we don't need to change how we do conservation, we need to change why we do it

FELLOW INTELLIGENCE: if Sexual Selection is the Language of Nature

…“Believe me,” said Horton. “I tell you sincerely, my eyes are quite open and I see him quite clearly. I know there’s a person who’s out there beyond us, and a person’s a person, no matter how humongous.  — apologies to Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who.  

Excerpts from Darwin, Dogen, and the Extremophile Choice. By K.L. Christenson, 2019.

Essay thirteen

… the result is not death to the unsuccessful competitor, but few or no offspring. Sexual selection is, therefore, less rigorous than natural selection. —Charles Darwin[1]

From the ecological standpoint, a species is a population of organisms that can’t breed beyond itself without compromising the ability of offspring to compete for resources or withstand the elements and predators they are exposed to. The genetic traits of a species are generally fine-tuned to a set of resources and conditions that, in the aggregate, define its ecological niche. Since a deviation in these traits means an organism would likely be competing in the awkward area where its niche overlaps that of another species, the natural fact that disadvantaging traits aren’t likely to show up in a next generation ensures that there’s no unnecessary overlap among well-contested ecological niches. This competitive exclusion near the boundaries of a niche establishes what’s called a resource partition, and as long as ecosystems are undisturbed, the forms and behaviours of species will remain within their defining partitions.

But of course ecosystems are not always left undisturbed; sometimes an entire species disappears, leaving resources to spare; and sometimes whole new ecological vistas open up—as maritime or mountaintop ‘islands’. When a species then finds itself largely uncontested, some divergence in its species-normal set of genetic traits can be expected. And once a critical threshold of resource-use disparity has been reached within the niche—where hybrid compromises might be a disadvantage[2]—the splitting of its genepool, or its adaptive radiation into more efficient resource-sharing strategies, is accomplished very quickly in geological time.

If speciation events can be relatively quick, in geological time, it’s because selection, in its own way, uses ‘two hands’ for raising its partitions. In evolutionary terms, competitive exclusion implies not only that an organism’s immediate prospects must decline if its genetic endowment predisposes it to compete for resources better suited to another species, but its prospects for finding a mate will, by innate sexual preferences, become subject to selection as well. So when we now consider the critical stages of speciation, it should be kept in mind that this double jeopardy is encountered even when an organism competes across racial lines. Sexual selection, working directly on DNA ‘bloodlines’, makes the definitive cut (there will be more about sexual selection as ‘definition’ later) between single-species populations that are already branching due to a more immediate natural selection for the efficient use of resources.

Excerpt from Essay fourteen

According to modern ecological theory, high diversity at any trophic level of a community is possible only under the influence of cropping. —Steven M. Stanley, 1973[1]

The wolf makes the deer strong. —Oji-Cree stone-age wisdom

Now, in the last case of natural selection for immediate survival, the only resources in play, if you’re not a photosynthesizing plant, are adjoined to the real blood (or sap) of other species. And of course, even if you are a plant, your resources still come partly from other organisms ultimately reduced to compost by microbial grazing. In fact, to fully appreciate this most straight forward case of Darwinism, and so as not to overstate the case for sexual selection later on, we must understand why Darwin said sexual selection was “less rigorous than natural selection”: he meant death and consumption typically end the germlines of those individuals who are less fit for their niche long before competition for a mate comes into play. So it’s this cropping—the physically negotiated recycling of bodies—that gives meaning to a species in practical terms. An unsentimental look at life’s resource partitioned co-adaptation must accept that Darwin’s “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful” to behold in the undying collective, naturally resolve, as we witness their one-on-one daily interactions, into the archetypal picture of brutality. Hence Darwin’s “war of nature”.[2]   . . .

Essay fifteen

A bird might marry a fish, but where would they live? —Tevye character, in Fiddler on the Roof

Now, the other ‘hand’ in Creation’s work is reproduction; and in comparison to the eco-logical determinations that say who gets to eat whom, and reveal to us in crude retrospective the immediate survival of the fittest, the process that plays upon reproductive traits seems to be less ‘natural’. One could even say that, whether resources are being phylogenically re-allocated to accommodate a changing environment, or existing partitions are just being maintained to affirm the Natural order of the day, the business of finding a mate plays an active role. The bizarre and arbitrary nature of mating features and behaviours suggests there is something less obvious than fitness for immediate survival at work here, and this something is not less intelligent for being less calculable. But are those cultural gestures we call poetry, art, and music, which often mimic these extravagant Natural gestures (body display, bird song, flower blossoms), really any more natural? In both cases the arbitrary is being used, as stylized conventions, to define the speci-fic.

For the need of a niche, or for the good of a ‘race’, sexual traits intensify the cut of new species, just as they call out the daily pageant of who’s who in the forest. In fact, when we enter here we really don’t get to see much of the inter-feeding that gives a niche its practical meaning (this might not be as true for a pre-human forest, or for an ecosystem that’s been rewilded, but we’ll come back to this in Part V). Instead, we are overwhelmed by a sensory feast of colour, and music, and erotic fragrance that binds both visitor and resident alike in its spell. This show, announcing the whereabouts of both mate and prey, contributes nothing to the immediate survival of its participants. In fact, we could say mating display is genetically scripted in defiance of death by a complementary selection process; one with the larger purpose of ‘asserting’ species integrity and ‘shepherding’ further speciation.

My active wording here touches on an old ecological mystery. The dense tangle, and even overlap, of ecological speci-fications found in ancient and evidently undisturbed ecosystems, like the Amazon rainforest, seems incredible when we treat Gause’s Law like… well, like “trial without a jury”. The mystery gets even deeper (says Paul Colinvaux, who collected much of the evidence for a surprisingly old and undisturbed Amazon) if we’ve been taught that a history of geographic isolation is a necessary precondition for speciation at all.[1] But, and here’s my point, if we recognize that sexual selection within superfluously large populations can lead to the definition of species by genetic ‘convention’, then we can touch the mystery at a more personal level. We might even be excused for imagining that the super-speciated Amazon was ‘Pan-piped’ into existence!

Some questioning of a patently inadequate ‘Law’ is of course always in order, but for me to conjure a whole new Transcendental Being to take its place contravenes Occam’s razor (Gause and Occam really gave us only principles, not laws). So how about we allow the same sense of truth to peek through here that we allow when we are faced with our own ‘hard problem’? A conscious intention, in its phenomenological essence, feels like a rather strong ‘inclination’ that’s been further reinforced by words. So if we can say species are inclined to reproduce their kind, then we can also say that Nature is literally in-tending when it reproduces, or establishes, ecological fitness further reinforced by sexual selection. Sexual traits now become the ‘words’ in the story of evolution, for they define and elaborate species as ‘gestures’ that point reproductive behaviour toward proven fitness in the real world. Sexual traits guide organisms to reproduce established species, just as words guide our thinking to reproduce established ideas.

 Essay sixteen

… novel behavior, (including the verbal and conceptual behaviors we call “ideas”) is the result of an orderly and dynamic competition among previously established behaviors, during which old behaviors blend or become inter-connected in new ways. … New ideas often seem to come out of the blue, mainly because we cannot track the antecedent events or processes. [i.e. trial and error, reinforcement, resurgence, automatic chaining, and extinction] —Robert Epstein’s Generativity Theory[1]

So killing and eating are good, and sex is a law unto itself. Still, a kind of ‘morality play’ comes into the picture when we look on a scale where the life-cycling ‘play of mortality’ blurs. At the evolutionary level, genepools actually thrive in the turnover of their expressed organisms, as birth follows death on the tirelessly flickering path that maintains their viability. The threat of extinction, however, can be very real for the conditionally immortal ‘vine’ that is the species itself, and the consequences of its failure can be widely disturbing. Justice, at the level of phylogeny, is absolute. In each new encounter between organisms, the story of who gets to eat whom in the forest can be re-told with a different, but endlessly prosaic, outcome for extended-family members who differ very little in their recycled genetic makeup. But not so when species take the stage. Extinction is forever, because in the endless ecological argument there is no ‘rejoinder’ for a finally speci-fied twig on the tree of life (that is if we overlook the occasional weirdness of viral insertions and larval hybrids in the symbiogenesis story). But of course a branch might also just reshape itself, or even divide into multiple new strategies, whereupon novel directions must be accommodated by all sides of the wider ecological council.

 As our view of species inter-feeding continues to expand, it reveals a new kind of hunger; this time for ‘comprehension’ and ‘resolution’ among ecological strategies. Can we now see a kind of ‘personality’ emerging here? No more nor less permanent than a human personality? Does it look perhaps like Nature is trying to sort out all the potentials for stable breeding populations, for viable genetic conceptions, so there are no ‘gray areas’? Then reverse the view and boldly pursue this analogy into the depths of in-sight: can you feel, right now, dancing covertly in your mouth and throat, a behaviour of no immediate utility, one that’s shepherding your recycling impulses into conceptual species? (The ‘behaviour fragmentation’ that I am asking you to consider here is something we tend to overlook precisely because we are asking one set of muscles to stand in for the rest. See essay 42.) Then, what of greater matters? Beyond ‘conventions’ and ‘law’, do we share more intimate stuff with Nature’s Grand Personality? For instance, in times of loss or crisis, are the epochs of our own personal evolutions not punctuated by openings for opportunity to step in? As with an ecosystem, minor setbacks can be managed through a subsequent succession of our most primitive and flexible coping strategies, but after a really traumatic pruning, if wholeness ever comes again, it must come out of a deeper emptiness, as these opportunistic root behaviours branch willy-nilly into a broadly reformed personality.

Excerpt from Essay twenty-nine

In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. —Marshall McLuhan[1]

It is best, I think, to leave the ‘true’ story of our human origins for the physical anthropologists to unearth, given time and luck, and when we want a bolder guide, perhaps not factual, but true as art, then we can always call upon myth and imagination. But for the present, both fact and fancy can wait, because what I’m interested in here is: what changes needed to take place so that the genius for technology could get past the conformity imperative of a stable ecology that kills the boldest bents for imagination? What role does language play in transforming a niche-bound animal’s mind into an ecologically unrestricted tool-maker’s mind? Is there a down-side? Did the likelihood of tools and culture really just become overwhelming as the complexity of animal behaviour increased beyond some brain-size Rubicon?

I’m inclined to think that an understanding of the distinctive roles played by structure and behaviour during this eco-evolutionary transformation is of some importance if we want to unravel the many convoluted effects of historical accident. If we accept the proposition that behavioural experimentation beyond the resource partitions for an optimized body structure is a liability for animals in a stable ecology, then it follows that only prolonged instability can allow truly inventive brains to evolve, for instability might continue to favour opportunism, and thus reduce the competitive handicap of risky cultural experimentation for the duration of a speciation event.[2] It’s now thought that climate change at the end of the Miocene favoured the dispersion and the evolution of large brained opportunist apes in general;[3] if this is true, could the ‘punctuated equilibria’ of the Pleistocene have eventually made room for technology? And then might sexual selection, and ultimately ‘real’ language, have taken over from a foiled natural selection and committed these LAST Niche renegades to their un-Natural strategy (giving relevance twice over to the opening line in the Book of Genesis, “in the beginning was the Word”)? Most likely both instability and naturally increasing brain size were important in establishing the conditions for a synergistic elopement of hominin tool-use with human language, resulting in the runaway innovation that defines us. But before we speculate further, let’s first establish our terms.

Tools defined, and the two domains of intelligence:

A persistent means to an end, a.k.a. a tool, is any structure or behaviour that is adapted and maintained: 1 by gene selection pressure arising from elemental conditions and ecologically emergent resource partitions to support bio-associations; or: 2 by behaviour conditioning pressure arising from direct experience and psychologically emergent conceptual categories to support human cultures. (See Occam’s razor.) 

Interpersonal instruction certainly does look a lot like Darwin’s “descent with modification”[4] when we recognize, in both domains, how the potential for ‘mutation’ and ‘recombination’ in the transfer is such a lively source of novelty. But analogy is a job half done, because when this intentional breaking of category lines admits an awareness of broader connection (‘the Lion King’ invites a deeper understanding than the words courage, or leadership, would convey independently), a diligent philosopher must still re-draw (more precisely we hope) the metaphorically altered lines—and this is half the work again. So when we reflect that the whole theatre of genetic selection consists in mortal transactions among bodies spatially distributed as species, the elegance of our cleverly superimposed analogy shouldn’t tempt us to lose sight of the incongruities involved in a behavioural selection process where conditioning takes place sequentially, within and between bodies, as spatially distributed ‘theatres of ideas’.

With this caveat now held steadily before our minds, we see that, if ideas are to be likened to species (‘categories’ that constitute human cultures on the one hand and bio-associations on the other) then, in our shared Grand Theatre of embodied theatres, language becomes in its turn a kind of cultural ‘sexual selection’: words shepherd the ‘evolution’, and ‘ecological maintenance’, of cultural categories. And, in keeping with the cultural reality whereby immortal ideas are distributed among our mortal bodies, this verbal shepherding of behavioural evolution must take place at two distinctive levels: ideas are first taught-out, and then thought-out, with words, before they are acted-out in a test of their cultural fitness. I’m afraid our reasoning must be particularly acrobatic at this ‘mortality’ level of the evolutionary analogy. We mustn’t confuse the deaths of mere bodies in Nature with the ‘extinction’ of concepts, for the only sanctioned confusion of bodies is with our ongoing performance—the cycles of thought-behaviours that arise and pass away without regret—and it’s our culturally ‘inbred’ habits, or concepts, that align best with species:[5] we feel their at-risk status for a time, but we hope for their continued adaptation, and allow for this by promoting thought’s give-and-take, and by making room for (civil) experiments in thought’s expression. … 

Essay thirty-four

Wind back the tape of life to the early days of the Burgess Shale; let it play again from an identical starting point, and the chance becomes vanishingly small that anything like human intelligence would grace the replay.             —Stephen Jay Gould[1]

Between two and a half million, and twelve thousand years ago, as we now know from deep sea sediment cores and glacier ice cores, and from the terrestrial fossil record, the Pleistocene epoch was characterized by mile-high ice sheets advancing and retreating over Europe, while extended dry and wet conditions concurrently swept North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin; and it was during this climatic disturbance, this ‘blinking of the co-evolutionary eye’, that a long line of hominins slowly became human.[2]  No other species has used Structural Tools, Acquired wholly and progressively by Learning (by which I mean non-living body extensions that are not ‘proprietorially’ developed by genetically orchestrated or ecologically contained behaviours) as a defining (though ultimately, in the purely Gaussian sense, contradicting) element of an exclusive technological LAST Niche.

Maybe Gould was right about the “vanishingly small” chance for human intelligence, but our late prophet of evolutionary contingency (his only reason for this comment by the way; there’s no evidence Gould would have approved of a Nature that ‘actively’ works against our kind of intelligence) didn’t recognize that, perversely it would seem, his and Eldredge’s punctuated equilibria might in fact favour such a supreme opportunist. Especially if a cycle of these glacial punctuations was also fast and unrelenting.[3] It could be argued that, even under chronic stress, the tirelessly healing resource partitions of the Paleolithic world might have had time, though balancing on the very edge of Promethean supra-ecological catastrophe, to deselect unperfected language in the death-wake of out-competed bodies with over-reaching imaginations;[4] but the Natural and sexual ‘hands’ of selection would have exerted a drifting pressure in those times of advancing and retreating ice-sheets, of unsettled savannah and rainforest,[5] and they would have kept falling upon two fateful contingencies: 1 ‘intention’ already had an animal presence in that inchoate sprouting of motor-concept that our ancestors could feel as the sketchy covert rehearsal of familiar actions, and 2 the muscles of voice, being useless for flight, or in the case of diaphragm acting on larynx even for fighting or feeding, had already been set aside for innate signalling. So, when this ‘grunt-system’ also turned out to have very little use in exploration, manipulation and invention (jaws and lips optional), our ancestors’ tool-use (temporarily prolonged by the befuddlement of a diminished co-evolution) would have had an opportunity to take advantage of a set of traits pre-adapted to kick-start a ‘verbal selection process’ for their waywardly ramifying thoughts.

In our continuing evolutionary analogy, it’s not overt language, but covert activity in general that corresponds to the shadowy, abstracted, gene-pooled design space of an ecosystem’s non-somatic (germ plasm) chemistry. In fact, the implied correspondence between genetic ‘code’ and verbal code is misleading: the first is a chemical precursor for amino acid sequencing of proteins, and the second, a changeable convention that, to the extent its vocal details have no relevance as behaviours in the real world, assigns verbal behaviours to thought behaviours as arbitrary handles. It’s only because, at our accustomed scale of relating to Nature, the codons of DNA exhibit alternative sequencing, while sexually selected traits appear as a messy subset intrinsic to ‘fixed’ species, that we don’t recognize the latter as the properly correlated ‘conventions’ that handle Nature’s Darwinian work. Indirect verbal behaviour specifies the partial and tentative, but directly useful, covert behaviour[6] of which it is a subset, and so ‘thought’ unfolds bivalently according to the body’s own “universal grammar”. [7] Just so, to avoid tentative reproduction, sexual traits, not directly related to survival, are selected ‘as a convenience’ to decisively speci-fy traits that are.

I don’t mean to use Chomsky’s dictum lightly here. By pointing out that grammar is real-ized through operational and practical developments within the body itself I know I seem to be putting the cart before the horse, but recall that Dogen’s reversal of this old trope—where beast is mind and cart is body—makes a lot of sense when you look at which end of the body-mind has the real-world traction (Warner’s quote in essay 27 was written for a western audience; Dogen had a body-cart pulling an ox-mind[8]). When we are truly thinking, the real work begins even before the words come, and the pre-verbal traces and yokes to a broader culture are real in the same attenuated way; but since thinking is easily driven by the words available, we must take care, when our horse and cart come to a crossroad, we make a ‘natural’ selection, and speci-fy it later.

[This view of language, as a ‘mapping’ of bodily movements, goes back at least eight centuries before Dogen, to Augustine. It has been criticized by none other than Wittgenstein (possibly because his own ideas were so similar) for assuming that the meaning of a word is the object for which it stands (‘ostensive definition’).[9] But, in a way affirming his own philosophy, the mind of the Saint went deeper than reason alone can penetrate: “When they (my elders) named some object, and accordingly moved towards something, I saw this and I grasped that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out. Their attention was shown by their bodily movements, as it were the natural language of all peoples: the expression of the face, the play of the eyes … Thus as I heard words repeatedly used in their proper places in various sentences, I gradually learnt to understand what objects they signified; and … I used them to express my own desires” (Confessions, I. 8). This “natural language of all peoples” can “point out” much more subtle meanings than ostensive objects, and hold words to their grammatically “proper places”, because our “bodily movements” are not ad hoc conventions, not code; they are meaning itself.

True code is hard to find in nature. Other than sexual traits, which might be seen as naturally selected conventions on the evolutionary scale, the only hint of biological code, in this ‘conventional’ sense (and on the organismic-scale) that I am aware of was demonstrated in 1992 by W. J. Freeman, when he showed that long term memories of sense impressions in the brains of rabbits (and presumably humans) are formed in arbitrary association with chaotic attractor states of electrical activity.]

Essay thirty-five

When we claim to describe what’s Really going on by our words, no matter how beautiful, such words are already in error. Truth simply cannot be re-presented. We want Truth badly. We want to hold it tightly in our hand … to give it to others in a word or phrase. We want something … we can impress upon others—and impress others with. But Truth is not like this … We only need to see that it’s beyond the spin of paradox that Truth and Reality are glimpsed. If we would simply not try to pin Reality down, confusion would no longer turn us away. —Steve Hagen[1]

From a motor-sensory phenomenological perspective, language seems to operate as a closed field of associated behaviour that helps to organize and extend the more intricate and practical non-language covert behaviours it aligns with. In practice, what this means is that arbitrary linguistic behaviours branching off from innate roots (genetically encoded, but not yet socially calibrated, behavioural routines: facial imitation, babbling, etc. [bonobo infants babble, but they are probably now competitively excluded from our technological niche] that have been enhanced and adapted, on the phylogenic scale, in response to the selection pressures of persistent learning-acquired structural-tool-use) are learned in parallel with our non-arbitrary cognitive behaviours. This closed field—meaning every-interior-thing gets mapped onto, or symbolically replaced by, a perfect (meaning it appears to be sufficient unto itself) behavioural layer generally limited to the mouth and throat—was probably at first an energy-conserving overt, and eventually a covert, persistent means (a tool) for finally liberating the un-Natural artifact potential of the human body from the conformity imperative that assures ecological stability in normal times. Language behaviour supports this ‘cultural escape’ by associatively tracking, maintaining, articulating, and outering (a ‘palingenetic’ variation of the word ‘uttering’, often used by McLuhan[2]) the more complex, seamless, and truly reflective (non-arbitrary) subtle-body behaviour sketches and memory traces we call “thought”. (See?)

But perhaps our analogy can make this mouthful easier to digest: words are to thought-behaviours as red breasts are to robins, they are the means to a faithful reproduction of type. Furthermore, words are not only similar in being traits that are useless outside their purview of cultural specification but, like showy inbred feathers, they can only contribute to cultural ‘species’ by exposing their owners to a far more voracious creativity.

Excerpt from Essay forty-nine

There is something in this [experimental path] which reminds us of the obstinate adherence of Columbus to his notion of the necessary existence of the New World; and … may serve to teach us reliance on those general analogies and parallels between great branches of science by which one strongly reminds us of another, though no direct connection appears. —John Herschel[1]

… The test of a true paradigm shift is not that old ideas get entirely replaced by new ones, but that all the things we thought we knew now look different. Perhaps such a profound change can be initiated simply by decluttering our focus, so we begin to see the outline of a more integrative figure haunting our claustrophobically rearranging ideas. If so, then the expansiveness of a good metaphor can reveal what our self-serving conventions hide. At least this was my intent when I made behaviour, overt and covert, the framework for animal intelligence and cultural evolution; and indeed, I think this has allowed us to move ahead on several fronts.

First of all, to avoid being brushed with the determinist stain of “just behaviourism”, we had to account for the obvious originality of human minds, and so Darwin was naturally drawn into the project: Darwin, who had to account for the creativity of the organic world (equally obvious), gave us a model that inadvertently allows us to see the ramification of knowledge (the speci-fication and proliferation of covert behavioural thought-habits), as a global ‘phylogenic’ process. Thus, with human-natural selection, the two trees metaphor came fully committed into our newly emerging picture. But then Dogen was also needed, and not just for one, but for two reasons: first, to assure us that we can, through practice based on a long tradition of bodymind meditation, look directly into our personal ‘trees of knowledge’ and see if there are in fact credible parallels to the tree of life; and second, to upset our claustrophobic ‘thinking about thinking’. With Dogen, consciousness at its undifferentiated root becomes Primordial Awareness: the intimate Way of all-connecting Mind manifesting what we call, for operational convenience, our conceptual ‘world’. And this is what finally made the two trees a productive metaphor, rather than, as required by the current paradigm, just another handy way to contrast natural mechanism vs conscious intelligence.

One serendipitous consequence of confining our anatomy of human intelligence to behaviour is that, by regarding language simply as meta-behaviour—that is, indirect behaviour we use to organize directly functional behaviours—we can now explain the mystery of undisturbed yet overly-diversified ecosystems (the Amazon seems to ‘cheat’ Gause’s Law even without the geographic isolation of species) as a fundamental capacity of sexual selection. There is good reason to think this meta-evolution plays the same role of speci-fication in ecosystems that language plays in human cultures. With the Amazonian evidence, and a language-like model for ‘proactive’ species generation, we now have an even more compelling reason to treat evolving ecosystems as fellow intelligence. …


Essay thirteen                

    1. Darwin, 1968, The Origin of Species, Natural Selection, p. 136.

    2. The original view of speciation assumed a certain degree of geographical isolation between two populations of a single species, which allowed for character displacement, followed by renewed contact; and from here it was supposed that competitive exclusion takes over. Throughout this book I am favouring a view closer to Paul Colinvaux’s (2007, pp. 121-122.) which gives far more credit to the subtlety of co-evolution. Isolation need not be so crudely “geographical” in very large and complex ecosystems. It is still generally assumed that novel traits favouring the exploitation of new resources, at the expense of more species-typical resources, will get quickly diluted by the interbreeding of a large population. But it was demonstrated by Patrick Bateson as early as 1982 (Gould, 1995, pp. 379-380, “The Great Seal Principle”) that sexual selection goes beyond the establishing of overt traits to ensure advantageous mating; and in fact a general rule for perhaps all sexual species is “maximal attraction to intermediate familiarity”. It’s understandable that avoidance of breeding with close family is adaptive, but why is mating with intermediate family more adaptive than mating with more distant relations, unless selection for racial disparity is at play here? Nature seems to have evolved ways to get around even “novelty dilution”, so who are we to insist on a model of speciation simply because it’s crude enough for us to represent?

Essay fourteen               

    1. Stanley, Steven M. 1973. “An Ecological Theory for the Sudden Origin of Multicellular Life in the Late Precambrian”. In Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA vol. 70, no. 5, pp. 1486-1489.

    2. Darwin, 1968, The Origin of Species, p. 460.

Essay fifteen                   

    1. Colinvaux, Paul A. 2007. Amazon Expeditions: My Quest for the Ice-Age Equator. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. 121-122.

Essay sixteen                   

    1. Epstein, 1999, (Quote taken from p. 763 – IV. Real-time Prediction)

Essay twenty-nine

    1. McLuhan, Marshall. 1964 Mentor paperback second edition. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 23.

    2. Begun, David R. Aug. 2003. Planet of the Apes. Scientific American, vol. 289, no. 2, pp. 74-83. “It seems likely that tools and other technologies allowed early hominins to launch themselves into new environments, although when conditions periodically deteriorated, those aids could no longer guarantee survival. As a result, many populations splintered, allowing genetic and cultural novelties to take root much faster than could have happened in larger groups, leading to rapid evolution.” —p. 56. I think what we are actually seeing here is a two-stage evolutionary stimulus from climate instability. First of all, new environments become available, and these would naturally favour opportunistic behaviour (like tool modification); then, as conditions deteriorate further, geographic isolation would favour genetic diversification to consolidate these behaviours. (See also, Tattersol, Ian. Sept. 2014. If I Had a Hammer. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, pp. 55-59.)

    3. deMenocal, Peter. B. Sept. 2014. Climate Shocks. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, pp. 48-53. (See also, Tattersol, Ian. Sept. 2014. If I Had a Hammer. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, pp. 55-59.)

    4. Darwin, 1968, The Origin of Species, p. 454. “Therefore I cannot doubt that the theory of descent with modification embraces all the members of the same class. I believe that animals have descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number. Analogy would lead me one step further, namely, to the belief that all animals and plants have descended from some one prototype.” In fact it’s not nearly so controversial to let analogy lead us to the view that the Canadarm, plucking a satellite from its decaying orbit, is a direct descendant of a stick poking a bee’s nest from a tree. 

    5. In Joshua Kendall’s The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus, Berkley Books, 2008, we find some intuitive reflections on ideas as species. On page 265 the author notes, “[Richard] Whately argued in his synonym book—the only one Roget would footnote in his Thesaurus—there really was no such thing as a synonym, because no two words can mean exactly the same thing.” And on the next page, “Roget ended up categorizing each idea according to class, division, and section, just as natural historians like Linnaeus had catalogued animals according to phylum, class, and order.”

Essay thirty-four

    1. Gould, Stephen Jay. 1989. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, p.14.

    2. deMenocal, Peter. B. Sept. 2014. Climate Shocks. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, pp. 48-53. (See also, Tattersol, Ian. Sept. 2014. If I Had a Hammer. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, pp. 55-59.)

    3. Tattersol, Ian. Sept. 2014. If I Had a Hammer. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, p. 56.

    4. Wong, Kate. Sept. 2014. The Human Saga. Scientific American, vol. 331, no. 3, pp. 37-39. “Arguably, no chapter of the human odyssey has been so dramatically rewritten as the one detailing the ascent of H. sapiens. Far from being a slam dunk, destined for world domination from the outset, the fossil record now paints a picture of a species that had no sooner debuted than it nearly went extinct as a result of climate change.”—p. 39.

    5. deMenocal, Peter. B. Sept. 2014. Climate Shocks. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, pp. 48-53.  “There was no one-time habitat switch from forests to grasslands but rather a rapid succession of wet-dry cycles that moved, in distinct steps, toward dryer conditions.” —p. 50. These swings reflected the known sensitivity of African and Asian monsoonal climates to Earth’s orbital wobble, which occurs as a regular 23,000-year cycle. However, overlaid on this more general trend, deMenocal says there were two “major shifts in African climate … roughly a million years apart, that mark significant changes in our family tree. The first evolutionary shakeup happened between 2.9 million and 2.4 million years ago. The famous ancestral lineage of ‘Lucy’ and her ilk (Australopithicus afarensis) became extinct, and two other, quite distinctive, groups appeared. One of them had the hints of some modern-looking traits, including larger brains. The owners were the very first members of our own genus, Homo. The first crude stone tools appeared near these fossils. The other group besides Homo that emerged at this time looked different: a stoutly built, heavy jawed and ultimately unsuccessful lineage known collectively as Paranthropus.” —p. 51.

“The second shakeup occurred between 1.9 and 1.6 million years ago. An even larger brained and more carnivorous species, Homo erectus (called Homo ergaster by some scientists), appeared on the scene. Its taller, more lithe skeleton was nearly indistinguishable from that of modern humans. This species was also the first to leave Africa to populate South-east Asia and Europe. Stone tool technology also got a major upgrade: the first hand axes showed up, with large blades carefully shaped on two sides. …While these broader shifts were happening, the climate whipsawed rapidly between wet and dry periods, so to thrive, our ancestors had to adapt to rapidly changing landscapes. …Rick Potts, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian Institution, calls the role of flexibility in making us what we are ‘variability selection.’” —p. 50.

    6. Stix, Gary. Sept. 2014. The “It” Factor. Scientific American, vol. 311, no. 3, pp. 72-79. On p. 76 Stix quotes Michael Tomasello criticizing the linguistic contention that grammar is genetically hard-wired: “Language is such a complicated thing that it couldn’t have evolved like the opposable thumb.”

    7. Chomsky, Noam. 2002. Adrianna Belletti and Luigi Rizzi, ed., On Nature and Language. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 11-17.

    8. Dogen zenji, Eihei. 2010 in Bielefeldt, trans., Treasury of the Eye of the True Dharma [Shobogenzo] Book 12: Lancet of Zazen (Zazen shin). Soto Zen Text Project, Online Translations, p. 5/11.

    9. Kenny, A. ‘The Ghost of the Tractatus’, Understanding Wittgenstein, Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures, 7, 1972/73, G. Vesey (ed.) (London: MacMillan, 1974).

Essay thirty-five

    1. Hagen, Steve. 2004. Buddhism is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs. San Francisco: Harper Collins, p. 5.

    2. McLuhan, Marshall. 1964 Mentor paperback second edition. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 222 for example.

Essay forty-nine

    1. Holmes, Richard. 2008. The Age of Wonder. London: Harper Press, pp. 444-445.

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