Someone has obviously hacked this post – REMOVED and trashed.
Stop Hoarding Ancient Bones, Plead Archaeologists
Scientists call for wider access to rare samples rich in DNA
The quest to chronicle the past using DNA from ancient humans and animals has become a cut-throat ‘game of bones’, in which a handful of genetics laboratories are hoarding precious samples, three archaeologists charge in a August 9 letter to Nature.
The scientists call for more careful stewardship of DNA-rich bone specimens to ensure that they remain available to multiple research teams to study. They point to the example of a newly established centre in Israel that will act as a national clearing house to curate animal bones from archaeological sites, so that many researchers can access samples for genetic analysis.
“There’s a lot of pressure on these resources right now, on this skeletal material,” says Cheryl Makarewicz, an archaeologist at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, and a co-author of the letter. “The problem is there’s not enough to go around.”
Lending an ear
Makarewicz and her colleagues are particularly concerned about a portion of bone in the inner ear, the petrous, that is especially rich in ancient DNA. “Competition for these rare specimens promotes hoarding, which, along with the destruction of samples for DNA analysis, makes it hard to replicate findings,” she and her colleagues write in the letter. “It also hinders research by scientists who are not connected to the few groups who dominate access to such samples.”
It’s important, too, to preserve samples for scientists in future generations, who may invent better methods to extract any DNA that remains in a sample after a first battery of tests, Makarewicz adds — as well as improvements in other techniques, such as isotope analysis.
In the past few years, geneticists have accrued hundreds of archaeological samples — many of them petrous bones — from sites around the world and used them for blockbuster ancient-genomics papers that have charted the spread of agriculture, languages and little-understood cultures.
“It’s been like the Wild West, with several ancient-DNA labs approaching museums across the world on a daily basis,” says Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist at the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. In 2015, his team published the first ancient-genome study to sequence the DNA of more than 100 individuals1; it charted a massive Bronze Age migration originating in the steppes of Russia and Ukraine.
David Reich, a population geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and another leading ancient-DNA researcher, says preserving archaeological samples is crucial. But Reich says that his lab samples bones to minimize their destruction and aims to return remains to archaeology collections within a year. He also notes that his lab is willing to share excess bone powder from petrous samples, and that the data they generate are freely available.
In Israel, a centre in Haifa that was opened in early 2017 will act as a clearing house for animal bones used in ancient-DNA studies, says Guy Bar-Oz, an archaeozoologist at the University of Haifa, Israel, and a co-author of the letter.
Researchers excavating sites in Israel won’t be required to deposit samples to the facility. But Bar-Oz says the fact that the centre is co-managed by the Israel Antiquities Authority means that most of the animal petrous bones recovered in Israel are already there. Scientists must apply for permission to sample material, and data sharing will be strictly enforced, Bar-Oz says.
Not all archaeologists are on board with the idea. “I do not support a central facility of some kind. I think that restricting the science at this point is not in the interest of anyone,” says David Anthony, an archaeologist at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, who has provided Bronze Age samples to Reich’s lab (and received them back after DNA extraction with no strings attached, he says).
Marc Vander Linden, an archaeologist at University College London who collaborates with ancient-DNA researchers, likes the idea of ancient-DNA clearing houses. But he is not sure that centralized repositories will work in all countries; many of them, he points out, do not have central organizations with authority over archaeological digs akin to Israel’s Antiquities Authority.
Vander Linden says that the onus is on archaeologists who dig up and curate samples to come up with ideas to tackle the issue. “Samples are a finite resource, and thus any way to improve their curation is more than needed,” he says. “Ancient DNA is a fast-moving field, which is exciting — but more care and less politics would be great.”
This article was first published on August 11, 2017.
Neurotypicals label fact-based thinking “black & white thinking,” because neurotypicals don’t believe that facts are facts.
Asperger individuals are ‘put down’ for responding to the environment as if it were a literal place (it is) and we are accused by social typicals of black and white thinking. Black and White Thinking, as used by social humans, means that they react to the factual basis of reality as a type of “cheating” because they don’t accept facts as facts. Facts are devoid of nuance, imagination or optimism. That is, facts cannot be “made up” to invent personal universes. Aspergers are fact-oriented. The universe we inhabit is a literal universe. Physical limits and relationships do exist and can be described and predicted mathematically. Social humans don’t like this truth (that facts exist) one bit, so a dislike of Asperger individuals is a case of Kill the Messenger.
Social humans believe that the manmade “social” environment is all that exists and there is a general ignorance of the restrictions and consequences of natural forces, or that humans are subject, like it or not, to the Laws of Nature. Facts and ‘yes or no’ situations don’t exist for neotenic social people. There is always a way around a problem: everything is negotiable; denial and outright lies subvert reality.
Social humans spend enormous time and energy on attempts to avoid reality; the mirage of negotiability is an essential tool used in denial. Hope, optimism, and prayer, and recently, New Age ‘psychic’ methods and bogus health schemes are sold to anxious people who can’t resist exempting themselves from being a real live human being by having a special relationship with a higher magical power (big parent.) In the United States, the firm belief that power can be obtained by imitative magic (purchasing knock offs worn by celebrities, and adopting their narcissistic behavior) has become necessary to the economy.
A mirage that universal limits and laws are negotiable seems to placate neurotypicals. Many Christians believe that they have a direct line to Mr. Negotiator-for-Jehovah, Jesus – who can now be reached by smart phone Apps.
This is the social environment; conditions are uncertain and stressful. Asperger people, not being socially indoctrinated, accept facts and find social machinations a waste of human potential, because they are. What social people denigrate as black and white thinking is rational fact-based thinking, using a science-based wealth of knowledge and common sense. The universe is infinitely more simple, beautiful and complex than social humans can imagine. Too bad that they don’t know what they are missing.
It is claimed that Asperger individuals resist change, but as usual, this is an assumption on the part of neurotypicals; an assumption that lacks nuance, sensitivity and understanding of what is actually going on “inside” an Asperger. My life has been one of extreme changes, both desired and imposed by the world of man. Both types of change can be disruptive or productive; the option that makes sense is to work at the problem and not to worry over how these things happen. Life is a tragedy from the “get go” – a circumstance that neurotypicals work diligently to deny. The challenge for every organism is survival, but for humans there is a “bonus” question: How shall one live with the knowledge of personal extinction?
To count on an afterlife is to cheat: there exists only one life that is “yours” and whatever any social person claims, it’s yours and yours alone.
The basic element here is the “illusion” that there is safety in numbers – that somehow, like anchovies or flocks of birds, sheer numbers will keep death at bay. Let “bad luck” pick off the weak, the stragglers, the old and the sick.
“That’s not me!” we tell ourselves, and our friends; our workplace group, our economic group, our educational group: the world could surely not do without us! We’re headed for a nice safe perch at the top of the pyramid. Look how attractive I am; surely, with every trendy purchase, I am building my immortality. My apartment or house, it’s furnishings – my car and my wardrobe, the entire assemblage of “who I am” guarantees exemption from that vague cosmic “creator” who chooses whom to strike down, and who will be awarded entry into the top spot on the pyramid: Paradise.
Burial rites are of interest to most humans: this may be skewed by the fact that graves are often the only source for real objects and can satisfy curiosity about “who we are and how did we get here?” Digging up bones and pondering skulls takes on a weird desperation: owning the bones equals owning the power of that “person” – sacred relics draw humans to them with social magnetism; objects that “touched” a person, or were part of their body, retain contagious magic power. This illusion can become quite gruesome and fuels mass death in religious and ideological warfare.
Auction houses all over the “civilized” social world benefit from selling off the many layers of status (an estate) that buyers want for themselves; a type of “grave robbing” that is socially acceptable – and indeed, transfers instant status, without it being earned. This is a very ancient human practice: a “poacher” of grave goods who acts on economic motive is a criminal; an institution which utilizes those objects to raise money is not. Institutions collect “status” like any other group; donors both impart and gain status by means of “generosity” – that magical act of penance that is the required social gesture for having “hogged” the resources of industry and culture.
The “shopping” culture can be viewed as a continuation of the quest for “status” acquired by having abundant grave goods; in ancient graves these objects are often necessary tools that the person would need in the afterlife. The afterlife is concrete: a definite place where life goes on just as it is, here and now.
Neuorotypicals maintain that their lives are “blessed” by magic: in the U.S. this overwhelmingly means God or Jesus; saints, spirits and all manner of lucky charms and technical gadgets. Corporate brands become secular religious cults; corporations are representatives on earth of a Cosmic Great Mind, a consciousness that behind the scenes, is creating mankind’s Future. Participation in this pyramid scheme is easy: BELIEVE in us; buy our products and join the “chosen ones” in a race to immortality. Whatever the form, it’s the same childhood terror that arises from having to please Big People, who have the power over us of life and death: Parents.
I have stopped contemplating choices for some time; as one ages, what I would consider optimum rarely matches what is possible. Letting go of desire, or “the Will” to “make things happen” is pushed aside in favor of passive thinking; quick decisions and satisfying resolutions fade away; images arise from a dimension without time, free of the idea of progress, forward motion, schedules, or even conscious deliberation. Pictures float into awareness like deep sea creatures ascending the water column to feed at the surface. Inevitably, one or more of these pictures will “feel” right, but will usually not agree with reason. It’s then up to the intellect to “decide.”
After 66 years this process has never changed; it tends to infuriate some neurotypicals because they already “know” what to do: follow the crowd. Just do what “everyone” does. The Big Guy is in control; he has a reason for everything that he does, even if no one ever knows what his reasons are, it’s “all for the best.”
What I have accepted is that whether or not I’m labeled Asperger, that label is irrelevant to how I perceive human existence.
“What happens” devolves from my choices in response to “whatever comes my way.” No supernatural baby-sitter is going to rescue “my ass” if I mess up. That’s the difference in how this Asperger responds to change. It’s simply the difference between obeying outside control and thinking about inner responses –
Skeptical Medicine website. Loaded with info and discussion for medical providers, but excellent reading for consumers.
Critical Thinking in Medicine
Traditionally, we are trained in the clinical art of medicine. The ‘art’ involves connecting with our patients, communicating effectively, being empathetic and compassionate. The art of medicine involves being thorough, yet concise. It also involves persuasion. In medical training, we become clinical thinkers. However, we receive little (if any) formal training in critical thinking. Yet, the practice of medicine requires critical decision making that can be life-saving if done properly, or dangerous if flawed. Critical thinking is a necessary part of our job and our art. In order to practice this art, we need reliable information.
** The art of medicine is informed by the science of medicine.
During the intense education process, we memorize volumes of facts and consume information. We often take it for granted that this information is correct. We’ve been taught about the scientific method and know something about the psychological biases that influence our beliefs. Most of us realize that some information is more trustworthy than others. Since we want to deliver the best health care that we can, we need to be equipped with critical thinking skills to help us sort out the good information from the bad, the science from the bunk.
** The critical thinker and modern skeptic lives in a world characterized by shades of grey. There are rarely absolutes. Scientific information is judged on a statistical spectrum of 2 basic types of error. On one end, we have Type 1 Error which is what happens when we accept ideas without good reason. In other words, we accept things that are likely to be false. This is the basic error that characterizes Pseudoscience. Then we have Type 2 Error. Type 2 errors are made when we reject things that are likely to be true. This is the common error made in Denialism and Pseudoskepticism. The skeptical doctor must be careful to avoid such errors if at all possible. We can use science as a tool to help us from drifting too far toward these types of errors. Without it, our biases will prevent us from seeing where we stand on the spectrum of error. Only then can the art of medicine be optimally informed by the science of medicine.
From Natural History Magazine:
Remembering Stephen Jay Gould
Human evolution was not a special case of anything.
For long-time readers of Natural History, Stephen Jay Gould needs no introduction. His column, “This View of Life,” was a mainstay of the magazine, starting in January 1974 with “Size and Shape” and concluding with the 300th installment, “I Have Landed,” in the December 2000/January 2001 issue. What made his columns so popular was not just Gould’s range of chosen topics, but also the way he regularly allowed himself to be carried away on any tangent that he found interesting.
Gould died on May 20, 2002. Last spring, on the tenth anniversary of his death, I was invited to join other scholars at a commemorative meeting in Venice organized by the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti in collaboration with the Università Ca’ Foscari. It fell to me, as an anthropologist, to talk about Gould’s intellectual legacy to anthropology. Gould was, of course, anything but a primate specialist. But as it happens, in 1974, the year Gould started writing “This View of Life,” he and I were both invited to attend a specialized meeting on “Phylogeny of the Primates: An Interdisciplinary Approach.” Even at that early stage in his career, I learned, the reach of his writings had broadened well beyond his realms of invertebrate paleontology (he was a fossil-snail expert) and evolutionary theory. He came to address the roles of ontogeny (development of the individual) and neoteny (the evolutionary retention of juvenile traits in adults) in human evolution. What I personally found most interesting, however, was his preprint for the conference, which contained, among much else, a virtuoso canter through the history of human evolutionary studies. He effortlessly displayed mastery of a huge literature on a scale that many professional paleoanthropologists fail to achieve in entire academic lifetimes.
Despite a paucity of strictly technical contributions, there can be no doubt that Gould’s influence on anthropology, and on paleoanthropology in particular, was truly seminal. Foremost among such influences was his 1972 collaboration with Niles Eldredge in developing and publicizing the notion of “punctuated equilibria,” the view that species typically remain little changed during most of their geological history, except for rapid events when they may split to give rise to new, distinct species. This breakthrough enabled paleoanthropologists, like other paleontologists, to treat the famous “gaps” in the fossil record as information, a reflection of how evolution actually proceeded.
Similarly, it was Gould who, in collaboration with Yale paleontologist Elisabeth S. Vrba (then at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, South Africa), emphasized that an anatomical or behavioral trait that evolved to serve one function could prove a handy adaptation for an entirely unanticipated one—and that the term exaptation was a better name for this phenomenon than preadaptation, which implied some kind of inherent tendency for a species to follow a certain evolutionary path. Anthropologists were forced to recognize exaptation as an essential theme in the history of innovation in the human family tree.
Speaking of trees, I am convinced that Gould’s most significant contribution to paleoanthropology was his insistence, from very early on, that the genealogy of human evolution took the form of a bush with many branches, rather than a ladder, or simple sequence of ancestors and descendants. As he wrote in his April 1976 column, “Ladders, Bushes, and Human Evolution”:
“I want to argue that the ‘sudden’ appearance of species in the fossil record and our failure to note subsequent evolutionary change within them is the proper prediction of evolutionary theory as we understand it. Evolution usually proceeds by “speciation”—the splitting of one lineage from a parental stock—not by the slow and steady transformation of these large parental stocks. Repeated episodes of speciation produce a bush.”
Before World War II, paleoanthropologists had overwhelmingly been human anatomists by background, with little interest in patterns of diversity in the wider living world. And having been trained largely in a theoretical vacuum, the postwar generation of paleoanthropologists was already exapted to capitulate when, at exact midcentury, the biologist Ernst Mayr told them to throw away nearly all the many names they had been using for fossil hominids. Mayr replaced this plethora, and the diversity it had suggested, with the idea that all fossil hominids known could be placed in a single sequence, from Homo transvaalensis to Homo erectus and culminating in Homo sapiens.
There was admittedly a certain elegance in this new linear formulation; but the problem was that, even in 1950, it was not actually supported by the material evidence. And new discoveries soon made not only most paleoanthropologists but even Mayr himself—grudgingly, in a footnote—concede that at least one small side branch, the so-called “robust” australopithecines, had indeed existed over the course of human evolution. But right up into the 1970s and beyond, the minimalist mindset lingered. Gould’s was among the first—and certainly the most widely influential —voices raised to make paleoanthropologists aware that there was an alternative.
In his “Ladders, Bushes, and Human Evolution” column, Gould declared that he wanted “to argue that Australopithecus, as we know it, is not the ancestor of Homo; and that, in any case, ladders do not represent the path of evolution.” At the time, both statements flatly contradicted received wisdom in paleoanthropology. And while in making the first of them I suspect that Gould was rejecting Australopithecus as ancestral to Homo as a matter of principle, his immediate rationale was based on the recent discovery, in eastern Africa, of specimens attributed to Homo habilis that were just as old as the South African australopithecines.
Later discoveries showed that Gould had been hugely prescient. To provide some perspective here: In 1950, Mayr had recognized a mere three hominid species. By 1993, I was able to publish a hominid genealogy containing twelve. And the latest iteration of that tree embraces twenty-five species, in numerous coexisting lineages. This was exactly what Gould had predicted. In his 1976 article he had written: “We [now] know about three coexisting branches of the human bush. I will be surprised if twice as many more are not discovered before the end of the century.”
Indeed, his impact on the paleoanthropological mindset went beyond even this, largely via his ceaseless insistence that human beings have not been an exception to general evolutionary rules. Before Gould’s remonstrations began, one frequently heard the term “hominization” bandied about, as if becoming human had involved some kind of special process that was unique to our kind. Gould hammered home the message that human evolutionary history was just like that of other mammals, and that we should not be looking at human evolution as a special case of anything.
Of course, Gould had ideas on particular issues in human paleontology as well, and he never shrank from using his Natural History bully pulpit to voice his opinions. Over the years he issued a succession of shrewd and often influential judgments on subjects as diverse as the importance of bipedality as the founding hominid adaptation; the newly advanced African “mitochondrial Eve”; hominid diversity and the ethical dilemmas that might be posed by discovering an Australopithecus alive today; sociobiology and evolutionary psychology (he didn’t like them); the relations between brain size and intelligence; neoteny and the retention of juvenile growth rates into later development as an explanation of the unusual human cranial form; and why human infants are so unusually helpless.
(Removed here; a narrative about the search for who had perpetrated the Piltdow Man hoax)
Gould’s devotion to the historically odd and curious, as well as his concern with the mainstream development of scientific ideas, is also well illustrated by his detailed account of the bizarre nineteenth-century story of Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman. Dubbed the “Hottentot Venus,” Baartman was a Khoisan woman from South Africa’s Western Cape region who was brought to Europe in 1810 and widely exhibited to the public before her death in 1815. Gould’s publicizing of the extraordinary events surrounding and following Baartman’s exhibition may or may not have contributed to the repatriation in 2002 of her remains from Paris to South Africa, where they now rest on a hilltop overlooking the valley in which she was born. But what is certain is that Gould’s interest in this sad case also reflected another of his long-term concerns, with what he called “scientific racism.”
Principally in the 1970s—when memories of the struggle for civil rights in the United States during the previous decade were still extremely raw—Gould devoted a long series of his columns to the subject of racism, as it presented itself in a whole host of different guises. In his very first year of writing for Natural History, he ruminated on the “race problem” both as a taxonomic issue, and in its more political expression in relation to intelligence. He even made the matter personal, with a lucid and deeply thoughtful demolition in Natural History of the purportedly scientific bases for discrimination against Jewish immigrants to America furnished by such savants as H. H. Goddard and Karl Pearson.
Gould also began his long-lasting and more specific campaign against genetic determinism, via a broadside against the conclusions of Arthur Jensen, the psychologist who had argued that education could not do much to level the allegedly different performances of various ethnic groups on IQ tests. And he began a vigorous and still somewhat controversial exploration of the historical roots of “scientific racism” in the work of nineteenth-century embryologists such as Ernst Haeckel and Louis Bolk.
But Gould’s most widely noticed contribution to the race issue began in 1978, with his attack in Science on the conclusions of the early-nineteenth century physician and craniologist Samuel George Morton, whom he characterized rather snarkily as a “self-styled objective empiricist.” In three voluminous works published in Philadelphia between 1839 and 1849—on Native American and ancient Egyptian skulls, and on his own collection of more than 600 skulls of all races—the widely admired Morton had presented the results of the most extensive study ever undertaken of human skulls. The main thrust of (Morton’s) study had been to investigate the then intensely debated question of whether the various races of humankind had a single origin or had been separately created. Morton opted for polygeny, or multiple origins, a conclusion hardly guaranteed to endear him to Gould. Along the way, Morton presented measurements that showed, in keeping with prevailing European and Euro-American beliefs on racial superiority, that Caucasians had larger brains than American “Indians,” who in turn had bigger brains than “Negroes” did. (Cranial-brain size DOES NOT correlate to intelligence)
After closely examining Morton’s data, Gould characterized the Philadelphia savant’s conclusions as “a patchwork of assumption and finagling, controlled, probably unconsciously, by his conventional a priori ranking (his folks on top, slaves on the bottom).” He excoriated Morton for a catalog of sins that included inconsistencies of criteria, omissions of both procedural and convenient kinds, slips and errors, and miscalculations. And although in the end he found “no indication of fraud or conscious manipulation,” he did see “Morton’s saga” as an “egregious example of a common problem in scientific work.” As scientists we are all, Gould asserted, unconscious victims of our preconceptions, and the “only palliations I know are vigilance and scrutiny.”
That blanket condemnation of past and current scientific practice was a theme Gould shortly returned to, with a vengeance, in his 1981 volume The Mismeasure of Man. Probably no book Gould ever wrote commanded wider attention than did this energetic critique of the statistical methods that had been used to substantiate one of his great bêtes noires, biological determinism. This was (is) the belief, as Gould put it, that “the social and economic differences between human groups—primarily races, classes, and sexes—arise from inherited, inborn distinctions and that society, in this sense, is an accurate reflection of biology.”
We are still plagued by this pseudo-scientific “justification” of poverty and inequality; of misogyny and abuse of “lesser humans” by the Human Behavior Industries. Remember, this is very recent history, and the forces of social “control and abuse” are very much still with us.
It is alarming that the revolution in DNA / genetic research has shifted the “means” of this abuse of human beings into a radical effort to “prove” that socially-created and defined “human behavior pathologies” are due to genetic determinism. The race is on to “prove” that genetic defects, rather than hidden social engineering goals, underlie “defective behavior and thinking” as dictated by closet eugenicists. Racism and eugenics are being pursued in the guise of “caring, treating and fixing” socially “defective” peoples. Genetic engineering of embryos is already in progress.
SEE POST August 11, 2017: First Human Embryos ‘Edited’ in U.S. / 7 billion humans not consulted
In Mismeasure, Gould restated his case against Morton at length, adding to the mix a robust rebuttal of methods of psychological testing that aimed at quantifying “intelligence” as a unitary attribute. One of his prime targets was inevitably Arthur Jensen, the psychologist he had already excoriated in the pages of Natural History for Jensen’s famous conclusion that the Head Start program, designed to improve low-income children’s school performance by providing them with pre-school educational, social, and nutritional enrichment, was doomed to fail because the hereditary component of their performance—notably that of African American children—was hugely dominant over the environmental one. A predictable furor followed the publication of Mismeasure, paving the way for continuing controversy during the 1980s and 1990s on the question of the roles of nature versus nurture in the determination of intelligence.
This issue of nature versus nurture, a choice between polar opposites, was of course designed for polemic, and attempts to find a more nuanced middle ground have usually been drowned out by the extremes. So it was in Gould’s case. An unrepentant political liberal, he was firmly on the side of nurture. As a result of his uncompromising characterizations of his opponents’ viewpoints, Gould found himself frequently accused by Jensen and others of misrepresenting their positions and of erecting straw men to attack.
Yet even after Mismeasure first appeared, the climax of the debate was yet to come. In 1994, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray published their notorious volume, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. At positively Gouldian length, Herrnstein and Murray gave a new boost to the argument that intelligence is largely inherited, proclaiming that innate intelligence was a better predictor of such things as income, job performance, chances of unwanted pregnancy, and involvement in crime than are factors such as education level or parental socioeconomic status. They also asserted that, in America, a highly intelligent, “cognitive elite” was becoming separated from the less intelligent underperforming classes, and in consequence they recommended policies such as the elimination of what they saw as welfare incentives for poor women to have children.
Eugenics has never died in American Science; it remains an underestimated force in the shaping of “what do about unacceptable humans”. It is neither a liberal nor conservative impulse: it is a drive within elites to control human destiny.
To Gould such claims were like the proverbial red rag to a bull. He rapidly published a long review essay in The New Yorker attacking the four assertions on which he claimed Herrnstein and Murray’s argument depended. In order to be true, Gould said, Herrnstein and Murray’s claims required that that what they were measuring as intelligence must be: (1) representable as a single number; (2) must allow linear rank ordering of people; (3) be primarily heritable; and (4) be essentially immutable. None of those assumptions, he declared, was tenable. And soon afterward he returned to the attack with a revised and expanded edition of Mismeasure that took direct aim at Herrnstein and Murray’s long book.
There can be little doubt that, as articulated in both editions of Mismeasure, Gould’s conclusions found wide acceptance not only among anthropologists but in the broader social arena as well. But doubts have lingered about Gould’s broad-brush approach to the issues involved, and particularly about a penchant he had to neglect any nuance there might have been in his opponents’ positions. Indeed, he was capable of committing in his own writings exactly the kinds of error of which he had accused Samuel Morton—ironically, even in the very case of Morton himself.
In June 2011, a group of physical anthropologists led by Jason Lewis published a critical analysis of Gould’s attacks on Morton’s craniology. By remeasuring the cranial capacities of about half of Morton’s extensive sample of human skulls, Lewis and colleagues discovered that the data reported by Morton had on the whole been pretty accurate. They could find no basis in the actual specimens themselves for Gould’s suggestion that Morton had (albeit unconsciously) overmeasured European crania, and under-measured African or Native American ones. What’s more, they could find no evidence that, as alleged by Gould, Morton had selectively skewed the results in various other ways.
The anthropologists did concede that Morton had attributed certain psychological characteristics to particular racial groups. But they pointed out that, while Morton was inevitably a creature of his own times, he (Morton) had done nothing to disguise his racial prejudices or his polygenist sympathies. And they concluded that, certainly by prevailing standards, Morton’s presentation of his basic data had been pretty unbiased. (WOW! What an indictment of current Anthropology) What is more, while they were able to substantiate Gould’s claim that Morton’s final summary table of his results contained a long list of errors, Lewis and colleagues also found that correcting those errors would actually have served to reinforce Morton’s own declared biases. And they even discovered that Gould had reported erroneous figures of his own.
These multiple “errors” DO NOT cancel each other out: this is a favorite social typical strategy and magical belief – Present the contradictions from “each side” and reach a “socially acceptable” deadlock. No discussion is possible past this point. The American intellectual-cultural-political environment is trapped in this devastating “black and white, either or, false concept of “problem-solving”. Nothing can be examined; facts are removed to the “supernatural, word-concept domain” and become “politicized” – weapons of distortion in a socio-cultural landscape of perpetual warfare. In the meantime, the population is pushed to either extreme. This is where we are TODAY and this “warfare” will destroy us from within, because the hard work of running a nation is not being done.
It is hard to refute the authors’ conclusion that Gould’s own unconscious preconceptions colored his judgment. Morton, naturally enough, carried all of the cultural baggage of his time, ethnicity, and class. But so, it seems, did Gould. And in a paradoxical way, Gould had proved his own point. Scientists are human beings, and when analyzing evidence they always have to be on guard against the effects of their own personal predilections.
And of the domination and control of their professions by the “elite and powerful” who promote a racist-eugenic social order and control how their work is “messaged” and used to achieve socioeconomic and biological engineering goals – worldwide.
Published on The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Arizona State University(https://embryo.asu.edu)
Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), by Stephen Jay Gould 
By: Barnes, M. Elizabeth Keywords: Developmental biology  Neoteny  Epigenesis recapitulation  Preformationism  Cope’s Law of Acceleration  Heterochrony  biogeneticlaw  Evo-Devo 
Ontogeny and Phylogeny  is a book published in 1977, in which the author Stephen J. Gould, who worked in the US, tells a history of the theory of recapitulation. A theory of recapitulation aims to explain the relationship between the embryonic development of an organism (ontogeny(ontogeny ) and the evolution  of that organism’s species (phylogeny ). Although there are several variations of recapitulationist theories, most claim that during embryonic development an organism repeats the adult stages of organisms from those species in it’s evolutionary history. Gould suggests that, although fewer biologists invoked recapitulation theories in the twentieth century compared to those in the nineteenth andeighteenth centuries, some aspects of the theory of recapitulation remained important forunderstanding evolution . Gould notes that the concepts of acceleration  and retardation  during development entail that changes in developmental timing (heterochrony) can result in a trait appearing either earlier or later than normal in developmental processes. Gould argues that these changes in the timing of embryonic development provide the raw materials or novelties upon which natural selection  acts.
Gould wrote Ontogeny and Phylogeny  while working at Harvard University  in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a professor of zoology. He had studied the relationship between ontogeny  and phylogeny  early in primary school in the New York City public schools. One of his colleagues at the American Museum of Natural History, Ernst Mayr, in the late 1970s encouraged him to write a book on the subject.
Gould noted that Ernst Haeckel  in Germany proposed an 1866 recapitulation theory  that he termed the biogenetic law , and that biologists appealed to the law into the early decades of the twentieth century, after which time experimental evidence disconfirmed the law. Gould argues that the dismissal of Haeckel’s biogenetic law  led to a more general dismissal of the theory of recapitulation. Therefore, the bad reputation attached to the theory of recapitulation impacted the way scholars eventually theorized about developmental processes as part of the mechanism of evolution .
Ontogeny and Phylogeny  is divided into two parts. The first part is entitled “Recapitulation” and reconstructs the history of the theory of recapitulation from Greek roots to Ernst Haeckel ’s biogenetic law  and to its demise in the first half of the twentieth century. The second part is entitled “Heterochrony and Paedomorphosis.” In this section, Gould proposes his own theories about the relationship between ontogeny  and phylogeny  and the way developmental processes help to explain evolution .
Part one of Ontogeny and Phylogeny  begins with chapter two, “The Analogistic Tradition from Anaximander to Bonnet“. In this chapter, Gould describes pre-recapitulation theories as various ways of paralleling ontogeny  with the hierarchies of life. For example, some categorized the hierarchy of things as progressing from mere matter, to unconscious life, to the conscious animal, to the rational human. The ontogeny  of a human repeats this hierarchy. Starting from the bottom of the hierarchy, the human begins as unformed, unconscious matter and then progresses to form complex living matter. Later in development, the human fetus  resembles an animal and then finally progresses to be a rational human. (HAH!)
For instance, Aristotle  in ancient Greece described the sequence of development in a human embryo as analogous to a sequence of progressively higher souls unfolding inside the organism as it develops, starting with the vegetative or nutritive soul, then progressing to the animal or sensitive soul, and then finally to the human or rational soul.
Next, in the same section, Gould focuses on recapitulation theories of the sixteenth century and describes how embryologists attempted to explain ontogeny  through theories either of preformationism or of epigenesis . Preformationists stated that structures of adults were preformed in the sex cell, and merely unfolded from prebuilt complexity. In contrast, epigenesists hypothesized that organisms began formless and subsequently increased in complexity and form during development. Gould states that historians had characterized preformaitonism in an attempt to retell the history of embryology  as a good guy (epigenesicists) and bad guy (preformationists) narrative in which epigenesists triumphed. However, Gould says that preformationist theories were much more rational and respectable then historians portrayed them.
In Chapter three, entitled “Transcendental Origins, 1793 ? 1860,” Gould describes the triumph of epigenesis  over preformationism and the subsequent rise of the theory of recapitulation in the movement called Naturphilosophie  (philosophy of nature) in Germany during the early nineteenth century. Embryologists claimed that physical laws could explain all natural phenomena, and that motion was the only irreducible property. From these premises, recapitulation became a central theory because it relied on purely natural explanations. Gould describes in detail two contemporary leading theories of recapitulation by Lorenz Oken  and Johann F. Meckel, both located in Germany. Meckel stated in the title of his 1811 essay “Entwurf einer Darstellung der zwischen dem Embryozustande der h ö heren Tiere und dem permanenten der niederen stattfindenen Parallele” (Sketch of the Portrayal of the Parallels that Exist Between the Embryonic Stages of Higher Animals and the Adults of Lower Animals) that early embryonic stages of so-called higher animals somehow related to the adult stages of lower animals. Oken, in his 1843 Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie  (Textbook of Natural Philosophy), classified animals based on the linear addition of organs as they developed in the animals.
Gould next discusses Karl E. von Baer, who worked on embryos in Dorpat, later Tartu, Estonia. Gould shows that von Baer argued against the theory of recapitulation. Von Baer stated that many of the features present in embryonic stages are not apparent in the adult, and therefore one could not claim any correspondence between embryos belonging to different species. Von Baer’s 1828 laws of embryology  claim that embryos of one species can only resemble the embryonic form of ancestors, but never their ancestors’ adult forms. Von Baer argues that organisms from different species develop from a common general form and then diverge from one another in a branching manner as development proceeds.
Chapter four, “Evolutionary Triumph, 1859?1900”, discusses the period in which Charles Darwin  introduced the theory of evolution . Before this theory, biologists struggled to explain the patterns described in Meckel’s recapitulation theory . The claim that life evolved from a common ancestor enabled biologists to view embryonic stages of animals as the actual product of those animals’ ancestries. Scientists developed at least two interpretations of the relationship between ontogeny  and phylogeny . First, some biologists interpreted evolution  with von Baer’s laws  of embryology . This interpretation described development as progressing from the general characters of a large group to the specialized characteristics of that organism’s species. The second interpretation described embryonic stages as the adult forms of our ancestors. Gould notes that Darwin’s embryological arguments for evolution  in Origin of Species relied on von Baer’s laws.
Gould then describes how the second interpretation presupposed two claims. First, evolutionary changes must occur through the addition of traits to the end of ontogeny , a claim called the principle of terminal addition. Second, there must be a mechanism that shortens ontogeny  across generations, otherwise development would be much longer than what we observe today, a claim called the principle of condensation. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, many theories attempted to explain how terminal addition and condensation occurred.
In the last part of chapter four, Gould discusses Ernst Haeckel ’s theory of recapitulation, which had an evolutionary perspective. Evolutionary recapitulation differed from other forms of recapitulation as it integrates the theory of common ancestry for all organisms. Haeckel aimed to reconstruct phylogenetic lineages of organisms and used the parallels between ontogeny  and phylogeny  as evidence for his hypothesized lineages. Haeckel’s biogenetic law  claimed that phylogeny , which is the evolution  and diversification of a species, physically caused the embryonic stages in animals’ development. Moreover, Haeckel addressed the principles of terminal addition and condensation as the mechanics of recapitulation. Gould emphasizes how other biologists such as Edward D. Cope and Alpheus Hyatt, both in the US, independently proposed the biogenetic law . All of them proposed similar principles and laws of acceleration  and retardation . Gould ends chapter four describing how by the late nineteenth century, von Baer’s laws  of embryology  fared poorly amongst scientists, whereas Haeckel’s biogenetic law  gained popularity.
Chapter five, “Pervasive Influence,” provides excerpts from doctors, poets, writers, physicists, and educators who wrote about recapitulation. Gould speculates that recapitulation was not just influential to evolutionary and developmental biologists, but also to much of society.
In “Decline, Fall, and Generalization,” Gould describes the decline of the biogenetic law  in the first half of the twentieth century, and he identifies several factors influencing the decline. First, he notes that the empirical critiques addressing acceleration  and retardation  made the biogenetic law  untenable. Then, Gould says that in the 1920s Walter Garstang , in UK, emphasized a contradiction in the biogenetic law : that late stages of development sometimes retain the juvenile characters of the ancestors. Garstang called this phenomena paedomorphisis, and he described its occurrence in the salamanders from Mexico. Garstang argued that, as the biogenetic law required that adult stages of ancestors appear in the juvenile stages of development, it was disconfirmed by evidence of juvenile features of ancestors expressed in the adult forms of organisms. Additionally, Gould notes the difficulties that arose for the biogenetic law once Gregor Mendel’s 1865 theory of genetics and experimental embryology  became popular. According to Gould, once new causal explanations accounted for variations in the features of organisms within the same species, the biogenetic law  became irrelevant.
Section two of Ontogeny and Phylogeny  has four chapters. The first two chapters in this section, chapters seven and eight in the book, are entitled “Heterochrony and the Parallel of Ontogeny and Phylogeny” and “The Ecological and Evolutionary Significance of Heterochrony”. In these chapters, Gould emphasizes the mechanics of developmental timing rather than the results of those processes. He argues that, once Haeckel’s biogenetic law  declined in popularity, it prompted the design of many complex theories about the connections between ontogeny  and phylogeny , theories that focused on the results of changes in developmental timing, recapitulation and paedomorphosis , but did not focus on its mechanisms, acceleration  and retardation .
Gould argues that scientists should study the processes of developmental timing. He identifies two processes causing recapitulation and paedomorphosis : acceleration  and retardation  of development. Furthermore, the ubiquitous presence of these processes in development shows that heterochrony constitutes the mechanics of evolution , as it can result in different evolutionary phenomena such as the number of offspring an organism has or the age at which an organism reproduces.
In “Progenesis and Neoteny” and “Human Evolution,” Gould explains progenesis and neoteny. Progenesis occurs when the sexual maturation of an organism still in a juvenile stage accelerates. For example, some salamanders are able to reproduce during their larval life. Gould argues that neoteny and progenesis are adaptations to different ecological environments. Progenesis enables species to reproduce quickly and in large numbers. Neoteny, on the other hand, causes species to reproduce slowly and in small numbers. Progenesis can result in the evolution  of new taxa, because it can relax the developmental constraints that later arise in the development of organisms. Gould points to neoteny as an important process in the development of complex social and cerebral behavior in the higher vertebrates. He says that the ability for an organism to delay its growth can lead to features that would support complex social and cerebral behaviors. For instance, rapid growth of the brain later in the development of humans  could support complex cerebral functions. Gould claims that neoteny is the most important factor of human evolution .
In the decades that followed its publication, Ontogeny and Phylogeny became widely cited within the evolutionary and developmental sciences. It helped revive research on acceleration  and retardation  and sparked research about paedomorphosis  as a possible factor affecting the evolution  of the human lineage. Moreover, Ontogeny and Phylogeny , along with other work by Gould, such as “The Spandrels of san Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm” is often credited for influencing the rise of a biological approach calledevolutionary developmental biology  or evo-devo, which worked to integrate evolutionary and developmental biology.
Yes, this is about dinosaurs, but the principle applies to the “every anthropologist who finds a fossil gets to name a new species” problem in Homo evolution, based on “skull” shape and dimensions rather than on “reproduction” as the evolutionary sign of speciation. Here, it’s developmental changes that have to be sorted out. Two articles:
New analyses of dinosaur growth may wipe out one-third of species
October 30, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) — Paleontologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and the Museum of the Rockies have wiped out two species of dome-headed dinosaur, one of them named three years ago – with great fanfare – after Hogwarts, the school attended by Harry Potter.
Their demise comes after a three-horned dinosaur, Torosaurus, was assigned to the dustbin of history last month at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in the United Kingdom, the loss in recent years of quite a few duck-billed hadrosaurs and the probable disappearance of Nanotyrannus, a supposedly miniature Tyrannosaurus rex.
These dinosaurs were not separate species, as some paleontologists claim, but different growth stages of previously named dinosaurs, according to a new study.
The confusion is traced to their bizarre head ornaments, ranging from shields and domes to horns and spikes, which changed dramatically with age and sexual maturity, making the heads of youngsters look very different from those of adults.
“Juveniles and adults of these dinosaurs look very, very different from adults, and literally may resemble a different species,” said dinosaur expert Mark B. Goodwin, assistant director of UC Berkeley’s Museum of Paleontology. “But some scientists are confusing morphological differences at different growth stages with characteristics that are taxonomically important. The result is an inflated number of dinosaurs in the late Cretaceous.”
Goodwin and John “Jack” Horner of the Museum of the Rockies at Montana State University in Bozeman, are the authors of a new paper analyzing North American dome-headed dinosaurs that appeared this week in the public access online journal PLoS One.
Unlike the original dinosaur die-off at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago, this loss of species is the result of a sustained effort by paleontologists to collect a full range of dinosaur fossils – not just the big ones. Their work has provided dinosaur specimens of various ages, allowing computed tomography (CT) scans and tissue study of the growth stages of dinosaurs.
In fact, Horner suggests that one-third of all named dinosaur species may never have existed, but are merely different stages in the growth of other known dinosaurs.
“What we are seeing in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana suggests that we may be overextended by a third,” Horner said, a “wild guess” that may hold true for the various horned dinosaurs recently discovered in Asia from the Cretaceous. “A lot of the dinosaurs that have been named recently fall into that category.”
The new paper, published online Oct. 27, contains a thorough analysis of three of the four named dome-headed dinosaurs from North America, including Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis, the first “thick-headed” dinosaur discovered. After that dinosaur’s description in 1943, many speculated that male pachycephalosaurs used their bowling ball-like domes to head-butt one another like big-horn sheep, though Goodwin and Horner disproved that notion in 2004 after a thorough study of the tissue structure of the dome.
Many paleontologists now realize that the elaborate head ornaments of dinosaurs, from the huge bony shield and three horns of Triceratops to the coxcomb-like head gear of some hadrosaurs, were not for combat, but served the same purpose as feathers in birds: to distinguish between species and indicate sexual maturity.
“Dinosaurs, like birds and many mammals, retain neoteny, that is, they retain their juvenile characteristics for a long period of growth,” Horner said, “which is a strong indicator that they were very social animals, grouping in flocks or herds with long periods of parental care.”
These head ornaments, which probably had horny coverings of keratin that may have been brightly-colored as they are in many birds, started growing when these dinosaurs reached about half their adult size, and were remodeled as these dinosaurs matured, continuing to change shape even into adulthood and old age, according to the researchers.
In the new paper, Horner and Goodwin compared the bone structures of Pachycephalosaurus with that of a domeheaded dinosaur, Stygimoloch spinifer, discovered in Montana by UC Berkeley paleontologists in 1973, and a dragon-like skull discovered in South Dakota and named in 2006 as a new species, Dracorex hogwartsia.
With the help of CT scans and microscopic analysis of slices through the bones of Pachycephalosaurus and Stygimoloch, the team concluded that Stygimoloch, with its high, narrow dome, growing tissue and unfused skull bones, was probably a pachycephalosaur subadult, in a stage just before sexual maturity.
Dracorex is one of a kind, and thus unavailable for dissection, but morphological analysis indicates it is a juvenile that hasn’t yet formed a dome, although the top of its skull shows thickening suggestive of an emerging dome.
“Dracorex’s flat skull, nodules on the front end and small spikes on back, and thickened but undomed frontoparietal bone all confirm that, ontogenetically, it is a juvenile Pachycephalosaurus,” Goodwin said.
Comparison of these skulls to other fossils in the hands of private collectors confirm the conclusions, they said. In all, they looked at 21 dome-headed dinosaur skulls and cranial elements from North America.
The key to this analysis, Horner said, was years of field work in Montana by his team and Goodwin’s in search of fossils of all sizes.
“We have gone out in the Hell Creek Formation for 11 years doing nothing but collecting absolutely everything we could find, which is the kind of collecting that is required,” he said. “If you think about Triceratops, people had collected for 100 years and still hadn’t found any juveniles. And we went out and spent 11 years collecting everything, and we found all kinds of them.”
“Early paleontologists recognized the distinction between adults and juveniles, but people have lost track of looking at ontogeny – how the individual develops – when they discover a new fossil,” Goodwin said. “Dinosaurs are not mammals, and they don’t grow like mammals.”
In fact, the so-called metaplastic bone on the heads of horned dinosaurs grows and dissolves, or resorbs, throughout life like no other bone, Horner said, and is reminiscent of the growth and loss of horns today in elk and deer. In earlier studies, Horner and Goodwin found dramatic remodeling of metaplastic bone in Triceratops, which led to their subsequent focus on dome-headed dinosaurs.
“Metaplastic bones get long and shorten, as in Triceratops, where the horn orientation is backwards in juveniles and forward in adults,” Horner said. Even in older specimens, such as the fossil previously named Torosaurus, bone in the face shield resorbs to create holes along the margin. John Scannella, Horner’s student at Montana State, presented a paper reclassifying Torosaurus as an old Triceratops at the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Bristol, U.K., on Sept. 25.
“In order for that huge amount of bone to move, there has to be a lot of deposition and resorption,” Horner said.
Horner and Goodwin continue to search for dinosaur fossils in the Hell Creek Formation, which is rich in Triceratops, dome-headed dinosaurs, hadrosaurs and tyrannosaurs. Analysis of growth stages in these taxa will have implications for other horned dinosaurs that are being uncovered in Asia and elsewhere.
“There are other horned dinosaurs I think may be over split,” that is, split into too many new species rather than being lumped together as one species, Goodwin said.
TOP: Immature Skull BOTTOM: Mature Adult Skull
UPDATE 2016 \/: Go to article for details and illustrations:
SAURIAN BLOG http://saurian.maxmediacorp.com/?p=893/
No more Demons and Dragon Kings? Pachycephalosaurus ontogeny
- December 5, 2016
- By Nick Turinetti
CLIP: On top of all that, some dinosaurs also appear to develop unique structures like horns, domes and crests at various points during their development, and many are quite dramatic, appearing very quickly during ontogeny. No wonder then that it was not uncommon for scientists to name several species of dinosaur found at the same time and same place differentiated largely by size and display structures. And possibly the best example of this situation was Pachycephalosaurus, Stygimoloch (“Styx demon”) and Dracorex (“dragon king”); found at the same time, in the same place, more closely related to each other than to other pachycephalosaurs, and differing only in size and cranial features. And then Dr. Jack Horner changed everything.
One of the most influential discoveries that has radically changed our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is the realization that dinosaurs often went through dramatic physical changes as they aged. It has been well known for some time that unlike modern birds, non-avian dinosaurs took several years to reach adult size and began breeding before reaching skeletal maturity, but shared with them very rapid growth rates, resulting in animals that ‘lived fast and died young’. Thanks to this growth habit, most dinosaurs that we have a significant sample size for show a particular pattern when it comes to their fossil record: hatchling and juveniles tend to be rare due to very high mortality rates (many were eaten and digested, resulting in no preservation), rapid growth rates to larger size and preservation bias that favors fossilization of large bodied, large boned animals. By comparison, there tends to be a large number of individuals that are one-half to two-thirds maximum adult size that represent animals that have reached sexual (but not skeletal) maturity, and a small number of individuals that have reached maximum adult size and skeletal maturity.
(PhysOrg.com) — Intensive fishery activities in the North Sea have resulted in evolutionary changes in fish. Fish remain smaller, grow slower and mature sexually earlier. This is postulated by Fabian Mollet, fishery researcher at Imares, The Netherlands, who will graduate on 7 May with these findings.
That is; neoteny is an evolutionary response to a drastic “removal” of mature individuals from a population.
Could this “crash” have happened at various times and places in Homo history, through predation, natural disaster, manmade disaster (warfare or over-hunting of game animals), climate change or disease? Could one or more reductions in mature breeding stock have led to increased dependence on agriculture, accompanied by sexual selection for “neotenic” (tame – domesticated) traits in humans, who lived in “new urban” centers?
Does this inspire any “new” speculations on the Neanderthal question?
Mollet simulated fishery activities and their effects on the Dutch sole and plaice populations with complex models which he has developed. He studied how fishery affects the growth and the age at which the animals are sexually active. ‘Fish mortality caused by efficient fishery is very high’, Mollet says. ‘A fish needs a lot of luck to survive the first five years of its life; this chance is only about eight percent.’
Due to strict fishing regulations based on size, it is a disadvantage for a fish to be big; big fish are being caught quickly. It is better to stay small and be able to procreate at a younger age. ‘Intensive fishing has resulted in smaller fish which are sexually mature earlier,’ says Mollet:
For smaller fish to be able to produce enough eggs, the animals also devote a lot of energy to their offspring, which causes them to grow slower themselves. These genetic changes take place very fast, and can be completed within a few decades. This statement is unclear – I think the writer means that in order to produce enough eggs (big fish produce more eggs) and to increase the survival rate of those eggs, smaller fish must grow slowly and devote more “care” to the eggs.
According to Mollet, the current fishery policy – which stipulates that fish be selected based on size – nurtures the evolution of less marketable smaller fish. As a result, this reduces the maximum size of the permitted catch so that the fish populations would not be endangered through overfishing. It is a lose-lose situation. However, there is hope for the declining fish populations. According to Mollet, fishery-induced evolution can be halted. ‘It is even possible at this moment to turn this fishery-induced evolution around’, the PhD student thinks. ‘Fishermen would then have to spare the big fish and go after medium-sized fish more . This letting go of big fish could cause the catch to be smaller in the short run, but if this is not done, future gains would become less anyway because of negative evolutionary effects.’
Provided by: Wageningen University
Related; from The Locavore Hunter (local hunting for food)
Neoteny as an Untapped Cache of Ancient Species? (I haven’t checked out the bird or locust claims)
It is accepted by most biologists that the various flightless species of birds became flightless through the process of neoteny. The Wikipedia describes neoteny as “a process by which the adults of a species retain traits previously seen only in juveniles. …in neoteny, the physiological (or somatic) development of an animal or organism is slowed or delayed. Ultimately this process results in the retention, in the adults of a specied of juvenile physical characteristics well into maturity.”
Observe how many flightless birds look more or less like larger versions of the chicks of more developed, flight-capable species. ‘Reverse evolution’ would be an easy, yet not quite accurate description of the process. It is a situation in which it appears that pre-existing genes are being used in different ways or not used at all, rather than a situation in which totally unique genes are evolving.
Something similar is generally accepted to be at work among locusts, which are simply grasshoppers turned into super grasshoppers. One of these grasshoppers will usually live it’s whole life as a normal grasshopper, but under certain overcrowded conditions they undergo a radical morphological transformation over a period of weeks into locusts. What we’re observing in this case is the rather dramatic revelation of neoteny and/or progenesis at work. The grasshopper is actually the freak and the locust truly the norm. The grasshopper actually represents what to it’s ancestors was a juvenile phase of life. The locust is the ‘real’ adult form, which but for the occasional environmental trigger would never be seen anymore.
If it weren’t for this naturally-occurring environmental trigger we would never know about the locust phase. Perhaps we would have some fossils of adult locusts from millions of years ago but we would never know that this was essentially the same species as the modern grasshopper.
I have to wonder what other interesting lost species are out there just waiting to re-manifest someday among their modern descendants. It seems to me to be a subject worthy of serious scientific inquiry. Could we take the young of a flightless bird such as the kiwi and by artificial means trigger the ‘normal’ transition into the morphological phase of full adulthood? By doing so we could obtain real, living examples of species that disappeared from the earth hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago.
There must be many species like this out there just waiting to be brought back for study. It would be worthwhile to look around among members of the animal and insect world for creatures that have a decidedly juvenile aspect to their ‘mature’ specimens as compared to others in their genus.
Here’s a simple diagram that is inoffensive, and perhaps a good place to start when discussing how an Asperger human thinks about control.
“Outside of my control” causes distress in all humans; just think of the ways that people try to control what is outside of their control. This task falls into two arenas: other humans and Nature. That is, EVERYTHING, including the Laws of Nature. The inability to let go of the illusion that we are able to control that which one cannot control, might simply be identified as The Human Condition.
This is where “The Gods” come in handy: consolidate one’s fears, anxieties and obligations into one or more all-powerful beings who do control the “out of control” domain; let them take care of it all; please them and maybe they will postpone the inevitable disaster or send “the plagues and ruin” somewhere else.
But then, other humans become the focus of control; The Social Pyramid consumes all of reality.
In this, humans are peculiar: animal behavior is more Zen-like. Reactive, instinctive, opportunistic, habitual. “Stream of being” one might call it. Simple algorithms tested and proven by evolution. For humans this understanding of “flow” is incredibly difficult to achieve. Myriad spiritual practices attempt to teach people to learn some measure of letting go. Results? Pretty sketchy.
Let’s jump to “What you can control”. My cognition-heavy Asperger brain sees this as simple: Not Much – not that I’m a whiz at accepting this “low-ball” estimate. In everyday life it’s not practical; one must believe at times that one is in control or we’d never get out of bed in the morning. Asperger types are an extreme minority; a neurocomplex creature in an alien world. We must function in an alternative mind-space composed by and for social typical humans over which we have no control. This shifts the entire social complex into the “Outside my control” category, a situation that is terrifying, exhausting, and the generator of anxiety, depression and meltdowns. Unlike social typicals we have no consolidation of faith in “big imaginary person(s)” who look out for us in a treacherous social scheme; there are no Asperger gods. Aspergers may compensate by trying to “over” control the immediate environment; a place to make a stand against the onslaught of standards of behavior that simply make no sense to us, and which contradict in principle a natural guide to human happiness that is part of our “being” – the proper expression of the human animal within the context of Nature; if we claim to be reasonable creatures, then we ought to apply reason to our choices and decisions.
What I have learned is that what one does about one’s reactions to the environment (mind) can be moderated; emotions are not meant to be mistaken for identity or reality. Emotions are slivers of information that come and go: to define “who we are” by these ephemeral signals is a loss of control.
“What we can influence” is a tricky matter. Influence is an odd proposition fraught with unintended consequences – and we waste so much time and energy in a struggle to negotiate with the social world around us, a world that goes its way regardless of our perceptions.
Try to be authentic: then you can be satisfied that whatever influence you may have will come from honest intent.
Can as Asperger “mess up” by “over-thinking”? YES, but it’s not thinking per se; it’s overreliance on “verbal” thinking and not using “intuitive” thinking as the “end game”. Conscious analysis can lead to the “cliff” but novel patterns may require “jumping off” the cliff – intuition can be so powerful; learn to rely on this asset.
This is what most Asperger type children and adults hear (ad nauseum) from neurotypicals:
This is absurd: Problems aren’t created by thinking; problems are created by “not thinking”. This is another manifestation of the “magic word syndrome” If you say it, it will come true. Conversely, if you deny it, it doesn’t exist. A related bit of nonsense is that if you write down a “neurotypical solution” such as: We need to address racism, climate change and poverty, these “problems” will magically disappear. Abracadabra! NO THINKING OR FURTHER ACTION IS NECESSARY!
Neurotypical thinking is governed by social rules that are actually taught in schools to American children.
#1. Just don’t do it! We’ve thought about everything already; just do what we tell you to do. “Shut up; sit down; and repeat after me…”
#2. Avoid thinking at all cost; it’s hard and makes life too complicated. Life is simple. “What would Jesus, (or any authority figure) WANT ME to do?”
#3. People who “think” exist on some other plane of reality: they are abnormal, weird, strange, unpopular (unless they make a lot of money) and “geeky” – you can admire their accomplishments, but not their actual weird and possibly dangerous brains.
#4. Shut up, sit down and do as you are told: Obedience is better than thinking. Thinking is hard; it gives you a headache and makes you unhappy.
#5. You stupid idiot! Why don’t you think before doing something so dumb? Gotcha!