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Notes on Evolution

1. If one chooses for ideological reasons (economics, religion, hubris,


status, conformity, and combinations thereof), or simply from blind
habit, to reject evolution (incorrectly reified as "Darwinism"), including
suppressing or diverting the direct personal experience of change
patterns, then one:
Can’t understand human nature and human behavior, both individually and collectively.
Humans have adaptive-algorithm neuroanatomy; they are executers of adaptive algorithms from
the Pleistocene, not “rational” analytical fitness pursuers (i.e., not “teleological”). Those
adaptive algorithms are mostly of momentary import, and are capable of being combined and
synthesized to present the illusion of new behaviors. There is no tabula rasa. There is no
“nurture versus nature;” nurture is part of nature. Beyond a certain developmental stage,
human beings don't learn, and don't want to. The habits of pursuit of status, class, and power
become ingrained and automatic, with after-the-fact rationalization the only conscious aspect.
Without evolution, there is no science of “human nature,” only motoric reaction, ideology,
distraction, manipulation, and projection.

Won’t understand the consistent patterns and vectors of governance in human societies —
hierarchical, authoritarian, oligarchic, feudal — and won’t understand the place religion, class,
and “breeding” have in that governance. People are born with a bias to gain social status,
traditionally through deeds that were rewarded by acclaim “guided” by the elites, now through
getting money that purchases power. People are bred for their place in their society, both high
and low. They are bred mostly to order, or bred mostly to obey. “Reciprocal altruism” is not
conscious.

Will believe that “reasoned discourse” and “information” are the basis for individual, social,
and political decision-making; and will find realpolitic invisible, even offensive, and deny
oneself that power (abdicating to those who embrace realpolitic through the Laws of Power).

Will not see the part that biology and selection have had in developing ethics and
morality, and how those values are carried and reinforced biologically. A dopamine fix is
pure molecular biology informed by genes and embedded in culture.

We will expect all values to derive from society (“nurture”) or deity (“God”) and be
written on a human tabula rasa.

Will expect that simple operant conditioning will eliminate fundamental impulses. Will
believe that most or even all the content of the human mind was placed on a tabula rasa by
culture (“nurture”) and can be wiped clean and replaced. One will expect symbols and
ideology to overpower impulse and imperative.

Will believe that homosexuality is entirely an individual personal choice to be “re-


programmed” (ironic choice of phrase).

Will never understand why new “boyfriends” beat up (and even kill) their new
“girlfriends’” infant (and older) children; and will therefore never be able to emplace
appropriate values and institutions to prevent or ameliorate that behavior. Social
sanctions haven’t worked, deeper engagement is cultural, to counter the genetic.

Won’t understand archetypes, which are algorithms aggregated into consistent “identity”
patterns: warrior, lover, priest, king, geezer, mother, crone, huntress, nymph, … The
ancient gods as representations and distillations of these archetypes: Aphrodite, Diana,
Demeter, Hera, Hecate, and so forth…

Will kill all domestic animals exposed to an epidemic pathogen, rather than allow it to run its
course and leave resistant survivors (and will pretend it’s to “fight” the straw-dog “disease”
instead of striving to have a stronger food-chain system; and to maintain the conditioning for
dependency on the Oligarchy through the Big Pharma faction.

Will be hyper-hygienic as a culture (driven by fear-mongering makers of domestic- and


personal-sanitation products) and seek to kill all micro-organisms rather than co-exist with
them. Will believe that “germs” cause disease. Will not recognize that the human-body cell-
count is 90% bacteria and other micro-organisms and 10% human cells. Will not recognize the
ecology of the human body in its larger environmental ecology. Will not believe in the complex
and subtle equilibria that maintains a healthy system, and will develop no skillful means for
optimizing that system. Just as there’s no sense of evolution, there’s no sense of co-evolution.

Will invest in poisons to kill micro-organisms (and will sell those poisons) but not in healthy
resistance to disease (at the systems level in the ecosystem - next holon up) which will
require fewer such poisons. Because of the expectation that organisms (and systems) are
“static,” will always fall behind evolving organisms and systems (but making money and
building power in a general climate of fear that factions hype)...

Will always be late in generating vaccines to fast-changing pathogens (but will sell them
anyway; and suppress knowledge of their ineffectiveness and outright toxicity). Will express
ulterior motives in recognizing and pursuing political value from the results of that toxicity.

Will develop a “war” model for “health care” (which is actually “sick care”). Insurance is not
health care. Profit-center insurance inevitably becomes sick care. Will extend that “war”
metaphor throughout society…

Will not recognize that there are no internal limiters in Homo; the only limitations are
external, and we will continue until the planet, the system, wherever you want to draw the
boundary, imposes its natural-law limits on us. The limits are in the system, but we narcissists
can barely take our eyes off ourselves.

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature
cannot be fooled.

Richard Feynman.

There has never been a need for nature (that system) to make species limit themselves; that
would be one fatal ability that would destroy the driving force behind evolution — overshoot and
winnowing give us selection, and nature always enforces limits inherent in the system.

Will fail to recognize environmental and biological and cultural change that does not
originate in our choices and actions (see above). This is partly narcissism, partly realpolitic,
partly generational inertia, and partly ideology (abstractions, reifications) at play. This
conditioning is very exploitable: AGW again. Corporate sociopathology without human values.

Will fail to recognize that human beings did not evolve to avert or avoid resource shortages,
environmental crises, and population pressures; our ancestors evolved to survive them by
attacking (and killing) their competing neighbors, and taking their resources. It was nature
that evolved as a system to regulate populations, and it does that ruthlessly.
Will not understand that species themselves are less important as an indicator of a healthy
ecosystem than the potential for speciation in a coherent and ever-changing “punctuated
equilibrium” ecosystem. Will seek to prevent change, instead of prevent toxicity and massive
disruption beyond systems’ resilience while shepherding (or “husbanding”) change; or, in other
words, protecting the integrity of the process of change rather than its result at any one time.

Will seek to prevent or intervene in or even “fix” complex systems disorders such as Colony
Collapse Disorder (CCD) in bees, instead of seeking to identify the entire synergistic process
and support its survivors so they can thrive.

Will obsess about polar-bear extinction (from AGW), and not recognize the continuous ice-
age-cyclic dynamic between polar and grizzly bears.

Will totally mis-conceive “Junk DNA,” and miss its role as a library of pre-adapted modules
for dynamic (and even cyclic) adaptation and speciation (and re-adaptation and re-
speciation-with-variations) processes.

Will seek to freeze or disrupt the evolutionary process (that must not exist) in time, to
preserve the current Homo as the “crown of creation” for its “Rapture.”

Will hamper or even cripple one’s other basic systems-awareness insights. Experiencing and
describing evolution is a manifestation of trans-disciplinary whole-systems awareness. If we fail
to recognize and apply evolution, we won’t understand how things are connected functionally
and through time. We will have a fundamentally superficial and irrelevant worldview, narrow
and linear. Examples:

“Chaos Math” and complex non-linear open systems with emergent properties and events (at
least Tipping Points is out there...). Organisms and systems evolve. Behavior drives form.
Psychology drives morphology. Complexity integrates as systems evolve. The more
complicated systems are, the more slowly they will change (evolve) and the more vulnerable
they are to sudden cascading instability and even collapse, in avalanching “punctuated
equilibria.”

Systems and interoperability; dynamic matrices and flows versus static constructs (e.g., the
three-body problem). Great difficulty to integrate net energy, human nature, and realpolitic
to accomplish a sustainable polity in a healthy commons.

Holarchy versus hierarchy, holons and tiers versus contained elements and levels; reliance on the
inner/older/more-protons/less-electrons/more-material/less virtual. Holarchy example: E.F.
Shumacher's primary, secondary, and (now) tertiary goods and “economies.” See file
Intersection.ppt. Also ambiguous IT “layers” analogy: netware-hardware-firmware-software-
meatware…

2. If one must, for whatever reasons, believe that nature is teleological,


then one will think that form drives function. Since nature is not
teleological, function drives form, since function determines outcomes.
Nature and evolution operate in the present moment. Nature does not evolve “in order to”
accomplish something in the future, but to succeed at some immediate challenge. The goal-
orientation of religion and social philosophy drives us to project that onto nature. This is perhaps
the most-common error that most people who accept (or “believe in”) evolution make about it,
and one of the most insidious.
In biology, and now in society, we see that morphology is driven by behavior, not the other way
around. There are close interactions, but basically and predominately, behavior in every present
moment drives the evolution of form. Functional requirements “inform” form. The structural
support form provides for the success of some behaviors over others promotes the reproduction
of that form, and both behavior and structure are stored in the genes. Genes are behavioral
determinants interacting in subtle and complex ways with environmental cues, biological cues,
cultural cues, social cues, and even personal cues.

Epigenetics. Individual and group selection. Algorithmic behaviors at the personal and group
levels.

Evolution happens through many mechanisms, natural selection being only the principal one.
That evolution happens is not Darwin’s theory of evolution (evolution is not a theory, it is a
fact); “Natural Selection” is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, his hypothesis of how evolution
happens, its principal means.

The Hand of God might be one other mechanism, with natural selection its manifestation or
“means.” Give us a falsifiable hypothesis on this or make this an entirely separate
conversation from “science,” and just practice politics separately (see below, on pop
evolution).

3. There are a gazillion more examples...


These algorithmic behaviors have tended to work adequately (as always, we can muddle
through), but as complexity is increasing, and everything is speeding up, are they sufficiently
responsive and still adaptive? Oversimplification drives false dichotomies. The next generation
will do better at all this, but will there be time for grace? Can we (as individuals and as
dynasties) get out of the way?

Science ideology example: uniformitarian versus catastrophist; a false dichotomy, for both
actually run in parallel. The notion of “punctuated equilibrium” recognizes the diverse (and
constantly changing) power spectrum of natural and human cycles of change.

Existential-dilemma example: cognitive abstractions versus direct experience (dancing


electrons versus dancing protons). The authoritian-versus-gnostic dissonance in human
societies is a manifestation of this, and the reified and objectified abstractions the principal
tool of authoritarians.

Popular-culture example: in science, the term “evolution” means primarily biological


evolution by (neo)Darwinian natural selection acting in individuals and groups. In popular
culture, “evolution” has a much broader meaning, blurring out to mean any presumably
“progressive” and purposeful change, from the cosmic Big Bang to social macro-dynamics of
recent human history. As a quasi-neutral synonym for “progress” or “development,”
evolution is all that some set or sets of believers have interpreted as “progressive” or
“upward” movement, desirable to them and their values.

Pop-evolutionism is a remnant of the Nineteenth Century’s myth of progress, still well and
alive in the beginning of the Twenty-First Century, because the myth of some vague
“historical progress” is a central meta-narrative of fundamental Pleistocene hunter-gatherer
tribal power dynamics with its still-dominant feudal (hierarchical) social realities, and
growth-predicated “economics” in industrial societies. Many contemporary (post-modern)
thinkers, from advocates of the “universe story” to integral theorists, subscribe to an
untestable teleological notion of “progressive evolution” in which humans represent the
emerging consciousness of a cosmos unfolding to some identifiable and a-priori-purposeful
end (an end, ironically, that has resulted in contemporary humanity and its institutions
glorified as the “crown of creation,” as though no more change were to occur).

In practice, this is not science, but teleological posivitism and theological politics. The
science term “evolution” can’t be arbitrarily transferred from Darwinian biology to other
domains and carry any useful meaning, especially if it is not explicitly re-defined for that
different context — which never happens, so the participants in this conversation are all
talking in circles around each other’s words and projections. It is post-post-modern thinking
that will erode this impasse.

Alexander Carpenter
305 Sovereign Lane
Santa Rosa, California 95401 USA
alexander@nmci.com
Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau