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.

Ken Wilber

February 23, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Ontogeny, Ouroboros

My wife introduced me to Ken Wilber’s work about three years after the Serpentfd.org website went up.  That was around 2003.  From there I read maybe six of his books (he’s written close to 20) and listened several times to the 10-CD interview he conducted.

In the previous piece, I noted the prerational and transrational distinction he makes that clearly demarcates the differences between aboriginal prepersonal points of view and more recent spiritual transpersonal experiences.  The two are often confused.  Wilber efficiently parses out the differences, using a system of seven stages of maturation that apply to both individuals and societies.

Wilber looks at some feminist inclinations to view ancient times as more evolved in human relations as another case of comparing seemingly positive aspects of earlier stages of societal evolution, or maturation, with later-stage negative features.  For example, human sacrifice was common in matrifocal agricultural society, a fact usually ignored by those seeking synthesis in the past.  Wilber suggests that some feminists pick and choose what they want to emphasize when comparing female-centered societies with contemporary patrifocal examples.

Paying close attention to similarities between evolution and maturation on both individual and social scales, Wilber, guided by the work of Habermas, Gebser, Adi Da, and others, feels to me to still be operating from a natural selection frame of reference.  Wilber’s trajectory is linear and pyramidal, male and hierarchical in many ways.  Though concepts of maturation are deeply integrated into his point of view, it seems to me that his point of view is informed mostly by a male orientation suggesting survival-of-the-fittest understandings.

What I think Wilber is at least partially missing is cyclical-based evolutionary changes over time.  In evolution by maturation, heterochronic theory, or what I’m now calling The Orchestral Theory, there are surges of maturational delay and acceleration, the prolonging of embryonic features into adulthood and the accordioning of adult features into embryos, which accompany evolution, often with a periodic, cyclic return of features and behaviors, modified as they reappear.

Clearly, both cyclic and linear patterns are in play.  Wilber’s concentration on the linear or hierarchical is probably mostly a function of the times we live in.  Then again, I’ve never noted Wilber ever quoting Gould or the heterochronists.  As a philosopher working with evolutionary principles, he does not often depart from natural selection orthodoxy on those rare occasions that it comes up.  Once, when on a forum discussing Dawkins’ positions on evolutionary theory, Wilber jumped in to make it clear he did not agree with much of what Dawkins says.  Wilber has opinions about biological evolution theory.  They just tend to congregate around natural selection, though not Neo-Darwinism.  It is perhaps odd that Wilber heavily focuses on maturational interpretations of societal change and personal transformation, while he at the same time ignores existing maturational interpretations of biological evolution put forth by the heterochronist Neo-Lamarckians of the nineteenth century.

Wilber, when he focuses on the confusions that accumulate around prerational and transrational, prepersonal and transpersonal, or ancient matrifocal as a current not belonging in the present, seems to overlook the power of cycles to explain much of what does not emerge in linear overviews.  Wilber describes the symbol of the serpent with her tail in her mouth, the oroborus, as not only an archaic representation of spiritual experience, but as a symbol that represents the prepersonal, or prerational, frame of reference.  I believe that Wilber misses the agency of cycles in both the prerational and transrational.  This can result in an interpretation of symbols that picks up some, but not all, of the connotations.  The serpent, as a powerful representation of prerational consciousness, also serves as a symbol of cycles that transcends the prerational, transrational split.

With Wilber, each stage transcends and includes previous stages, so nothing is actually lost or replaced as each transformation or maturation occurs.  Nevertheless, I believe it useful in a linear, nested hierarchy model to accompany these descriptions with the complementary opposite model of cycles, how things transform by maturing both backward and forward in time, often at the same time.  Wilber’s work is remarkable, astonishing and a joy to read.  Still, it could use a female’s touch.

Oyama Passage

February 15, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Maturation Rates

“To adopt Dawkins’ gene’s-eye view for a moment, we can see that it would make sense for a gene to take advantage of any developmental opportunity, without caring whether the influence originated inside its organism’s skin or outside it.  Viewing this widely ramified network of interactions in terms of extended phenotypes rather than of developmental systems, however, has several disadvantages.  First, if a gene’s phenotype may be part of another organism’s body, then any organism’s genotype would seem to be distributed as well.  Just what genes were part of that genotype, furthermore, would change with time, since different genes would ‘manipulate’ this particular body at different times.  Second, even if one retains a more mundane view of genotype roughly as that complement of genes enclosed within the skin, the organism in Dawkins’ account is not only something of an epiphenomenon to genetic wheelings and dealings (as it already seems in many sociobiological accounts), but a mosaic epiphenomenon to boot, created to run by its own genes and by the genes of multiple others.  The concept of the developmental system, on the other hand, incorporates the insight that a given phenotype is a product of quite a bit besides its own genes without doing away with the individual organism itself.  It is ironic to me that biologists who begin by being enthralled by the forms and workings of plants and animals sometimes end up analyzing them out of existence.”  (Susan Oyama, The Ontogeny of Information:  Developmental Systems and Information, 2d ed., rev. and exp., with a Foreword by Richard C. Lewontin (Durham, N.C.:  Duke University Press, 2000), p. 177.)

Reading Susan Oyama’s books on the battle among current genetic paradigms offers an experience not unlike observing wars among Western origin myths.  It feels less about which model is more useful and more about which views of the world feel intuitive to the theorists.  Intuitions often have social structure sources, informed by hormonal predilections.  That feels in play regarding genetic theory.  I find myself siding with Oyama, when I can understand her, but her tone suggests someone involved in a venture that is not fun.  She seems disgusted with the astonishing number of colleague-published accounts based upon hidden assumptions rather than upon observed conditions.

She cites dozens of academics I’m not familiar with, describing interpretations of genetic/environmental relationships in ways I find unfathomable, yet her point is clear.  Most male academics think that every living being in the world operates according to a set of instructions, less so by the relationships they form or the environment that they live in.

At this point, I feel comfortable interpreting the genetic algorithm outside the venue of individuals, as noted in the passage above.  Consider looking at any individual’s genes as shared resources of the larger system.  This view is accompanied by not looking at the individual as the level and context through which evolution operates.  This creates an opportunity to observe evolution outside our human obsession with noting parts, not wholes.

Natural selection as it emerged from the evolution theory synthesis in the mid-twentieth century often does not satisfactorily explain what we observe.  I believe one reason is that we are obsessed with interpreting the world from the scale of the individual, which happens to be the scale in which we as split-consciousness beings (self-aware beings) seem to spend most of our time.

Another reason is that implications of the new discipline, evolutionary developmental biology, are only beginning to be understood as regards the effects of social structure and the environment on maturation rates.

Both issues relate to autism.  The autistic often do NOT view the world from split-conscious awareness, but from a primary-process, presplit-consciousness orientation.  There is a world out there that exists outside materialistic, reductionist, cause-and-effect-relationship frames of reference.  A question is:  How do we integrate autistic and neurotypical paradigms?

If autism is a condition that can be partially explained by understanding how humans, species, ecosystems and systems in general mature, then perhaps we should be paying less attention to natural selection as a theory that offers solutions and more attention to alternative theories that concentrate specifically on maturation.

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.

There is a tacit assumption or consideration that underlies much of what I write here.  Occasionally, I’m not subtle about this belief.  The idea is that art and science can be closely allied.  Perhaps they often are closely allied, except at present science seems rather obsessed with the idea that theory formation should be engaged in with the same obsession with detail as is necessary in the proof of theory.  That tends to keep artist/blogger/theorists writing for nonscientists.

Artists are just as obsessed as scientists, except their focus is usually on internal experience and the translation of that internal experience in a way that provides visitors something new.  Often, artists are exploring what it is like to be human, tasting and evaluating consciousness as the artists produce varying treats from the particular kitchen that is their medium.  Sometimes the artists attempt to put the concoction into words.  Some artists specialize in words.  For many artists, part of being an artist is having a unique experience without having to use words.

I am an artist, trained in watercolor and pen and ink, who now works in the medium of storytelling, collecting patterns from different science disciplines and showing how the different patterns can congregate to describe how humans came to be.  I am using my imagination to tell a story that describes how humans acquired imagination.  Like the scientist, I display obsession with detail, except I am relatively unconcerned by peer review.  As an artist, I find that convention is only useful insofar as the communication of my experience requires my overlapping with the experience of my audience.  For a scientist, allegiance to convention is integral to both being provided an opportunity to share ideas (getting an advanced degree) and presenting ideas that ally with at least some of the scientist’s colleagues’ thoughts.

As an artist producing evolutionary theory, I find myself over time producing no small number of products, at least as compared to the published work of scientists.  In the kitchen of my medium, I concoct many pies, cakes, roasts, casseroles, appetizers and sides.  I receive emails and comments alerting me to whether the flavors are satisfying to my visitors.  I get mixed reviews.  Nevertheless, from what I can tell with scientists’ productions, either they are spending less time in the kitchen, they are cooking but not sharing the results in peer-reviewed contexts or they are cooking but just producing far fewer, but more sophisticated (deeply researched and cited), products.

The point I am very slowly getting around to making is that as an artist I can explore consciousness as integral to my productions without having to strain myself.  An academic seems to need to make believe that understanding, experiencing or at least defining consciousness is not necessary to what a scientist produces.  A scientist is a member of a community of peers that believe that an advanced degree makes it possible for holders of that degree to have something to lose if they don’t behave in a trustworthy fashion.  Those folks that spend the time and money to get a Ph.D. receive an audience in part because everyone knows that if they screw up, they are out that time and money.  Not so the artists.  Artists are evaluated by what comes out of their kitchen.

A scientist has something to lose.  This is good insofar as society can trust a scientist’s evaluation or proof will hold up across conventional reality.  An artist has little to lose.  This is good insofar as an artist needs to cross boundaries, breaking culture barriers, to explore identity and consciousness, providing insight into where we come from and what it is like to be a human being.

So, we have two classes of humans, both engaging in obsession or deep ongoing focus of attention on some particular, one class committed to convention, the other to the boundaries of convention.  Scientists tend to stay away from understanding how consciousness may influence their particular focus (physicists and biologists, for example), while artists are seeking, at least to some degree, to understand consciousness.

It seems to me that there is potential for synergy, a science of consciousness or art of evolution.  Spiritual disciplines have mostly scoped out this area up to now, often accompanying their discoveries with mythologies obfuscating insights with maps confused with territories.  In the previous piece, I played with the presupposition or theory that humans evidence two forms of consciousness–primary process and split consciousness–and that unions or integrations of the two consciousnesses can offer beautiful (artist frame) or useful (scientist frame) results.

A place to begin might be to encourage scientists to behave more like artists by imagining that they have access to alternative, primary process states of consciousness that offer both beautiful and useful information.  We might also encourage artists to explore and communicate using evolutionary paradigms, allowing the extrapolation of their personal experiences to larger contexts.

Integration of primary process and split consciousness is not just a personal choice, but a societal imperative.  Experiencing our selves on multiple identity levels creates an opportunity to feel whole.  Observing what science and art have in common, what the scientist and artist share, is necessary if our society is to give up the mythologies of religion.


January 14, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art, Auto-Biography, Society, Unconscious

I have a friend whose dad was a famous guru and whose brother was a mathematics professor at a prestigious college.  My buddy chose a profession that surrounded him with art.  That’s how I met him.  I provided him illustrations.  Thirty years ago he made it to an endocrinologist to discover that he didn’t have schizophrenia as diagnosed.  He needed his hormones adjusted.  Pills taken, life settled down.  He was always going to be obsessive-compulsive, but the terror and paranoia went away.

Every autumn, my diabetic stepdaughter goes through endocrinological hell as her auto-immune system goes haywire.  Most years she spends some time in the hospital.  Doctors don’t know what to do other than to address the symptoms.  Gwyn is an artist of the palette, inventing new tastes and flavors and sharing them with those that visit her in her restaurant.

Where I live in Chicago, one of the most common topics of conversation is the weather.  When we ask each other how we’re doing, we respond with the conventional answer, fine.  Yet, somehow, discussing the weather is also a way to discuss how we are doing, but it is done in such a way that we aren’t getting sidetracked by what the person is aware of in his or her internal landscapes.  We hear the voice tones, timbre, intonation patterns, stress, presence and level of preoccupation when we discuss the weather.  Not incidentally, when we discuss the weather, communicating our internal states through various nonverbals, we are also discussing the larger community of variables impacting our physical, emotional and consciousness states.

For people like my stepdaughter, the weather is a life and death experience.  Without medical intervention, the autumn would have killed her years ago.

For my friend, misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, medical intervention has made him far more able to withstand environmental variation.

I personally experience radical mood swings depending on the season.  Growing older, I find that the swings slowly become less extreme.  Nevertheless, autumn anxiety and melancholy feel inevitable.  Deep winter depression is a routine.  During thunderstorms, I often feel elevated by the presence of something larger than myself.  I know many others with emotions, world views and even consciousness impacted by season and the weather.

My evolving understanding of evolution seems to be informed by a sense that our human idea of individuality, the way a human associates split consciousness or the experience of existential separateness with any being with a body, has impacted our ability to view/observe/listen to the world.  In other words, the peculiar human ability to be self aware has ironically obfuscated our ability to perceive a highly integrated, interconnected environment featuring relationships, not individuals.  Self aware, we have difficulty perceiving the awareness features of our environment.

The weather impacts our endocrine system, influencing our moods and adjusting our states of consciousness.  Each of us is self aware, but strangely we spend little time noting fluctuations in awareness.  Our consciousness is impacted by the environment, and we pay little attention.

If science is occupied by individuals talented at focusing on the specific to prove larger patterns, then perhaps it will take artists to understand evolution.  Evolution is a process that features massive interconnection.  Artists often succeed in crafting a communication that provides the person experiencing the art the feeling that he or she is not alone.  I’m slowly coming to the realization that evolutionary theorizing is more art than science as it becomes clear that breaking down larger patterns into smaller pieces doesn’t communicate the larger patterns.  To describe evolution, you need art.

Each of us is impacted by the larger patterns.  We know in our bodies, our emotions and our minds what it is like to be part of a larger system.  Evolutionary theory that both supports and reveals this experience would be useful.  Evolutionary theory that integrates understandings on what exactly consciousness is and how evolution engenders consciousness–beginning with how our environment influences human consciousness–would not only be useful, but would be art.

“Environmental factors can be an important source of nongenetic influences on laterality.  Since the effect of a gene is to play a role in some form of chemical reaction, it is not surprising that genetic determination is not absolute.  Every chemical reaction can be modified by alterations in pressure, temperature, pH, light, the presence of other substances, the availability of chemical precursors, and the rate at which products are removed.  With growing sophistication of molecular genetics, it has become increasingly clear that nongenetic effects can play a powerful role; methylation, for example, has been shown to suppress expression of many genes.  We will now consider some of the random effects that might modify lateralization.  One implication of our hypothesis is that even if the genetic endowment of any particular fetus were known precisely, it would not be possible to make predictions concerning the distribution in a population basis.  One of the reasons for this relative freedom from genetic determination is that if hormones do play a role in determining laterality, then the effects of testosterone or related substances on the developing brain will be modified by factors not under the control of the fetal genes.  Androgens are produced not only by fetal testes and the placenta but also by the maternal ovaries, adrenals, and nonglandular tissues.  The fetus can be influenced by the actions of many of the unshared maternal genes.  It is reasonable to expect that if a fertilized ovum were transplanted into the uterus of an unrelated female, the final pattern of the brain would be quite different, because the brain would develop in an environment of hormones and other substances that would certainly differ in many respects.  It might therefore be reasonable to take a different approach than usual to the genetics of many conditions.  One should perhaps consider, not the genes carried by the offspring alone, but rather the genes of that organism existing or active only for the nine months of pregnancy; in other words, one should consider the mother and the fetus as a unit.  This unit contains three groups of different genes: one paternal set present in the fetus, one maternal set present in the mother, and another maternal set present both in the mother and in the fetus.  The situation is even more complex when dizygotic twins are involved, since the maternal-fetal unit will contain another group of paternal genes.  The effects of substances produced by the mother will, however, be diminished by the capacity of the placenta to act as a barrier to some maternal hormones.  The fetus is protected to a great extent from maternal testosterone, which is converted to estradiol by placental aromatase.  Dihydrotestosterone, which is not aromatized and therefore crosses the placenta, is, however, usually present in the mother at much lower levels than testosterone.  The protection from maternal testosterone is not complete, since offspring do show signs of masculinization when mothers are exposed to this hormone.  In addition, progesterone administered to the mother may masculinize female fetuses.  It is clear that the placental barrier is far from complete.  Furthermore, it is likely that there are individual variations in the aromatizing capacity of the placenta.  It is conceivable that some maternal genes not shared by the offspring have greater effects on female fetuses.  Thus, the testosterone to which female fetuses are exposed comes predominantly from maternal tissues, whereas males produce it themselves in high quantities.  In the study of Nichols and Chen (1981) sex hormones given to mothers were associated with a higher rate of hyperactivity in female offspring than in males.”  (Geschwind and Galaburda 1987: 133-134, Cerebral Lateralization)

This long excerpt discusses Geschwind and Galaburda’s 1987 thoughts regarding the yet unnamed evolutionary biological discipline, evolutionary developmental biology.  Neuropsychologists are not often referred to in evolutionary biology.  When neuropsychologists are referencing evolution at all they are usually thinking in terms of natural selection.  Neuropsychologists and evolutionary biologists retain separate journal systems, separate languages, separate conferences.

T. J. Crow is a British theorist who has crossed lines in his explorations of schizophrenia and other mental conditions, bringing in discussions of neoteny to explain cerebral anomalies.  Marion Annett has suggested left-handedness reveals features of an evolutionary forebear.  Bernard Crespi, though focusing on genetics as the cause of schizophrenia and autism, seems to imply evolutionary underpinnings to the conditions.  Connecting the work of these three theorists to an evolutionary developmental interpretation of their work may be useful.  From what I can tell, these kinds of interpretations are rare events.

In the excerpt above, Geschwind and Galaburda are realizing that a person’s genetic heritage as regards something as central as cerebral lateralization has far less to do with an individual’s genes than with the environment that they are located in and possibly the genes of those they are in contact with.  In the model I am playing with, we cannot easily look at a representative of a species, any person, for example, as the source of information regarding the individual’s “genetic heritage.”  We each are part of a larger matrix of genetic information, with genomes located in other individuals, including individuals in other species, informing our personal ontogeny.

The following is the premise I am playing with.  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.

Connected to this premise is a reinterpretation of genetics to be not a “template,” an algorithm or a code, but more a musical score requiring both (1) the input of unique musicians that includes their life history and experience and their interpretation of the score and (2) the influence of the audience on the musicians.

Integral to this interpretation is a complete overhaul of the reductionist or materialist perspective.  Geschwind and Galaburda see clues to a shift in this direction.  Evo Devo advocates can sometimes sense where we are headed.  Consider that Geschwind and Galaburda are noting that if something as central as cerebral lateralization, which I have described as integral to understanding human self awareness, or split consciousness, is heavily influenced by hormones, hormones heavily influenced by environmental factors, then the origin of human consciousness ontologically in each of us individually is directly related to what is happening in the world around us.

I have stated that environmental or social structure adjustments that influence levels of testosterone and estrogen determine the speed, timing, features and direction of evolution.  The emergence of split consciousness was, of course, central to human evolution.  Geschwind and Galaburda are trying to sort out the influence of the hormones on individual cerebral ontogeny.  Their work can also be interpreted to be seeking to untie the knot of understanding of how humans evolved split consciousness originally.  We’re not talking just adjustments in genes, what Annett has described as right shift theory, or tendency to lateralize.  We are talking about the contribution of a whole environment to the origin of human split consciousness both tens of thousands of years ago and right now with the emergence of each new person.

I often read papers by specialists in disciplines and have few clues about what they are trying to communicate.  Works by an evolutionary biologist I seem to get most of.  If the work is by a geneticist or neurologist, I miss much.  I often feel like an outsider trying to grasp some particular subdiscipline’s insight, needing courses in the subdiscipline, a mentor and the kind of personality that is willing to study what I’ve been told to study because it is the convention to do so.  Reading neuropsychology and evolutionary developmental biology, I’m asking myself if these two subdisciplines can even understand each other.  I don’t think my brother-in-law, who is the chair of an economics/finance department, has the background to grasp concepts that my astronomy professor friend Craig would be familiar with, though they both use mathematics.  (I could be wrong.)  I’m starting to wonder if the holistic insights characterized by understanding common concepts among neuropsychology, evolutionary biology and social structure where it integrates with endocrinology are difficult to grasp in no small part because the different disciplines just don’t talk because they can’t.

When I read excerpts like the passage that began this piece, little evolution flags start excitedly waving.  What do academics do when they have those cross-disciplinary gestalt experiences?


December 29, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Neoteny, Ontogeny, Ouroboros, Society

Maturity is not the same as progress.  To pass through a series of ontological stages evidencing the look, sound and behavior of the personal epochs that have been experienced is not progress.  It is life.

All mixed up in contemporary theorizing are three things:  the exact nature and difference between that which transforms over time that is changing as a result of random interconnections, that which is changing as a result of progress or improvement over time and that which is changing as part of a larger pattern of maturation.

Evolutionary biology tends to take the position that evolution follows Darwin’s wedges metaphor, with every feature of every being emerging as a direct or indirect result of what is necessary to survive to procreate.  Features acquired by individuals are random, unconnected to the environment or the parents’ experience, making random feature survival the central focus of evolution.  There is no such thing as progress.  There is no larger picture to inform what survives to procreate.

Society, religion and spirituality tend to focus on the idea that either we are on a pathway toward improvement or we are not.  Those saying not are often atheists, and often they find themselves sympathizing with the evolutionists.  Those allying themselves with the idea that things are getting better by design, whether deity-inspired or not, view society as an unfolding that will eventually end up somewhere that most would interpret as a good place.  With our science grounded in Wallace and Darwin’s theory of natural selection, there is often a not-so-subtle split between science and society perspectives.

The third path is an understanding of evolution or progress, which is not well understood.  Perhaps the primary reason there is confusion is that this third path suggests a “deistic” insight, though there is no deity.  The third path describes evolution as a dynamic that reveals a larger pattern, one characterized by interconnections over time and space, a dynamic that posits concepts of maturity as integral to understanding evolution.

Maturation is not about progress.  Maturation is a succession of stages over the course of time.  A baby is not more or less evolved, more or less good than an adult or any other stage of maturity.  No single stage of maturity is worse or better, more or less evolved than any other stage.  All stages are part of a single continuum.

The same holds true regarding evolution.  Species evolution reveals a vast, complex dance of maturation, with individuals maturing within lineages maturing within societies within species within larger systems.  Maturation at the biological level is influenced by an almost infinite number of environmental variables hypothetically managing the rates and timing of evolution through testosterone and estrogen.  Metamorphosis at the biological, societal, ontological and personal levels are all occurring according to the demands of the environment and social structure, far from random interpretations of change.

It’s not about a random universe and random evolution.  It’s not about progress and the march toward the betterment of all.  It is about shifting scales and seeing how we as individuals, maturing as who we are, while we are who we are, is the exact same process engaged in by society, biology, and possibly, the universe.

Maturation is a pattern that repeats across all scales of existence, featuring the carrying forward of creation toward cessation (neoteny) and the carrying backward of cessation toward creation (acceleration).  I’m thinking that this is a natural dynamic, and it’s just how stuff works, a principle or law of existence.  Characteristics of embryos, youth, infants, creation, everything associated with beginnings slowly make their way forward through successive stages of whatever scale we happen to be examining until traits associated with beginnings approach the end.  At the same time, features of adults, old timers, the mature, and the end of systems make their way backward through successive stages of whatever scale we choose to explore until characteristics of endings advance upon the start.

Tracing these patterns over time is the study of many of our science disciplines.  Nevertheless, our science practitioners are bereft of a larger picture.  They are without an intuition that maturation is a feature of the larger system, revealing smaller patterns that a discipline explores.  These are patterns having nothing to do with progress but which nevertheless exhibit predictable outcomes.

What is missing in our explorations is the insight that there is no such thing as narrative time.  Humans have a unique ability to exercise imagination.  We confuse an ability to be two places at once and a seeming ability to examine time with the assumption that time is examinable.  Time can be experienced, not examined.  What we are missing is that each of us individually is actually every time we have ever been.  There is no progress or improving.  There is the moment.  The societal, religious and spiritual paths that suggest that progress is underway are mixing up location on the path with the path as a whole.  The path as a whole is about maturation.  There is no worse or better place to be on that path.

Maturity is not the same as progress.  To pass through a series of ontological stages evidencing the look, sound and behavior of the epochs we have experienced is not just a result of natural selection.  It is life.

That I might have featured Asperger’s when I was young never crossed my mind until this year.  I’d been studying autism for 12 years.  Working for 12 years with the thesis that testosterone informed the rate of maturation, it never struck me that estrogen might manage the timing until last winter when I discovered I’d been causally considering it for a couple of weeks.  My creative process is an artistic process that often features a conscious mind just along for the ride.  There are similarities between those of us living lives deeply informed by the creative process and those that this society calls autistic.

Understanding autism is at the heart of this orchestral theory of evolution.  If this theory does explain how autism emerges and offers interventions that can improve the lives of those that feel inhibited by the condition, then there is the chance that several dozen conditions and diseases may be addressed by using the principles outlined in this work.  My premise is that autism is a condition that features male maturational delay and, in females, acceleration.  Social structure, neurological anomalies and endocrinological differences are all integral to autism and Asperger’s etiology.   By adjusting our theory of evolution to take into consideration how exactly maturation rates and timing are influenced by social structure and the environment, the causes of autism and the causes of a number of other conditions and diseases are possibly made clear.

Autism does not have just one cause.  Perhaps there are several different etiologies and autism will acquire several different names when the different causes are uncovered.  The particular evolutionary dynamic I describe in this work describes exactly how one kind of autism emerges, under what circumstances and in which kinds of families.  I focus on three specific causes of autism that are directly connected to an underlying evolutionary matrix, a collection of processes that influence physical and mental health in a number of areas.  Though I concentrate on autism, this work represents a new theory of medical etiology, removing natural selection from its present station as all that doctors know.  In its place, I offer a number of tools that have the potential to make medical diagnosis an evolutionary intervention.  Consider that if we understand that how we treat our bodies and what we are exposed to compel the evolutionary trajectory of progeny, with repercussions for both ourselves and our children, then understanding health becomes the same as how we choose to evolve.

There are three main variables that impact autism.  This blog discusses contemporary changes in social structure, environmental influences and the blending of two parents with no recent common forebears.

Social structure is huge.  Contemporary theorists have been blind to the effects of an emerging matrifocal society.  They are so focused on what seems the default convention, patrifocal social structure.  The mind blindness described by Baron-Cohen that offers a window to understanding autism serves as a societal metaphor when it comes to understanding that patrifocal social structure is but one of two primary social structure paradigms.  Blind to the emergence of the power of women in contemporary society, we don’t notice the repercussions of that change.  The delay of maturation in males is one such repercussion.  I describe specifically how this happens.

There are at least eight variables that influence levels of testosterone and estrogen, often changing those levels differently, if not in opposite fashions, in men and women.  Changing uterine testosterone levels impacts maturation rates, delaying or accelerating the lifelong maturation rates of progeny.  Adjusting estrogen levels has the potential to impact the timing of maturation processes, resulting in dramatically different neurological structure.  This work explores how changes in environmental variables influence autism, Asperger’s and other conditions.

Darwin noted that mated variants of the roc pigeon, bred separately in China and Europe over 2,000 years, created chicks that revealed features of their 2,000-year-old roc pigeon progenitor.  Modern breeders combine variants that are not closely related in order to create “hybrid vigor,” bringing forward some of the strength of ancestors.  If humans acquired facility with spoken language at about the same time we departed Africa, then mating ethnic persuasions that have had almost no contact over many thousands of years may produce children revealing features of their last common ancestor.  This may result in gifted progeny like Barack Obama.  It may also lead to children with difficulty speaking or who are unable to achieve split consciousness without the kind of guidance and stimuli that their ancestors received.

I am proposing that autism is a social condition that is impacted by the environment.  By understanding autism, not only can we grasp how humans evolved, but we can form a deeper understanding around what it is to be human.  If an understanding of consciousness is integral to understanding evolution, and if this orchestral theory of evolution satisfactorily defines the variables that have impact, then autism is a good place to begin as we seek a way to make this theory useful.

I expect that if this new theory I am presenting here is embraced by enough interested individuals, it will evolve to something different as the criteria that a theory be useful propels practitioners in new directions.  It is important that a theory be fun.  If it’s fun, then we have our unconscious invested and aboard.  With the unconscious as guide, the theory will change.  Consciousness is all about creation.

A foundation of this work is the power of sexual selection and social structure to inform biological and social evolution.  Integrating sexual selection and social structure with heterochronic theory, neuropsychology and endocrinology makes it possible for these components to comprise a synthesis I’m calling “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution.”  One way to explain how these seemingly different disciplines integrate is to explore them in enough detail, one at a time, so that depicting how different languages are describing the same process makes sense intuitively.

In the case of sexual selection, I have the work of Geoffrey Miller (2000) to detail what I am thinking.  Miller doesn’t believe neoteny influences human evolution in an important way.  Miller is an evolutionary psychologist.  He believes that the simpler explanation is likely more useful.  Nevertheless, Miller adroitly describes human evolution impacted by sexual selection.  My variation of Miller’s thesis is as follows:

1) Natural selection
2) Sexual selection (selecting for pattern when seeking a mate)
3) Human sexual selection (selection for novel pattern when seeking a mate)
4) Art (selecting for novel pattern outside of mate selection)
5) Awareness of the selection, or creative, process

I believe that a familiarity with social structure is integral to understanding the power of sexual selection to propel these transitions.  Implied is a hierarchy, or meta-evolution, of evolutionary processes, beginning with natural selection.  Sexual selection follows natural selection.  Where it gets particularly interesting is when human sexual selection begins a focus on novelty or aesthetics, probably in the form of rhythm and dance.  What we call culture, step 4, represents a sexualization of experience, with a focus on novelty itself becoming assigned to experience.  Symbol itself, language, emerges from sexual selection rhythm-and-dance grounded rituals to become what we call culture, but it probably is in no small way almost all about procreation.  Step 5 emerges when we split consciousness beings begin to integrate our two separated selves, becoming aware of the relationship between consciousness, sexuality and the creative process.

This five-step process is a slimmed-down explanation of the evolution of evolutionary process, concentrating on sexual selection in particular.  I believe this to be a useful abbreviation because it offers a cogent doorway into the integration that this work seeks to share.  Over the course of this blog I step in and out of the central thesis of this work from several doorways, hoping the reader will acquire a feeling for the music that guides this work, like one who is learning dance steps.  Though I have described this thesis as subtle and complex, like a work of Bach, it is mostly a case of the theory just feeling unfamiliar.  Bach, complex, nevertheless can feel familiar.  Experiencing human evolution as a five-step dance is one way we can move to evolution’s music.

This work began almost 15 years ago when I disappeared down a rabbit hole where I was studying the origins of dragon and serpent mythologies in matrifocal cultures that came before the Indo-Europeans.  It was an art and writing project that involved my creating a book of dragons, treating the various dragons and dragon-like mythological beings as species within a genus, exploring them biologically and socially.  I became intimate with the religions, mythologies and social structures of ancient aboriginal societies and early civilizations at the root of dragon myths.  I found myself living and breathing ancient air, viewing, listening to, and feeling the world in a different way.

This alternative path features a world view that presupposes connection.  Studying ancient matrifocal society, I was introduced to an experience characterized by an immanent presence rather than a separated, transcendental god.  Interconnection is presupposed.  The individual is part of a larger process.

These themes are, of course, reemerging in contemporary times through a number of avenues, including Eastern practices, drugs, group art/aesthetics such as dance and chanting, and aboriginal spiritual paths.  I was exploring the origin of dragon myths, discovering the cultural heritage of societies that had their myths and familiars demonized by conquering patrifocal societies.  I found myself exploring origins of culture from a very non-Western frame of reference.  Studying the origins of dragon mythology led me to a study of the earliest origin of myth.  Serpents were some of the first carved images that emerged, which led to an exploration of what exactly happened when culture exploded just before, during or after the African diaspora.  Studying serpent mythology led directly to a study of consciousness and the origin of culture.

I was immersed in a different presuppositional matrix from that which characterizes most contemporary theorizing.  Presupposing that everything is connected, assuming that human evolution featured our thriving in a matrifocal context until the emergence of proto Indo-Europeans, herding societies and the larger agriculture-based communities, I found myself asking questions that I wasn’t sure had been asked before.

The question which broke things open was:  If brains had been growing smaller for the last 25,000 years and if we had been transitioning from a matrifocal to a patrifocal frame, then might there be remnants of those ancient matrifocal aboriginals featuring a larger brain and difficulty with language?  The answer was that many autistics have larger brains, their right hemisphere never having diminished in size, and they often have a neurological difficulty with speaking.

I had presupposed that humans had evolved while living in matrifocal societies.  I had also presupposed that seemingly noncontiguous disciplines might be directly connected, particularly the sciences studying mythology, consciousness, evolution, neuropsychology, anthropology and social transformation.  Perhaps most importantly, I presupposed that integrating the immanent goddess of the ancient aboriginals, featuring an experience of all things being connected, with the narrative, often split, consciousness of the patrifocal societies that followed offered a useful synthesis when seeking to understand how humans evolved and how to describe this evolution.

Those that are good with children can often think/feel like children.  To be good at theorizing human origins, I am suggesting that it is useful to experience those early evolutionary states.  This work seeks to offer useful interventions in a number of different areas.  I am hypothesizing that it is useful to presuppose connection and matrifocal origins when seeking to understand how we came to be.

Explorations of societies displaying matriarchal, or matrifocal, tendencies often struggle with a definition that will adjust to very different examples of the paradigm.  Often, a woman’s exercise of authority within a culture can be profound but not obvious, as if there were an agreement that men look like they are in control.  There are different areas where authority manifests such as home, work, market, social situations.  Female authority may vary depending on the context.  Shared authority can look very different in different societies.

What I am calling “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution” is a feminine theory of evolution insofar as both sexes share the ability to inform change and both foundation hormones have profound impact.  “Feminine” suggests sharing and cooperation.  In the context of evolutionary theory, a feminine paradigm is a cooperative paradigm with both a male and female command of process.

Nevertheless, from our Western perspective, provide a woman any control in a hierarchical context where men have traditionally called the shots, and the female anomaly often receives negative attention.  Evolutionary theory traditionally focuses on the male.  Some exceptions with a focus on the female have emerged over the last 40 years, mostly from female theorists, but so long as our primary paradigm is Darwin’s theory of natural selection supporting survival of traits emerging in a random context, the female cooperative-and-sharing paradigm is framed in a male, competitive milieu.

Part of what is wholly new in what I am presenting is a balanced female/male perspective.  I place a heavy emphasis on the impact of those environmental and social structure influences that adjust levels of estrogen and testosterone, changing the rate and timing of an individual’s experience, ontogeny, societal change and species evolution.  Whereas the changing of rates, influenced by changing levels of testosterone, generates archetypal transformations, the changing of timing, managed by adjusting levels of estrogen, controls testosterone-informed rates of change.

In other words, this is a theory of evolution that suggests that the feminine governs the masculine rather than the other way around.

Whether timing governs rate or rate governs timing is really a nonuseful distinction.  They both influence each other, with biological and social systems offering feedback between the two that makes it difficult if not impossible to assign a beginning to any point within the system.  Still, it feels fun to congregate power in the hands of the cooperative polarity.

This feminine theory of evolution seeks to show how the neoteny/acceleration paradigm informs change at four scales (biology, society, ontogeny, biography), parsing out how changes in the timing of processes influence the rate of change.  For example, too little body fat and not enough estrogen at puberty will prolong puberty, with a number of repercussions.  This work hypothesizes that varying levels of estrogen in infants inform testosterone surges, which influence left hemispheric synapse pruning, thus impacting cerebral lateralization and degrees of split consciousness or self awareness, encouraging conditions featuring exaggerated maturational delay and acceleration, such as autism.  In other words, estrogen may manage the extreme maleness that Baron-Cohen suggests the autistic have too much of.

This work outlines the influence of estrogen on social structure.  Understanding social structure is integral to understanding both biological evolution and social evolution.

I also explore the relationship between estrogen and the dynamics of sexual selection, which is closely related to social structure.  Estrogen levels may be determining both the intensity of mate selection criteria (higher levels compelling a more determined choice) and the degree of focus on the young.  Estrogen not only decides which male features get passed to the next generation but may determine the likelihood of progeny survival by influencing how much attention is directed toward those progeny.

Is there a direct relationship between robust female sexual selection, with a compulsion to judge male features, and a deep desire to care for the young?  If estrogen levels inform one, are tendencies toward the other enhanced?

In a “feminine” theory of evolution, these are the kinds of questions I am asking.  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. Following these rate-and-timing pathways sends this work in several related directions.  One of the most interesting paths is the one where we need a woman to serve as guide.

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.

Central to the dynamic that winds its way throughout this work, and what I am now calling the Orchestral Theory of Evolution, is the idea that biological evolution and social evolution are the same.  The present paradigm behaves like there has been so profound an effect upon society and consciousness by self awareness and language that culture now seems separated from biology.  This work seeks to integrate biology and culture.  This integration is made possible by an understanding of how evolution proliferates variation outside of natural selection.  This is an old idea, one that emerged in the nineteenth century.  Stephen J. Gould, in his 1977 Ontogeny and Phylogeny, sought to codify this idea.  He focused on the principle of heterochrony, a word coined by Ernst Haeckel.  Heterochrony is a process that describes the dynamic of progeny variation, a process that is not random.

The natural selection paradigm hypothesizes that the progeny produced by a parent or parents exhibit features that are random, uninfluenced by the parents’ life or the environment, and that the specific characteristics of an individual that will enhance its ability to survive to procreate will be traits that will be featured by descendants.

I don’t think so.  Darwin’s theory of natural selection is partly right.  Yes, an evolutionary guillotine exists that prevents the passing on of self-destructive tendencies and enhances the ability to procreate of those with useful gifts.  But, natural selection is only the basic premise, the foundation that other selective processes are built upon.

A foundation may make possible, but not suggest, the cathedral-like beauty and complexity of evolutionary processes that we visit to experience understanding.

Heterochronic theory, or my version of heterochronic theory, which I sometimes refer to as “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution,” pays particularly close attention to how the variation of traits featured by an individual emerges.  The process is the same in biology and society.  This is because in both biology and society testosterone and estrogen compel specific evolutionary trajectories.  I hypothesize that testosterone controls the rate of change.  Estrogen manages the timing.  Each hormone features a host of characteristics that additionally influence biology and society, characteristics that compel individuals and societies to exhibit specific features and behaviors.

Society has structure based upon how those that create or share societal ideas relate to and are driven by the dynamics of testosterone and estrogen.  This societal structure dynamic, this testosterone-and-estrogen frame of reference, operates in an identical fashion as biological social structure.  For moderns, it’s been particularly difficult to parse out this commonality between biology and society because we’ve been so unaware of the relativity of social structure, because patrifocal social structure has been so ubiquitous in our lives.  Nevertheless, social structure informs culture and biology at the most basic level, the level at which progeny variation is decided.
I come back to this many times over the course of this website.  I describe the specific endocrinological dynamics, the connection of those dynamics to social structure and brain structure, their relationship with that which makes humans unique (split consciousness) and how all that relates to how specifically species and societies evolve.

The following sentence sums it up.

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’s not only about survival, but about maturation.

Several themes run through this blog.  Several related melodies play off each other as I explore how they are connected and the way that the melodies seem to transform when approached from different directions.  Perhaps this work’s most influential theme is the power of play to inform understanding.  I am not an academic.  I have no affiliations with an established institution or connections with groups that compel me to defend specific beliefs or conjectures.  I feel like a grown-up surrounded by toys, ideas that represent patterns in our experience, and I’m reveling in the process of letting myself be led to what feels like unique ways for the ideas or patterns to interact.

Like a child, I presuppose that what I am exploring, I can understand.  Engaging, I intuit and experience connection, and I estimate that my participation will be rewarded with my having learned something I didn’t know before.  Many themes carry through this work, but perhaps the core idea is that everything is connected and that those connections can be understood, or at least intuited, by a nonacademic.

I maintain a deep reverence for what might be called “fun.”  When I feel attracted to something, I take that as important information that the particular thing I feel attracted to deserves my attention.  My wonderings through the themes and patterns in this blog are the wonderings of a person following a body’s desire to share what feels good.  I describe this as a sharing because the experience can best be described as a form of dance suggesting union, in this case a union between my conscious and unconscious self.  The process of writing, experiencing connections and exploring pattern is a process characterized by my enthusiastically following along behind a playful unconscious while at the same time translating that process itself into the structure and content of this work.

Dance, playful movement to music, is a central metaphor.  So are water and the power of the movement of water to inform an understanding of evolution.  I also explore dance, not just as a metaphor, but as an influential variable in human evolution.

Evolution is happening in the present.  It is an ongoing process influencing the moment we are in through specific channels.  My work discusses those channels in detail.  Evolution is a multiscale process manifesting in a species, a society, an individual’s ontogeny, or growth, and the peculiar and particular experience of each unique person.  That is a four-scale biological, societal, ontogenetical and personal experience.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was an allegiance to the idea of threefold or fourfold parallelisms.  Many theorists from Freud to Piaget paid close attention to how there seemed to be intimate relations between patterns at different scales.  Freud believed developmental stages reflected societal stage transformations.  Piaget intuited that a child’s changes in consciousness reflected our species’ changes in consciousness.  This work often returns to the idea that evolution is a multiscale process.

At the same time, this work explores a model that proposes that our species evolved along a five-step continuum, a progression that can be explained by how we’ve been impacted by sexual selection.  I believe that sexual selection was instrumental in our evolving our unique form of consciousness.

In addition to playfully exploring evolution, this work explores the influence of play on evolution.  Neoteny and the processes allied with neoteny wind all through this blog.  Neoteny is the process that carries or prolongs embryo or infant features forward through generations so that ancient ancestor early ontogenetic traits appear in the adults of descendants.  Some have surmised that the hairlessness of progenitor human embryos made current human adults mostly hairless as that ancient embryo feature was carried through to contemporary adults.  Neoteny is also closely associated with a hypothetical compulsion to play as this ancient forebear infant feature emerged in the adults of the present day.

There is no difference between biology and society.  Until now this has been difficult to discern.  Sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists have attempted to show how Darwin’s theory of natural selection could be leveraged to explain social transformation.  I suggest that a more powerful and useful social model emerges when biological evolution is explored using all three of Darwin’s theories and the work of Darwin’s contemporaries, the Neo-Lamarckians.  This theory is not as simple as a “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” melody of a current reductionist hypothesis but instead seeks to offer the depth, symmetry and elegant complexity evident in a work by Bach.

Evolutionary selective processes evolve.  The very dynamics of evolution change, as if the physical laws of the universe adjusted over time.  By exploring the nature and sequence of the transformation of the evolutionary processes themselves, we offer ourselves additional leverage when it comes to searching for and finding hidden selective processes, a little like seeking to fill in the blanks on the periodic table.

This work represents a feminine theory of evolution insofar as what is not dominated by male frames of reference is often looked at as feminine by comparison.  I would suggest that this theory of evolution offers a balanced male/female perspective, even though the female often feels to be in control.

I presuppose connection, which encourages a tendency to notice patterns that suggest interconnection.  This is an often overlooked founding presupposition that reveals an almost totally different world, a world that the reductionist presupposes does not exist.  It is useful that people with different presuppositions notice that they do not share the ability to trade information, information only valid when examined in the context of a shared presupposition.  The question is:  Do the fruits of a theory grounded on wholly different presuppositions offer benefits?  Is the theory useful?  Trying to decide if something is true or not is a nonuseful discussion.

It is not fun trying to decide who is right.  I prefer exploring what is beautiful or useful.

Last, consciousness and identity are reframed as split consciousness or self awareness.  This work presupposes that consciousness predated humans.  Humans emerged from primary process, the unconscious, with our twin awareness, featuring a consciousness that was split.  By presupposing that consciousness is part of the system and that everything is connected, a number of patterns are revealed that are less obvious without those presuppositions.  The question is:  Are these patterns useful?  Clearly the presupposition is controversial.  I make a number of predictions that allow members of this community to determine if these conjectures are useful.  I focus on autism in particular.

This work focuses on autism as a social condition featuring anomalous consciousness.  I describe how specifically autism emerges and ways to cushion the confounding effects.  And I describe how by understanding autism, we understand ourselves.  In addition, I propose that by understanding the processes that lead to autism, we understand the etiologies of a number of related and seemingly unrelated diseases and conditions, etiologies currently unknown.

Changing our theory of evolution makes it possible to have a different understanding of ourselves and the physical and mental difficulties that accompany us.

This is a work of conjectures.  In the past, I have called this interlocking network of conjectures “The Theory of Waves” and, before that, “Shift Theory.”  I now refer to my theory as “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution.”  When I write, or theorize, I seek to share beauty or observe patterns in ways that may be useful.  Beauty and usefulness are my focus.  Whether something is true or not just doesn’t make sense to me.  Patterns are just too vast, interconnected and overwhelming to conclude that my interpretations of those patterns are anything but stories.

I follow what attracts me.  Playing with evolution, I have fun.

Horrible Choice

December 8, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society

I was born in 1952 in an affluent northern suburb of Chicago.  Glencoe was perhaps a third Jewish.  I was raised mostly nondenominationally, but my grandparents embraced their ethnicity.  Still, they identified more with being wealthy Americans than with being Jewish.

My mother was manic depressive and was institutionalized on and off from about the time I was ten on.  My father’s mother was mentally ill.  Familiarity with mental illness up close purged my body and mind of identification with the benefits of affluence.  I withdrew from the conventions of success.

I was a walking, talking incongruity-detection device.  Hypocrisy jumped out at me when I saw or heard it.  My childhood calibrated my intuitions to make me hypervigilant to mixed messages.  I knew “crazy” up close.  I perceived the crazy in communications I observed.  In my experience, crazy was almost everywhere.  What wasn’t incongruent, I hardly noticed.  The dark side of the world felt familiar.

I became intimately aware of how my thinking process inhibited my goals.  I felt deeply split regarding much of what I desired.  I acquired a psychodynamic world view made up of trends and tendencies and what inhibits their achievement.

Growing up in craziness, I felt the world was crazy.  I was seeking relief from crazy.  The world acquired a crazy/not crazy frame.

In my childhood, there were paradoxes.  One carried through to my adult life.  Among the many things I did not understand was the Nazi extermination of the Jews.  This became a test that I would slam ideas against if an idea suggested an answer in my life.  If something could not make sense of the Holocaust, then the something was only taken on a relative basis.  Everything in my life became integrated on a relative basis, not having passed the test of explaining the Holocaust.  In other words, from an early age, truth was relative.  It would be a while before I’d experience that truth being relative was an insight that would offer me the opportunity to bridge incongruities, integrate hypocrisies, unjumble mixed messages.  Embracing horror, I would discover an answer.

Embracing horror can transcend crazy.  Crazy/not crazy can feel part of a larger whole.  This is a relativist’s world view.  Observing the politics that has emerged inside our country, I would say the nation is dating crazy, considering marriage.

Right now, the elected Republicans are encouraging their social-conservative/government-hating/reactionary fringe to embrace lies in order to control the mainstream media to stop Democratic legislation that seeks to relieve individuals of want.  Observing politics since I was little, I’ve seen lies pitched as truth over and over again.  I’ve seen lies pitched as truth when both liar and listener were aware they were lies, but it did not matter because liar and listener shared common goals.  Democrats and Republicans have both engaged in this process.  I’ve observed lies embraced by people who were aware that they were lies, while those that did not share the common goals did not call them lies.  Because everyone knew they were lies, they were not named.

I grew up in crazy.  Amongst the folk I knew and was related to, explaining the Holocaust was never even considered.  Its reality transcended explanation.  In a crazy world, the Holocaust feels familiar.

We are living in a national political environment very similar to living in a home with crazy people.  Not only is unreality embraced as normal and familiar, it is encouraged as if crazy were the truth.

This is the kind of crazy that the Holocaust was born from.  When crazy becomes familiar, horror happens.

From the Holocaust, healing emerged.  Germany’s shame compelled a bridging of chasms never straddled in the past.  An almost immediate result of World War II was national health care in several countries.  Horror let go, but remembered, resulted in a rapid evolution in the direction of making certain that it did not happen again, and it was possible to improve the lives of people in many ways.

It’s feeling to me like the United States is flirting with the idea of making something horrible.  We all know that sometimes destruction is necessary to make the new.  It is not the only way to make something new.  Watching and listening to the encouragement of craziness, it’s feeling like horror is the choice we may choose to make.

I’ve been playing with the idea that the genome is not a blueprint or a computer algorithm or a structured plan designed to take into consideration information provided by the environment.  I’ve been toying with the possibility that the genome is closer to a musical script, sheet music, designed to only make sense when integrated with the scripts or compositions of other beings of the same and other species.

First, perhaps a genome makes no sense as an isolated single gnome.  I am suggesting that a genome is but a puzzle piece among puzzle pieces, each piece appearing in a different being.  Seeking answers from within a single genome is like trying to understand a symphonic composition by reading the sheet music of the timpani.

Second, if the genome is like sheet music, then perhaps the musician is something science has been ignoring.  I’m thinking that it’s not that our genome is supplying content for the artist to then display, but that the genome is creating context whereby content and artistry can both emerge.  This is difficult to even consider without the first point successfully absorbed.

The genome is like a nationwide train-track system, with each city a different individual, and the genome is capable of spontaneously compelling an overnight relaying of tracks to form new relationship constellations.  Yet, in addition to producing tracks, the genome also produces that which travels across the tracks, and the gnome constructs the created trains using the information received through the telephone wires that accompany all the railways.

The genome produces structure and content based upon its relationships with other genomes.  No being is produced in isolation.

I’ve also been playing with the idea that human beings, creatures perhaps more informed by neoteny than any other species on the planet, are immersed in language–the massive trade in both imaginary and representational content–in no small part due to embryonic epigenetic processes characterized by developmental adjustments to environmental information carrying forward to the adult of our species.  In other words, that which is most unique about being human, culture, massive interchange of unique information characterized by an internal process informed by massive amounts of external societal input, is isomorphic or uncannily similar to an individual while still inside the womb.  The human obsession with music, for example, is shorthand for culture and a reproduction or extension of womb dynamics into adult and species life.

The symphony that is implied by the genome, the genome seemingly only able to work in concert with other genomes to create the context whereby content and musician can perform, manifests in both womb dynamics and culture.  When exploring the genome from this perspective, we see that the ability of a species to exhibit culture is inevitable if womb dynamics are prolonged to appear in the adult of a species.  Perhaps eventually neoteny compels culture.

Now consider the nationwide genome-designed train-track system with trains and telephone wires stretching across the system.  Consider the patterns people use to describe their dissociated experience.  Each person carries with him or her an ability to be two places at once, to be in two times at once and to imagine something’s opposite.  This is how the brain works each day after the individual awakens every morning from primary process.  (Primary process is dreaming consciousness characterized by one time, one place, no opposites.)

Imagine that the way each person communicates reflects the switching systems and branching directions used across the country by the tracks.

I am playing with the idea that individual split consciousness, the opposite of primary process, and how it leads to culture or the production of shared representational or imaginary content, is a direct reflection of a genome dynamic that is characterized by a shared genome paradigm with a womb dynamic that manifests this paradigm.

I’ve been playing with the idea that the genome is not a blueprint.  I’m starting to think that it is only by playing that we can understand the genome.

It is not uncommon that I am with a friend who is in distress and he or she is describing an experience that he or she has had or is having that is not related to the distress but which occurs during the time of distress.  The experience is informed by the individual’s emotional and mental state, resulting in what appears to me to be an experience very different from what it would have been without the distress.

Underlying, or presupposing, any experience is the mental/emotional place we are in when it occurs.  What I mean is that experience is informed by context.  An individual’s ability to be aware of his or her personal context while being exposed to life’s experiences can have a lot to do with how empowered a person feels by his or her life.  There are layers and layers of underlying context or presupposition.  These have been called personal stories or scripts.  It can be argued that the deeper our awareness of this context, the more empowered, the more secure we feel.

This kind of context, these presuppositions, is integral to understanding evolutionary theory.  Gould alludes to these issues in various works, including Ontogeny and Phylogeny and Mismeasure of Man.  William Irwin Thompson and Ken Wilber and many others have explored these issues.  What has me thinking now is how presupposition informs theorizing about evolution when theorists reverse the flow and make content inform a theory about process while demanding it’s the other way around.

There is the fact that, for me, consciousness and split consciousness and the nature and character of consciousness and split consciousness are integrally tied to my theory of evolution both at the levels of how split consciousness evolves and at the presuppositional level of how the theory comes together and can be understood.  In other words, you can’t really discuss evolution, particularly human evolution, without also discussing epistemology, or how it is that we understand something.  To write a theory of evolution is to also write an origin myth, a myth that describes both how our bodies and our minds emerged.  Without making epistemological presuppositions explicit, you end up with a Dawkins/Dennett paradox, where the theory creator insists that people believe that their beliefs as regards a creator be true without it being made clear that the belief is a presupposition that supports the theory, not the other way around.

A reductionist sees the world in pieces.  An interconnectionist sees connections.  It’s not about which is right.  It’s about what benefits accompany the two perspectives.

Evolutionary psychologists seem to often do two things suggestive of my friends who, while in distress, describe an experience that they have had or are having, unaware that the distress that they carried into the experience impacted their perception of the experience.  Evolutionary psychologists often insist that they are right because an evolutionary psychological explanation can explain what they are studying and it is both a simple explanation and an explanation used for many other related things.  This being the case, they then state that more complex or less related explanations should be rejected.  Evolutionary psychologists are using a presupposition to state they are right (according to the presupposition) instead of simply sharing the benefits of the conclusions implied by the presupposition.  They refuse to admit that what they are seeing is directly related to what they presuppose.

They presuppose a satisfactory explanation is simple.  Simple answers must be right.  This reminds me of friends in distress.  Experience is deeply informed by presupposition.

Second, it’s not only that evolutionary psychologists often insist that they have an exclusive solution that makes other answers less necessary, evolutionary psychologists such as Dawkins and Dennett state a belief is true without bowing to the fact that a belief is a belief, usually based on hidden context.  We can act as if something is true.  We can live our life as if something is true.  But to make believe that we can reach below the level of presupposition and haul up information that in itself is true is to violate the whole idea of science.

There can be no truth.  There can only be experience, which is relative.

I am an interconnectionist.  I presuppose connection.  A result is that I often feel part of something larger than myself.  This informs the theories I create and the life I live.  Nevertheless, I don’t purport to experience the truth.  My experience is based upon both hidden and nonhidden context.  Life is a mystery.

To be humble can be useful when seeking understanding.

How Special Are We?

November 24, 2009 | 1 Comment

Category: Unconscious

Idea has structure based upon how those that create or share societal ideas relate to and are driven by the dynamics of testosterone and estrogen.  This societal structure dynamic, this testosterone-and-estrogen frame of reference, operates in an identical fashion as biological social structure.  For moderns, it’s been particularly difficult to parse out this commonality between biology and society because we’ve been so unaware of the relativity of social structure, because patrifocal social structure has been so ubiquitous in our lives.  Nevertheless, social structure informs culture and biology at the most basic level, the level at which progeny variation is decided.

The idea that idea has structure and that it is informed by sexual hormones is not new.  The pantheon of gods and goddesses in various religions display representations of ideas as specific male or female figures.  What I am considering now is that the idea that there are no new ideas may have its foundation in an understanding that all idea is a reflection of biological social structure and an endocrinological allegiance with one of the ways that the two sexes relate.

We humans indulge in the belief that society is profoundly different from biology.  Because we are able to spend time in what seems like an alternative world made up of ideas, ideas capable of being or not being “true,” we assign ourselves a position that is separate from biology, as if humans were something more than the physical.  This nonuseful belief, nonuseful because it encourages a separation from the environment that is integral to our survival, nonuseful because it engenders an experience of feeling alone, could use a redefining of what exactly being human is.

Humans are split conscious.  If you think that this presupposes that nonhumans are conscious, that is the case.  Because we are split conscious, we have two selves.  Two selves provide us an ability to be two places at once, two times at once, and to imagine something’s opposite.  Imagination is just an ability to maintain two or more positions at the same time.  An idea is simply the result of our ability to be split.

There is the language of animals and there is language as used by humans.  Human language strings together symbols that trail associations (we can only think in symbols because we are split) and stacks those symbols up in a fashion that allows us to become very clear, or relatively clear, about things that do or don’t exist, where we are, or somewhere where we are not.  Though this seems complex, all it really is, is music.  Split-brain music.  With words, things that represent something that is not a word, we build these beautiful structures that may or may not exist.  We can do this because we are two consciousnesses at the same time.

An idea is a doorway.  Yet, it may not be nearly as abstract as we may think.  When we realize that we ourselves are only unique insofar as we maintain two selves instead of one, we can understand that we are neither as special nor as alone as we may have suspected.  Still, ideas can be useful.  There are things we can do that animals cannot.  One of those things is to realize that we are not just closely connected to animals.  We are no different from animals.  We just have the ability to be someplace, and sometime, we are not.

Clive Thompson’s September Wired article, “The New Literacy,” had me thinking several things.

The article describes an academic’s conclusion that there is a writing renaissance going on with astonishing increases in writing by students as they use communications technologies.  It has been believed by many that texting and social media are deprecating communication.  Professor Andrea Lunsford concluded the opposite.  New technologies are encouraging the young to share experiences by writing.

Several things come to mind.

First, texting is acquiring a number of unique conventions that are beginning to approach a different language.  I don’t speak text.  This is a function of my peer group, my age and the fact that I’m at my computer three-fourths of my waking hours.  Perhaps text is approaching another language as its conventions proliferate.  If that is the case, then maybe this is a good thing as regards the inculcation of flexibility of mind.  As youth text, they encourage an ability to experience the world through an alternative perspective.

Second, the day will come when voice translators advance to offer an effortless ability to take our spoken words and transform them into written text.  Gifted youth will find they can profoundly proliferate their productions by speaking instead of typing.  The Thompson article describes the emergence of performance as integral to text communications, with participating individuals able to broadcast to their unique collection of followers.  Thompson, with insight, observes the importance of performance to the new technologies.  Participants often speak with an attention to detail not obvious in communications up to now.  Consider the power of these technologies to enhance performance by letting people speak, instead of type, their minds.

What struck me most forcibly while I was reading Thompson’s article is the presence of yet another aboriginal feature emerging in modern youth, and the possible connection of this feature with autism.  In other pieces, I have described the relationship between neoteny emerging in contemporary society and the increases in autism.  Just as in biology, where ancestor infant features prolong to emerge in descendant adults, so it is in society, where ancestral societal-stage traits featured by aboriginal matrifocal societies emerge in contemporary times.  The dramatic horizontalization of society, with accompanying transparency, diversity, creativity and sharing, is evidence of this aboriginalization of culture.  I would add one more thing.  Performance during dance, song and mating rituals in aboriginal society are becoming embedded in our new technologies.  As each Twitterer and social-media user becomes more invested in communicating to a group, we are integrating ancient intuitions into the contemporary times, which offer an ubiquitous experience of performance, not unlike the way we communicated as our species bridged from a band society into culture.

In my work, I hypothesize that performance, the performance of dance and song, was integral to our evolution as a species.  I have also hypothesized that the autistic are embedded in this earlier artistic mode, compelled to experience the world through dance, rhythm and sound but few words.  In the previous piece, I suggested that perhaps performance could be a bridge experience that provides the autistic ways to cultivate split consciousness or a theory of mind.  It strikes me now that as performance emerges as a common communication form among youth in contemporary society, we are perhaps glimpsing the ways humans communicated back in the dawn of language.

In other words, I believe there is a connection between communications technologies enhancing performance consciousness characterized by the broadcast of information to large groups and the increases in autism, perhaps featuring a consciousness evolved to perform, less so to communicate.

This is the seminal issue.  If humans evolved by growing big brains and facile bodies, dancing up a storm to mate with discriminating members of the opposite sex (see Theory Summary), then perhaps performance consciousness is integral to who we were and what we are becoming.  If that is the case, providing the autistic performance contexts may be necessary to provide them an ability to gain some purchase to connect with other humans.

Lunsford’s discovery that our youth are writing far more than anytime in the past combined with Thompson’s insight that performance is integral to the process offers a bridge to understanding how autism is understood.  Once again, our youth seem to have the answers.  Observing how the young experience the world, we have a chance to understand how our world came to be.

Performance I

November 18, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Autism, Autism Features, Play, Society


Bill Wallauer is a videographer, a colleague of Jane Goodall.  Click here to read Bill’s observations of chimpanzees behaving in ways that are fascinating to consider.  Bill observes males displaying at waterfalls and in thunderstorms as individuals and groups transition into the sexual-display mode of communication.  Jane Goodall wrote a famous passage describing these events.

“All at once Evered charged forward, leapt up to seize one of the hanging vines, and swung out over the stream in the spray-drenched wind.  A moment later Freud joined him.  The two leapt from one liana to the next, swinging into space, until it seemed the slender stems must snap or be torn from their lofty moorings.  Frodo charged along the edge of the stream, hurling rock after rock now ahead, now to the side, his coat glistening with spray.  For ten minutes the three performed their wild displays while Fifi and her younger offspring watched from one of the tall fig trees by the stream.  Were the chimpanzees expressing feelings of awe such as those which, in early man, surely gave rise to primitive religions, worship of the elements?”  (Jane Goodall Through a Window (Boston:  Houghlin Mifflin, 1990) pp. 241-242.)

I found Bill’s page within the janegoodall.org site while searching Google for evidence that chimpanzee or bonobo babies or children respond to music with movement or proto dance.  Although I’ve hypothesized in several places on this blog that dance emerged after the chimpanzee/human lineage split, probably during homo erectus as brains grew at lightning speed, yesterday’s entry has me thinking that if music/dance is a postbirth manifestation of womb ontogenetic epigenetic processes, then perhaps there is evidence of a response to music in chimpanzee and bonobo youth.  With bonobo exhibiting more neoteny than chimpanzees, bonobo babies and children would more likely exhibit an attraction to what we could interpret as proto music.

Evidently experiments have been conducted on human embryos in the womb to determine if brain waves suggested an integration of surrounding music and sound.  It seemed that was the case.  Click here.  Do bonobo exhibit the same predilection?  What other animals might reveal these trends?  What might be common among different animals that do show a tendency to be sensitive to rhythm?

I am fascinated by the relationship the autistic have with music and rhythm.  There is evidence that when language is tied to melody, it is easier for many with autism to absorb the words.  The autistic have been observed to retain perfect pitch in higher percentages than the nonautistic.  Several of those with autism that I have known personally felt a close affinity to music and dance.  One autistic boy I worked with almost never spoke, yet occasionally he would break out into dance.  In a subtle and interesting way, performance may be tied to the autistic experience.  There are rhythmic features to chimpanzee displays, particularly with the aggressive repetition of loud noise.  Perhaps the obsessive repetition associated with physical and aural exclamations in autism can be viewed as a combination of, or transition between, display and performance.  Autistic communication often feels to me to be a performance of information featuring a repetition of remembered or rehearsed songs, jokes and snatches of conversation.

I am reminded of Baron-Cohen’s exploration of Savage-Rumbaugh’s chimpanzee explorations regarding theory of mind.  If a chimpanzee demonstration can remind us so closely of a human performance, then perhaps certain autistic behaviors can be seen as a bridge between the two.

If obsessive repetition, rhythm or music are often integral to the autistic experience, and on occasion seem to behave as bridges that provide access to words and what words represent, then would an early and deep immersion in rhythm perhaps provide the autistic with an environment through which they could establish firm connections?

Clearly, if this experiment were conducted on the very young, it would more likely have a positive effect than when they are older.  I don’t estimate there would be negative repercussions.  If we surmise that autistic attraction to repetition, rhythm and performance suggests a need for an environment that reflects those features, perhaps a rhythm-and-performance-infused environment of the type experienced by humans just before or during the transition to culture and split consciousness will encourage a making of connections.

There was a time, perhaps as recently as 100,000 years ago, when we did not trade in symbols.  We were still steeped in primary consciousness (one time, one place, no negatives) but were likely dancing up a storm.  Waterfalls and thunderstorms no doubt moved us, but there is a good chance we often moved each other, performing movement to rhythm and sound.

The autistic may be a mere 4,000 generations from us, a couple neurological anomalies away.  Perhaps all that is needed to bridge this distance is an ability for moderns to evolve a feeling for wordless, rhythmic performance, a feeling for living in the autistic now.

The Genetic Dance

November 17, 2009 | 1 Comment

Category: 10-Myth and Story, Art, Ontogeny, Play

I have been playing with the idea that genetics guides ontogeny, that how our genes inform an individual’s unfolding has far more to do with how music is made than with how a computer is programmed.  Once again, I’m finding these ideas emerging in my dreams.

Two nights ago, while dreaming, I was seeking to understand the mathematics of words, searching for the equations in language, wondering how music connects them both.  In the dream, the answer felt to be related to evolution.  The answer emerged.  The answer is the price of homemade baked goods at the farmer’s market. (I don’t know what that means.}

Scientists are stumped by how few genes there are in the human gnome.  Some less somatically sophisticated species display a far larger library of genes.  Having a complete gnome is not leading to deep insight as regards our disabilities, diseases, talents or evolution.  Over and over again, difficult-to-understand genetic riddles are ascribed to not-yet-understood, multiple gene effects.

Consider this.  By understanding music, we can understand how genetics works.  This is because the human connection to music is a direct reflection and result of the ontogenetic processes created by our genetic algorithm.

Genes engender a growing being with cells that pay astonishingly close attention to the behavior of contiguous cells and the environments beyond the growing body.  Growth is all about receiving and displaying information, not following a template.  As each cell splits and acquires a series of tasks to perform based upon location and other information, it is passing on a musical score to be adjusted depending on how the other instrumentalists participate.

This is perhaps a case when a metaphor and that which the metaphor represents begin to merge.

Genes are a score or script outlining a specific symphony or performance, yet each gene also retains a score or script that includes an almost infinite number of ways for each instrumentalist to adjust to changes in the performance of the other players.

The human gnome is a score with instructions on how to vary that score and under what circumstances.

This music is most obvious in the womb when environmental information is heavily influencing ontogenetic outcomes.  This is perhaps the case with every species on the planet.  Humans, members of a species profoundly impacted by neoteny, have experienced over the course of tens of thousands of generations the emergence of this ontogenetic womb music in postbirth life.  Not only have ancient forebear embryo features, such as hairlessness and huge head-to-body ratios, prolonged to appear in great great great… grandchildren, but ancient embryo characteristics have manifested in contemporary adults.

In other words, the remarkable flexibility of cells in embryos to embrace change and adjust growth has emerged in aspects of human personality that include an obsession with music, which reflects exactly how it is that genes compel cells to participate in the creative process.  When compared to genetic process, music displays an isomorphic, or almost identical, dynamic.  Both display an unfolding across time of information influenced by the environment.

Music rhythms reflect human heartbeats, human breathing and the breadth and limits of human footwork.  We all go into a trance with music, often experiencing shifts in identity characterized by identification with groups larger than our selves.  For some, music bridges to spiritual experience, featuring shifts in identity beyond the group.  To ally oneself with music is to experience one’s boundaries becoming less firm.  The experience of multiple-person musical give-and-take allows us to feel as a cell might when instructed by the gnome to dance a person into existence.

Consciousness, or identity, is not nearly as stable as we often think.  Every night we slide into alternatives.  Music encourages shifts in identity.  This is not by chance.  Who we are as beings integrated into a larger society and ecology has a lot to do with our abilities to change.  This is a direct result of our living lives informed by the dynamics of the womb.  To understand genetics, we have only to pay attention to how we dance.


November 10, 2009 | 4 Comments

Category: 10-Unconscious, Unconscious

I grew up in a household with literally no religion.  My father was agnostic, my mom sort of Jewish.  She’s since been Unitarian and Catholic.  Almost 20 years ago I was dating a woman who had been raised Catholic, who was converting to Judaism, while my mother was converting from Judaism to Catholicism.  How Jewish was I raised?  Just now I had to go to Google to figure out how to spell “Judaism.”  I had the “a” and “i” reversed.

Nevertheless, I was raised according to one of the most basic tenets of Western society, that the unconscious maintains an agenda separate from that of the conscious mind, one that often conflicts with conscious goals and aspirations.  I was raised a Freudian.  High percentages of my father’s income went toward my parents’ and their children’s psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.  We did not go to temple.  We went to therapists.

I am almost 57.  In high school, I was in therapy with a Rogerian for 2.5 years.  In Florida, I was the client of an eclectic psychoanalyst for six years.  He studied with many of the New Age luminaries at Esalon in California.  Chicago has connected me with another eclectic practitioner for almost 24 years.  That makes 32 years of my life that I’ve been in psychotherapy.  I’ve already passed in and out of those years where everything in the world seemed to unfold according to psychodynamic processes.  Nevertheless, I have been deeply affected by having spent so many years seeking a satisfying and productive relationship with my unconscious.

In a sense, the religion I was raised with has not changed.  I still revere the unconscious as central to experiencing access to hidden resources.  Some things have changed.  My relationship with my unconscious has evolved.

When I was younger, I was encouraged to think of the unconscious as that which maintains the barrier between me and those things which would seem to enhance my life.  I was acutely aware of a split between what I craved and my ability to achieve that desire.  I was critical of myself, particularly that part of myself that seemed compelled to withhold from me what I wanted.

That split has flipped.  Over the years, a slow realization has spread across the hours of my days.  That realization is that my unconscious withholds nothing from me.  My unconscious accompanies me every moment of my life.  My unconscious is me.  That which makes it difficult to achieve my goals has nothing to do with my unconscious.

It is my conscious mind that confuses and distracts me.  How I choose to direct my consciousness is what affects my life.

In other words, there is now an emphasis on being present and trusting the outcomes of my words and behaviors.  Feeling accompanied, I suspect less what I cannot intuit.  I can choose to trust.  The challenge becomes being in my body, in the present, experiencing the unique moment I might be part of.

Barriers feel not to be anything related to my “unconscious,” but something related to my consciously choosing to not offer attention to what is happening.  I often choose to concentrate on some other time, on some other place or on imagination.  My conscious mind has become the location of that which creates barriers between me and what I seek to achieve.

Enhancing the paradox is my changing definition of the unconscious.  Its boundaries have become less familiar.  As my heart slowly heals and I can trust people in my life and I can trust my experience, the separateness of things feels less relevant than how things are connected.  It has become difficult to characterize my unconscious as a feature of my own separate body and identity.  My unconscious feels to be part of something larger than my self.

Raised in a nonreligious home, encouraged to feel that the unconscious is in control, committing 32 years of my life to psychotherapy, I’ve somehow come back around to something that some might associate with religion.  This doesn’t feel to me to be about god.  It’s an experience, not a mythology or a world view.  My experience suggests to me that we are all connected.  But it’s not religion.  It’s just the experience that I feel accompanied by that which is me, yet it is far greater than what I am consciously aware of.

I feel humbled.

Identifying with that which we call the unconscious, embracing that unknown, offers a strange benefit.  It becomes less clear what we really are, while discovering what really is.

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.

I like paradoxes.  When I was in college, freshman year, a professor gave us an assignment of creating our own psychological model.  We were studying theorists that followed Freud.

Disappearing into the assignment, I came out the other side with a theory of psychology based on a succession of paradoxes.  I would later read Viktor Frankl’s work that would share several features of the model I’d put together.  The premise I was working with was that healing was located somewhere in the neighborhood of those things which don’t seem capable of being understood.  Embracing that which we can’t seem to understand, we can relieve ourselves of the burden of feeling compelled to find an answer.  My theory listed several paradoxes as examples.

Over the last few years, I’ve drifted in an opposite direction.  The theory emerging in this blog suggests a psychological model, particularly as it explores the nature and causes of autism, yet it is a model with both biological and transpersonal roots.  It is a model deeply influenced by the work of Milton H. Erickson, the hypnotherapist, as his work was interpreted by Richard Bandler and John Grinder.  Ken Wilber’s integration of human developmental states, personality disorders and Habermas’s principle regarding societal stages has also been integral to my understanding of human psychology.  Wilber’s view feels closely connected to Freud’s four-fold parallelism as interpreted by Stephen J. Gould.  How Gregory Bateson interpreted Freud’s description of primary process has also been instrumental to my understanding of human psychology.  And last, my psychology model has to do with, of course, the rate and timing of maturation.

So, who we are has to do with the nature of consciousness, human conventional split-consciousness, ontogenetic influences and an understanding of who we are as humans as a direct reflection and integration of who we are at other scales of evolution.  Our growth as individuals is directly related to how we evolve at other scales of experience, be it social, biological or beyond.  The self is informed by the Self.  There is no separating ourselves individually from our grounding context.

This does not feel paradoxical to me.  Still, some things remain so.

I believed, back in college, that maturation or healing was about the abandonment of that which feels burdensome.  I was convinced that if I could just free myself of what tormented me, I would then be healed.  I was not aware that I retained a particular paradigm for healing.  I often felt out of control of my emotions.  I often felt depressed, angry, frustrated and helpless.  In this paradigm, I was convinced “happiness” entailed being relieved of those experiences, having them removed.

One thing that has changed since my paradox model of 40 years ago is now I have an understanding that my growth psychologically is characterized by my embracing of that which I felt/feel tormented by.  Perhaps that in itself is paradoxical.  I now know that there is no growth without a grasping or cradling of that which is perceived to have caused and/or experienced the wound.  I don’t think this is about forgiveness, though the experience of forgiveness results from this experience.  What this is about is attention.  Offering compassionate attention to that which pursues us (often characterized by a particular kind of internal dialog), turning pursuer into partner, is central to healing.  It’s not about making anything go away.

It is perhaps paradoxical that to relieve ourselves of that which seems to cause anguish or hurt we instead deliberately make it central to our lives.

Having done so, paradoxically, that hurt and anguish is always with us.  So, we embrace this.

Often I awaken in the mornings, sit down at my computer and begin to write.  What I am then accompanied by is often sadness, grief and a deep alone.  At the same time I accompany myself with the sadness.  I am present.  My presence then produces the words I type.

Life is paradoxical.  Yet, it’s not.  Offering attention seems to be the bridge between the two.

The Peace, Justice & Environment Project (PJEP) has over 1,400 organizations participating in 40 online networks in 50 states.  A basic premise of the project is that by making available powerful online resources such as petitions, eletters, boycotts and online fundraising, it can allow small local organizations to have more choices when seeking to accomplish social-change goals.  PJEP seeks to enhance creativity, empowering local activists to facilitate change.  In addition, PJEP seeks to put into the hands of local activists powerful email lists, built from these online resources, providing access to allies to accomplish goals.

There is a sleeper issue regarding health care that only occasionally gets much play in the media.  My wife and I have been running small businesses for 30 years.  Good staff is integral to a healthy business.  Health care benefits are too expensive to provide to staff in a business as small as Marcia and I maintain.  This is particularly true in our case because we have a daughter with diabetes, a condition which closed off options regarding health care.

After our daughter contracted diabetes, our insurance was doubled to $30,000 a year.  We then contracted with a staffing firm to handle payroll in order to be part of its group insurance.  We do not need a payroll firm to handle four employees.  We pay thousands of dollars a year for them to do this for us in order to get on a group plan that will cover family members with preexisting conditions.

We do not offer full health care for employees.  This plan we are on is very expensive.  Even splitting the cost with staff, something we have tried, has not worked because the other half is so expensive that no employee has wanted to keep it past half a year.  It constitutes a sizable percentage of their paycheck.

Over the years, we have offered jobs to excellent prospects only to have them take an offer elsewhere that included insurance.  Many times we have lost staff to another firm that offered health care.  The net result of our present health care system is that talented people often go to work for a large firm that offers health care.  I get and keep talented people for a time by hiring exclusively young folks out of college.  I have been the employer of many people in their first job.

Imagine a health care system that doesn’t propel people to work for larger firms, firms that charge more for their services to help cover those higher costs of staffing.  The net result would be lower costs and an astonishing surge in productivity and creativity.

A level playing field for health care would, without doubt, result in my keeping talented young people.  Those looking for jobs could choose smaller firms that provide the kind of job that they are looking for.  Hundreds of thousands of people could quit jobs that they keep only for the health care.  Instead, they could work for a smaller firm or for themselves.  Creative people working in a hospitable environment would flourish.

I could drop the services of a payroll company I don’t need and use that money to keep good staff.

As an organizer, I look for ways to empower activists.  As a business person, I seek to get and keep good people to provide good service.  There would be no better way for the government to empower small business than to insure employees of small businesses.  The stranglehold that large firms have had on their staff would disappear.  There would be a surge in the direction of small business productivity.  Home businesses would flourish.  New, small start-ups would proliferate.

Social change can come through protest or the kinds of interventions becoming common on the web.  Social change can also come through a halting of tacit support of big business by providing health care to the employees of small businesses that provide local services.  This single intervention could have a huge effect.