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Alloparents and Evolution

April 1, 2010 | 3 Comments

Category: Autism, Causes of Autism, Social Structure

“Comparing the rates of violence in chimpanzees and humans gives support to the idea that male-male physical competition over females within the social group is vastly less important in humans.  Wrangham and his associates compared the rates of lethal violence between chimpanzees and human subsistence societies and found them similar….In sharp contrast, chimpanzees had rates of within-group nonlethal physical aggression between two or three orders of magnitude higher than humans.  Although preliminary data, these results indicate a major reduction in male-male violence within human groups and supports Boehm’s hypothesis on the evolution of human egalitarianism…”  (Lancaster and Kaplan, “The Endocrinology of the Human Adaptive Complex,” in Endocrinology of Social Relationships, eds. Ellison and Gray, p. 113.)

I received an email from Elaine Morgan, popularizer of the aquatic ape theory of human evolution and the author of several books on human evolution, including The Descent of Woman.  Morgan recommended that I read the work of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.  She suggested I read Mother and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding.

“The paradigm shift away from thinking of our Pleistocene ancestors as reared by all-nurturing chimpanzee-like mothers, and toward thinking of them as apes with species-typical shared care, has been slow in coming.  Only in the past decade has cooperative breeding’s implications for attachment theory begun to be addressed, and its evolutionary implications taken into account.”  (Hrdy, Mothers and Others, p. 113.)

Hrdy discusses the influence of the alloparent in detail, describing the profound uniqueness of the human species, where mothers share infant intimacy with other females (and occasionally males) from the first day on.  This is unheard of in other great ape species.  Many things are implied.  Hrdy concentrates on how natural selection reinforces a cooperation theory-of-mind paradigm that allows a larger number of progeny to survive in communities where child-rearing is a community event.  For Hrdy, coming from a natural selection theorizing background, natural selection alone explains how humans evolved an ability to identify with another person as compassion became a highly useful feature.

Two things jump out at me.  First, sexual selection seems to be of relatively little importance in Hrdy’s hypothesis.  Neoteny is not mentioned.  With a default assumption that natural selection is how things transform, there is no awareness that many of the features that Hrdy describes reveal neotenous trends.  Though she discusses the influence of matriarchy, this is not integrated into an understanding of how matriarchy encourages specific kinds of evolution, particularly those kinds of evolution leading to the features that Hrdy is paying the closest attention to.  Matrifocal social structure encourages cooperative societies.  Instead of exploring the conditions that support matrifocal social structure, Hrdy commits the usual sociobiological sin of assuming that only natural selection is in play.  (Geoffrey Miller’s work would be the exception.)

Placing a heavy emphasis on alloparent intervention keeping our species alive, Hrdy neglects to make the connection between neoteny and social structures that support alloparents.  In other words, Hrdy’s work supports matrifocal human evolution.

No doubt this is just the beginning of my exploration of Hrdy’s work in connection with my Orchestral Theory of Evolution.  Thank you, Elaine, for sending me in Hrdy’s direction.

Second, considering that autism features individuals exhibiting the characteristics of our evolutionary forebears, and noting that the environment and child-rearing practices of those forebears might be what current autistics are craving, I’ve hypothesized that diet, rhythm, dance, touch and performance may all be necessary to those with autism.  Reading Hrdy’s book, it strikes me that perhaps an autistic neurology requires constant multiple parents, several persons to form attachments with.  For a child to feel part of society, perhaps it is neurologically necessary that several central females be engaged from birth.  Hrdy notes that in primitive societies, though the babies may travel among several persons over the course of a day, the baby sleeps with the mother at night.  It is also possible that an autistic individual requires close contact with a central figure through the night.

As it becomes clearer how exactly we evolved, we may evolve a deeper understanding for how we can adjust the environment of particular humans having difficulty adjusting to current society.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Orchestral Theory

November 3, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology

Rate and timing may be the foundation concepts that tie together the many scales of experience.  Assigning testosterone to rate and estrogen to timing may serve to explain how evolution and societal transformation unfold.  The nineteenth and early twentieth century attention to four-fold parallelisms–biology, society, ontogeny and personal experience–may all be testosterone and estrogen informed via the engine of heterochronic theory.

I came to these studies originally by offering attention to the possibility that human evolution was driven by women’s choices.  With the recent revelation that estrogen may control the timing of maturation rates, it becomes possible that biological evolution in general may be built upon a foundation of testosterone controlling rate and estrogen managing timing.

I’d prefer to call this orchestral evolution rather than heterochronic theory, noting the power of estrogen, in the position of conductor, to control the timing of the unfolding of the production.

A question that has crossed my mind is:  If rate and timing are the foundation principles, and testosterone and estrogen are the particular ways these principles have manifested at the scales of evolution closest to the levels at which we identify, then what might be the levers of influence at other scales of existence?

For example, how does orchestral evolution operate at the cosmic and molecular levels?  What might manage the rate and timing at their scales?  If estrogen and testosterone have such huge influence on at least four scales, then we might surmise that the rate and timing dynamics at other scales may cover several scales at one time.  We might also hypothesize that there could be overlap or an integration of two different rate/timing dynamics at contiguous levels.

For example, let’s say that the velocity of the expanding universe is controlled by a particular variable.  Velocity evidently varies.  That would be our equivalent of testosterone.  Managing the timing of velocity variations would be our equivalent of estrogen.  We might expect, based upon what occurs at the biology/society/ontogeny/biography scale, that what is controlling the rate and timing of the expanding universe influences our universe at other scales.  Information providing pathways to answers might be evident in the way solar systems form or even in how our planet balances the biosphere.

Are there forces that seem to manage the rate and timing of molecular activity?  Because macro and micro seem to so often intersect, could the same rate and timing forces be operating at both the cosmic and atomic levels?  Is there a macro/micro, yang and yin, testosterone/estrogen concomitant?

Many of the spiritual symbols of existence dynamics–the cross, the Star of David, the yin and yang–have two pieces superimposed so that symmetry results.  If evolution can be condensed down to the relationship of the rate and timing of maturation, then perhaps the universe can be understood in a simple fashion.

It seems too elegant to be true, but I’ve become enamored of the possibility.

Heterochronic theory, the study of the effects of rate and timing on maturation and development, takes the work of several late nineteenth century and early twentieth century theorists and packages that work into a sort of seamless whole. Stephen J. Gould in his Ontogeny and Phylogeny went far, codifying the various theorists’ predilections so that they made an overriding sense. I say “sort of” seamless whole because the actual endocrinological underpinnings of the dynamics were never explored.

Neoteny is the best known of the six heterochronic processes. Neoteny is the process whereby features of infants, embryos or the very young are, over the course of generations, prolonged to emerge in the adults of descendants. Acceleration is the opposite, whereby features of adult ancestors appear in the infants of descendants. For example, let’s say great great grandfather had a baritone voice, emerging at puberty. His son’s deeper voice may emerge just before puberty and his great grandson might have an unusually hoarse voice as a child. That would be an acceleration of a feature. These things normally take hundreds and thousands of generations, though they can be encouraged to occur in less than half a dozen. Wolves and foxes have been neotenized in a mere 20 years, acquiring dog-like characteristics.

Endocrinology is a new science even though we have been observing the effects of the gonadal hormones since the dawn of self awareness. That there might be an elegant correlation between specific hormones and the rate and timing of maturation has not been explored outside work done by biologists, followers of Matusa mostly, on amphibians and other nonmammal species. For over ten years, I’ve been exploring the repercussions of a theory of human evolution that considers that testosterone regulates the speed of maturation. This is a profoundly epigenetic theory, a theory that estimates that testosterone regulation occurs as a direct result of environmental factors that determine testosterone levels. Epigenetic theories are those theories that explore heredity/environment interactions that result in ontogenetic and eventually evolutionary change. It was unorthodox until recently to consider that genes are programmed to take into consideration environmental effects, and that the result of modifications will not only appear in the individual but in the individual’s descendants. So, we might see why it’s taken us a while to get to a place where testosterone could be even considered as a major force in evolution.

Chris Knight in his Blood Relations outlines the profound effect that social frames of reference have upon our ability to theorize. Thomas Kuhn alludes to the impact that shared social views have upon theorists’ frame of reference. Knight describes how hobbled we are in the West by a nonfeminist perspective. Kuhn suggests a sea change of societal perspectives would be necessary for the following to make sense.

Heterochronic theory’s changing rate and timing can be elegantly assigned to the effects of testosterone changing rates and estrogen controlling timing. Both hormones are associated with a host of related hormones, and there are circumstances where male and female hormones may transition to the other but, speaking generally, there are patterns that suggest that at a very real level, individual ontogeny, social evolution and human biological evolution are unfolding according to this very specific, two-variable dance.

Our commitment to Darwin’s theory of natural selection has made it difficult to note the effects of the environment upon evolution.

Our devotion to the idea that the behaviors of males in evolution are more important than the behaviors of females has made it almost impossible to observe that behind the scenes it has been the female controlling the timing of the process.

I wish we had a better word than “heterochronic” to describe the patterns. It would have been better if we had a name like “orchestral evolution.” Then it would make more sense when we assigned the position of conductor to a woman, she that decides the timing of the production.

There are several places where estrogen may be quietly stepping in and deciding exactly how things unfold by regulating the timing of those events. That may be occurring in no small way due to estrogen controlling the timing of testosterone’s effects.

• Fat levels at puberty, influencing estrogen levels, determine the timing of pubertal testosterone surges in both sexes. Individuals may experience delayed puberty if there is not enough fat on their bodies to propel the process.

• Estrogen levels in an infant and toddler may be influencing testosterone surges that determine cerebral synapse pruning. We don’t know what determines the timing of testosterone surges that result in the diminution of the right cerebral hemisphere. If it is a similar process to what determines the timing of testosterone surges in puberty, then estrogen levels may not only be controlling cerebral lateralization but may be heavily influencing language production, conditions such as autism and numerous other human features and conditions.

• Estrogen levels in a mother’s womb may be deciding (along with testosterone) which social structure the child will be inclined to ally with. I’ve described four social structures, two matrifocal and two patrifocal. Estrogen levels are a key determinant of social structure proclivity.

• 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 determines the likelihood of progeny survival by how much attention is directed toward the young. Consider that in female infanticide it is almost always the mother that kills the infant.

• Estrogen may offer the placating option when combat is being considered. Estrogen can control whether a battle occurs or not.

Darwin’s theory of sexual selection or female choice may be but the suggestion of a vast network of relationships determined by estrogen levels. Darwin was familiar with the work of contemporaries, Neo-Lamarckians, who focused on the orthogenetic tendency of features to evolve in particular trajectories. We can see those patterns now as part of the larger pattern of Gould’s heterochronic theory paradigm. It is possible that Darwin’s theory of natural selection and his theory of sexual selection can be allied in a heterochronic theory of evolution that places testosterone as the prime mover of rates of maturation and estrogen as the queen of timing. Interestingly enough, Darwin’s third theory, pangenesis, revealed orthogenetic insights. Darwin even hypothesized “gemmules,” or particles, that would flow through the bloodstream, carrying information regarding the environment to the places in one’s body that controlled evolutionary change.

In other words, Darwin had all the puzzle pieces. But, he was exploring these ideas in a time when society embraced only the idea that might is right, environment be damned and women control little of what occurs.

To seriously consider that testosterone may control the rate of evolution, estrogen the timing, we might have to go back 150 years. The answer to our origins may be in the origins of evolutionary theory.

030910

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

The Longer Work

March 9, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art, Auto-Biography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How might social structure influence dinosaurs? (Flickr CC: grahambancroft)

Neoteny in Dinosaurs

March 1, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Neoteny, Social Structure

An article in Science News last October 31 called attention to a discovery:  “These dinosaurs were not separate species, as some paleontologists claim, but different growth stages of previously named dinosaurs, according to a new study.”

“Juveniles and adults of these dinosaurs look very, very different from adults, and literally may resemble a different species,” said dinosaur expert Mark B. Goodwin, assistant director of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology.  “But some scientists are confusing morphological differences at different growth stages with characteristics that are taxonomically important.  The result is an inflated number of dinosaurs in the late Cretaceous.”

In the article, Goodwin’s associate, John “Jack” Horner, says, “Dinosaurs, like birds and many mammals, retain neoteny, that is, they retain their juvenile characteristics for a long period of growth, which is a strong indicator that they were very social animals, grouping in flocks or herds with long periods of parental care.”

Horner associates neoteny with sociality, suggesting that animals that congregate throughout their lives exhibit neotenous characteristics.  I wish I knew more about these areas.  My next question is:  Are there specific social structures associated with those animals that group in flocks and herds?

If it is true that in animals, when neoteny emerges as influential in the way ancient species appear, we can assume that these are social animals, then can we also assume particular social structures were in play?  If this is the case, and social structures are influenced by the environment, then this supports an ability to possibly examine not only species alive today, but ancient species like the ones that Goodwin and Horner describe, in a context of environment and social structure informing evolution.

Postulate 23:  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.

What I’m trying to get a feel for here is how universal, exactly, are the principles that I’m playing with.  I keep seeing signs, smelling flavors that call my attention to this alternative frame of reference.  The Goodwin-Horner study suggests that neotenous features suggest flock/herd inclinations.  Prolonging the features of infancy, dependency and close attention on the mother into the adult of species encourages social behaviors.  How clear is the pattern that species that congregate exhibit greater neoteny than those that don’t?  The implications of that suggestion are profound.  Frankly, outside my exploring this in connection to humans, it is not something I’ve ever considered, except in the context of social structure.

What exactly are the social structure predilections of congregating, herd and flock species?

The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis

February 25, 2010 | 1 Comment

Category: Biology, Neoteny, Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running some more riffs off of yesterday’s conjectures regarding the particular hypothetical dynamics that I’ve been exploring in human evolution, are there species that tend to cluster (1) sexual selection with females picking males for particular qualities (dance, song, plumage, etc.) and (2) females assigning relatively large amounts of attention to the young?  If so, males can be chosen for their neotenous features, features females would be attracted to in their young, which might result in relatively larger brains, more cooperative behavior, more tendencies to play, more creativity.

This could veer off in two directions.  If the female is picking males for those features that demand higher testosterone levels (bright red plumage), the male will not likely be displaying neotenous tendencies and would not likely be helping in the raising of the kids (though this would depend on seasonal variations in hormone levels).  Yet, if the female is picking males that are challenged to behave with some creativity, or at least species-related novel behavior, to get the females’ attention, the male may end up evolving in ways that suggest how the human species has evolved.

I’m thinking that those predators that hunt in cooperative packs might as a trend display larger brains, exhibit relative creativity in display when seeking mates, be more playful as adults and be more or less well disposed toward caring for the kids.  Chimpanzees hunt in several male units, as do dogs.  Both are tolerant of little ones, at least not usually engaging in infanticide.

I know too little about these things to have ready information that sorts into this idea.  I expect that’s why I write almost exclusively about humans.  Humans I can observe.

Regarding primates, Knight wrote, “The variations and permutations are numerous, but the basic result is that females arrange themselves across the landscape in characteristic patterns – grouped or isolated, fast-moving or slow, in trees or on the ground – and the males in pursuing their sexual goals adopt strategies which take account of the situation which the females have defined.”  (Chris Knight, Blood Relations (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1991), p. 133.)

With female behavior often informing social structure founded on how both sexes hunt or forage in the context of the location and availability of what is required for sustenance, and the resulting social structure often delegating the hormonal constellations of a particular species, there seems to be a not so subtle relationship described as follows:  Environment > nourishment procurement strategies > social structure > male/female relative hormonal constellations > evolutionary trajectories (changes in hormones adjust ontogeny, changing the species over time).  This looks to me like a paradigm description of how evolution can occur, a variation of what I’ve been playing with as relates to humans.

Postulate 23: 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.   I’ve not been considering much the hypothesis outside of humans, but it seems, at least among some species, that this paradigm may be in play.

There is this sense that the environment informs social structure that can then invest the female with powers to compel evolution in interesting directions based upon her ability to encourage neoteny or acceleration.  My head is spinning.  It’s feeling like a whole new area is opening up with clear influence trajectories or interlocking cause and effect relationships suggesting how evolution unfolds.

Social structure and the environmental effects upon social structure feel central to how species change cascades across an ecosystem.

I was a professional artist, making portions of my living painting, cartooning, designing and illustrating over the years.  I am now a professional web developer, making my living managing a firm that creates and maintains websites, markets websites and designs unique applications for online communication.  I am also an amateur evolutionary biological theorist, perhaps the world’s only expert on the application of nineteenth-century heterochronist principles of maturational delay and acceleration to human evolution and social change.  In my study, I integrate recent neuropsychological brain-structure discoveries and the influences of testosterone and estrogen on the brain and physiology, along with how social structure and the environment impact these adjustments.

I know.  This sounds complicated and arcane.  It’s not.  It takes less time to become familiar with these concepts than it takes to learn to drive a car.  What it boils down to is the exact principles behind the way that we as individuals mature, species change and societies transform.  This is deeply intuitive.  It’s just that until recently we didn’t have the information that could tie it all together.  In addition, our obsession with natural selection obfuscated patterns more complicated than “survival of the fittest.”

A problem is that although I can fairly easily write about the Internet and societal change and have that work picked up and appear in online venues, some with large circulations, and get carried by a Twitter surge of close to 100 thousand, I have difficulty distributing perspectives on biological evolution.  In those areas where I am a professional, it is perceived that I have something to lose if what I share ends up being erroneous.  My services depreciate in value if I am wrong.  Also, it is relatively easy to write about the Internet on the Internet.

It is not so easy to write about evolution in those places where theorists write about evolution.

In those areas where I am an amateur, my contributions are not noted by the professional community, because I did not go through the credentialing process whereby it can be assumed that I have something to lose if I am wrong.  Professionals lose much if they are wrong.  They perceive it in their best interest not to ally themselves with those with nothing to lose.  It would be like assigning my clients to high school students.  It is in my best interest as a web developer to hire folks that have received a college education in design.

So, what I’m toying with now is the following:  What are the most subtle and effective ways that I can write about the Internet and social change–areas where I can fairly easily get my ideas distributed–so that biological evolution also gets discussed?  At this time, on the four sites where my ideas appear (sexualselection.org, causeofautism.com, shiftjournal.com and this site), I get several hundred unique visitors a day (by conservative stats analytic tool estimations).  I’m trying to be crafty here and increase that exposure in such a fashion that it becomes clear to readers that the way that individuals, species and societies mature informs our understanding of an enormous amount of what occurs to us in our lives.

Survival sums up the way that most of us understand how biology evolves, individuals survive and societies transcend.  This is the old model.  The new model focuses on how populations, species, individuals and cultures mature.

Natural selection is the process by which randomly generated heritable traits that make it more likely for an organism to generate progeny become more common in a population over successive generations.  This is the old model.  The old model does not get replaced.  It becomes the foundation for the new model.

The new model:  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.  Those environmental or social structure adjustments that influence levels of testosterone and estrogen determine the speed, timing, features and direction of evolution.

The new model is all about maturation, not survival.  How does an amateur best write about a theory of maturation, with roots in evolutionary biology, neuropsychology, endocrinology, and anthropology, and sound like he’s got something to lose if he is wrong?

I’m not exactly sure if the issue is my surviving attempts to scale traditional barriers that surround professional expertise or my needing to mature to the point where I can be present to what I have to say rather than being concerned with those in my imagination that are not listening.

I just realized.  I think amateur is French for “not mature.”  This work is all about neoteny, or the bringing forth of infant features into adults, a sort of merging of the immature and mature.  That seems to be the theme of several of these essays as regards my personal attempts to introduce a new theory to a professional community.  There are ways that the product and the process are the same.

I need to let this insight mature.

Three things are bouncing around my brain after I drank coffee to knock out a headache, which worked.

I’m finishing the over 100 piece that seeks to provide a less-stressed introduction to this theory than the earlier “Introduction to the Theory of Waves.”  First, the theory is now called “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution.”  The name changed when I hypothesized that estrogen manages the timing of maturation.

That, by the way, was a bizarre realization.  Bizarre for two reasons.  First, it came to me without my being aware that it had come to me.  I just found myself working with that premise, not having noted when it became part of my thoughts.  Second, for more than 11 years, I’ve been working with testosterone controlling the rate of maturation without it having ever crossed my mind that it would be interesting to know what managed the timing.  It just never struck me that it was relevant or knowable, even though I’d been discussing rates and timing of maturation for 11 years.  At the same time, for 11 years, I’d been wondering how specifically estrogen might fit into the theory that was coming together.  I sensed that the theory was out of balance.

Since 1998, I’d been wondering how estrogen was relevant at the same time that I was totally not paying attention to the relevance of timing to maturation, even though I talked of timing constantly in the context of timing being the other half of the time frame of maturation, integral to heterochronic evolution.  Then, late last winter, estrogen slipped in, and I didn’t even notice the integration.

Okay.  Pretty weird.

Finishing the new introduction, I’ve been refining different sections of the work.  Describing the contribution of the artist, it hit me that the definition of “artist” embraces two very different sensibilities with paradoxically opposite implications.

There is the Occam’s-razor worshipping, male, Neo-Darwinian, reductionist, materialist, programmer’s creativity that seeks an elegant solution with the fewest number of steps possible.  Integral to this view is a compulsive rhythm implying step-by-step behavior with little awareness of a larger picture.  This reflects a particularly patrifocal, hierarchical social paradigm with every level in the hierarchy obsessively protecting that which is observable and controllable in contiguous positions.  There are ways that this also reflects the male protohuman character that is far less interested, artistically, in relationship than in the obsessive performance of evocative rhythm.

In other words, features of the hypothetical low estrogen, obsessive male are evident in patrifocal society and its creative impulse.  Perhaps high estrogen, patrifocal, creative males have creative impulses similar to low estrogen matrifocal males.  Focus on detail characterizes both milieus.

The emerging artist’s impulse is one that features a high estrogen male, far from the kind of male I am hypothesizing was common while we were growing big brains.  We are now seeing the “feminine” male, the male that fits the newer of the two matrifocal paradigms, a male with an artistic sensibility that seeks productions that reflect a larger whole.  Relationship is closely observed.  Wider connections are respected.

In other words, the protoartist paradigm is not the same as the emerging artist paradigm, even though both operate in matrifocal context

Hobby

January 15, 2010 | 4 Comments

Category: Art, Auto-Biography

One of the most challenging things about producing unique theory in an amateur context is the necessity of embracing the amateur milieu.  The academic and hobby environments are very different on several levels.  As an amateur, it is easy to believe that your audience is at least partly academics if what you are producing is the kind of product, unique evolutionary theory, for example, that an academic would produce.  That is a nonuseful perspective.

The academic and amateur environments operate on different premises and come with different appropriate behaviors.  I have relatives, friends and colleagues that are professors, so though I don’t speak from the experience of being an academic, this is not an unfamiliar world.

In academia, though the concept of the commons is integral to the idea of a learning community, knowledge sources are closely associated with individual contributions.  Struggles for recognition or for being a knowledge source are integral to institutional and discipline respect.  There are very specific conventions for how knowledge is shared and contributions are made, beginning with getting a degree in the area where you are seeking support for your ideas.  Criticism and analysis of contributions are part of the system, so it is required that positions be well defended.  Presentations are made in a context of attacking and defending ideas.  Over time, an academic builds a web of allies and supporters that is useful to achieving practitioner goals.

A result of the academic battle for recognition and respect is a hesitation to offer attention to those not participating in the slugfest.  It is hard enough achieving respect following the rules.  Forming alliances and offering recognition to folks operating outside the academic battleground are experienced as not useful to achieving goals.

My work makes it particularly difficult for academics to offer signs of their support.  It is interdisciplinary, grounded in anthropology, evolutionary biology, neuropsychology and, to some degree, endocrinology.  On several occasions I’ve received emails from academics interested in what I was working on where it crossed over into their area of expertise, but because they were unfamiliar with the concepts as they entered other disciplines, they could not estimate how reasonable my ideas were outside their own profession.  There is, of course, the fact that I have no degree in their area, I am not published in a peer-reviewed journal, I have no alliances with an academic institution and my work is not cited by papers published in peer-reviewed journals.

There is also an issue because I feel a defined understanding of consciousness is integral to understanding evolution.  I closely ally art, spirituality and science when I discuss evolutionary theory.  Many evolutionary theorists might say that’s fine, understanding your epistemological foundations can be useful when exploring something as fundamental as evolutionary theory, but these discussions are not the convention in contemporary journals.

What I continue to struggle with as I slowly integrate the many aspects of what I’m now calling “The Orchestral Theory of Evolution” is that as an amateur, it is necessary that I embrace the amateur milieu.  As an amateur, it is essential I have fun, communicate I am having fun and make that joy of sharing central to my communication.

Almost without exception, academics that I observe don’t behave like they’re having fun, particularly when they are seeking to lobby for their ideas or interpretations.  They sometimes do seem to be having fun while teaching.  When teaching, they are not engaged in the struggle to achieve respect.  When they are lobbying for acceptance of an idea or opinion, they wear battle demeanor.  Struggling for recognition, they are focused, concentrated, making sure they are aware of the ramification of all their utterances, paying close attention to the words and behaviors of their foes and allies.

That is exactly the space I need to avoid, but it is one I keep feeling drawn to.  I am in no battle.  I have no foes or allies.  As an amateur, engaged in hobby, swimming in ideas with no boundaries, I have no academic conventions to uphold, no institutional routines to distract me.

Writing the larger overview of my theory, a part of me feels drawn toward establishing my credentials as a person whose ideas should be taken seriously.  That means several things.  One of them is at the beginning of the work it is good to be describing on overview of the discipline, noting accepted theories, while referencing important past and current researchers and theorists.  My work covers half a dozen disciplines.  Writing an overview of half a dozen disciplines as an introduction feels overwhelming.  It feels like work.  Perhaps more importantly, I’m not familiar with the history, all the current theories and important past and present individuals in those disciplines.  In addition, academics won’t be reading what I write, at least not in a fashion where they are considering citation, and nonacademics would likely be bored by an essentially very long introduction.

I think it also relevant that academics have something to lose if the information they are putting their reputation on the line to share is proven false, poorly supported or just highly conjectural.  This prevents professionals from wasting time and resources pursuing false leads.  The amateur has not spent years achieving credentials that it would be very costly to lose.  Not unlike male and female procreation agendas, an amateur, like a male with an almost infinite amount of sperm, is encouraged to take risks because losses have fewer repercussions. A professional, like a female that can only give birth to a limited number of children, will protect the ideas that he or she is identified with because each idea supported requires a personal commitment and some reputation risk.

Establishing credentials as a hobbyist, I make clear that I am an authority when I make sense, tell the truth and share my passion.  Authenticity accompanies a passionate, articulate sharing.

As an amateur, I am blessed by having no discipline barriers to corral my thoughts.  As an amateur, I am not enmeshed in a network of relationships that would tell me who would be disappointed by a thought I share.  My successes won’t translate into a colleague or friend feeling that he or she has failed.  My failures don’t burden a colleague with an ally that has let him or her down.

What I need to remember is that I am writing to share the joy I experience.  Though there are academics with the strength and character to write from a position of joy and to continue to battle for their ideas, as an amateur, I am relieved of battle.  I need only experience the joy of participation.

Continuing to write an integration of my ideas, I can remember this.  I am not a professional.  I am not writing for professionals.  I am writing for those that may share my joy.

Amateur Status

January 13, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society, Web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complicated

December 31, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Author Bio

February 24, 2010 | Comments Off on Author Bio

Category:

My passion is evolutionary theory. I concentrate on patterns or convergences and connections between evolution, societal transformation, ontogeny, politics and personal change. Central to the thesis is neoteny. Closely related to neoteny is autism. The relationship between neoteny, autism and evolution is often a focus of this website.

Neoteny is the evolutionary biological principle that the infant features of a species can evidence themselves in the adults of their descendants. Our chimp-like evolutionary precursor had infants with features very much like contemporary adults (small jaws, big eyes, large head, playful disposition, upright posture, etc). Neoteny is integral to how humans evolved. I hypothesize that social structure and environmental effects are integral to how neoteny influences our evolution.

I am a political activist working at the local, state and national level. I run a web development firm serving 400 commercial clients, and I design applications specializing in Left/Progressive grassroots coalition and network building.

I worked for Moveon as a volunteer national coordinator in 2005 and learned much from that ground-breaking organization. My wife and I serve a number of peace, justice and environmental organizations at the national, regional or local level. I am the founder and co-director of The Peace, Justice and Environment Project (PJEP), a national network of 40 networks of more than 1,400 organizations serving 50 states. We designed PJEP’s organizational structure and communications web/email interface to be bottom-up, grassroots and horizontally packed with features to empower activists seeking political and social change.

I produced a comic strip concentrating on social issues that appeared in more than 200 publications. I ran a sales firm for 19 years. I am on my ninth profession. I am 56. Justin, Elia, Katie and Gwyn are my kids and stepkids. Marcia Bernsten is my wife.

I often write about the connection between human biological evolution and social change, composing essays for The Public Record, The People’s Voice, Counterpunch and BuzzFlash.com. In addition to what appears here I blog at both pjep.com (on politics and social change) and ShiftJournal.com (on autism and neurodiversity).

Integral to the paradigm promoted on this website is my hypothesis that in the study of the rates and timing of maturation, with testosterone levels impacting rate and estrogen levels controlling timing, those environmental or social structure adjustments that influence levels of testosterone and estrogen determine the speed, timing, features and direction of evolution. I argue that understanding neoteny is integral to grasping current societal transformations. Understanding autism as a social condition reflecting changes in the rate and timing of maturation at both the personal and societal scales is central to this thesis.

Biological evolution, social transformation, ontogeny and personal experience reveal on different scales an identical process. This website is about how they are all connected.

Creative Commons offers an opportunity for creators to share their art with no copyright encumbrances. This creates an opportunity for the art to transform and evolve. What better way to share a work on evolution. All words that I’ve composed on this blog are freely available for whatever use visitors would like to make of them. Find ways to make things make sense, cut and paste the concepts, adjust and delete, add on what feels right. Integrate this stuff with what you’ve made yourself or discovered on other sites. I’ll link to what you’ve created.

Marcia and I conduct workshops and speak about our experiences as organizers and activists. Email us for more information. My “Orchestral Theory of Evolution” discussed on these pages is unorthodox and unique. Contact me if you would like to know more or would like me to speak to your group in person.

Thank you.

Andrew Lehman
11/15/09

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.

Another Dream

February 1, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Category: Art, Auto-Biography

Last night was another one of those nights where I dreamt evolutionary theory all night long.  It was the same thing over and over.  My dreams were outlining a sequence of processes involving estrogen and testosterone influencing behavior and physical features in progeny.  Estrogen and testosterone were impacting children when those hormone levels changed in parents, influencing the parents’ daily life in numerous ways.

In the dreams, I wasn’t observing the situations as much as I was writing descriptions of the process, pathways of influence.  Occasionally I’d see something from an auto window while the car was moving, as if what I was seeing was an example of what I was seeking to describe.  Getting the text right and the sequences correct seemed the main focus of the dreams.  The main communication seemed to be that humans are heavily impacted by events in their lives.  The environment informs our experience, changing not only ourselves but our children.

This operated at three scales.  I awoke unclear what those scales were, though while dreaming I had understood.

A big issue in the dream was that these things were easily explainable.  A main focus was on communicating the principles in a way that they were easy to understand.

Shortly after I awoke, it struck me that there are three things that I am seeking to communicate in my work.  1) There is the theory itself.  2) There is the power and usefulness of my engaging in the distribution of the theory through the Internet, not academic conventions, making my theory an advocate of the new horizontal, barrier-free milieu.  3) Last, there is my sharing of the process of the theory formation in blog, narrative format, providing a window into how exactly the theory comes together.  In other words, I don’t only seek to share insights or what the theory is that has been formed.  I also seek to offer a transparency that allows a communicating of theory-formation process, providing not just the results of the process, but access to how the process is engaged in.  A theory about human evolution and the origin of human split consciousness usefully offers access to the split consciousness hypothesized to exist.

This, of course, assumes that I am part of a process with a result that is beautiful and/or useful.  I’ve hypothesized many interconnected, hypothetically useful theories or models under the umbrella of this Orchestral Theory of Evolution, all in the context of my being an amateur.  I am a trained artist by profession.  That contextualizes these productions as a work of art.  This relieves me of competing with practitioners of science, which would leave me open to being evaluated by their rules.  Not that my work is much noticed by the practitioners of science.  Nevertheless, as an amateur, I fail the academic requirement that practitioners make no claims without being above reproach.  I frequently posit hypotheses, using intuition and information, and then I run “as if” frames, or I assume those hypotheses are true so that I can explore the implications.  Then, I explore the implications of the implications.  I do this without conducting experiments or running studies.  This is not particularly good science, though there are similarities to abstract physics.

As an artist, I can indulge.  As an artist, I can consider the content of my dreams to be very important.  I believe that there is nothing that I know that wasn’t unconscious first.

The main focus of the dream last night was that what I write should be simple and understandable.  I will continue to pursue that goal.

“Before Agassiz, recapitulation had been defined as a correspondence between two series: embryonic stages and adults of living species.  Agassiz introduced a third series: the geologic record of fossils.  An embryo repeats both a graded series of living, lower forms and the history of its type as recorded by fossils.  There is a “threefold parallelism” of embryonic growth, structural gradation, and geologic succession.  ‘It may therefore be considered as a general fact, very likely to be more fully illustrated as investigations cover a wider ground, that the phases of development of all living animals correspond to the order to succession of their extinct representatives in past geological times.  As far as this goes, the oldest representatives of every class may then be considered as embryonic types of their respective orders of familiar among the living.'”  (1857, 1962 ed., p. 114)  (Stephen J. Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge:  Belknap Press, 1977), pp. 65-66.)

Stephen J. Gould’s Ontogeny and Phylogeny lies at the heart of many of the interconnecting concepts of this thesis.  Ontogeny and Phylogeny made sense of many of the disciplines I’d been studying for many years, showing how evolutionary theory informs many levels of experience.  Central to Gould’s thesis was the work of the Neo-Lamarckian heterochronists that explored how evolution manifested at several scales represented by several emerging science disciplines and those theorists’ influence on discipline founders such as Freud and Piaget.  Recapitulation was integral to an understanding of how many academics viewed the world.

Recapitulation, or more specifically, Haeckel’s thesis that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, has been set aside as a theory that if not totally disproven, is a theory that is not useful when exploring how species evolve.  Haeckel behaved as though obsessed with what he called acceleration, or ancestor adult features emerging in descendant young.  Theorists a hundred years ago often focused on a particular heterochronic dynamic as the prime mover and shaker of species transformation.  Many of these theorists carried a presupposition that evolution occurs at several contiguous levels or scales, informed by one of these particular heterochronic processes, often recapitulation.  This blog’s orchestral theory of evolution instead posits a balance of process, featuring both neoteny and acceleration, a process that manifests at the biological, social, ontogenetic and personal scales of experience, informed by testosterone and estrogen, driven by social structure and the environment.

The proponents of Wallace’s version of the theory of natural selection, a theory of natural selection that rejected sexual selection and Lamarckian selection, also rejected Haeckel’s Lamarckian-grounded work that focused on a close relationship between ontogeny and species evolution.  It is Wallace’s world view we embrace today.  Darwin was a pluralist.  Wallace was a reductionist (with the exception that he believed that deity intervened to create the brain).  The current Neo-Darwinian era has focused on how answers provided by other theories could be instead explained by the theory of natural selection.  If natural selection could explain it, the others answers were ignored.

Rather than continuing to ignore theories that seem redundant to a more elegant solution, I am returning to a world view characterized by an attraction to observing what may at first seem like unrelated processes in different scales and disciplines.  Over the last 150 years, we have divided the scales of experience into different academic disciplines and subdisciplines, dramatically increasing the difficulty of intuiting similarities, particularly when different languages and nomenclatures have emerged.  Part of the process of forming the theory that this work represents has been to dive into several different disciplines to draw out isomorphisms or similar patterns that reveal hidden, common structure and process.

There are benefits.  Again, presupposition can be a powerful tool when swimming in unfamiliar waters.  An ontological discovery can illuminate a species’ evolutionary process, and vice versa.  A species’ evolutionary dynamic can offer a social transformation insight.  A personal revelation in one’s own life may reveal an ontological connection.  This work explores the usefulness of viewing species evolution, social transformation, growth maturation and development, and personal experience as deeply informing one another’s experience.

Parallelisms run rife through culture.  Still, science has difficulty growing in directions that society and politics don’t suggest.  For example, without the recent (over the last 200 years) idea of progress it would be difficult to hypothesize patterns of transformation over time.  The reverse is true.  In the West, we are so narrative/sequence time-based that it is difficult to evaluate processes that occur at several levels in a single moment.  Hence our blanking out as a society to the understanding that biology, society, ontogeny and personal experience are all integrally tied in the moment we occupy, a moment profoundly affected by the environment.

Biology, society, ontogeny and personal experience are not just closely tied; they are the same thing viewed with adjustments in time and scale.  Reductionists have become obsessed with how things are divided.  By offering our attention to how seemingly different scales of experience reflect one another’s process and influence one another’s behaviors, we can begin to understand relationships intuited by theorists a century ago.

Shift

December 18, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Play, Society, Unconscious

Thomas Kuhn describes those unique situations when a science discipline experiences a shift.  Shifts occur in different ways.  One way that a shift happens is when a new presupposition introduces new information that offers an almost completely alternative frame of reference and new world view.  Everything seems to look different with the new presupposition.  The established presupposition, by not embracing the new presuppositions, can continue in a kind of alternative universe.  The question becomes:  Which presuppositional matrix is more useful for which particular outcomes?  Asking which paradigm is true is not a useful question.

Darwin expressed deep distress and consternation that his theory of natural selection was instrumental in the discussion of whether god existed.  Indeed, his fears were reasonable, and we might say that society has shifted as a result of its acceptance of the theory.  This work operates with a different thesis.  It is an integration of all three of Darwin’s theories and the work of theorists that immediately followed.  This orchestral theory of evolution is an alternative frame of reference and a new world view.  Nevertheless, it has roots going back thousands of years, with connections to the work of many contemporary theorists.  Try on this work like a winter overcoat in a blizzard of reductionist premises and feel if spring might seem to be coming a little closer.  If my hypotheses offer little usefulness in your experience, return it to the idea manufacturer.

Although this work draws upon the research and experiments conducted by scientists for centuries, there is a radical departure from trends initiated and supported over this long period of time.  This is a paradigm that unites contemporary theorizing with features carried forward from aboriginal frames of reference.  Just as neoteny in biology carries forward ancestor infant features to adult descendants, this work carries forward ancient aboriginal processes to inform contemporary pattern recognition.  Another way to say it is that this is a work of both my unconscious and conscious minds, associating the unconscious with primary process, primary process being central to the daytime consciousness of our aboriginal forebears.  In other words, this is a work of play.

As will be explored in detail in several sections of this work in the upcoming compilation, understanding consciousness is integral to understanding human and biological evolution.  Presupposing that everything is connected is to regard one’s relationship with consciousness as fundamental to a theory of evolution.  In other words, philosophy, or how we relate to spirituality, has been considered integral to an understanding of how we come to evolutionary theory conclusions.  This is what Darwin feared, that evolution and one’s opinion of spirituality be closely tied.  I would suggest that it is more useful to step into such an evolutionary theory discussion and make it clear how theorizing is informed by one’s relationship with connection or not connection, seemingly deistic or material perspectives.  I’m hoping that we can then discuss what is useful, not what’s true.

The atheism-advocating Neo-Darwinians are right that evolution theory is directly tied to a deity or nondeity frame of reference.  This theory of evolution is grounded in an alternative, still nonmythology-based, point of view.  I would suggest that maintaining a relativistic frame is essential while navigating between these two paradigms.  The atheists proclaim that truth is relevant.  I think not.  I’m not concerned with whether god exists or not as regards evolutionary theory.  What I find interesting is whether behaving as if there is that which connects everything offers theorizing advantages.

The potential advantages are twofold.  First, are the results of this theory useful?  I concentrate on the origins of autism and related conditions and a variety of diseases and conditions that may be explained by this work’s perspective.  For example, does this theory usefully explain autism and provide avenues to enhance the autistics’ experience?  Does this theory provide parents choices before and during pregnancy, making it possible for the condition to emerge in less burdening forms?

Second, is the theorizing process itself enhanced by behaving as if everything is connected?  Unlike Huxley’s revelation regarding the simplicity of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the principles and processes outlined in this orchestral theory of evolution are characterized by a complex, subtle yet elegant, interconnected whole that I would consider impossible to create without a presupposition that everything is connected.  What we presuppose influences the world we perceive.  This work represents a shift both in theory and how a theory is constructed as it shifts back to nonmaterialistic perspectives while shifting forward to nonmythological interconnection.  I’m interested in the deistic without the deity.