-reviewed journal?  Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and blogs seem integral to this new world.  Stumbleupon, Digg and other vehicles seem to be having an effect.  Right now I am observing mostly the distribution of various aesthetics, such as music, across the Internet landscape.  I am curious how unique theory, the realm of academia, might proliferate in a nonacademic context.

It’s relatively easy for me to write and distribute a piece about the Internet on the Internet.  It’s more a challenge when it comes to evolutionary theory.  The Internet and evolutionary theory are the same to me.  Communicating the experience of it being the same is a challenge.

Back to Darwin.  One of the strangely similar things between many theorists writing in the early to mid-1800s and bloggers keyboarding today is that they were/are both amateurs.  Those earlier amateurs were almost always wealthy and were accorded excellent educations.  Their elevated station, their higher position on the social hierarchy, made it possible to influence the status quo.  Amateurs today are instead sharing ideas in an environment where hierarchies are coming down, enhancing the ability for former outsiders to have access to communities of other former outsiders.  The status quo is becoming less controlled by those with wealth and the conventional credentials.

What we are observing now is the beginning of a process of credential or barrier destruction.  Not surprisingly, it seems to be driven by the young, those with the least invested in traditional enclaves of influence and control.  Young people are creating and distributing their own aesthetics in the form of music, an area formerly controlled by corporations.  They are creating and distributing their own opinions on current events, an area formerly controlled by mainstream media.  Young people are populating one another’s world with image, video and written content; they are not satisfied with being consumers of corporate content anymore.

How exactly this will impact academia is not clear to me.  I find myself in an amateur’s position, in a small way like Darwin 170 years ago, except Darwin was at the top of a hierarchy where amateurs were respected, whereas I am watching hierarchies fall, and perhaps the last to fall will be academia.

Ironically, academia has been instrumental to the present seismic changes.  Lawrence Lessig and his colleagues have encouraged the destruction of the segregation of information with the Creative Commons movement, which encourages individuals to give up the traditional covetous attitude toward what they have created.  Where it was the working class that drove the 1930s changes, the middle class the 1960s, it seems to be a combination of youth and savvy academics that are propelling changes currently underway.  Nevertheless, not surprisingly, academia itself is proving difficult to introduce to a noncredentialed status quo.

Darwin felt loath to experience the ramifications of an introduction of his theory of natural selection to a society perhaps too willing to embrace it.  Only Wallace’s letter managed to push Darwin to publish.  Even then, Darwin put off for another 13 years publishing his theories regarding how specifically humans evolved.  Darwin was a man who was confident his ideas would be accorded both respect and controversy.

My theory of biological and social evolution emerges in an environment where again the amateur is respected, though strategies for being accorded respect are far less clear.  Darwin was a scientist who was wealthy, brilliant, creative and articulate.  I’m an artist with an active unconscious.  I ask myself if there is anything in Darwin’s amateur status that I could learn from as I seek an audience with my peers.

I have found that definitions of neoteny that I provide to friends often don’t easily stick in their mind.  To ask someone to think of an automobile accelerating is easy.  It is not too difficult to ask people to make a picture in their mind’s eye of an accelerating automobile changing its model year to acquire future features while speeding up, decelerating to change shape to look like an older model.  But it is more difficult to ask them in their mind’s eye to perform this animation while considering a long succession of automobile models, each succeeding vehicle behaving a little different from the one before, different in a fashion where its ability to change model year with speed is enhanced or compromised with time.  Minds’ eyes sometimes can use a little training.

Neoteny, one of six heterochronic dynamics described by Gould (1977), is the biological process that prolongs ancestor embryo, infant and childhood features and displays them in the physical bodies and behaviors of descendant adults.  The classic examples are our ancient chimpanzee-like forebear infant features of small jaw, small teeth, big head, relatively large brain, upright stature, vertical skull positioning, playful disposition, curiosity, social dependency and displays of affection all prolonging to stay engaged later and later in childhood over the course of successive generations until these features appear not only in the young, but in adults.

Gould lists over 30 contemporary human features formed from ancient forebear infants.

Imagine that your great grandmother loved and played harmonica until she was six.  Your grandmother enjoyed playing until she was ten.  Your dad played until he hit puberty, then quit.  Then you, grown up, play harmonica a little bit each day.  You might say harmonica playing displayed a neotenic trajectory over the course of four generations.  It has been estimated that neoteny has influenced human evolution over the course of maybe 100,000 generations.

Acceleration is the opposite of neoteny.  With acceleration, ancestor adult features withdraw, instead of prolonging, to appear in the childhoods of descendants.  If mammoths were originally warm-weather elephant-like creatures, and they needed more hair and aggression to survive difficult winters, then they may have taken elephant adult-like tendencies to have more hair and aggression and placed those tendencies in younger members of the species, until eventually over the course of generations both adults and children displayed more hair along with crusty dispositions.

Though with humans the drift in a neotenous direction occurred over the course of many generations, studies have been conducted on foxes that show radical changes in look and disposition in a mere 20 years.

“Belyaev, who was in charge of a huge fox-fur farm in Novosibirsk, wanted to develop a strain of foxes that would more readily tolerate contact with people.  Of a study population of 465 foxes, he selected the 10 percent who were most calm and curious toward people and displayed the least fear or aggression.  He bred among this group and continued selecting for succeeding generations.  After only twenty generations he had ‘naturally tame animals that…would search for their keepers, climb on them… sit on the windowsill waiting for someone to approach, roll over to get their tummies rubbed, and let people carry them around and give them their shots.’ They would wag their tails that turned up at the end, like dogs.  They barked like dogs, as foxes almost never do in the wild.  These surprisingly speedy and diverse changes were produced by inducing neoteny, so that the foxes reached sexual maturity while continuing to behave like immature animals…Belyaev’s tame foxes came into heat twice a year, instead of once, just as dogs can breed twice a year and wolves only once.”  (Katharine M. Rogers, First Friend:  A History of Dogs and Humans (New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2005), p. 20.)

In addition, after 20 years these foxes started licking the hands and faces of familiar people, their annual molting in some cases stopped, ears drooped like dogs and piebald coat coloration emerged. (click here)

A number of authors have described how differences in dog breeds can be ascribed to the degree that a breed has been influenced by neoteny or the prolongation of ancestor wolf cub features to appear in the adult of dog descendants.  Selecting specific tame behaviors featured by the very young resulted in physiological transformations that included animal size, skull shape, coat variation, dog age and more promiscuous mating strategies.

In Mexico, there is a salamander-like creature called an axolotl.  It has external gills and spends its whole life in the water.  Change the axolotl environment, remove the water, and the axolotl, over a generation, will adjust to become indistinguishable from the North American salamander.  The North American salamander lives on land and uses lungs.

The larval or embryonic stage of the salamander is the axolotl.  This creature can evolve or adjust maturation to offer descendants a choice of a larval version (living in the water) or an adult version (living on the land).  Both forms reproduce.  The axolotl features neotenous characteristics of the salamander.  Or, you might say that the salamander exhibits acceleration regarding axolotl features.  The absence or presence of water determines which form this axolotl/salamander takes, an environmental effect.

This blog explores the power of neoteny and acceleration to explain evolution and transformation at a biological, social, ontogenetical and personal scale.  What I am calling an orchestral theory of evolution has to do with the adjustments of maturation rate and timing.  Although at these four scales the process is driven by the influences of social structure and the environment upon testosterone and estrogen, which impact rate and timing, I am also suggesting that adjustments in the rate and timing of systems over time, at other scales, may follow the same process.

This work also considers that though testosterone and estrogen do not inform rate and timing at the molecular biological or cosmic scales, the evolution of systems at these scales may be impacted by an identical or similar dynamic.

Gemmules

December 4, 2009 | 3 Comments

Category: Biology, Ontogeny

After several hundred pages of describing biological anomalies that didn’t fit his theory of natural selection, on page 350 of his second volume of The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, Darwin said the following, “Under this point of view I venture to advance the hypothesis of Pangenesis, which implies that every separate part of the whole organization reproduces itself.  So that ovules, spermatozoa, and pollen-grains, – the fertilized egg or seed, as well as buds, – include and consist of a multitude of germs thrown off from each separate part or unit.  In the First Part I will enumerate as briefly as I can the groups of facts which seem to demand connection; but certain subjects, not hitherto discussed, must be treated at disproportionate length.  In the Second Part the hypothesis will be given; and after considering how far the necessary assumptions are in themselves improbable, we shall see whether it serves to bring under a single point of view the various facts.”

Darwin is wrestling with observations that don’t fit an established paradigm, the one that he and Wallace introduced in 1858 called natural selection.  He is hypothesizing movement across a body and between generations of something that offers information that can be integrated into an ontological unfolding resulting in physical and behavioral change.  “It is universally admitted that the cells or units of the body increase by self-division or proliferation, retaining the same nature, and that they ultimately become converted into the various tissues and substances of the body.  But besides this means of increase I assume that the units throw off minute granules which are dispersed throughout the whole system; that these, when supplied with proper nutriment, multiply by self-division, and are ultimately developed into units like those from which they were originally derived.  These granules may be called gemmules.  They are collected from all parts of the system to constitute the sexual elements, and their development in the next generation forms a new being; but they are likewise capable of transmission in a dormant state to future generations and may then be developed.  Their development depends on their union with other partially developed or nascent cells which precede them in the regular course of growth.”  V2 pp. 369-370

What Darwin seemed to be feeling his way toward was endocrinology.  Imagine endocrinology without genetics.  Darwin hypothesized that gemmules display several features of gonadal hormones, however, hormones, when informing the next generation of useful information, don’t themselves store information in a dormant state.

Darwin was very focused on reversion.  He felt that the ability of forebear features to emerge in future generations was an important clue to how ontogeny and evolution operate.  “Reversion is not a rare event, depending on some unusual or favourable combination of circumstances, but occurs so regularly with crossed animals and plants, and so frequently with uncrossed breeds, that it is evidently an essential part of the principle of inheritance.”  V2 p. 368.

Indeed, how specifically a body stores a record of ancestor solutions to their ancient environments seems integral to the mechanics of evolution.  Darwin observed changes in environments compelling the reemergence of old solutions.  He hypothesized that the same “granules” that share the information regarding environmental effects store the information for future use.

Evolutionary developmental biologists are exploring how genes behaving like “triggers” can take information from the environment and adjust development to enhance the ability of the individual to survive.  Some of these switch systems are hundreds of millions of years old.  Ancient switches suggest Darwin’s focus on how reversion operates, but Darwin is not talking millions of years but usually just up to hundreds of generations, perhaps sometimes thousands.

How does a genetic theory of evolution need to be framed or interpreted to make possible the genes that a person is offered being able to hold in memory a sequence of ancestor events, not unlike the phenotypic sequence vaguely evidenced by our ontological progression?  In other words, ontogeny displays a general memory of ancestor phylogeny, or at least physical forms that suggest ancestor physical forms.  I’m not committing to ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny, but perhaps our ontogeny reenacts ancestor ancient switching systems, somehow storing in some detail the sequence of responses to ancient environments.  If this is the case, then perhaps the genes are not producing features but are producing a biological production, a play or symphony, that offers both a history of lives lived with environments responded to, along with an ability to respond to the present environment.

It seems to come back to music.  Our genes are a musical score along with direction on how to build an orchestra.  Each individual hires musicians to play the score, based upon what musicians are available (as informed by the environment).  Each adjusts his or her playing to the other musicians hired.  The music unfolds.  Yet, somehow, that particular production, that life experience is recorded.  The genes don’t change based upon that lifetime, but as with Darwin’s gemmules, information is carried forward to the next generation that shares a history of productions.

Is it possible that the history is stored in the environment?  Might the score created by genes be but part of a larger score with vital information about the individual and the individual’s past stored in the scores around the individual?

This is different from Darwin’s gemmules.  That which carries the information is different from how the information is stored.  Nevertheless, as Darwin noted, “after considering how far the necessary assumptions are in themselves improbable, we shall see whether it serves to bring under a single point of view the various facts.”

There are about a dozen of us volunteers working with nearly 1500 local peace, justice and environmental organizations in 50 states. The Peace, Justice and Environment Project (PJEP), located at pjep.org, places in the hands of local activists, at no cost, the kinds of tools that larger organizations have access to. This includes such features as online fundraising, eletters, online petitions and boycott tools. In addition, we make available almost 1000 resource documents congregating in 44 issue clusters, offer inter-organizational communications tools, and connect activists with like minded grassroots organizers in other states.

Spontaneous protests have been emerging across the country this last week with activists demonstrating against Obama’s anticipated escalation of the Afghanistan war. Currently United for Peace & Justice (UFPJ) is in flux. They are in debt functioning with all volunteer staff as the steering committee reaches out to member groups to help define the future of UFPJ. As a result, A.N.S.W.E.R., National Assembly, Codepink and World Can’t Wait (WCW) have been, by and large, offering attention to this issue as national organizations. Nevertheless, none of those organizations have an inclusive national presence with chapters or affiliates in every state. Only WCW has put any effort into trying keep up with the actions proliferating around the country.

With PJEP, keeping up has been relatively easy. Our 1500 participating organizations post actions to their state network websites themselves or send the actions to us to post for them. We have keep a running tally of Dec 1 and Dec 2 Afghanistan escalation protest actions. I email WCW and National Assembly my running totals. WCW then posts that tally on their national website. We’re also finding WCW events on their website that we didn’t know about. A.N.S.W.E.R. hasn’t responded to emails offering them information, except for a Washington state chapter that we work with.

As the list of local protests grows we send it out to local activists in the various states. This seems to be encouraging the creation of new events. As of 8 am (today, Dec 1) we are following almost 70 protests across the country.

We observe the momentum. We share the information. We see increases in momentum and action.

This has been an interesting experience. I’ve been monitoring the use of Facebook and Twitter as a communication device for the coming demonstrations, it has become clear that Facebook and Twitter offer no opportunity to monitor or experience an integration of related events across the country. By contrast, PJEP has had 50-state coverage since early July, 2009. This is the first time our breadth of operations has been able to magnify our members’ goals and actions into a clear contribution to a national movement. The networks are fulfilling one of the goals we set out to accomplish as we envisioned what PJEP could be.

I just noted a paper, Multiple ancient origins of neoteny in Lycidae (Coleoptera): consequences for ecology and macroevolution, that observes instances of neoteny compelling jumps in evolution.  One of the riddles of the career of Stephen J. Gould was how he seemed to rarely discuss how his deep insights focusing on neoteny explained his theory of punctuated equilibrium.  Gould did not believe in gradual evolution.  Yet, he seemed to only occasionally discuss the specifics of his saltationist conjectures, particularly when it came to heterochronic theory, or the study of the rate and timing of maturation and development, the source of neoteny.

The work just noted, Multiple ancient origins…, doesn’t just not note the influence of neoteny on humans, but it goes back many millions of years to discuss its subject.  My work has focused almost exclusively on neoteny in humans and makes the following statement….

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.

Contemporary research on neoteny and heterochronic theory, for some reason, seems hesitant to explore the endocrinological foundations for the changes in the rate and timing of maturation and development.  I am a comic artist trained to view the world through a succession of stills accompanied by words.  Perhaps this is how I’ve come to be so intimately involved with a theory best understood by a succession of images, not through mathematics or words.  Right now, Beck Kramer, one of my colleagues here at Andrew Lehman Design, is putting together a sophisticated Flash presentation of how neoteny looks and behaves when used to describe human evolution.  I’ve defined neoteny maybe 30 times in the nearly 600 pieces I’ve written for this blog.  Still, I get the feeling that the use of words to describe the process does little to provide an intuition for what exactly is happening.  Friends that have known me for decades, friends that have listened to several of my forays into evolutionary theory over the last ten years, often ask me to redefine “neoteny” before approaching the subject once again.

Consider that natural processes not easily described in mathematics or words, but by a succession of pictures or by animation, may become accessible with the emergence of new communications technologies that encourage video presentations.  There may be many theory features, such as neoteny, that are best described by a succession of pictures or an animation.  Journals fall flat as vehicles for sharing insights in these areas.

This may be another example of the media being integral to comprehension.  Whereas mathematics became integral to our understanding physics, animation may be what is necessary to assimilate and embrace new principles in biology.  I can imagine that for a future generation, being familiar with animation software will be necessary to model biological processes just as an ability now to work similar software is essential to being able to grasp molecular biology.

Might there be a connection among those experiencing the world through a succession of images tied to sounds, rather than through a focus on feelings or words, and the talents and tendencies of our youth and what those with Asperger’s and autism often describe, the visual, as their primary mode of experience?  Is it possible that a predilection to comprehend the world through pictures and sound is an emerging, or reemerging, paradigm, a way of experiencing the world that offers some paradigmatic leverage when it comes to understanding biological processes exhibiting predictable and structured changes in form over time?

Stephen J. Gould seems to me to have backed off of seminal insights as regards biological transformation.  This may have been because colleagues just didn’t seem to get it.  They were unable to see patterns in transformations over time.  Academics couldn’t grasp the larger picture in a reductionist milieu, times that feature mathematics or words when communicating scientific principles.  The times are changing.  Perhaps with changes in the ways we perceive the world, the world can be understood in different ways.

Identity and Time

November 6, 2009 | 1 Comment

Category: Biology, Ontogeny

Where you draw the line between individual and species or individual and society has a lot to do with our ability to understand ourselves and evolution.  This line is not an arbitrary line but characterizes what we perceive as the primary unit.  As humans, we maintain individual self awareness and so view the world as composed of those units that create the foundation of the structure of our world.

Dawkins and his colleagues have played with the gene as the foundation unit and have come up with some interesting conjectures.  Though I disagree with many Neo-Darwinians that behave compelled to believe that the level of the gene is the only important level of selection, I agree that there is usefulness in taking a gene perspective.  What interests me now is not just the Neo-Darwinist perspective, or even the Gould position that evolution occurs in numerous levels, including gene, individual, species, groups and larger systems.  The idea that is playing with me at this time is that using units to explore evolution strips the process of the dynamic hidden at its core.

I’m feeling that just as in physics, in biology, by assuming that there are patterns that play across the whole matrix being explored, we can find overriding principles.  Natural selection is not a description of overriding pattern.  By stating that all variation is random, that the progeny that emerge have no connection to environmental influence, the theory of natural selection is not true.  Individual progeny exhibit features and behaviors based upon both parents’ experience and that individual’s experience in the womb.  This leaves natural selection noting that individuals that don’t procreate don’t have their features passed on.  This is not an overriding pattern in biology.  This is a statement of truth across all scales of experience.  What does not procreate, does not procreate.  This is truth.  But is it useful?

An overriding pattern is a principle, once embraced, that illuminates the operation of the whole.  In physics, we have observed an evolution of overriding principles as theorists have explored relationships in time.

Time is important.  So is the scale at which we are exploring experience.  We might conclude that because time and scale are so integral to physics, they may be necessary to understanding how biology evolves.

So, let’s explore biology by adjusting time and scale, and by scale I also mean where we choose to assign identity.  As humans committed to the notion that individuality is the unit of experience with which nature and society builds, as a species committed to the idea that there is a past, present and future, we might consider stepping outside the individual as a unit, and time as split, and see what results.

If physics benefited from a conjecture that time is relative and everything is connected, why not biology?

I would start with the notion that our genes are programmed to embrace information generated by the environment that then adjusts ontogeny, modifying features and behaviors.  These adjustments are inheritable.  There is pattern to the fashions that genetic/environment information is passed on, the most obvious being that developmental stages are liquid, sloshing forward and backward along ontogeny through generations, modifying maturation, changing features and behaviors.

Now take down the walls between individuals and consider that what we call the environment is but another aspect of a single system.  As information passes back and forth between individuals, influencing features and behaviors, there exists consciousness, a consciousness not characterized by our idea of time.  There is not past, present and future informing a decision-making process featuring a focus on an individual.  In this larger system, past, present and future exist simultaneously because the system is hypersensitive to the information passed back and forth between individuals, individuals with ontogenies that manifest the back and forth, forward and backward records of evolutionary trajectories of the past.

In other words, within each individual is the record of his or her evolution to that point.  Individuals relating and sharing information influence each other’s features and behaviors.  Each individual relies upon that information to make informed decisions on which direction to evolve.  We might even surmise that an individual’s genetics are a profoundly incomplete record of what is necessary to grow and reproduce in a healthy fashion.  The genetics of other individuals, individuals sharing useful information, may be integral to the genome of other, different individuals and species.  In other words, a community has a shared genome that informs the evolution of each individual, all together.

The concept of individuality disappears when we consider that we only evolve by taking into consideration the influence and genetics of individuals in both our and other species in our community.  The concept of time disappears when we note that species’ pasts are present in individual ontogenies that reveal, via maturation, the succession of features that comprised our forebears.

What benefits are there to adjusting identity and time to embrace the system as a whole?  Perhaps we’ll discover we’re not alone.

An aspect of neoteny just struck me that has never crossed my mind before.  It perhaps suggests a basic principle in evolution.  I’m not sure.

Two days ago, I posted a piece exploring a paradox of recapitulation that focuses on an odd possibility.  When a species is in an accelerated phase and withdraws adult features backward over generations to eventually appear in the infants of descendants, adults may exhibit features of ancient forebears.  If the species lineage had in the past gone through a similar cycle, then that genetic inheritance would have been available, emerging when a similar hormonal disposition became engaged.

Haeckel may have been focused on that very dynamic as he obsessed on recapitulation as a source of new behavioral and physical characteristics.  What strikes me now is that though recapitulation (acceleration) is not considered at this time as a relevant description of evolutionary process, it does seem to be half of a process that results in a seemingly natural biological dynamic that not only withdraws species backward through ontogeny to conception but at the same time carries forward or prolongs features of this planet’s earliest species forward into adults.

There are two waves or currents moving through time.  One takes contemporary species and slowly turns them into future embryos.  The other current takes former species still existing as past and current species embryos and carries them forward into contemporary adults, their second journey though ontogeny, in the opposite direction.  Except, I’m not sure when or where the journeys end.

I find myself nudged to think out of time.  To make sense of this process, I feel encouraged to take time out of the equation of evolution to view evolution as the behavior of a single being.

Perhaps, as in physics, time is a variable when exploring evolution that has to be integrated into theory.  Trying to understand which level that evolution operates at, gene vs. individual vs. species, etc., and arguing over the results, may occur because we have not taken time into consideration when exploring species transformations.

Consider all evolution of life on earth as the behavior of one single being.  Let’s adjust time in the approach we take and instead see only phases of one being.  There is no father and son, nor mother and daughter.  They are the same being at different stages of development.  The death of an individual is a pruning or clipping or sloughing off of a cell or skin.

In this single being, life on earth, there are two strong forces that feed each other content, growing information where information did not formerly exist.  One force slowly takes the features of the current aspect of the being and pushes in backward, downward, earlier and earlier in ontogeny to reproduce species lineages as a sequence in the maturational process.  Human forebears appear in our ontogeny with salamander-like, ancient precursors, manifesting as early embryonic phases.

At the same time, of course, neoteny prolongs embryonic features to appear later and later in ontogeny with a succession of individuals and species.

Deeply peculiar is that the embryonic stages being prolonged to appear later in ontogeny over time are aspects or features of earlier species now recapitulated to appear as embryos.  In other words, and it seems easier to make sense of this if viewed as a single being, evolution involves the emergence of novel features, the “digestion” of those features to appear early in ontogeny, and to have those same features reappear, transformed.

Several things are implied and I’m having trouble wrapping my head around them.

I’m imaging that, over time, there is a back and forth, back and forth of features (and behaviors) as embryonized ancient species rebound to head forward in ontogeny to at some point recapitulate to work their way back down again and then back up.

Second, ontogeny (growth, development and maturation) may be a process characterized by the use and reuse of information as neoteny and acceleration propel features back and forth along the ontogenetic (and species) pathway.  Looking at all life as a single being, I imagine an astonishing compulsion/struggle/play to find ways to capitalize on the information being absorbed.  Shoved forward and backward, past manifestations inform the present.

Third, that which is earliest in our ontogeny, the exponential growth that follows conception, both characterizes the earliest species on the planet and at the same time represents forces struggling to appear later in ontogeny through neoteny.  There is a very real way that the first life on earth that lived long enough to reproduce and create our lineage exists right now, in our body, as the beginning of this individual’s ontogeny.

The content or process of growth after conception (at this moment, thinking out of time, I’m having difficulty separating content from process) IS the very content/process of existence in our ancient forebears.  Time disappears as we realize the past has been integrated into the present in the form of a body that manifests all that has preceded.

Consider this.  We are a highly neotenized species engaged in a neoteny surge featuring a social democratization of creativity with similarities to conception.  Stages of growth immediately following conception are at the same time stages of our planet’s ontogeny.  The planet’s early species are being used to propel individual ontogeny.  As we prolong infant features into adults, exploding creativity into society, horizontilizing culture, we are investing the present with that which invested earliest life with life.

Ontogeny is not just a concept that describes the growth of individuals.  Ontogeny is evolution of life on our planet.  That single life has exhibited many stages, with transformations occurring at many levels, not the least of which is the pulling backward and forward, backward and forward of that which is novel or unique.

Time, when integrated into physics, offered a handle on relations across great distances.  Integrating time into an understanding of biology, treating evolution as the behavior of a single being, may provide biologists an ability to understand a single life.

I’ve been playing with the idea of the Mississippi as a metaphor for a species’ life when it comes to understanding neoteny and acceleration.  It’s not a perfect fit, but it is an interesting one.

Imagine the Mississippi as representing changes in a species over time.  At the source, Itasca in Minnesota, clear water emerges from beneath the earth in a pristine environment featuring wildlife and virgin forest.  At first a trickle, the stream picks up speed and breadth, finally leaving the protected environment of the park.

The river grows wider as it meanders south.  Houses and, later, towns appear beside it.  Soon, industry emerges, and before too long, boats carrying the product of industry share river space with tourists and local boaters.

At the other end of the river, New Orleans, the river is girdled by cities on both sides, massive commercial and industrial activity and almost a million people.  Cities like Baton Rouge offer single corporate sites square miles in size, using the Mississippi as an opportunity for profit.

Driving down and up the Mississippi with my son, I am sensitive to the ways he is different and the same as I, as I am similar yet vary from my father.  We are not just part of a family line, we are a sequence in the unfolding of a species.  There are ways that our participation in a species transformation transcends our lives as individuals.  I feel aware of how deeply I have been influenced by my dad, in ways not unlike how I have influenced my son.  It sometimes feels to me that the thing we three represent, a species lineage, is far more powerful than the individual identity that we usually take so seriously.

A lineage has a life that transcends individuality.  Our commitment to time as a thing that has a past, present and future obfuscates the reality of lineage.  Remove time, and we that are related become the same.

Imagine Minnesota’s Mississippi River wildlife and protected trees reaching their way down the river, prolonging “infant” neotenic features to appear farther south with time.  If the Mississippi represents a species over time, a lineage of individuals, consider how the river would look and behave if nonhuman nature was to cascade its way down the river over time as factories closed, houses were abandoned and river boats retreated south.

In the way that human progenitor chimpanzee-like infant features prolonged and appeared in descendant adults over millions of years, the Mississippi River can reveal river source features in the way the river looks downstream.  After a long period of time, New Orleans becomes a pristine estuary with humans only visiting to observe nature.  The whole rest of the river has become a boat-free zone with trees and prairies hugging a thousand-mile bank.

This would be river as metaphor for how humans evolved.  We can go the other direction.  Instead of prolonging infant features into adults over time, bridging virgin forests to estuary endings, we could go backward and accelerate adult or estuary features so that they move north up the river, against the flow.  Larger and larger cities would appear farther and farther north.  The huge petroleum processing plants of Louisiana would expand into Arkansas, Missouri and, last, Minnesota.  Finally, factories would ring the source of the Mississippi as the forest would be removed.

Imagine the Mississippi as a species.  The evolution of features would radically differ depending upon the direction of feature evolution.  Though the flow of the river would always follow the flow of time, the river’s traits would reflect the direction of this trait trajectory.  The character of the source would flow downriver, or the features of the estuary would creep north.

This is an imperfect metaphor.  As humans have exhibited neoteny, they have revealed more sophisticated society until culture appeared and things went crazy.  If the accoutrements of culture are created by neoteny, then factories and fir trees are not opposites.

Nevertheless, species unfold or flow through time.  Grandfather, son and grandson can be alive at one time.  Humans are submerged in an experience characterized by identification with a body that has a limited awareness span.  Using the Mississippi as a metaphor for species allows an identification with evolution over time and an understanding of a species as a transforming entity with ongoing beginnings, middles and ends.

Beginnings and ends of species are the doorways to understanding directions that species evolve.

Sources and estuaries of rivers provide insight into how rivers can transform.

Rivers, sons and fathers can provide insight into species evolution.  The trick is to take the emphasis off of individuals and view evolution as an outcome of a longer time span, a lingering now.  Adjusting time as a variable when exploring evolution provides leverage as we seek to understand how species change.

Evolution flows.

August

October 28, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society

This last August, my son, Elia, and I drove down, then up, the Mississippi, taking photographs for our respective projects.  Elia feels attracted to decaying industry.  He gathers images of nature’s return inside factories and old structures.  I was taking shots of various abstract forms to be used in the neoteny video, the section describing how neoteny operates at different scales.  At night, Elia worked on the music for the video, using his Mac.  We were driving a rented car.  Elia wouldn’t reach 25 until the following month, so I was doing all the driving.

About half the time we took the slow roads that went through small towns, lingering around old river cities to take photos.  We stopped in Chartersburg, Memphis, Vicksburg, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Hannibal, Missouri, in that order.  A theme that quickly emerged was that in most sizable Mississippi cities there is gambling.  Elia got that out of his system early on.  This was the first time in his life he’d been in a casino.

On the way back up, on a Sunday in the middle of August, it emerged that Obama had concluded that he didn’t think he had the votes to get a public option through the Senate.  I remembered the trip I took almost 20 years ago, traveling by myself in a rented car up the East Coast, building sand castles in a different location every day.  Toward the end of that trip the radio revealed that the Soviet Union had fallen.  The elder Bush would later declare that the Soviet fall would lead to a new world order.  At the time, I wondered if in a new world order we would create an environment where there would be no starvation.  I wondered if health care would become available to all.

The diminution of the great polarity has not yet resulted in our feeling free enough to want to be free of want.  It seems we still prefer fear to feeling care.  The August Right Wing scream machine encouraged people to experience anxiety.  The net result was a wave of media attention on hesitation to change.  The intransigent senators, men representing those feeling frightened of difference, voted not to change.  And, of course, there was all the money dispersed by corporations to their campaigns.

Universal health care will come to America.  Will it be preceded by an economic collapse that drives a frightened middle class to behave in their own best interest instead of the interest of corporations?  Or, will there be an incremental disappearance of Republicans and conservative Democrats as their constituencies urbanize and grow younger?

As an activist, organizer and small business person, I feel depressed.  Marcia, my wife, met with Senator Durbin in August, declaring our desire for national health care in a press conference.  She was one of five local business people, picked by Durbin, to express deep dismay with the present system.  Marcia and I met with Durbin, along with four other activists, three years ago.  The net result was the immediate end of the Coast Guard practicing with automatic lead-based weapons on the Great Lakes.  Marcia’s meeting with Durbin this time did not result in celebration.

Perhaps an August car trip in the future will result in my turning on the radio and discovering, again, that the world has changed.  There will be universal health care.  Many will die unnecessarily before that happens.  When it comes, there will be celebration.

Amnesia

October 2, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Future, Society, Unconscious, Web

Thomas S.  Kuhn in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutions describes the way that science textbooks are written that results in the destruction of student abilities to understand how science evolves.  Textbooks are written from the perspective of the current paradigm.  The history of a discipline is told as if all discoveries unfolded along a path leading to contemporary insights.  Left out of textbooks are the unique world views retained by the succession of paradigms.  Past unresolved, nonintegrated anomalies get discarded as the story of the current paradigm is told.  Anomalies are the doorways to revolutions.  With old, unintegrated anomalies ignored, science students are inducted into a society with secrets.  Disciplines become amnesiac.  Individuals within a discipline don’t know what they don’t know.

A very peculiar thing is happening to time and space.  We are experiencing an elimination of time and space in societal relations.  As individuals, we are experiencing a shift in identity.

Several hundred years ago, we had no watches.  In Western society, a vague sense of linear time accompanied those with access to resources.  They could tell the time.  For the rest, church bells bonged out the hour.

Fifty years ago, we all had analog watches that told time within a couple of minutes.  Periodic synchronization was required.  Digital watches emerged popularly in the 60s.  Synchronization was still often periodically required.  Nevertheless, time had become more linearalized, digitalized, refined.

With cell phones, time has become exact.  Everyone is on the same time.  In addition, space is collapsing.  We call each other while approaching rendezvous, experiencing each other’s presence before sensory confirmation.  Being on time at a particular place becomes a relative concept because we can communicate from any place as we seek to share the same physical space.  An exact meeting place is not required when both have phones.  We just talk as we get closer.

We are moving back toward an aboriginal condition characterized by relative time and place as technology breaks down the barriers of identification with a physical form.  Not only have our senses been expanded by technology, but so has our experience of time and space.

Marshall McLuhan describes the effects on individuals and societies when media encourage seamless communication.  A result is the breaking down of barriers and a shift in personal identity.  It becomes more difficult to experience life as isolated and alone.

Thesis:  Aboriginal experience of time and space as nonlinear, relative and socially centered.  Antithesis:  Modern experience of time and space as linear, exact and individually centered.  Thesis:  Emerging experience of time and space as nonlinear, relative and trans-socially centered, mediated by technology.

Tracing changes in sense of time and space and shifts in personal identity are difficult to do when the current paradigm mostly chooses to exclude consciousness from discussions.  Consciousness is not measurable, so we will not include it in equations.  Consciousness, defined as identity shifts in space and time, goes unremarked as consciousness transforms.

In perhaps every way that matters, the future and the present are also the past.  Unknown patterns become understandable when we trace their history.  Shifts in consciousness begin to make sense when we return from explorations of the past.  An adult is informed by childhood, technology by aboriginal relations, a science discipline by a study of its roots.

When Kuhn described how the transformation of science disciplines are inhibited by textbooks and teaching protocols that hide seemingly unrelated anomalies transcended by current paradigms, he also described how we hide from ourselves features or patterns in the evolution of biology and society.  Whereas biology textbooks don’t note many of the several competing biological evolution paradigms of the nineteenth century, making invisible alternative ways to view the world, in society we don’t note changes in consciousness or identity because these changes do not seem to have social or economic repercussions.

Milton H. Erickson, the hypnotherapy innovator and theorist, observed that it was often far easier to achieve a targeted change for a client coming to him with a specific distressing symptom if the change was made without the client being aware that the symptom had been addressed.  Erickson would work out a contract with the client’s unconscious and make a deal that the client’s conscious would not be aware of, which would result in the presenting problem going away.

Erickson was intimately aware of levels of identity and the robust power that a model of consciousness could afford.  Presupposing unconscious awareness and intention, Erickson was able to negotiate transformation.  Erickson communicated with a person’s unconscious, using the rules that the unconscious was fully engaged in, primary process, with one time, one place, no opposites.  This was Freud’s discovery regarding how very young children, animals and the unconscious experience the world.  This is also the ancient human aboriginal’s world.  One time, one place, no opposites.

It seems that changes in science and society are accompanied by an Ericksonian-like amnesia.  Transformations occur but they seem to be characterized by an almost deliberate choice to not note what has been left behind.  Perhaps it’s time we become our own hypnotherapist and contract with the past to not only reveal connections to the present, but to find out what is necessary to make it possible to be aware of what has been left behind.  No more secrets.  Let the anomalies be revealed and discussed along with the discarded paradigms.  Let society’s changing relationship with itself, its evolving sense of time and space, be the subject of conversation.

Our identity is shifting.  We have the opportunity to be aware of that shift.  There is structure to the personal, societal and biological shift we are in the middle of.  It begins with discovering they are all the same.

If changing the rates and timing of human maturation results in more or less self awareness or degrees of split consciousness when cerebral hemispheres and corpus callosums adjust to varying levels of testosterone and estrogen, then might there be a macro, universe version of this process?

Okay, this is WAY out there regarding an exploration of hypothetical biological processes and their possible application to universal processes.  Nevertheless, there is a website that explores the possible ramifications of evolutionary developmental biological theory as regards the ontogeny of our universe.  These folks posit that if you can apply the theory of natural selection to how the universe acquired its characteristics, then you can do the same thing with complementary theories of evolution that suggest that the environment can influence evolution in a single generation.

What I’m playing with here is the suggestion that each of us exhibits split consciousness, which is enhanced by having two cerebral hemispheres that are not the same size with a corpus callosum small enough that it inhibits communication between the two hemispheres.  I’m presupposing that consciousness already exists, consciousness evidenced by primary process, defined as awareness of only one time, one place and no negatives.  With the emergence of split consciousness, imagination appears, and we can be aware of more than one time, multiple places and what things are not.

Consider that the universe also exhibits primary process.  What if the natural state of the universe is consciousness characterized by one time, one place, no negatives?

Except that the universe is in constant movement.

Relative variation in velocity would engender multiple experiences of time.  At the moment of the big bang, there was but one time, because there was only one place and no variations in speed.  As the universe expanded, dramatic variations in relative speed emerged.  Whereas very early on there was but primary process, over the course of the expansion, relativity emerged.

In just the way that humans exhibit imagination and creativity with the emergence of split consciousness, a result of dissociation and variation in hemispheric communication, perhaps the universe reveals self awareness as a direct result of dissociation and variation in time that results from variation in velocity.

A young universe reveals relatively little self awareness.  A mature universe exhibits self awareness, imagination and creativity.

This would be an evolutionary developmental biological interpretation of universe ontogeny.

Obviously, a brain has synapses to work with when it exhibits split consciousness and imagination.  What does a universe have that would behave like a brain that could experience relativity of time?

Something would have to play the part of connecting all the parts.  Something would have to play the part of neurons.

Dark matter?

Then again, it has been hypothesized that a brain is an instrument that decreases an almost infinite number of ways to perceive experience, reducing the channels down to five.  It’s not a device that reveals, but constrains.  To manage a physical form requires targeted attention.  A brain limits attention to those avenues, the senses, that make it possible to focus on what is necessary to maintain a physical form.

I would expect that the universe is under no such constraint.  Then the question is:  Does variation in velocity itself compel relative experiences of time, encouraging reflexive consciousness?  Whereas we experience split consciousness, the universe would experience multiconsciousness, sort of like an individual having a gazillion brain hemispheres communicating to one another regarding varying interpretations of sense experiences.

Still, it would seem necessary for a sentient form experiencing an enhancement of that experience through variations of velocity, compelling multiple experiences of time, to have an efficient across-system communication matrix.  The communication system would not need to exceed the speed of light, but it would be useful if there were places where information could be stored and compared or if there were at least some fashion for the information to be synthesized and then used to inform future behavior.

Then again, communication faster than the speed of light would be useful.  Otherwise, the speed of the expanding universe would compromise an ability to absorb and synthesize unique and emerging information regarding velocity relationships at the periphery.

It still seems to come back to dark matter.

Lifting Veils

September 23, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography, Biology, Estrogen

There is this thesis that I’ve been playing with.  Like the experience physics theorists have described, it seems too beautiful to not be true.  Nevertheless, Stephen J. Gould has described the trap biologists sometimes get themselves into, the dogged pursuit of a beautiful thesis that turns out to be false.

The thesis I am now exploring has been developing since late 1997.  It has grown deeper with time.  Earlier immersion in works by William Irwin Thompson and Riane Eisler prepared me for what followed.  It started out as an exploration of how Darwin’s theory of sexual selection juxtaposed with Chris Knight’s explanation of matrifocal human evolution.  This insight was joined by Gould’s description of heterochronic processes, associated with Norman Geschwind’s studies of cerebral lateralization and Annett’s discoveries regarding handedness distributions.

Darwin, Knight, Gould, Geschwind and Annett each offered pieces that suggested an integrated whole.  Sexualselection.org describes the thesis, introduced in 1998.

I struggled to write a larger, cogent overview of the thesis but a combination of deep disappointment around failed attempts to start conversations with academics (many polite responses, little enthusiasm) and the need to make a living (my former business took a dive) propelled me to put my theorizing on hold.  I started a website design firm in 1999.  From the start, I focused on achieving high rankings for my clients’ websites and my theory site.  I discovered I had a talent for the kind of obsessive, focused puzzle-solving that search engine optimization entailed.  Search engine ranking is now a sizable portion of my living.  My four theory sites have received over a million unique visitors.

Last fall, I was diagnosed with a cerebral aneurysm.  I’d been writing every day since the previous January 1, with daily postings slowly turning back toward evolutionary theory after a hiatus of several years.  Over the course of the spring and summer, I kept finding societal applications of heterochronic theory with implications that felt profound.  Biology and society began to merge as I observed identical processes impacting both disciplines in predictable ways.  Changing maturation rates and timing (the foundation of heterochronic theory) had both biological and societal implications.

Discovery of the aneurysm seemed to concentrate my attentions.  The existence of the aneurysm is not life threatening, unless it ruptures.  Still, the chance of a rupture in a given year is 2.5 percent to 10 percent, depending on the surgeon being interviewed.  Life feels more precious.

The original thesis that came together in 1997 and 1998 offered a host of insights and one major anomaly.  The anomaly was that Asian patrifocal social structures produce neotenous features.  I rejected the “random” answer that different ethnicities produce different features based on unpredictable tendencies to focus on particular sexually selected traits.  In the back of my mind for almost ten years was the feeling that an answer to this riddle would lead to useful new directions.

In addition, I was aware that my theory focused almost exclusively on testosterone as a driving force in human evolution, with testosterone controlling rates of maturation.  It seemed to me that estrogen probably had an integral part to play, but it had not become obvious what that part was.  For ten years, that thought about estrogen bounced around in the back of my mind.

Then, last fall, shortly after the discovery of the aneurysm, I began to play with the possibility that estrogen worked in close cooperation with testosterone in a complementary opposite fashion.  This possibility could both explain the paradox of Asian neoteny and provide a balanced explanation of how maturation rates are adjusted by estrogen in the womb and in society.

That felt major.  The piece, “Introduction to the Theory of Waves,” described the dynamic.  What I had called “Shift Theory” in 1998 I now called “The Theory of Waves” to accommodate the integration of estrogen into the equation.

Last spring, a series of additional revelations regarding estrogen emerged.  The whole theory began to lean in the direction of an estrogen dynamic when it occurred to me that there was a relationship between my stepdaughter’s difficulty with entering puberty (her diabetes wouldn’t let her put on fat) and estrogen as a possible force that controlled the timing of maturation.  This implied that heterochronic theory, already deeply integrated into the thesis, might offer further illumination by interpreting testosterone as controlling the rate of maturation while estrogen controlled the timing.

A one-sentence explanation of evolution.

An immediate implication was that autism was impacted by the mother’s testosterone and estrogen level.  In addition, the child’s hormone levels would impact maturation rates once out of the womb, particularly as regards estrogen levels.  Synapse pruning results in a reduced left hemisphere in most normal right-handed people.  This may be managed by estrogen levels, just as fat levels in adolescents determine the timing of the testosterone surges that occur at puberty.  Autistic brains are often characterized by having had no pruning of synapses as young children.

I wrote Simon Baron-Cohen.  On 6/25/09 he replied that I ask a bunch of great questions but that he doesn’t think researchers have the answers yet.  Baron-Cohen said he’d discuss my conjectures with his colleagues.  Dr.  Baron-Cohen had responded positively to an emailed introduction to my work last autumn, providing me permission to quote his positive response.

In the meantime, having been in the middle of the slow accumulation of a number of ideas that have suddenly snapped together into an integrated whole, I continue to wonder how something so beautiful might not be profoundly useful.  And, if not so useful, are there portions of the theory that might be useful?

A major hurdle is that heterochronic theory is not applied to human diseases and disorders.  It is a rather arcane, evolutionary biological backwater.  Getting theorists to pay attention to the rate and timing of maturation as regards evolution, ontogeny, epigenesis and endocrinology is a challenge.

A second problem is that autism is not looked at as an evolutionary condition.  With Darwin’s theory of natural selection still the default frame of reference, it’s very difficult for people to note the potential usefulness of alternative, complementing evolution theories.  Looking at autism as a heterochronic condition is a foreign concept to literally every academic or theorist I have proposed this idea to.

One last thing.  Sensitivity to the preciousness of life seems to encourage a lifting of veils.  If some of these conjectures turn out to be useful, if the central thesis offers physics-like leverage to open doors to additional useful theories in the future, then perhaps specific forms of spirituality might be useful when it comes to science.  If, instead of rejecting mythology as a prerequisite to engaging in science, what if we instead embraced an eastern inclination to live in the present, with no mythology?  Awareness of our own mortality may be integral to understanding that which transcends individual identity.  Feeling our not existing may offer insight into that part of us that transcends individual self.

Sensitivity to mortality may offer leverage when exploring the structure of interconnection.  Experiencing self and Self may allow us to experience evolution over time, and in the now.