Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 1 of 20)

0001 Let me start with an admission.  In this particular examination, I am not myself.  I am someone who I am not.  I own a dog named, “Daisy”.

The book before me is by Daniel C. Dennett and is titled, “From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds”.  The book is published by W.W. Norton (New York, London).  The book wrestles with issues both philosophical and scientific.  How does our world come to be?  How do we come to be?

Who are we?  We are people with minds.  Minds intelligently design artifacts using tools of production and tools of the intellect.  The first tools are handy.  The second are… well… not exactly the same as “handy”.

0002 The hand grasps a tool then uses it to manipulate things.  The word, “prehensile” applies.  Our hands are full of prehensions.  We are aware of the heft and feel of material instruments.

The mind grasps an intellectual tool with its… um… brain.  Is there such a word as “comprehensile”?  How about the term, “comprehension”?  Once we become competent using an intellectual tool, we comprehend.  We become familiar with its heft and feel.

0003 The hand is unlike the appendages of other mammals.

For example, cats and dogs only have feet.  The cat uses its front feet as “paws”, in a manner similar to the way humans use their hands.  Not really, because the cat’s paws cannot hold anything.  The cat cannot pick up a tool.  May I say that the cat’s front paws are part of the feline toolkit?  Evolution builds tools right into the cat’s body.  Most mammals are fashioned this way.  Tools are part of their bodies.

0004 The mind serves as a metaphorical appendage, because it grasps ‘something’, and in doing so, may manipulate it.  The dog, whose practical toolkit includes feet and a formidable mouth, has an advantage over the cat, in this respect.  The dog’s mind grasps ‘something’ and, in doing so, manipulates humans into serving as the leader of its pack.

To me, the dog is testimony to the inhospitality of wolf “culture”, in general, and the inadequacy of wolf “leadership”, in particular.  Wolf pack-leaders often behave like aristocrats, always expecting deferential treatment.  They are often filled with paranoia and treachery.  Yet, their followers know that they need a leader.  Otherwise, there is no pack.  Without the pack, there is only death.

0005 Surely, a reasonable human would serve as a more hospitable leader, especially since humans know how to get food in surprising ways.  Humans give dogs food.  Until, of course, starvation fills the land.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 2 of 20)

0006 Unlike the cat, the dog has a tool of the intellect, whose application is so relevant that it fashions the ways that the species adapts into its niche.  This raises the question, “What is a niche?”

0007 First, an aside.  The interscope for the Darwinian paradigm is developed in Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome and is represented in other e-books and blogs by Razie Mah.  The two-level interscope is presented in A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0008 Second, an answer to the question.

A niche is the (situation-level) potential1b of a (content-level) actuality that is independent of the adapting species2a.  As such, the niche1b underlies the actuality of adaptation2b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  Here is a picture.

0009 On the situation level, the normal context of natural selection3b brings the actuality of an adaptation2b into relation with its niche1b, which is the potential1b of an actuality independent of the adapting species2a.

As mentioned earlier, the dog has a tool of the intellect and this tool must be an adaptation2b.  What is the dog’s niche1b?  It must be us, humans, of course.  We are the actuality independent of the adapting species2a.  When we look at the dog’s adaptations2b from our point of view, we call the result, “domestication”.  The dog finds a pack in the human household.

0010 Of course, the dog’s domestication is a recent process.  

How did it happen?

Certain wolves, empowered by humans, learn to identify the human as a candidate for a pack leader.  Surely, humans are more… um… humane, depending on how one defines the word, “humane”.  When a dog is treated like a member of the family, more or less, its descent from wolves serves it well, since a wolf knows that it belongs to a pack.  A lone wolf is unlikely to survive on its own.  Dogs know this and therefore, accept the leash.

0011 I wonder whether Dennett would call the dog’s affection for its new-found pack leader “an evolved user illusion”.  Whatever label one wants to apply, the dog’s affection serves as a conviction, or rather, a judgment.  A judgment is a triadic relation with three elements: relation, what is and what ought to be.  A relation (in the dog’s being) brings what is(a human, especially when it provides food and family) into relation to what ought to be (a pack leader for the domesticate).

The dog signifies its joy, as well as its distress, through its tail.

What a tale the dog’s tail tells!

0012 No matter what the content-level normal context3a or potential1a, the dog’s tail specifies its consciousness of whether its gambit2b is working.

But, with that said, I seem to have entered a different paradigm.  This paradigm belongs to old-fashioned Latin schoolmen, called “scholastics”, who prospered between say, 800 to 1700 AD, from the very end of the Roman empire to the start of the modern era.

0013 If I say that the canine’s tail tells me something about what is going on in the dog’s mind, irrespective of what is happening3a and the potential of ‘something’ happening’1a, then I may conclude whether the dog is happy or not2b, by situating a dog’s tail action1b in the normal context of what it means to me3b.  

The specifying sign is a triadic relation where a sign-vehicle (SV) stands for a sign-object (SO) in regards to a sign-interpretant (SI).

My dog’s tail action2a (SVs) is the sign-vehicle for a specificative sign-relation.

The happiness or unhappiness of my dog2b is the sign-object (SOs).

What it means to me3b and the potential of ‘situating content1b is the specifying sign’s interpretant (SIs).

If my dog wags its tail (SVs), then I know that my dog is happy (SOs).

If my dog tucks its tail between its back legs (SVs), then I know that my dog is not happy (SOs).

0014 I wonder whether one dog notices the tail-action of other dogs.  After all, for all dogs, only content and situation levels matter.  So, I suppose that they do.  The tail-wagging and tail-tucking business may have been enhanced because humans are receptive to such signals.

0015 Would Dennett call a dog’s tail action a “meme”?

I suspect that he would.

0016 Meanwhile, premodern scholastics call the above two-level interscope, “specificative extrinsic formal causality”.  I call it “a specifying sign”.

Tail-action2a is the sign-vehicle (SVs).  My dog’s apparent attitude2b is the sign-object (SOs).  The normal context of what it means to me3b, operating on the potential of ‘situating content’1b is the sign-interpretant (SIs).  The subscript stands for “specifying”.

The sign-relation is discussed in detail in Razie Mah’s blog for November 2023, Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) Semiotic Animal, as well as A Primer on Natural Signs and related e-articles available for sale at smashwords and other e-book venues.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 3 of 20)

0017 Evolution is the path that leads the reader from the earliest form of life, bacteria, to one of the West’s best musical designers, Johann Sebastian Bach.

Is that what Dennett claims?

If so, then the preceding blog offers an interesting comparison.

I wonder, can the specifying sign serve as an analogy for Darwin’s paradigm?

What about the other way around?

0018 Here is picture of the two-level interscope for the Darwinian paradigm.

Here is a picture of the two-level interscope containing the specificative sign of a dog’s tail action.

0019 Darwin’s paradigm and the specifying sign have a similar category-based structure.

So, may they serve as analogies for one another?

0020 If Darwin’s paradigm serves as a metaphor for the specifying sign, then my dog’s tail action2a is like an actuality independent of the adapting species2a.  My dog’s tail action2a harbors a potential that may be exploited or avoided1b.  Of course, the word, “niche”, seems a little awkward in this instance.  A clever fellow, named Gibson, comes up with a good substitute.  Gibson labels the potential with the term, “affordance1b“.

The dog’s tail2a provides an advantage to the human, that is, an “affordance1b“.  The dog’s tail might also offer a disadvantage, which is also an “affordance”.  Gibson’s term is ambiguous in this regard.  Nevertheless, “affordance1b” suggests that the adapting species exploits the opportunity or avoids the danger.

0021 So, what on earth is the adapting species in this example?

It must belong to me, since my situation-level normal context, what the dog’s tail means to me3bis like an episode of natural selection3b.

Dennett raises a very interesting option.  Maybe, evolution is going on in my head.

Maybe, the neural networks in my head are products of Darwin’s paradigm working on neural synapses.

According to Darwin, natural selection3b is a mindless proclivity to survive (or not survive) in the face of an affordance.  For neurons, “survival” concerns participation in a neural network that serves to exploit or avoid an affordance.

For example, neurons in the cerebellum coordinate signals for fine-tuned motions.  They are in business as long as the appendage or musculature that they are involved with is present and working.  Neurons in the neocortex tend to be more enterprising.  These cells are busy creating new synapses with other neurons.  They network, so to speak.  They fish for business… er… affordances.  The selection process is guided by… shall I say… the best of all possible affordances1b: an answer2b to the question of what the dog’s tail action2a means to me3b.

Yes, I want to be Candide, in this regard.

0022 This leaves the specifying sign-object2b (SOs) as analogous to an adaptation2b.

Isn’t that curious?

If Darwin’s paradigm serves as a metaphor for the specifying sign, then the inquirer may visualize a hypothesis concerning how the brain operates.  The actuality independent of the adapting species2a is my dog’s tail action.  The adaptation2b is a circuit built from synapses (along with their entrepreneurial neurons) that somehow conveys the mental perception that my dog is either happy or upset2b.  

This particular instance of natural selection is a variation of Darwin’s paradigm, because synapses are entities that either survive or don’t survive and neocortical neurons are long-lived prospectors that make (or cut loose) synapses in order to stay in business.  The synapses are selected for or against.  The neurons breed synapses.  The neurons select for synapses that participate in sign-processing networks.

0023 Here is a revised picture for a dog’s tail as a specifying sign.

0024 Perhaps, the analogy works, but the adapting species3b is not so clear.  Is it the synapse, the neuron or the local network?  Or maybe, it is all three, with the synapse similar to a member of a species, the neuron similar to a breeder of the species, and local networks serving as a motivation for why a neuron breeds synapses.

Plus, what is the affordance1b in this instance?

0025 On top of that, what about memes?

My dog’s tail action may be labeled a “meme“.

Dennett associates memes to affordances.  And here, one affordance is clear.  The meme survives because it satisfies a particular specifying sign.  Perhaps, all that a researcher needs to do is look for specifying signs that have survived for a long time in order to formulate hypotheses on the ways that memes survive.

Does that sound like circular logic?

0026 To me, here is one affordance1b.  If a dog’s tail-action is an index of its attitude, then that is an advantage to me, because it makes my dog’s behavior comprehensible.

With this adaptation2b at hand, er… in mind, Daisy, my dog, becomes reasonable, as long as she stays on her leash.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 7 of 20)

0057 The preceding blog brings me to an unappreciated, almost subliminal, theme in Dennett’s book.  Dennett strives to defend scientific rationalism as opposed to… well… my blather about specificative extrinsic formal causality.  Phantasm2band manifest images2b are the stuff of opinions.  They2b merely situate content.  Even though they2b appear to concern reality, they2b are really user-end illusions, like the meanings of spoken words or the interfaces of mobile-phone applications.  They2b are the products of both evolutionary paradigms and explicit abstraction.  Evolutionary paradigms contribute to design in one way.  Explicit abstraction contributes to design in another way.

0058 Here is a picture of terms that apply to actualities in a two-level interscope.

0059 It makes me wonder about that word, “design”.

Is “design” an attribute of the manifest image2b that dwells in the user-end illusion that I call “my mind”?

Or does “design” apply to the neural networks2b that result from neurons3b naturally selecting for synapses1b?

Is my user-end illusion best described as a little homunculus capable of planning and carrying out those plans orcompetence without comprehension?

0060 Or, do these questions pose a false dichotomy?

Are my neurons like selective breeders of synapses?  Do synapses flourish when plugged into a neural network?  Do neurons and synapses serve as the material and instrumental support for an immaterial phantasm?  I suppose so.  Neurons are long-lived compared to synapses.  So, they may support selection through producing and sustaining synapses. Neurons are entrepreneurs who often outlive one particular business (neural network) and end up participating in another.  The pattern of synapses established by a neuron2b may be regarded as an adaptation2b.

0061 For classical biological evolution, natural selection operates on individuals within a species.  Each individual is on its own.

For the evolution that Dennett is interested in, synapses are not like individuals.  They are like toolkits, designed for neurons to network with other neurons.

0062 Okay, then let me take that to the next level.

I wonder whether the relation between human culture and our species expressa2b, have the same evolutionary configuration.  So, human culture reproduces neuronal natural selection3b and a meme2a, a species impressa2a,reproduces the role of the synapse.  After all, humans are long-lived compared to memes.  Memes are not individuals.  They are like toolkits, designed for humans to network with other humans.

Instead of “neural evolution”, Dennett proposes the label “cultural evolution”.

0063 This brings me back to the manifest image, produced mechanically and instrumentally by neuron-driven evolution,and, perhaps, mechanically and instrumentally producing cultural evolution.

Am I like a neuron of cultural evolution?

Think about it.

0064 Thank God that Daisy has not figured out that option.

The logic of this exposition would have Daisy as a short-lived synapse-like being held on a leash by a long-lived neuron-like master.

0065 What an incredible manifest image!   What portraits of neuronal and cultural Darwinian paradigms are on display in Dennett’s book.  Metaphysics-laden manifest images accord with the author’s physics-laden scientific images… er… models of biological and social phenomena.  Yet, Dennett does not clearly envision the accordance.

0066 Why?

Dennett’s work contains a subliminal, or maybe… a sublime, defense of the scientific worldview.

A versatile and productive diagram for the scientific enterprise is developed in Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural Philosophy, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.


What Is A Meme? (B of G, Part 10 of 20)

0092 According to Dennett, a meme is a unit of information worth having.  If a meme is worth having, then it is worth paying attention to.  A meme is a unit of cultural information.  “A meme” rhymes with “gene”, a unit of information coded by DNA.

Of course, I can also say that a “meme” sounds like “mean” and “gene” sounds like “jean”.

0093 That raises the question, “What is information?”

Well, “semantic information” is encoded and specifies its own interpretation. 

0094 Surely, that sounds like the work of the specifying sign.

So, a meme behaves as if it contains semantic information because it activates (what the scholastics call) specificative extrinsic formal causality, otherwise known as a specifying sign.  The specifying sign connects the content and situation levels of the scholastic manifest image.

0095  In terms of semiotics, an impression2a (SVs) stands for a perception (SOs) in regards to the question, “What does it mean to me?”3b contextualizing the possibility of situating content1b (SIs).

Dennett calls the coupling of a content-level sign-vehicle (SVsto a situation-level sign-object (SOs), “semantic information”, because, often enough, the species impressa2a merely decodes spoken words and grammar.  The qualifier, “semantics”, associates to spoken language.  Semantic information offers designs worth getting, differences that makes a difference, and opportunities that go with Gibson’s term, “affordance”.

0096 So, right at the start, I know that the species expressa2b (SOs) virtually situates content2a in such a manner that the species impressa2a (SVs) is meaningful to me3b (SIs).  But, that is not all.  Species impressa2a (SVs) also offers clues to presence (who speaks to me?) and message (why speak to me?) (SIs).

0097 To Daisy, the cat (er… the species impressa2a of the neighbor’s cat2a (SVs) stands for a species expressa2b, a little monster… or maybe, an animated morsel… equipped with paws with claws2b (SOs).

To me, the fact that Daisy’s tail tucks between her hind legs2a (SVs)) stands for her fear and loathing of the neighbor’s cat2b (SOs) in regards to our morning walk3b (SIs).

Neither Daisy nor the cat know why this drama plays out with regularity.  The lady next door throws out her trash just before I take Daisy on her routine walk.  Her open door serves as an opportunity for the neighbor’s obnoxious cat to scamper out of its indoor enclave.

0098 I cultivated an additional incentive.  I planted catnip among the neighbor’s untrimmed verge, which the cat finds attractive.  Now, as soon as the neighbor lady opens her door, the cat scampers out and beelines to this destination, a garden of intoxication, where she is always surprised by Daisy and puts up a wonderful display of threats and hissing.

Daisy is so perplexed by this stoned feline that she either wants to protect me or expects me to protect her.  The leash pulls tight either forward or backward, depending on the suddenness of the realization of this dramatic species impressa2a(SVs).

0099 Clearly, the cat2a is a meme.

Plus, it2a is more than a meme.

Daisy’s tail going between her hind legs2a is a meme.

Plus, it2a is more than a meme.

0100 As the encounter achieves greater regularity (thanks to the catnip taking root, plus the morning routines), Daisy is slowly coming to a consistent species expressa2a (SIs).

Nevertheless, she is regularly confounded.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 18 of 20)

0183 If human culture is to be modeled as the replicative success of memes, then what would empirio-schematic researchentail?

Well, if the term, “meme”, labels a cultural adaptation2b, in the normal context of cultural selection3b operating on various affordances1b, then the actuality independent of the adapting species2a must relate to the scholastic interscope of how humans think2a.

Indeed, I may highlight one particular element in the scholastic interscope2a, the species impressa2a, as the premier feature of the actuality independent of the adapting species2a.

0184 But, didn’t I offer the above content-level actuality2a as a technical definition for the term, “meme”?

So, how can the term, “meme”, also stand for a situationb-level actuality2 in the normal context of cultural selection3b?

If that is not confusing enough, consider that the content-level actuality2a also belongs to the manifest image (which is described by all three actualities of the scholastic interscope).

Plus, we are conscious of a manifest image, not its scientific image.

0185 Consciousness is the user-illusion of competition among neurons for active synapses3b.  Synaptic networks form and are maintained in response to memes.  The qualia that we feel are most likely memes, sign-objects of interventional signs substantiating sign-vehicles of specifying signs.

Consequently, another term for [substance] is [implicit abstraction].  The sign-objects of interventional signs (SOi) are like matter.  The sign-vehicles of specifying signs (SVs) are like form.

So, a meme may be denoted as SOi [implicit abstraction] SVs.

0186 Another word for [substance] might be, “projection”.

In projection, the situation-level potential1b projects continuity into the content-level contiguity.

For example, there is no motion in cinema.  There is only a rapid sequence of images cast upon a screen.  The user illusion projects (or implicitly abstracts) smooth motion in time.  This is only possible if the situation allows it.

Similarly, there is no sweetness to the fact that the neighbor’s cat is dead.  There is only a corpse in the refrigerator and Daisy’s querying gaze, asking, “When are you going to give the dead cat back to me?”

So, the term, “meme”, also labels a neural network2b, in the normal context of neural selection3b operating on the potential of creating and destroying synapses1b, in the process of situating a species impressa2a.

But, once again, didn’t I offer the above content-level actuality2a as a technical definition for the term, “meme”?

Yes, but neural networks are clearly implicated, since they constitute the adaptation2b, and the adaptation is um… what?… a meme?

0187 If that is not enough, the designs of the most intelligent human designer cannot be compared to the adaptivity that arises from a variation of Darwinian natural selection operating on units of culture, in all their varieties.  Why?  There is always a cultural… er… cognitive space that even the most neurotic and attentive-to-detail engineer cannot plan for.  

Consequently, cultural selection3b yields memes that survive and flourish on their own and some of these memes are so strange and resilient that they appear miraculous, even to the positivist intellect.  Therefore, they must be ruled out as “not scientific”.

0188 Here is one confounded empirio-schematic judgment characterizing this discussion.

Here is another.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 20 of 20)

0196 Razie Mah offers three masterworks on human evolution.

The Human Niche concerns the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

An Archaeology of the Fall dramatizes the first singularity, the transition from the Lebenswelt that we evolved in to our current Lebenswelt.

How To Define The Word “Religion” concerns our current Lebenswelt.

These works sustain this examination of Dennett’s book.

0197 In these blogs, the term, “meme”, is technically defined using the scholastic interscope for how humans think.  This interscope is also in play in Razie Mah’s blog for October 2023, Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”.  A “meme” corresponds to a species impressa2a with a hylomorphic structure whereby the sign-object of an interventional sign substantiates a sign-vehicle for a specificative sign.

0198 According to Dennett, a spoken word is a good example of a meme.

Notably, our current Lebenswelt must face the question, asking, “What is the nature of spoken words?”


Spoken words facilitate explicit abstraction, while hand-talk words allow only implicit abstraction.  We innately expect that spoken words image and point to their referents.  But, they do not.  Symbols are natural signs whose sign-objects are defined by convention, habit, law, tradition and so on.  Yet, no hand-talk language has words that can picture or indicate these terms.  “Convention”, “habit”, “law” and “tradition” label explicit abstractions that cannot be articulated using hand talk.  They may exist, but cannot be named, while using hand talk.

0199 Recall that actualities2 are encountered.

Such actualities2 are understood by ascertaining an appropriate normal context3 and potential1.

0200 How To Define The Word “Religion” applies these lessons to a familiar and contentious term.  This examination of Dennett’s book applies these lessons to the word, “meme”.

Here is a picture.

0201 The message?  The meme exemplifies cultural evolution.

The presence?  The meme embodies neural selection.

The meaning?  A scientific image of the word, “meme”, should overlay what is going on in my mind, that is, the manifest image.  My consciousness is an user-end illusion produced by the message and the presence of cultural and neural selection.

0202 My thanks to the author.  This well-documented work conveys that impression that inquiry into memes may account for the evolution of the human mind.  Whether this impression is productive or unproductive depends on how one defines the word, “meme”.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 1 of 15)

0001 Consider the title of archaeologist Ian Hodder’s recent book.

What is the question really asking?

Are we heading somewhere?

0002 The problem?

Who would purchase a book with an honest title, such as, “Are We Heading Somewhere?: The Evolution of Humans and Things”?

Everyone knows where we are going.

We are going to hell.

0003 So, maybe my first question concerns what Hodder’s titular question is really asking.

For my second question, I consider Hodder’s subtitle and ask, “Is there directionality to human evolution?”

A consensus among general biologists tells us, “Evolution has no direction, because direction implies an overall teleology or purpose.”

But, this is not the case.

0004 Why is it not the case?

An answer can be found in a series by Razie Mah, titled, A Course on Evolution and Thomism, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.  This course includes Speculations on Thomism and Evolution and Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome.

0005 Here is a quick summary.

The normal context of natural selection3b brings the actuality of adaptations2b into relation with a niche1b.

Plus, a niche1b is the potential of an actuality2a independent of the adapting species.

In order to digest this statement, consult Razie Mah’s A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0006 Here is a picture of the quick summary.

Figure 01

0007 What is a niche1b?

A situation-level niche1b is the potential of a content-level actuality independent of the adapting species2a.

0008 Does that mean that biological evolution has direction?

0009 On the one hand, biologists confuse everyone with their declaration that evolution has no direction.  For living systems, natural selection3b encourages adaptations2b in response to a variety of proximate niches1a, which are actualities, more or less independent of the adapting species2a. There is no telling which proximate niche1b will turn out to be decisive.  Most likely, the proximate niche1b is the potential of an actuality2a that directly benefits or challenges the creature’s reproductive success2b.

Plus, there are various surprises, like a huge meteor striking the planet Earth, which changes all proximate niches so dramatically that mass extinctions occur.  So, biological evolution, on a grand scale, appears to play out as a contest to adapt to proximate niches, which are themselves contingent on planetary conditions.

0010 On the other hand, the above diagram shows that biological adaptations are directional.  They are teleological.  There is an actuality2a, independent of the adapting species that either encourages or inhibits reproductive success1b.  Genetic recombinations will throw up a variations among a species’ phenotypes.  Some of these phenotypic variations will prove more successful than others at exploiting the actuality2a or avoiding the actuality2a.  Biologists label this eventuality, “differential reproductive success”.

0011 Adaptations2b reveal that the niche1b is… to use a theological term… teleological.  The niche1b is the potential that becomes manifest when a biologist reflects upon the adaptations of a particular species2b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  The niche is like a boulder in a river than causes water to flow around it.  The rock is an independent actuality.  The river adapts.

0012 Does that mean that biological evolution has a direction?

In the same way that a river of water running to the sea has a direction?

0013 The difference between a river of water and the river of life concerns altitude.  Water runs downhill.  When it gets to the sea, its niche is exhausted.  Life runs uphill.  It converts a huge amount of energy (think of water running downhill) into a little amount of energy that the organism can use (think of a waterwheel grinding grains of wheat into flour).  Consequently, life is precarious.  Death is ubiquitous.

So, a niche1b is all about staying alive.

0014 Actualities independent of the adapting species2a pose opportunities and hazards.  These have the potential to constitute niches1b.  A niche1b is relevant enough to increase the reproductive success of some in the adapting species, as opposed to others, in the normal context of natural selection3b.  The successful ones adapt2a to their niche1b.  Life is always climbing uphill.  Death is tumbling down.

0015 So, where are we heading?

Ian Hodder suggests an answer.

Things can keep us alive.  So, it behooves our ancestors, the hominins, as well as ourselves, the humans, to attend to the things that keep us alive.

He calls this adaptation: “entanglement”.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 2 of 15)

0016 Hodder’s desires to extend entanglement theory to all of biological evolution.  

Am I already there?

The concept of the niche1b entangles the adapting species2b with independent actualities2a (that is, things2a).

Hominins are only doing what biological evolution has been doing for a long time.

But there is a difference.

Unlike most other species, where the actuality independent of the adapting species is a thing or state of things, our species adapts into a purely relational niche.  Such is the bold hypothesis of Razie Mah’s masterwork, The Human Niche,available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0017 Dr. Hodder’s theory of entanglement starts with a thing.  A thing is a content-level actuality.

Here is a picture.

Figure 02

0018 Entanglement starts with an actuality that is independent of people.  Only one slot is occupied in the initial configuration.  The others remain either empty or nascent.  “Nascent” means “yet to be manifested”.

0019 For an example, let me consider  a detail about the archaeological excavation that Dr. Hodder supervised (and is, no doubt, still involved), Catal Hoyuk in Anatolia.

The detail2a is riverbed clay.  This clay2a has the potential to be used as construction material for the walls of houses in the Neolithic settlement1b.  This potential1b goes onto the situation-level, and awakens a corresponding normal context3band actuality2b.

0020 Here is a picture.  The lighter colors denote “awakening” as well as emptiness.

Figure 03

0021 Awakening?  Emptiness?

The situation-level normal context3b is obvious to the archaeologist.  Shelter is an adaptation2b to a proximate human niche1b.  Humans need shelter to protect themselves from all sorts of dangers2a, especially at night.  As such, shelters are sensible constructions.

0022 Sensible construction?

For some background concerning this topic, consult Razie Mah’s A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0023 Dr. Hodder awakens to the sensible construction implicit in entanglement.

This is the entanglement that Hodder wants to convey.  Things become useful.  Then, humans end up entangled with useful things.


Looking at Ian Hodder’s Book (2018) “Where Are We Heading?” (Part 3 of 15)

0024 Here is a picture of Hodder’s general theory of entanglement.

Figure 04

0025 Here is a diagram of the relational structure of biological adaptation.

Figure 05

0026 Notice any similarities?

Does this summarize Hodder’s book?

Yes, it does, because Hodder, as a scientist, limits his vision to sensible construction.

No, it does not, because the two diagrams are different, even though they appear remarkably similar.

0027 There are two actualities.

Things2a occupy the slot for actuality2a in the content-level of both two-level interscopes.

The ways that people use things and take care of them2b occupies the slot for actuality2b on the situation-level, for the normal context of entanglement3b.

Biological adaptations2b occupies the slot for actuallity2b on the situation level, for the normal context of natural selection2b.

0028 What does that imply?

The logics of normal contexts3 include exclusion, complementarity and alignment.  I can rule out the first and the third options, leaving me with the second.

Entanglement2b complements natural selection2b.

Similarly, the potential ‘uses of things’1b complements the biological concept of niche1b.

0029 Where are we heading?

Are we heading to the realization that people’s use of things, as well as their care for things2b, complements the biological notion of adaptation2b?

Are we are heading to an awareness that what Hodder calls “entanglement”3b may be an adaptation2b into the human niche1b?

If the answers are “yes”, then perhaps the concept of biological adaptation2b relies on (and is therefore, formatted by) our innate capacity for using and caring for things2b.

0030 Does Darwin pick up on that?

What do natural selection and selective breeding by humans have in common?