Nature: Parrots are simply wacky… and so are social humans, who love to “mess with” (tease and torture) other living things. A screeching baby AND a screaming parrot? What fun!
I’m currently interested in phony “psychological symptoms” that actually have a specific physical origin; that is, the symptoms are not “mental or emotional” and therefore can only be treated medically – psych mumbo-jumbo has no effect; psych “drugs” may actually exacerbate symptoms and cause further damage and side effects that add to, obscure, or complicate existing conditions. (How well I know this from experience!!) For Asperger and ASD people, this is extremely important: Anxiety is a major problem, but little is known about WHY this is so: anxiety is a pan-human reaction to “outside” social stimulus, environmental triggers, internalized trauma AND physiological “errors” or disease. We must know the origin of excessive anxiety in individuals in order to effectively reduce the debilitating levels many of us live with daily or episodically.
How Your Thyroid Works
Controlling hormones essential to your metabolism
Your thyroid gland is a small gland, normally weighing less than one ounce, located in the front of the neck. It is made up of two halves, called lobes, that lie along the windpipe (trachea) and are joined together by a narrow band of thyroid tissue, known as the isthmus.
The thyroid is situated just below your “Adams apple” or larynx. During development (inside the womb) the thyroid gland originates in the back of the tongue, but it normally migrates to the front of the neck before birth. Sometimes it fails to migrate properly and is located high in the neck or even in the back of the tongue (lingual thyroid). This is very rare. At other times it may migrate too far and ends up in the chest (this is also rare).
The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine, found in many foods, and convert it into thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body which can absorb iodine. These cells combine iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T3 and T4. T3 and T4 are then released into the blood stream and are transported throughout the body where they control metabolism (conversion of oxygen and calories to energy).
Every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism. The normal thyroid gland produces about 80% T4 and about 20% T3, however, T3 possesses about four times the hormone “strength” as T4.
The thyroid gland is under the control of the pituitary gland, a small gland the size of a peanut at the base of the brain (shown here in orange). When the level of thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) drops too low, the pituitary gland produces Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more hormones. Under the influence of TSH, the thyroid will manufacture and secrete T3 and T4 thereby raising their blood levels.
The pituitary senses this and responds by decreasing its TSH production. One can imagine the thyroid gland as a furnace and the pituitary gland as the thermostat.
Thyroid hormones are like heat. When the heat gets back to the thermostat, (awkward!) it turns the thermostat off. As the room cools (the thyroid hormone levels drop), the thermostat turns back on (TSH increases) and the furnace produces more heat (thyroid hormones). The pituitary gland itself is regulated by another gland, known as the hypothalamus (shown in the picture above in light blue). The hypothalamus is part of the brain and produces TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH) which tells the pituitary gland to stimulate the thyroid gland (release TSH). One might imagine the hypothalamus as the person who regulates the thermostat since it tells the pituitary gland at what level the thyroid should be set.
The thyroid’s hormones regulate vital body functions, including:
- Heart rate
- Central and peripheral nervous systems
- Body weight
- Muscle strength
- Menstrual cycles
- Body temperature
- Cholesterol levels
- Much more!
How the Thyroid Gland Works
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which is made up of glands that produce, store, and release hormones into the bloodstream so the hormones can reach the body’s cells. The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
The hypothalamus produces TSH Releasing Hormone (TRH) that signals the pituitary to tell the thyroid gland to produce more or less of T3 and T4 by either increasing or decreasing the release of a hormone called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
- When T3 and T4 levels are low in the blood, the pituitary gland releases more TSH to tell the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones.
- If T3 and T4 levels are high, the pituitary gland releases less TSH to the thyroid gland to slow production of these hormones.
Why You Need a Thyroid Gland
T3 and T4 travel in your bloodstream to reach almost every cell in the body. The hormones regulate the speed with which the cells/metabolism work. For example, T3 and T4 regulate your heart rate and how fast your intestines process food. So if T3 and T4 levels are low, your heart rate may be slower than normal, and you may have constipation/weight gain. If T3 and T4 levels are high, you may have a rapid heart rate and diarrhea/weight loss.
Listed below are other symptoms of too much T3 and T4 in your body (hyperthyroidism):
- Irritability or moodiness
- Nervousness, hyperactivity
- Sweating or sensitivity to high temperatures
- Hand trembling (shaking)
- Hair loss
- Missed or light menstrual periods
The following is other symptoms of too little T3 and T4 in your body (hypothyroidism):
- Trouble sleeping
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry skin and hair
- Sensitivity to cold temperature
- Frequent, heavy periods
- Joint and muscle pain
Thyroid Hormones: Pregnancy and Fetal Development
Thyroid hormones are critical for development of the fetal and neonatal brain, as well as for many other aspects of pregnancy and fetal growth. Hypothyroidism in either the mother or fetus frequently results in fetal disease; in humans, this includes a high incidence of mental retardation.
Maternal Thyroid Function During Pregnancy
Normal pregnancy entails substantial changes in thyroid function in all animals. These phenomena have been studied most extensively in humans, but probably are similar in all mammals. Major alterations in the thyroid system during pregnancy include:
- Increased blood concentrations of T4-binding globulin: TBG is one of several proteins that transport thyroid hormones in blood, and has the highest affinity for T4 (thyroxine) of the group. Estrogens stimulate expression of TBG in liver, and the normal rise in estrogen during pregnancy induces roughly a doubling in serum TBG concentratrations.
- Increased levels of TBG lead to lowered free T4 concentrations, which results in elevated TSH secretion by the pituitary and, consequently, enhanced production and secretion of thyroid hormones. The net effect of elevated TBG synthesis is to force a new equilibrium between free and bound thyroid hormones and thus a significant increase in total T4 and T3 levels. The increased demand for thyroid hormones is reached by about 20 weeks of gestation and persists until term.
- Increased demand for iodine: This results from a significant pregnancy-associated increase in iodide clearance by the kidney (due to increased glomerular filtration rate), and siphoning of maternal iodide by the fetus. The World Health Organization recommends increasing iodine intake from the standard 100 to 150 ug/day to at least 200 ug/day during pregnancy.
- Thyroid stimulation by chorionic gonadotropin: The placentae of humans and other primates secrete huge amounts of a hormone called chorionic gonadotropin (in the case of humans, human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG) which is very closely related to luteinizing hormone. TSH and hCG are similar enough that hCG can bind and transduce signalling from the TSH receptor on thyroid epithelial cells. Toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy in humans, when hCG levels are highest, a significant fraction of the thyroid-stimulating activity is from hCG. During this time, blood levels of TSH often are suppressed, as depicted in the figure to the right. The thyroid-stimulating activity of hCG actually causes some women to develop transient hyperthyroidism.
The net effect of pregnancy is an increased demand on the thyroid gland. In the normal individuals, this does not appear to represent much of a load to the thyroid gland, but in females with subclinical hypothyroidism, the extra demands of pregnancy can precipitate clinicial disease.
Thyroid Hormones and Fetal Brain Development
In 1888 the Clinical Society of London issued a report underlining the importance of normal thyroid function on development of the brain. Since that time, numerous studies with rats, sheep and humans have reinforced this concept, usually by study of the effects of fetal and/or maternal thyroid deficiency. Thyroid hormones appear to have their most profound effects on the terminal stages of brain differentiation, including synaptogenesis, growth of dendrites and axons, myelination and neuronal migration.
Thyroid hormones act by binding to nuclear receptors and modulating transcription of responsive genes. Thyroid hormone receptors are widely distributed in the fetal brain, and present prior to the time the fetus is able to synthesize thyroid hormones. It has proven surprisingly difficult to identify the molecular targets for thyroid hormone action in the developing brain, but some progress has been made. For example, the promoter of the myelin basic protein gene is directly responsive to thyroid hormones and contains the expected hormone response element. This fits with the observation that induced hypothyroidism in rats leads to diminished synthesis of mRNAs for several myelin-associated proteins.
It seems clear that there is a great deal more to learn about the molecular mechanisms by which thyroid hormones support normal development of the brain.
Thyroid Deficiency in the Fetus and Neonate
The fetus has two potential sources of thyroid hormones – it’s own thyroid and the thyroid of it’s mother. Human fetuses acquire the ability to synthesize thyroid hormones at roughly 12 weeks of gestation, and fetuses from other species at developmentally similar times. Current evidence from several species indicates that there is substantial transfer of maternal thyroid hormones across the placenta. Additionally, the placenta contains deiodinases that can convert T4 to T3.
There are three types or combinations of thyroid deficiency states known to impact fetal development:
Isolated maternal hypothyroidism: Overt maternal hypothyroidism typically is not a significant cause of fetal disease because it usually is associated with infertility. (How does this affect infertile women who become pregnant using donor embryo implantation?) When pregnancy does occur, there is increased risk of intrauterine fetal death and gestational hypertension. Subclincial hypothyroidism is increasingly being recognized as a cause of developmental disease – this is a rather scary situation. Several investigators have found that mild maternal hypothyroidism, diagnosed only retrospectively from banked serum, may adversely affect the fetus, leading in children to such effects as slightly lower performance on IQ tests and difficulties with schoolwork. The most common cause of subclinical hypothyroidism is autoimmune disease, and it is known that anti-thyroid antibodies cross the human placenta. Thus, the cause of this disorder may be a passive immune attack on the fetal thyroid gland.
Isolated fetal hypothyroidism: This condition is also known as sporadic congenital hypothyroidism. It is due to failure of the fetal thyroid gland to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone. Most children with this disorder are normal at birth, because maternal thyroid hormones are transported across the placenta during gestation. What is absolutely critical is to identify and treat this condition very shortly after birth. If treatment is not instituted quickly, the child will become permanently mentally and growth retarded – a disorder called cretinism. This problem has largely disappeared in the US and many other countries due to large scale screening programs to detect hypothyroid infants.
Iodine deficiency – Combined maternal and fetal hypothyroidism: Iodine deficiency is, by a large margin, the most common preventable cause of mental retardation in the world. Without adequate maternal iodine intake, both the fetus and mother are hypothyroid, and if supplemental iodine is not provided, the child may well develop cretinism, with mental retardation, deaf-mutism and spasticity.
The World Health Organization estimated in 1990 that 20 million people had some degree of brain damage due to iodine deficiency experienced in fetal life. Endemic iodine deficiency remains a substantial public health problem in many parts of the world, including many areas in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. In areas of severe deficiency, a large fraction of the adult population may show goiters. In such settings, overt cretinism may occur in 5 to 10 percent of offspring, and perhaps five times that many children will have mild mental retardation. This is a serious, tragic and, most importantly, a preventable problem.
The effects of mild maternal hypothyroidism on cognitive function of children has been evaluated in several studies, including some in which mothers will low levels of T4 or high levels of TSH were treated prophylactically with thyroid supplementation. The results of these studies are somewhat divergent, and the benefit of routinely testing pregnant women and treating those with suspected thyroid deficiency remains unsettled.
The fetus of an iodine-deficient mother can be successfully treated if iodine supplementation is given during the first or second trimester. Treatment during the third trimester or after birth will not prevent the mental defects.
Iodine deficiency can also be a sigificant problem in animal populations. The most common manifestation in sheep, cattle, pigs and horses is a high incidence of stillbirths and birth of small, weak offspring.
Hyperthyroidism in Pregnancy
Gestational hyperthyroidism is associated with increased risk of several adverse outcomes, including preeclampisa, premature labor, fetal or perinatal death and low birth weight. In humans, hyperthyroidism usually is the result of Grave’s disease, which involves development of autoantibodies against the TSH receptor that stimulate the thyroid gland.
One “fun” result of getting a new computer (with a CD drawer, no less) is being able to go back through all those CD back ups that I should have thrown away years ago, but kept. This dates to ca. 2006…
Early One Morning in the Universe
Humanity may be stuck on a wheel of incarnation (repeating the same mistakes, generation after generation), but the individual need not be.
What if the form and content of human belief come down to a design preference, with the majority of people preferring a hierarchical plan, based on the family: a design fated to bog down in jealousy and unfair treatment: a system based on parental rage – life in a social petri dish that breeds implacable tragedy from which the individual cannot escape, even in death?
At the other end of the spectrum of ideas, and so far, a neglected alternative, is something clean and random and spontaneous: a scheme based on experience, which does not require supernatural affirmation of our collective and primeval family delusions. The fact that the body will die, permanently and forever, opens the imagination to that which lies beyond human control, and frees the individual from bondage to the group, because it is my body, not theirs.
Society tells its children that a glow worm, or some larval stage of development, was inserted into each of their bodies at conception, or at birth, or baptism, or when the sex hormones turn on, depending on the cultural context they were born into and that this ghostly thing was activated by the supernatural, thus causing the child to be alive. In actual practice, we proceed through life guided by infinitely more ancient and practical instructions called DNA. The results are not perfect, certainly. In Homo sapiens, it is apparent that the code results in a brain of dubious reliability. It is painful to admit, but necessary.
The claim is that this supernatural thing will leave my body when it perishes; a thing which is held by the majority of people in my culture to be my true identity, but which is alien to me – unknowable, in fact. A temporary resident that has no particular form or substance, but which is locked in combat with an inherently evil physical body – a body that for as long as I may live, never really belongs to me. This is put forth as a stupendous delusion: I am expected to believe that my real self is on loan from a supernatural source, and my individual abilities and pursuits discarded as worthless except in reference to this source: my status is that of a puppet activated by magic.
Creation stories, devised by primeval tribes and salvaged or scavenged or embroidered by civilizations of size and material sophistication, fail the pure design test, which requires consonance with Nature. These schemes begin by naming and claiming pieces of existence, an approach to conceptualizing the environment that is understandable in primitive circumstances, hatched by the need for power in the childhood of humankind. The leap our ancestors made to magical connections between objects and ideas is significant in animal evolution, but faulty. Our ancestors had to be satisfied with what their brains could do constructively, which is to make analogies.
Many of these early connections are elegant, while other myths are positively stupefying, perhaps because the original symbolism is lost to us. Many stories that have come down to us betray the weaknesses in human memory, just as each copy of an image is farther removed from the original and loses its distinction. What we have is a cultural junk drawer jammed by absurdities, which have been patented by repetition and fanciful interpretation, which served our species in their time, but we now hoard these errors at terrific cost; cultural ideas have not kept pace with technology. Mythology has become an end in itself. Reality is lost.
Like the genetic code itself, human culture is both repetitive and additive. Genetic information is not thrown away; unnecessary bits are instead stashed in great unused collections of instructions, which is why most of our DNA matches that of both extinct and existing species; why the human fetus recapitulates evolution, why each of us is a portable portion of an ancient sea. Nature is conservative, and yet favors the workable mutation and the turning on and off of old switches.
By means of language and technology, human beings also gather vast amounts of information. Certain knowledge remains active in a culture, some lies dormant: certainly, not all information is of equal value. The results are a mixed affair. An advance in technology may be valued because it can be used in war, while its peaceful uses are ignored, or eventually borrowed and put to a different use. An idea may be valued because it sanctions the rights of ruthless rulers. A war may be fought because it appears to be motivated by moral good, but which in reality merely exploit greed. There is no way to judge cultures as a whole any more than we can judge DNA, or the results of evolution. And yet, we do, because we can, because we have a brain built to contrast and compare; ideas are a product of human thought, but most ideas are not at all helpful to survival.
Our peril to ourselves and to the life of the planet lies in obsessing over and hoarding bits of cramped opinion that will never produce a picture of existence that is new in any way. The picture that mankind persists in using as its model of the universe was created by ignorant and fearful minds that were driven by the necessity of wresting control from a powerful environment, but we are mature and ought to have learned something from the history of our species. Our current picture is as jumbled as those clots of discarded DNA; useful, not useful.
We are perfectly capable of accepting the totality of the universe in an attitude of respectful silence, in recognition of what we do not know, and with a comprehensive view that doesn’t require a beginning and ending point in us. We are the sole creature to arise on earth (as far as we know) to have the ability to view the many threads of existence. Throughout life, each of us will perceive these mysteries in changed ways, even if we are not aware of it. That is, we learn.
For our species, the universe of mind is whatever we make of it. Despite this creative attribute, physical reality does exist, and we are ultimately powerless when faced with this truth. From deep within us great fear arises, causing us to cast our theories, dreams, imaginings, fears, and limitations onto a sublime unknown. We write our own story, one that explains how it was all meant to be, but these ‘meant-to-be’ stories are wishes designed to soothe our nerves and explain our cruelty. Why do we need to deflect ownership of our perpetual violence, cruelty, and destruction when this is actual behavior?
We respond to beauty as strongly as to food or sex. Beauty is inherent in physical reality: contrary to what one might assume, mathematicians and physicists understand this best, since mathematics is the language of physical reality. What could be more beautiful and concise than E=mc2? We are a product of physical reality, therefore beauty is built into us. Beauty is the motivation for civilized and sane behavior, for kindness and for learning. Why paint animals in the deep recesses of a cave, why labor for decades to erect temples, why undertake near-fatal journeys just to collect fantastic and beautiful materials from around the earth, if not to participate in a beauty that is also within us? What we desire from beauty is fusion with the universe.
What has happened to mankind that our cultures are so out of balance with the physical world? Beauty and light did not leave our world, but are abandoned by the mass of human beings for various dreary versions of existence, in which every living thing is worthless when compared to profit. These plodding schemes are crowded and disorganized and not beautiful at all because they do away with possibility. Tangled loops of anti-knowledge go around and around in the minds of those who are stuck on limits within the brain. But the universe does not stop evolving in order to satisfy their need for a finite answer, and yet the mass of humans dwell on the tired details of texts and rituals that ignore common experience. We think that the universe will become whatever we want it to be, but whatever it may be, it exists ‘as is’ and we merely constrain our knowledge with beliefs, preferences, and delusions.
I feel more free as a body that will die, than believing that something unnatural will leave my body, to proceed onward and upward into a supernatural domain. Most of it seems a design preference. There is something clean and spontaneous in a design that is not required to house itself in levels of existence freed only for a time from the great overseeing One. I fear I am a renegade soul out to proceed on my way alone.
Still using library internet access…
Ordered new computer, but waiting for delivery – could be 10 more days. I’m beginning to FREAK OUT! WHY? Not because I have some “pathological” Asperger attachment to habit or objects – it’s the tool I need to communicate “what’s going on” in my “unconscious visual processing” in the primary language of “social reality” – words.
I’m lucky to live in a time and place where this arrangement is possible: a reclusive existence in wild Wyoming, but with the ability to express my thoughts to a mysterious “global” world – unknown people from every part of the planet continue to “tune in” (maybe by accident?) It is “mind-boggling” from my point of view from the “Frontier” which lacks modern social development and material abundance.
I’m momentarily fed up with rereading JUNG: do psychologists actually “like” or approve of any human beings (even themselves?) It is quite revealing how with time and experience, one’s view of “standard ideas” is changed and reviewed.
I try to reread the Iliad and the Odyssey on alternate years, so have taken the opportunity to read the Odyssey – coincidentally, while half-listening to coverage of hurricane Irma… (many reactions and thoughts, which will have to wait) but having to do with how modern people see Nature, and how cultural values are shaped as a consequence; very “odd” feelings and ideas which in turn shape our behavior!
My fascination with both books goes deep: the two are foundations for much of my “introverted” thinking about culture, history and admirable human codes of behavior and interaction that have fallen into forgetfulness: PLUS these are highly dense visual presentations that “speak to me” like few others. At times, the “visual” descriptions come so fast and furious, that I can’t keep up my brain processing speed to match, and I must linger over those descriptions, which “tell me” so much about the people of that time. And which, in a way, make me “homesick”.
AND – Once again (Irma event) I am utterly appalled by the ignorance (as in ignoring the entire subject) of Americans concerning the processes and reality of “geology” in its true scope – a study which reveals How the earth, oceans, atmosphere and “cosmic” location WORK!
American “education” is the “manmade” disaster that cripples reasonable and effective behavior!
Hmmm. Someone has brought a screaming toddler, possibly named Irma, into the library… time to “evacuate”.
Hmmm.. back to the library after 3 days with no access to the Internet; interesting experience. Anyway – had to go old school – actual books, pen and paper. Very productive, if frustrating. I’ve been meaning to get back to a question on my mind: What did Jung actually mean by extraverted and introverted thinking?
My suspicion was that most of us are using these terms wrongly, and confusing related terms such as intuition, instinct, “gut feeling” “sense of” “hunch” – a quick inspection of The Portable Jung, Viking Press, 1972 (one of those reference books I keep close), confirmed that indeed, my “memory” of these ideas and others was somewhat confused. Also, I had not reviewed the subject in light of what I now know about Asperger’s – and found that Jung’s ideas have new importance.
Remember: the following is extraversion and introversion applied to THINKING ONLY, not to the personality as a whole.
I will begin with one quote: (page 197, should you have a copy) regarding extraverted thinking:
“…but when the thinking depends primarily not on objective data but on some second- hand idea, the very poverty of this thinking is compensated by an all the more impressive accumulation of facts (or data) congregating round a narrow and sterile point of view, with the result that many valuable and meaningful aspects are completely lost sight of. Many of the allegedly scientific outpourings of our own day owe their existence to this wrong orientation.”
Pretty prescient warning for someone writing nearly a century ago, and including his own profession!
Jung is not condemning extraverted thinking here – far from it, but is warning against it’s mistaken or perverted use in areas that are properly the domain of introverted thinking.
A definition: The general attitude of extraverted thinking is oriented by the object and objective data.
A definition: Introverted thinking is neither directed at objective facts nor general ideas. He asks – “Is this even thinking?” This has significant application to the “Asperger” brain problem – Jung seems to have been peripherally aware of “visual thinking” in dream imagery and symbols in art and alchemy, and yet unable to “see” visual thinking as a distinct brain process, and its importance.
His admission is that both types of thinking are vital to each other, and that the failure of “our age” is that modern western culture “only acknowledges extraverted thinking” – the failure is to recognize that introverted thinking (basically, reflection on personal subjective experience) cannot be “removed” from human thought – nor should it be, because only this co-operative analysis can yield actionable meaning.
He rightly identifies the “problem” of modern “social – psychological” science as a not-really-scientific endeavor, because it does not deal with fact, but with traditional, common, banal ideas – as its “outside sources” – (Biblical Myth, Puritanical social order, etc) and inevitably, simply supports the status quo: it is “purely imitative”, an “afterthought”; repeating “sterile” ideas that cannot go beyond was was obvious to begin with. A “materialistic mentality stuck on the object” that produces a “mass of undigested material” that requires “some simple, general idea that gives coherence to a disordered whole.”
Is this not exactly, in post after post, what my repeated criticism of today’s “helping, caring, fixing” industry has been? YES!
Much more to come…..
Human self-domestication – the development of an idea
Charles Darwin was the first to systematically examine biological changes in species under artificial breeding conditions. Even though he did not refer to the question of human self-domestication in his two volumes on Variations of Animals and Plants under Domestication , Darwin proposed clear definitional criteria for the process of domestication. He emphasized (1) that the domestication of animals is more than taming, (2) that it represents a goal-oriented process for human purposes, (3) that the variability of physical and ‘mental’ characteristics is greater in domesticated species than in their wild ancestors, including the occurrence of dwarfism and gigantism, (4) that the behavioural plasticity and educability of domesticated species is greater, and (5) that the brain size of domesticated animals is smaller than that of their wild ancestors’.
In spite of these unequivocal definitional criteria, Darwin was remarkably vague regarding the possibility that humans could have undergone domestication. In The Decent of Man , he wrote the following (the most critical phrases are highlighted in italics by the author): “It is, nevertheless, an error to speak of man, even if we look only to the conditions to which he has been exposed, as ‘far more domesticated’ (Blumenbach 1865) than any other animal. … In another and much more important respect, man differs widely from any strictly domesticated animal; for his breeding has never long been controlled, (this is not true! The social hierarchy is a reproductive selection machine!) either by methodical or unconscious selection. No race or body of men has been so completely subjugated by other men, as that certain individuals should be preserved, and thus unconsciously selected, from somehow excelling in utility to their masters. Nor have certain male and female individuals been intentionally picked out and matched, except in the well known case of the Prussian grenadiers;” (p. 29) … By contrast, in another paragraph Darwin stated: “We might, therefore, expect that civilized men, who in one sense are highly domesticated, would be more prolific than wild men. It is also probable that the increased fertility of civilised nations would become, as with our domestic animals, an inherited character …” (p. 45–46). (Darwin was a man of his time and class; likely oblivious to de facto social selection. People married and reproduced within their “proper place” on the pyramid.
With respect to brain size Darwin argued, however, that in contrast to domesticated animals the human brain and skull has increased over time. Nevertheless, in the chapter on human races, Darwin reiterates that “man in many respects may be compared with those animals which have long been domesticated, …” (p. 178); and later: “With man no such question can arise, for he cannot be said to have been domesticated at any particular period” (p. 183). And finally: “With our domestic animals a new race can readily be formed by carefully matching the varying offspring from a single pair, or even from a single individual possessing some new character; but most of our races have been formed, not intentionally from selected pair, but unconsciously by the preservation of many individuals which have varied, however slightly, in some useful or desired manner” (p. 188). In summary, although Darwin did not hold a clear position concerning the possibility that domestication could have taken place in homo sapiens, he pointed to the fact that no scientific proof in favour of such a hypothesis existed, particularly, due to a lack of goal-directedness or conscious selection of traits. However, he also made clear that humans might share some characteristics typical of domesticated animals such as increased fertility.
In the biological literature following Darwin, the term “domestication” became increasingly poorly defined. The criterion of intentional and goal-directed selection, which according to Darwin’s definition was critical for domestication, was largely replaced, at least with respect to humans, by the equation of culture and civilisation with domestication. (One example of intentional goal directedness: The Harem – females selected for social position, connection to allies or subjugated nations, tameness and beauty and continually replenished with youthful baby producers. A broad “blood” base (genetic pool) was available: a veritable farm for producing “top males” for the continuation of a dynasty.
An extensive evaluation of the topic was put forward by Eugen Fischer in his essay on Die Rassenmerkmale des Menschen als Domestikationserscheinungen (“The racial characteristics of man as a result of domestication”, 1914) . A couple of years later, Fischer became known for his publication of Grundriß der menschlichen Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene (“Outline of human genetics and racial hygiene”), which he edited together with Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz in 1921 ; all authors later became leading authorities in Nazi eugenics and supported the legalisation of sterilisation and dismantling of welfare institutions to reinstitute the laws of natural selection .
( A prime human conceit that has ravaged the planet: we are so intelligent that our blunders-efforts at reshaping natural processes and entire ecologies are de facto improvements on nature. WE ARE NOT THAT SMART!)
In his essay on the domestication of man, Fischer suggested that domestication should be defined as a condition in which “the nutrition and reproduction has been influenced over a number of generations by humans” (author’s translation). In line with these greatly relaxed definitional criteria of domestication, Fischer reasoned that humankind should be considered domesticated from the beginning of its existence. (We were never wild animals?) Fischer considered racial differences to be the result of domestication, because “almost all characteristics of human races could be found in domesticated animals, except for the low variability of the external ear and the lack of dappling of the skin or hair.” Interestingly, Fischer regarded blond hair, blue eyes, and bright skin colour of Europeans as signs of domestication-induced partial albinism, as well as, dwarfism and gigantism in some populations, racial differences concerning the disposition for obesity, temperament, character and intelligence. Even “the permanent female breast indicates domestication much like the udder of domesticated cattle” (author’s translation) . However, the point that “Aryans” should be carriers of outstanding signs of domestication was apparently overlooked, a point to which I will return in the discussion. Remarkably, however, the very same attitude towards domestication and racial hygiene including support of sterilisation was also found in leading Jewish scientists such as Richard Goldschmidt, who was Professor at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology in Berlin-Dahlem . Goldschmidt argued that the abandonment of natural selection and “radical extermination of the unfit” (Goldschmidt, 1933, pp. 214; author’s translation) ought to be replaced by positive and negative eugenic measures (apparently, Goldschmidt later realised that the Nazi regime held an even more radical position regarding eugenics and was expatriated by the Nazis in 1935; he was appointed Professor of Genetics and Cytology at Berkeley, CA). Even anthropologist Franz Boas, who was not a racist and strongly opposed the Nazi regime, described curly hair, variation in stature and increasing or decreasing pigmentation of the skin as signs of human domestication, but was inconclusive about how much environmental and genetic factors contributed to these variations . Thus, although Fischer and colleagues may, to a certain degree, have had an opportunistic interest in mixing scientific ideas with political claims, the association of acknowledging the self-domestication hypothesis with eugenic consequences during the 1930s was not only an issue for racist scientists. (The misconception / mixing of non-scientific social, political, and religious beliefs has not disappeared in psychology. Biological sources are sought for justification of discrimination. These prejudices do not negate the possibility of domestication, but unfortunately, have made it a “shady” subject for study. The same problem taints psychology and its support and contributions to American Eugenics movement.)
In the 1920s, another, entirely independent biological concept was adopted from embryology to explain human self-domestication. The Dutch anatomist Louis Bolk (1926)  postulated that adult humans would resemble juvenile apes, and that the retention of juvenile characteristics of the ancestral species into adulthood of the descendant, referred to as “foetalisation” or “neoteny”, could be associated with the process of domestication. For example, the zoologist Max Hilzheimer (1926/1927) argued that “the recent European should be considered the most progressively domesticated form whereas Neanderthals were much less juvenilised” (author’s translation) due to the more pronounced retention of juvenile traits in anatomically modern humans compared to Neanderthals (at that time, it was not known that Neanderthals were not ancestral to anatomically modern humans) . The parallel drawn between domestication and neoteny is interesting in light of the currently resurrected debate about human self-domestication (see below).
In the 1940s Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz’ published some speculations on the relation of human psychological capacities to the process of domestication. In his article Durch Domestikation verursachte Störungen arteigenen Verhaltens (“Domestication-induced disorders of species-typical behaviour”, published in 1940) Lorenz reiterated parallels between the living conditions of civilised inhabitants of metropolitan areas with domesticated animals, which he thought indicated signs of degeneration . (The assumption of “degeneration” damaged scientific research.)
Lorenz proposed that the intensity and frequency of instinctual patterns of behaviour were altered under these conditions, leading to a hypertrophy of some instincts due to a lowered releasing threshold and to a functional disruption of species-typical behaviours. Beside the alleged domestication-associated morphological features in human beings, such as shortening of the extremities and of the base of the skull, atony of the muscles, and obesity, which he later subsumed under the term ‘Verhausschweinung’ (a term hard to translate that roughly compares the physical appearance of human beings with domesticated pigs), Lorenz described a domestication-associated diminished social sensitivity and a functional disruption of love, marriage, and the “copulation drive”. Apart from his appallingly coarse language, which conformed to the writing style of that time, Lorenz did not refrain from discussing racial hygienic consequences such as the “extermination of ethically inferior people.” Moreover, and from our perspective today virtually ridiculous, Lorenz proposed a positive selection for Anständigkeit (decency) and for the physical ideal of the ancient Greek. (As modern western “civilized” and Christian people, we applaud ourselves for having high ethical and moral standards, but what is the underlying goal of military, economic, and cultural invasion by any nation? It’s murder, rape and pillage – virtual extinction of peoples and cultures – on a massive industrial scale. “Democratization=Domestication” How many so-called primitive tribal people, religious minorities, and any “outgroup” that is labeled enemy, or any enemy at all is “cleansed” of its heritage, values beliefs and practices by military, social and corporate actions? Civilian casualties, millions of displaced refugees – hypocritically disguised as the inevitable consequence of the mysterious “fog of war.”)
By contrast, in his chapter on Psychologie und Stammesgeschichte (“psychology and epistemology”, first published in 1943)  Lorenz took over Arnold Gehlen’s idea that human beings were specialised in being non-specialised. Gehlen had acknowledged Bolk’s and Hilzheimer’s hypotheses as scientific proofs for his thesis of man as “Mängelwesen” (“deficient being”). Following Gehlen, Lorenz highlighted man’s lack of physiological specialisation while rejecting the hypothesis of deficiency. In contrast to his earlier exclusively negative approval, Lorenz now accepted the hypothesis of domestication-associated neoteny, which accounted for the positively asserted human “Weltoffenheit” (“cosmopolitanism”) and persisting explorative behaviour. This was new, since he now ascribed to neoteny a variety of human behavioural and psychological features in addition to his physical characteristics. Even in his later writings, however, Lorenz stuck to his culturally pessimistic attitude, while partially backing off from his writings during the Nazi regime.
Since the 1960s, both the foetalisation and the domestication hypotheses concerning humans have been refuted by various scientists. Starck (1962), for example, criticised that Bolk’s hypothesis had been so broadly accepted simply because the many problems of explaining human evolution could be resolved with apparent ease. According to Starck, hairlessness and the reduction of pigmentation of the skin (a geographic phenomen due to varying solar radiation) were more reliably explained by chance mutations rather than by foetalisation. Moreover, the retention of juvenile characters (i.e. neoteny) did not sufficiently explain the increased variation of traits under domestication . In addition, Herre and Roehrs (1971) rejected the human self-domestication hypothesis for its lack of goal-directedness and artificial selection of traits; nor was there evidence for a “wild” ancestral human species from which a domesticated homo sapiens should have derived. They further argued that a reduction of instinctual patterns of behaviour in human beings could also better be explained by a more sophisticated cortical control rather than domestication . (Objections based on the lack of scientific evidence at the time and the resistance to Homo sapiens the animal.)
As with many scientific ideas, these hypothesis of human self-domestication has recently been revived as a possible explanation of changes of human physical traits since the late Pleistocene changes include the reduction of body size and decrease in skeletal robusticity, modifications in cranial and dental features including reduction in cranial capacity, shortening of the facial region of the skull and maleruption of teeth, and reduction in sexual dimorphism. In contrast to earlier biological writings, other domestication-associated features observed in animals such as an increased variation in skin colour, increasing fat storage, earlier sexual maturation and activity, and reduction in motor activity are not discussed with respect to human self-domestication in recent accounts . It is indeed plausible to assume that these changes could have taken place due to the creation of an artificially protective environment after humans adopted a more sedentary lifestyle in the Neolithic period, thereby relaxing natural selection pressures. (But! selection pressures changed and increased due to selection by a new urban and dietary environment that required behavioral and reproductive adaptation. Reproduction became controlled by social customs, class barriers to reproduction partners, and selection of females for tameness.)
Similarly, the idea that foetalisation and domestication could be related has recently been highlighted in a seminal paper comparing anatomical features and behaviour of apes and humans . The authors argue that changes in social structures of early humans, compared to our closest living relatives, the chimpanzee, could have favoured the selection against aggression, and that such selection was accompanied by a reduction of sexual dimorphism in humans and the retention of juvenile characteristics in body shape and behaviour. Interestingly, a parallel development has been proposed in the bonobo, which displays more neotenic physical features and is much less aggressive compared to the common chimpanzee .
From a biological perspective the greatest dispute with regard to physical changes in anatomically modern humans akin to domestication pertains to a slight but measurable decline of brain volume from around 1,400 cm3 to roughly 1,300 cm3, which could be interpreted in further support of the human self-domestication hypothesis. However, this decline in stature was accompanied by a reduction in body size such that the allometric brain-body relation remains unchanged . In contrast to humans, domesticated animals show a large disproportionate decline of brain size by up to 30%, especially of the sensory perceptual centres, compared to their wild ancestral species, yet no such pronounced decline has convincingly been demonstrated in any human population.
We have a huge stumbling block in the investigation of self-domestication in humans: Which “human” is our wild ancestor?
Part 3 next…
The past few days I’ve been ignoring Asperger’s, the “social disease” as characterized by psychologists (and their misuse of “neuroscience” to “prove” their ugly prejudices) because I decided to finally revamp my blog (formerly Some People are Lost – now Miss America Gone Wrong) and have been taken back in time to a productive period, when I began to discover myself as a person that I could like.
MAGW is important to me because it was written (1991-1992) when I didn’t know that the “condition” existed. Asperger’s was “created” around that time, and until very recently, females were excluded, mainly because male psychologists (and most males) dismiss females when it comes to “brain abilities” in engineering, math and the sciences. Women can be “biology types” because – they have uteruses. Ironically, most psychologists are female today, which is not a “compliment” to the field. Whenever a job category is overtaken by women, it means that the field has lost status and that the pay scale has dropped.
In 1991 I was in graduate school, serving time in the academic Gulag run by male assholes. It’s that simple. I finally and totally rebelled over bad treatment, and frankly, the overt hatred of females that I’d “put up with” my entire life.
When I googled “recent research” in Asperger’s this morning, the same old crap appeared – an onslaught of “studies” that claim to prove that Asperger people are robotic deviants; fictitious claims that the “bounty hunters” are closing in on the brain defects and genetic mistakes that make us social outcasts.
No one seems to even raise the question as to why being “hyposocial” and intelligent is considered to be a state of pathology – literally a “social crime” being misrepresented as biological pathology.
Why must each and every Asperger-type individual begin life as a “broken” human? And, once labeled, no matter how well we manage to survive in a hostile social environment, we can never prove that we are a legitimate type of Homo sapiens. We are guilty, and remain guilty of a social crime, without the opportunity to prove our status as “part of” our species. We are literally considered to be lower than chimps, monkeys, rats and mice on the mystical supernatural and magical “empathy scale” – which somehow is granted the “new definition” of what is “required” to be considered a “real” human being.
My “escape” from social tyranny twenty-six years ago was fueled by disgust – I had no intention other than relief for a few weeks before I again would have to take on survival in “American social reality”.
Surprise! It was the happiest time in my life. I began to uncover the “me” that was buried under a lifetime of “being told who I was” – and I liked the person who began to be revealed as I left behind the social order that classifies, defines and injures human beings. The people I met were often in the “same boat” (or RV, tent or car) as myself: refugees from a cruel and unjust economic and social system that had kicked them to the curb – and declared them to have no value.
What is disturbing, is that this system has grown in strength and callous brutality over the past three decades.
Freedom is never free.
It’s more than a road that I follow to death’s door. Ahead lies night a continent across – a corridor of loneliness, of absence, and of terror that will return me to my father’s presence. How shall I conquer my own Dark Continent to be at his side, a frightened traveler who confronts an impossible journey, one that is tangled by the difficulties that complicate a personal and fond farewell?
Someone lend me an undivided heart to guide my actions, so that I may show those who attend him that his daughter has not turned out too badly. Let the darkness ahead yield its depth and fold a pocket in which to conceal a breaking heart. Then let my grief be sealed by time, as if there is no mystery to our departures.
My world was injured by driving east to Rawlins, Laramie, and the familiar streets of Cheyenne, where common sense asked me to stay the night, but ahead lay a spiral galaxy that turned toward my father’s death, and I must ride the circumference of that terrible disk in some way.
The truck sped beyond the border of Wyoming and into the Pine Bluffs of Nebraska, where we stopped at the first rest area. The dogs dragged me into the petrified blackness that was transparent to their senses, tugging me along the ghost trails of summer visitors, the dead grass sending aloft stale messages of happy journeys; family trips. The cold wind briefly chilled my fears of what lay within the night of the dark road, and we drove on.
One hundred miles farther we left the highway for the lights of a prairie town; its main street was as efficient as a rifle barrel and lined with cafes and comfortable motels where I might close my eyes to the nerve-wracking night, perhaps to awaken to the comfort of a blue and friendly morning, but I fed my fast food dinner to the dogs while pumping gas at a brightly-lit service station where young Friday-nighters were fueling their vehicles for fun. The black cold emptiness of the prairie was their arena: I was a stranger who counted the distance to my father’s death in gallons of gasoline.
By winter’s clock the terrible darkness was only a summer’s evening, but by my father’s way of thinking, rest was forbidden when so many miles could yet be taken up as if the truck were hauling in a rope that ended at his door. Suddenly, my head floated away over my right shoulder, tethered to the rest of me by the slightest will. Familiar furies escaped from the long-locked suitcase of former journeys and fear seeped in confusing colors between the cracks in my growing disarray. There it was – overwhelming panic and I knew that the road had closed for me as surely as if the highway had been ripped up by its roots.
Familiar Cheyenne was an easy two hours behind us, but it was a distance that seemed unreachable without the sight of the smooth prairie to channel my senses, which had become ungovernable in the claustrophobic night. At that moment I wanted to drive the entire distance home, passing Cheyenne, Laramie, and Rawlins: a great distance with nothing but the cold dark and my anxiety to fill the space between sparse towns strung out along the interstate.
In night-abandoned Cheyenne I found a room with the indecent charm of an interrogation cell. A television set that hung from the ceiling by chains buzzed incessantly. A heater was stuck on cold, rattle, and blow. The dogs had to be dragged through the door, which was a threshold of terror for them also. After long minutes of hysteria, they crowded around me on the frigid bed, and I hung onto them through the night, paralyzed by my own stunning fear of the black road to my father’s death that waited outside.
In the early, early brightness, we fled. A minute’s delay might have broken my glassy hold on the steering wheel. Westward we fled, into the shining mountain plains of Wyoming, into a lens of the whitest fog that had engulfed the town of Laramie. The truck burrowed through that heavenly cloud; a brief journey through peace, but the phone call to my father’s death waited at home and the disgrace of my flight caused my heart to beat wretchedly.
Home: a slow and quiet Saturday afternoon. I ached to be invisible to my neighbors. I wanted to drive into the country where failure has no meaning, but I parked behind the house – a place of poor countenance – a yard of packed mud that somehow gives life to an old broken cottonwood. Why, out of all the miles of western brush and rock is this place home, when any scrap of earth could do as well?
It came to one moment on that dark road to my father’s death, when in panic I traveled the wrong way: not east, from Nebraska to Iowa and Illinois, but back to Wyoming, across the mystical, psychological, soul-bounding border of a hidden corner, to renew my exile in a waste of yellow rock and twisted board houses. None of this was new: I had come west, the wrong way from a daughter’s duty, many years before.
Knowledge folded over me as gentle truth. (Yes, the universe is gentle, eventually.) I hid in the house, hating winter’s early dark. The scene outdoors rippled with change as sunlight worked its way through empty snow clouds. The asphalt street glistened briefly. An old shoe that the dogs have worried to death, and an elk rack propped upright in a barren flowerbed, ought to have comforted me, but it was time to call my father.
His voice sounded oddly high-pitched and raspy, as if a little Egyptian mummy had taken his place. He began by recalling the age at which his father had succumbed, which was sixty-nine. At this far end of the lesson, his mind had returned to counting age in the way of a child and he noted that he had turned eighty-three and a half on Halloween. I wanted to say that eighty-four would come, but couldn’t. Instead I recounted my strange trip; the tide of panic, the terror that I might complete my own journey of death, which had begun five years before. He agreed, but without evident emotion, that I had done well to turn back. Perhaps he had come to expect disappointment from me, but he said that he was glad that I was home and safe and not playing again with chance on that dark road. It was unthinkable to turn around in the night, away from my father’s death, but I had.
Some quiet devil within wanted to know why he didn’t beg me to come home, to share his last dark night, as a daughter should, but he transferred the phone to my brother, who barely disguised his relief at my failure to appear, letting me know how unimportant to him that I had become. Something like a gravity wave passed through my pain, making concrete the fact that my behavior had often been irresponsible. Not in advance, but in retreat, lay progress.
Last night my father was moved into a nursing wing of the hospital. He described the room as being empty except for a hospital bed and a television set, which he complained was too loud.
“I don’t know where your brother is today,” he said. “He’s all upset again.”
“Over money.” I said. My parents had always funded him: I knew that there would be a wretched mess over that later.
“Yes,” he said.
We talked about the coming week, about his treatment schedule and when he might go home. The ability to walk unaided has become an important chimera, but he’s grateful for not being in pain, radiation treatments having knocked back a tumor that encroached on his spine. His raspy voice unsettled me – what is the cause? But the cause is that he is very ill.
His beard has grown too long to shave it by himself, he said. A nurse popped in just then to give him a wash up, which cut our visit short. An image lingered after I hung up the phone, of a cheerful young woman carrying a basin of water as if entering a temple. How has it come to pass that a stranger is more intimate with my father than I have been? Shouldn’t the Good Daughter serve at his bedside, my children gathered like birds in my skirts, to show him, and the world, that life goes on? But I have created no such family, no best accomplishment. Neither has my brother. Crazy ends here.
At the end our relationship was no little different than it had been during the years that we had traded the rinds of our minds over telephones scattered around the West, linked to the one in his kitchen, exchanging factoids about automobile maintenance, home repair, and amazing artifacts from the sciences, so I made a point of thanking him for moving the family in the 1950s to a suburb of Chicago, where my brother and I had access to good schools.
“Growing up where we did provided a foundation for my life that wasn’t only practical, but…”
“Spiritual,” he rasped.
As far as I could remember, my father had not uttered this word ever, but it was apt, coming from the man who had taught me that there is something outside the human ego that must be acknowledged as preceding us and outlasting us. A shared reverence for nature’s depths had helped two damaged people fumble toward love. My mother and brother were alien beings who existed outside reason and were therefore, dangerous.
Compelled by an obsession to make something useful out of everything, I had studied the two as if they were rogue planets, convinced that one more observation might bring them into the realm of order, but nothing is ever solved. People just pass away.
I had no idea I was Asperger at the time I wrote this, but today I see AS as the primary ground of my “differentness”. I believe that many Asberger symptoms are the result of an attempt by the brain to “adjust” to stress created by my dysfunctional family and to The Social Pyramid, an alien environment that is toxic to “people like me.”
My brother was schizophrenic, in denial, refused treatment, and lived with our parents, who enabled his paranoia and protected him from consequences of his disease. He attacked me viciously whenever I turned up, like a rabid fox protecting a hallucination. My parents never intervened, and let him abuse me, as well as adding dashes of abuse of their own, so I stayed away for years at a time.
I didn’t piece together until much later that my father was an “obvious” Asperger – and that I was also, which eventually led to a diagnosis. This revelation explained so much about my childhood that was inexplicable, tellingly, that I understood intuitively that my father’s “odd behavior” was familiar, and yet, it wasn’t. I was aware that my behavior was “out of sync” and constantly pursued the subject; my family didn’t seem to have a scrap of insight. This bizarre situation became a lifelong laboratory that helped to develop my thinking skills.
Despite being bipolar and Asperger, I was the healthy one in the family: the observer, the analyzer, the recorder and decoder, the documentarian. Survivor’s guilt accompanied my daring escape.
Humor for Geeks. Appreciation of Coyote vs. Road Runner “stupid physics” requires both an intuitive and learned understanding of physics. Of course, the physically impossible interactions are funny in a “psychological” context also; concrete vs. supernatural perception.
If I were a physics teacher I would definitely use these in class – and for “reality” testing!