Dimensional Shift

September 6, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society, Web

Society is shifting to three dimensions.

Our great ape heritage could be represented in a line.  Each individual deferred to a next above and a one below.  This was one-dimensional existence.

Pyramids have been our paradigm for several thousand years.  We share levels with more or fewer fellow travelers or associates, depending on how high up the pyramid we sit.  The structure of these relationships is easily represented in two dimensions.

Two-dimensional pyramids are becoming two-dimensional, associational, horizontal social networks.  Still thinking in two dimensions, all of us can view ourselves as hubs and observe the links to our associates and their associates and their associates in a flatland landscape of hubs, nodes and lines.  We are in the midst of a horizontalization of society as pyramids become contextualized within the webbing of relationships made evident through social networking and the web.

We feel empowered by participation in a process that encourages creativity as each individual is provided an audience.  Resources to be creative are readily available, further flattening the pyramids of authority.  We are in a stage where all seems possible, and we experience a shift from struggling up the pyramid to instead communicating through the webbing of interconnections.  …

Charles Bonnet’s 18th century hypothesis that the great Chain of Being intuitively ordered all living beings on a 6000-year-old earth began to topple with Darwin’s biological interpretation of Lyell’s discovery of geologic time.  A static, pyramidal structure with white European males at the top became a horizontal branching of connections over time with white European males as an endpoint in the process.  The West’s idea of progress or societal evolution still prioritizes the societies with the biggest guns and GNPs.  We continue to observe how changing ideas of time influence an understanding of our origins.

Stephen J. Gould heavily emphasized the power of the concept of contingency to suggest that humans, let alone a particular group of humans, should not be elevated as the inevitable peak of any pinnacle of evolution, biological or social.  Predicated on the utility of adaptability as the only real criteria for existence, each serves his/her/its role in the whole.  No one is any better than any other.  We are all the children of chance.

There are other, complementary ways of looking at this.  These other ways have to do with further refining our relationship with time, accompanied by a flattening of hierarchy and a focus …

Democracy Evolving

September 4, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Future, PJEP, Society, Web

How would an Obama presidency look if he continues to encourage and utilize the personally empowering, horizontal social networking infrastructure created during his campaign?  As a person observing an important step in our evolution beyond capitalist democracy, I seek evidence of this kind of profound systemic change.

The Peace, Justice and Environment Project (PJEP) came together almost a year ago as several members of the Illinois Coalition for Peace & Justice (now called the Illinois Coalition for Justice, Peace and the Environment) needed a separate organizational infrastructure to grow and mange the quickly expanding concept as it bridged to other states.  The initial focus was to seek practical ways for small, local Illinois grassroots organizations to become increasingly politically empowered by offering them easy online access to each other so that they could form temporary ad hoc coalitions while at the same time making available a number of unique online resources.  At this time, almost 1000 organizations in 29 states are integrated into the network.

In its first year, PJEP concentrated on bringing resources and tools down to the level of the local organization or the chapters of national organizations by providing them the kinds of online capabilities reserved for …

SocialNet Administration

September 3, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Future, Society, Web

That a young, half-black, half-white man has achieved the position of Democratic nominee for the presidency is, to say the least, unexpected.  It was a black friend that alerted me that in the U.S., prejudice, antipathy toward minorities, is so deep that a person showing any evidence of African genetics is described as black.  A new paradigm has been emerging the last few years.  Advertisers seeking to communicate with the young frequently use mixed-race actors, often of difficult-to-interpret, unique blends, in their advertising imagery.  The hybrid is becoming popular at several levels.  Hybrid vigor as opposed to mulattos slandered is growing stronger as an undercurrent in contemporary intuitions for what is right and good.

Obama is a rarity among politicians, a walking congruity.  He speaks of bridging opposites.  He himself is that very bridge.  What is extraordinary is that this walking, talking metaphor goes even deeper.  A rarity among politicians, Obama maintains his message at deeper levels.

Below the surface, Obama has encouraged a candidate support structure characterized by social networking.  Social networking features a seemingly infinite number of spontaneous interconnections empowering the participants with knowledge of people and events far from their immediate area.  Users of social networking experience …

Mind Music

September 2, 2008 | 3 Comments

Category: Biology, Myth/Story, Neoteny, Ontogeny, Society

I’m playing with the idea that through birth comes creativity and through death comes wisdom, and that this idea is an evolutionary biological principle, not just a folklore insight. Following this thematic exposition with two strong, opposing, yet complementing ideas through several sections of the orchestra offers opportunities for understanding how evolution works.

In previous entries, I’ve discussed what I call the principle of waves or heterochronic theory and its best known feature, neoteny. It is a foundation thesis of this work that there are patterns that operate across several scales of experience–academic disciplines–and that an examination of these cross-scale connections provides insight into biology, society, ontogeny and personal experience.

In the 19th century, evolutionary biologists cobbled together names for the processes they observed in several species as they became aware of the influence of changing rates and timing of maturation. Many biologists believed that the environment and/or experiences of individuals could effect the features of their progeny by accelerating or delaying maturation. They observed that the variation of features in a brood were not random. Darwin posited that all variation is random in his Origin of Species of 1859, a conclusion he retracted in 1866 in his work The

Cable

September 1, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

About ten years ago, I awakened from deep sleep feeling as if I’d been propelled from some wide-bore cannon.  Released so suddenly, I sat bolt upright, stunned by an understanding.  There was absolutely no dream trailing behind the insight, no accompanying imagery or words.  I was deep asleep and then I was totally awake with no transition.

My body was buzzing like a thousand bees congregating just within my skin.  There was the sound of high voltage crackling in my ears as if I was standing at the center of midnight’s power plant.

When a person experiences love, deep, connected love, love like a bond or cord or bridge between two continents, there is no thing that can break that bond, unless we choose that it be broken.  Love, of course, can wax and wane with time and circumstance.  It can fade if not nurtured.  Without attention or awareness, the bonds can fray.

Yet, when I awoke that night, I experienced an understanding that was extraordinarily specific, one that I had never heard of or had not been listening to when we were introduced.  It was very simple.  The death of someone we love deeply literally heaves a part of …

No Direction

August 31, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

Conducting workshops at peace and justice conferences is becoming a warm weather routine.  Heading into a conference in Virginia this last spring, a series of events unfolded in a fashion different from what I had expected.

Good environmentalists that we are, Marcia and I share an old Echo.  The Echo has over 100,000 miles, so we rent cars to go any distance.  One of my greatest joys, a pleasure I inherited from my father, is to drive convertibles long distances to exalt in the long-haul high.  I picked up Budget’s default convertible, the Eclipse, and headed out.  It was a brand new car.  Marcia couldn’t join me, so I was on my own.

At the time, we were in the middle of a stressful, massive, 21-network, 800-organization PJEP upgrade (see pjep.org) that was experiencing upgrade hiccups.  My father’s wife, Marcie, was dying.  It was unclear how long she would stay with us.  It was not great timing to be taking a trip.  So it goes.

It was too cold to take the top down.  I tore across country, departing Evanston around 11:00 a.m. after the last of the handouts came out of our printer.  The drive took longer than I …

Old Debate

August 30, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

It was when I first started growing my hair out in 1964, when I was twelve years old, that the arguments with my dad began.  They were mostly pretty mundane.  Occasionally, we chose an ancient issue and then, like moron lawyers from the planet X, proceeded to attempt to prove our positions.  My father was a girdle and bra manufacturer, an athlete, a Goldwater Republican who read westerns and science fiction.  I was a kid obsessed with comics.  I kind of wish I had some transcripts of those debates.

One argument was comprised of my expressing my certainty that the world had to change, was changing and that my father should change with it.  Dad expressed his confidence that if there was to be change, I would have to make it.  He emphasized that he wasn’t about to do anything differently.  There was a certain congruity to Dad’s communication.  As a closet obsessive compulsive, all his personal effects were arranged meticulously in patterned grids, rarely changing, with everything easily visible once you opened the drawers or stepped into his closet.  Arguing with a man with a mild case of OCD about the nature of change is a little bit like …

Deep Speed

August 29, 2008 | 1 Comment

Category: Society

The speed of change seems slow and deep.  I almost always misestimate when things will happen.  I’m usually off by at least a factor of 10.  Days end up weeks, weeks become years and years are really decades.

It is not unlike programming.  Programmers inevitably underestimate the time it takes to complete a project.  It’s difficult to fathom the webbing of interconnections developed when executing a design.  As a project progresses, it becomes necessary to bind not obviously connected, subtly interlinking features to create an effective, elegant, seamless whole.

I believed in 1970 that universal environmental awareness was inevitable and soon.  I defined soon as within the next 10 years.  Watching Reagan dismantle Carter environmental initiatives, I was not just appalled, I was confused.  The world seemed to be moving in the opposite direction.

Massive social change progresses in a fashion not unlike what is required to modify a highly complex piece of programming.  Every interconnection needs to be addressed.  It takes times.  Positive change takes time.

Naomi Klein outlines in detail in her book Shock Doctrine how the Right seeks change.  The Right compels transformation though destruction.  Severing connections in as many ways at as many levels as possible, …

Unlimited

August 28, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Neoteny, Ontogeny

“Alberch et al. (1979) showed that between ancestor and descendant, development can either be reduced (resulting in paedomorphosis) or increased (resulting in what they termed peramorphosis). Each could be produced by three processes, involving: developmental rate change, change in onset time of development, or change in its offset time. In the case of paedomorphosis, reduced rate is neoteny; delayed onset time is postdisplacement; and earlier offset is progenesis. For the opposing case of peramorphosis, increased rate of acceleration; earlier onset predisplacement; and delayed offset hypermorphoses. These six processes could therefore describe all heterochronic processes. (McKinney, M.L. & McNamara, K.J (1990) Heterochrony: The Evolution of Ontogeny: Plenum Press, New York p. 11)”

It astonishes me that while the behavioral and social sciences have looked to physics as a model for how to engender robust accessibility as a science, a central theme that carries though the sciences has its origins in biology, along with a metric for measuring its effects. I refer to heterochrony with an emphasis on neoteny. I would suggest for a metric the social science or physical science equivalents of the following biological variables:

“Neotenous Physical Traits in Humans. Cranial flexure, head situated over top of spine, forward …

What follows is an excerpt from Gould’s work. (Gould, S.J. (1977) Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge: Belknap Press pp. 356-58).

“To support the argument that we evolved by retaining juvenile features of our ancestors, Bolk provided lists of similarities between adult humans and juvenile apes: “Our essential somatic properties, i.e. Those which distinguish the human body form from that of other Primates, have all one feature in common, viz. they are fetal conditions that have become permanent. What is a transitional stage in the ontogenesis of other Primates has become a terminal stage in man” (1926a, p. 468). In his most extensive work, Bolk (1926c, p. 6) provided an abbreviated list in the following order:

1. Our “flat faced” orthognathy (a phenomenon of complex cause related both to facial reduction and to the retention of juvenile flexure, reflected, for example, in the failure of the sphenoethmoidal angle to open out during ontogeny).
2. Reduction or lack of body hair.
3. Loss of pigmentation in skin, eyes, and hair (Bolk argues that black peoples are born with relatively light skin, while ancestral primates are as dark at birth as ever).
4. The form of the external ear.
5. The epicanthic (or …

When I was a kid, my sisters and I would place a marble in the middle of the dining room linoleum floor and watch it begin rolling toward the hallway. Quickly, it would pick up speed, pass through the dining room door and then start lolling back and forth (north and south), and it careened more or less westward across the house. The history of the nearly 100-year old structure, since torn down, was represented in the pathway of the marble.

Tracing the path of societal ideas is compromised by an interpretation protocol that traces only the productions, not the origins, of the mind. We don’t think of biology or genetics as informing a discussion of the evolution of ideas. Exploring the connection between physical and mental when seeking an understanding of culture is not an intuitive choice. It has a lot to do with our not consciously knowing how we evolve biologically and societally. We are left watching the marble, guessing at what might have influenced its path.

No single variable influences our evolution more powerfully than changes in the rate and timing of maturation. Neoteny, or the prolongation of infant features into the adult of descendants by the …

Scientist

August 25, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Unconscious

The relationship of theorists with their god is perhaps too subtle and complicated for clear patterns to emerge. I experience biology and biology’s manifestation as society, as spirituality, and I wonder that this reaction is not a common experience for a theorist.

I recognize that an early fear of death and a life characterized by frequent experiences of anxiety drove me to explore a place where I could feel embraced by interconnection and could become intimate with grace. Clearly, my theorizing designs an intricate metaphor for the world I choose to live in rather than the world I was intimate with when young. I suspect much theory for the creator represents a personal integration, a metaphor for what they seek to achieve in life. Perhaps theory for others is a vindication for an embraced world view. How theory reflects these nuances of personal journey and personality is fascinating to me.

Marian Annett, the British researcher who has done ground-breaking research on the relationship of handedness to disorders characterized by maturational delay, wrote me that my work seemed a “Just So” story or interesting conjecture with no evidence or proof. Indeed, except I would suggest that theorists are always only writing …

“The multi-male species show less sexual dimorphism and specialization, and capacities for group-living and organization are obviously being selected for rather than mere strength or endurance or display.  High-ranking female groups, for example, will often not tolerate males who are too aggressive and competitive, and these leave the group and become solitaries.” (Fox, R (1983) Sexual selection, female choice and human kinship. Cambridge Anthropology 8, 3, page 8.)

Differences between the American Left and Right and how the Left and Right organize likey reflect social structure and sexual selection proclivities.  The only contact I have with the Right is reading Right Wing blogs, so my observations are one sided.  Still, a couple of interesting things I’ve observed.

In the Chicago area, there was an activist that dressed for all events and meetings with an oversized Uncle Sam hat and American flag as cape.  Over time, “Fred” had alienated a number of his peers, largely through expressions of inappropriate belligerence.  Over six feet tall without the hat, with hat he towered above all other people at an event.  His red, white and blue display could be easily picked out in a demonstration of thousands.  Fred sat in the first row of …

Home

August 23, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art, Auto-Biography

Sitting down to write this morning, I engage in my usual routine.  I compose these entries about 100 postings in the future, providing time to have them reviewed by an editor.  Before posting the day’s blog, I read it over and make final changes, it being almost three months since I was intimate with that piece.  Then I read over the pieces to post later in the week, written a season ago.  Then I read over and edit the blog essays produced in the last two days.  Finally, I prepare to write.

Rereading and editing work from 100 days ago and from the last couple days presents me with enough time to experience an evolution of the work over time, suggesting additional facets or perspectives, an opportunity to swim through a number of complementing ideas, and it presents me with exposure to new ways of expressing the foundation themes that flow through the larger work.  Often, more than one principle asks to be played with, and so I’m left searching for ways to express commonalities between melodies with no obvious ways to play with both at once.  Not unlike taking both a nine-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl to a …

A few entries ago, I proposed a predictable display of variation of the physical features in the children of a family over time as a mother’s testosterone level slowly rose with age. This prediction is in accord with a founding premise of this work, that our evolutionary past manifests in the present in more or less the degrees that a boy’s maturation rate is delayed and a girl’s maturation rate is accelerated. The higher the mother’s testosterone levels, the more likely this manifestation will be the case.

I would additionally suggest that because social structure has political correlates, it would be likely that in a politically conservative family, if liberals would emerge, it would be with the youngest sons and daughters. In addition, the youngest kids would most likely evidence the features of matrifocal social structure. One statistic I would expect to see is higher incidence of divorce or serial monogamy with youngest children. I would even suggest that because social structure is correlated with testicle size in primates, youngest sons should show incrementally larger testes than oldest sons.

Observing that the Left more often exhibits the features of a matrifocal social structure, I would additionally predict that as a …

Black culture in the United States maintains many of the features of matrifocal social structure.  Speaking in generalities, the African-American woman is comfortable wielding authority, is often the head of family and frequently engages in serial monogamy.  It would be interesting to explore studies that examine the social structures of the communities of origin of American blacks.  Understanding the influence of the slave experience upon African indigenous societal orientations could offer deeper understandings of what the American black wrestles with when creating family.

George Lakoff discusses differences between the Left and Right Wings of the American political community.  One way to parse out contrasts, complementary to Lakoff, is by noting the tendencies toward patriarchy present in the American Right vs. a matriarchy orientation on the Left.  The young man marrying Bush’s daughter asked Bush for his daughter’s hand.  I imagine this custom is far more common among conservatives than liberals.  On the left, personal choice and woman’s choice occur at many levels.  The American black community fits well within the progressive movement because they share a social structure perspective.

A lot has been written about the dynamic leading up to and supporting white racist attitudes toward blacks in the United …

“…in the chimpanzee, several males mate frequently with the oestroud females, so that each male has to deposit enough sperm to compete with the presence of sperm from other males. For the chimpanzee, therefore, we hypothesize that selection will favor the male that can deposit the largest number of sperm; thus the volume of spermatogenic tissue and hence the testis size is far greater in the chimpanzee than in the gorilla or orangutan. If this is correct, it implies that primates in which more than one male mates with each oestrous female should have larger testes relative to their body weight than those with single-male breeding systems. We have tested this prediction across a wide range of primates, and the results support the hypothesis. The relative size of testes may, therefore, provide a valuable clue to the breeding system of a primate species.” (Harcourt AH, Harvey PH, Larson SG, Short RV (1981) Testis weight, body weight and breeding system in primates. Nature 293: p. 55)

It is the anomalies that hold hidden treasures. It is the things that don’t fit in that suggest where doorways to new understandings are located. As we study human evolution and develop a theory that …

Summary

August 19, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Play

Evolution manifests in at least four scales or levels:  biological, societal, ontological and personal.  A central theme of these entries is that there are powerful connections between the different scales that evolution uses to unfold.  One connection is that the different scales share the same processes, one of them being neoteny, which is part of heterochrony, or the principle of waves.

This work explores various conditions characterized by maturational delay, such as autism, Asperger’s and stuttering, with a focus on what I’ve called left spectrum.  I believe that the theory or theories of evolution we consider inform our understanding of several medical conditions.  In other words, understanding exactly how we got to where we are can be very useful when addressing medical and psychological anomalies.

Another theme that carries through these entries is that science and spirituality are closely tied, particularly when exploring issues revolving around the unconscious and consciousness.  This work follows those connections to where they manifest in evolutionary theory, particularly where they link to discussions of art, play and creativity.

The study of neoteny in humans is also the study of creativity.  Studying how evolution is informed by creativity links to a number of areas, including story …

“Humans and chimps are almost identical in structural gens, yet differ markedly in form and behavior. This paradox can be resolved by invoking a small genetic difference with profound effects—alterations in the regulatory system that slow down the general rate of development in humans. Heterochronic changes are regulatory changes; they require only an alteration in the timing of features already present.” (Gould, S.J. (1977) Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge: Belknap Press. p. 9)

Monkeying with our regulatory system evidently helped make us what we are. By engaging in neoteny, or the prolonging of infant states into the adults of descendants, we have evolved ourselves large brains, small jaws, a proclivity to wonder, a compulsion to play and an inclination to be dependent. Altering regulatory systems can have profound positive effects if creativity is your goal.

With the economy quivering on a brink, there has been no small amount of talk about the effects of the last generation’s adjustments in the regulatory system of the American economy. Much discussed is how much freedom large corporations are allowed and if transparency and accountability are necessary if large corporations prefer they not have to be so constrained. Social Darwinism has a new name. Free …

As far back as I can remember, I’ve seen images in the bathroom floor. While sitting on the toilet, I have noticed that the cracks, blemishes and patterns resolve themselves into mostly faces. Sometimes I see faces with bodies. Often I see cartoon-like faces, and sometimes realistic pictures emerge. It happens that the same images pop out over time like friends saying hello, occasionally over periods of years.

While looking out the window, I see these faces in leaves and trees. The wind invests the characters with life, sometimes with moving jaws as if they’re talking. Usually, I’m thinking of something else when I notice that I’m observing a character that my mind has constructed out of the foliage. It’s rare I just decide to find the faces. I’m usually seeing them, and then I abandon the thoughts I have so that I can offer them my attention.

When I was a child, the dark green-speckled bedroom wallpaper would resolve itself into snakes and other creatures that I’d feel scared of when the pictures began to form. I remember whole walls vibrating with chattering animation, soundless yet alive. Mesmerizing, terrifying.

I discovered, maybe twenty years ago, that I can suggest …

Timeless Evolution

August 16, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society

We observe the creationist compulsion to evangelize an ancient, Middle Eastern mythology.  Ironically, fundamentalist Christians hawk the origin myths of Jews, who as a people hold science almost sacred.  Popular culture and the news promote creationism or intelligent design as a classic contrast to established, scientific paradigms of evolution.  What a truly bizarre time we live in.  We don’t examine natural selection, one of several theories of evolution that emerged in the 19th century, in the context of alternative theories of evolution that would serve to deepen our understandings of the circumstances of our evolution.  Instead, popular culture and the news compare this single theory of evolution with a mythology mostly rejected by the people that felt compelled to write it down.

Freud subscribed to evolutionary theory when exploring correlations between childhood development, the evolution of our species and a possible societal manifestation of the process when he observed the societal transformation arc from aboriginal to contemporary culture.  Einstein explored evolution over cosmic time as he and others parsed out how the universe originated and then evolved.  Jewish intellectuals have found it easy to embrace a world characterized by evolution and transformation.  Jewish culture experiences reverence for the abstract and …

Child Play

August 15, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Sand Castles

Observing the behaviors of children when as many as a dozen may be working with me on sand castles, I see that their ages, gender and disposition all influence how they participate in the project.  For example, some are inclined to concentrate on infrastructure, spending their time digging holes.  Others focus on the building of towers.  There are the artists and there are the engineers.

There are boys fascinated by the havoc caused when the ocean is allowed to enter the project through a channel.  They watch closely as walls erode and towers fall.  Often they have a narrative, spoken out loud, that involves a civilization, with all pitching in to prevent imminent catastrophe.

Some children surround themselves by the century they’re in.  Their hands are bulldozers, moving earth to make room for the hand-like cranes.  Other kids observe towers erected in the Middle Ages, and their hands and fingers are carriages moving up and down the slopes.  To some, usually girls, the sand castles are the homes for fairies.  The scale is normal; the inhabitants are small.

A dedication to dark places seems to be characteristic of certain kids.  They dig deep into foundations beneath the towers to create …

Between classes while I was going to college in St.  Petersburg, Florida, I drove over to the beach to make sand castles.  Surrounded by spires, a boy and his mom walking up the shoreline paused to look at what I was constructing.

“Look, Mom! That man’s making a sand castle!”

No one had ever called me a man before.  I was nineteen.  I was confused.  I was a man.  It was a boy that made this fact known.  It was while making sand castles that the truth arrived.

And so I define my life by how good I am at play.

The heterochronists of the 19th century that discovered and explored principles of biological evolution that included neoteny did not survive the ideological purge that occurred after Darwin’s theory of natural selection was accepted.  It’s as if spring arrived but only blossomed in the yards of people that had white houses, and then disappeared with an immediate return of winter.  Heterochrony includes the concept that evolution unfolds in a fashion that allows the features of embryos or infants to manifest later in ontogeny over time, while the lessons learned by adults are drawn from a vast, interconnected environment of interlocking …

Medium

August 13, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society, Web

The medium is the message.  It is perhaps most true when examining websites and the Internet.  As important as a message or an issue is, the way that it is communicated can have as much if not more impact than the words themselves.

With the web being all about transparency, diversity and horizontal communication, it has still not become obvious to a majority of the Left that it is a perfect vehicle for lifting Left priorities and carrying them into the mainstream.  The medium is the message.

This is a Zen revolution where words are not what makes the change.  It’s a content-free transformation allowing a massive flattening without rhetoric or a knocking down of walls.

When the medium is the message, what does it mean when the power of the medium is in the words it does not say?

We know what TV and radio sound like.  What is the sound of one web crackling?…