Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2014) “A Natural History of Human Thinking” (Part 22 of 22)

0383 Chapter five is titled “Human Thinking as Cooperation”.

Tomasello considers other theories of human cognitive evolution (but not including Razie Mah’s masterwork, The Human Niche, available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

He draws four general propositions.

0384 One, for the era of individual intentionality, competition with groupmates leads to sophisticated forms of primate social and practical cognition, characteristic of great apes.

Two, for the era of joint intentionality, obligate collaborative foraging favors the evolution of new forms of hominin social coordination and thinking, without (what a modern anthropologist would label) culture.

Three, for the era of collective intentionality, intergroup competition, exploration of novel ecologies and environments, and larger group size favors the evolution of conventionalized culture.

Fourth, in regards to whatever may be missing in the first, second and third points, culture accumulates and allows specializations that cultivate a wide variety of cognitive skills and types of thinking.

0385 This examination demonstrates that each of these four general propositions coheres with the hypothesis contained in The Human Niche.

This may not be a surprise, since Razie Mah’s masterwork summarizes commentaries on four works in evolutionary anthropology, published within the past three decades.

0386 Here is a list of the four commentaries.

Comments on Steven Mithen’s Book (1996) The Prehistory of The Mind

Comments on Clive Gamble, John Gowlett and Robin Dunbar’s Book (2014) Thinking Big

Comments on Derek Bickerton’s Book (2014) More Than Nature Needs

Comments on Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky’s Book (2016) Why Only Us?

0387 Along with A Primer on Natural Signs and the masterwork, The Human Niche, these four commentaries constitute A Course on The Human Niche, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0388 But, that is not all.

This examination of Tomasello’s arc of inquiry continues.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (Part 1 of 12)

0001 In 1999 AD, Michael Tomasello, then co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, publishes the work before me (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).

To me, this work marks the start of the author’s twenty year journey, culminating in a theory of human ontogeny, published in 2019.  The word, “ontogeny”, refers to human development and associates to the human phenotype.

0002 What interests me in Tomasello’s journey?

As noted in Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome (available at smashwords and other e-book venues), “phenotype” and “adaptation” are not the same.  Instead, these labels apply to distinct actualities that coalesce into a single actuality.  One may call that single actuality, an individual, a species or a genus.  One may also call that single actuality, “a mystery”.

I am interested in the natural history side of the mystery of human evolution.  However, the genetic (or ontogenetic) side cannot be ignored.  Plus, natural history cannot be reduced to genetics, or visa versa

0003 Chapter one of Tomasello’s book is titled, “A Puzzle and a Hypothesis”.

Of course, a puzzle is not a mystery.  A puzzle can be resolved.  A mystery cannot.

The puzzle starts with genetics.  Geneticists have examined the DNA of chimpanzees, bonobos and humans and predict that the last common ancestor lives 6 or 7 Myr (six or seven million years ago).

In contrast, physical anthropologists (natural historians) propose the fossil record noted in the following figure.  With terminological sleight of hand, they refer to human ancestors as “hominins”, even though the old term for any bipedal primate (ape or human) is “hominid”. 

0004 Hmmm. Does the puzzle concern time?

According to genetics, the last common ancestor (LCA) between chimpanzees and humans lives 7 Myr (millions of years ago).  But, little significant shows up in the fossil record until 4 Myr.  Our lineage obviously evolves feet first.  As it turns out, starting around 5 Myr, the extent of tropical vegetation in Africa decreases due to desiccation.  Bipedality is an adaptation to mixed forest and savannah.

0005 The fossil record provides other clues, especially stone tools.

The first stone tools are Oldowan.  Oldowan stones tools are constructed on site.  They are used to scrape meat off of bone and to crack long bones (that are full of fatty marrow).

Acheulean stone tools appear later in the archeological record.  Acheulean stone tools are made beforehand and carried with some intention in mind.  They have the appearance of a giant tooth.  Notably, Acheulean stone tool technology remains unchanged for over a million years.  Innovations in stone-tools follow the domestication of fire.

0006 Surely, these two tables are puzzling.  In the first, the fossil record pertains to changes in hominin phenotypes.  In the second, the fossil record pertains to hominin adaptations, but these adaptations are not phenotypic. They are artifacts.  Are these adaptive artifacts cultural?  Are they behavioral?  I wonder, “Do the words, ‘culture’ and ‘behavior’, capture the matter and the form of these artifacts?”  It is as if an adaptation recognizes matter and generates form.

0007 What is the nature of the adaptation that maintains (and occasionally changes) artifacts, as if these artifacts are phenotypes?

Tomasello suggests that an adaptation is a novel form of social cognition.  Our lineage adapts to a new way of thinking about one another, eventually allowing sociogenesis, new styles of learning and cultural evolution.

0008 Tomasello proposes that there is one adaptation that potentiates subsequent adaptations.

Razie Mah proposes that there is one ultimate niche for our lineage.  The hypothesis is presented in the e-book, The Human Niche (available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

0009 Do Tomasello (in 1999) and Mah (in 2018) propose that our lineage is defined by the same adaptation… er… niche?

What is the difference between an adaptation and a niche?

To these questions, I next attend.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (Part 12 of 12)

0072 Chapter five is titled, “Linguistic Construction and Event Cognition”.  The perspective-level linguistic communication2c participates in ongoing events2a.

Tomasello claims that joint attention is the key adaptation from which subsequent adaptations proceed.  Surely, the three-level interscope depicted above does not contradict this claim.

After all, the evolution of joint attention should precede the evolution of linguistic communication.

0073 However, there is a disjunction, because great apes show few (if any) tendencies that may be characterized by joint attention.  Even the occasional monkey hunt by chimpanzees is best characterized by several individuals deciding to pursue the same thing at the same time.  The monkey-prey is the focus of attention, but the attention is disjointed, not really coordinated.

So, there must be a period before the evolution of joint attention, where individual intentionality reigns, even when group action takes place.

0074 So, when are these eras happening?

Tomasello wants to place the evolution of joint attention before the time of Homo heidelbergensis, who appears in the fossil record between 800 and 400kyr (thousands of years ago).

To me, this makes sense only so far as this.

Homo heidelbergensis leaves traces of cultural behavior in the archeological record.

To me, such traces indicate that these hominins are in the subsequent build-on era.

So, Tomasello’s timeline may require clarification.

0075 Okay, now that I am nitpicking, I must ask, “Is there a problem with making joint attention2a the foundation of an evolutionary theory?”

Allow me to return to Tomasello’s vision.

0076 According to Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues), adaptation2 and phenotype2 belong to two independent scientific disciplines: natural history and genetics.  Since both belong to situation-level nested forms that rely on different potentials, one cannot situate or contextualize the other.  However, this is precisely what occurs in Tomasello’s vision.

Of course, Tomasello’s vision remains a breakthrough in the framework of modern science.  At least, the phenotype does not correspond to the adaptation.  Instead, the phenotype2c puts culture2b into perspective.  Then, culture2b virtually situates the adaptation of joint attention2a.

Yes, to repeat, the phenotype2c does not directly situate the adaptation2a.  Tomasello’s vision leads upwards from joint attention2a to human culture2b and then to human cognitive development2c. Cognitive development2c puts culture2b into perspective, just as culture2b virtually situates joint attention2a.

Tomasello’s vision is truly remarkable.

0077 And, it is difficult to achieve.

This book is the start of a twenty year journey.

0078 As noted in points 0055 through 0058, the last few chapters cover the cultural (situation) and ontogenetic (perspective) levels of Tomasello’s vision.  As far as I can see, these chapters labor to show how human ontogeny2c (the scientific study of human development) virtually contextualizes human culture2b (a somewhat vaguely defined term that refers to all situations where joint attention2a pertains).  In the process, Tomasello must also explain how human culture2b, especially spoken language and symbolic representation, virtually emerges from and situates joint attention2a.

How ambitious is that?

0079 Here a picture of the virtual nested form in the realm of actuality (the vertical column in secondness in Tomasello’s vision, portrayed as a nested form).

The normal context of the behavior of newborns and infants2c virtually brings the actuality of spoken language and symbolic representation2b into the potential of a foundational adaptation2a.

0080 Yes, this is very ambitious, and the final three chapters of this book strain to meet the challenge.  They should be read with this in mind.  The last three chapters are well composed.  Tomasello is an excellent writer.  He is very organized.  But, his exposition is like lifting a two-hundred pound octopus out of the water.  As soon as one arm is lifted, a different one slides back into the murk.

0081 Plus, there is the lingering issue of natural history.

Here is a picture with Tomasello’s guesses.

Tomasello makes two associations that make no sense at all, when considering joint attention2b as an adaptation to sociogenesis1b in the normal context of natural selection3b.  Sociogenesis1b is the human niche1b.  The human niche1b is the potential1b of triadic relations2a.  Consequently, the adaptation of joint attention2a should be marked in the archaeological record with the appearance of the Homo genus, around 1.8Myr (millions of years ago).

0082 With that in mind, I close this examination of the first step in Tomasello’s journey, scientifically exploring who we are.  The next step is a book that expands and clarifies this first step.  It is published nine years later.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2008) “Origins of Human Communication” (Part 1 of 12)

0083 In 2008 AD, Michael Tomasello, then co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, publishes the work before me (MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).

This book is the second marker in Tomasello’s intellectual journey.  I start following his journey with Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (1999) “The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition” (appearing in Razie Mah’s January 2024 blog).  That is the first marker.

0084 The second marker starts as an academic presentation in 2006.  His Jean Nicod Lectures, in Paris, concerns his work on great ape gestural communication, human infant gestural communication and human children’s language development.  These lectures attempt to construct one coherent account of the evolution of hominin communication.

Oh, that terminology.  Where Tomasello inscribes, “human”, I say, “hominin”.

0085 From my examination at the first marker, I already have a guess about Tomasello’s vision.

Here is a picture.

0086 Note that the titles of the levels have changed.

Also note that human ontogeny2c or models of child development currently built by psychologists2c, associates to phenotypes and genetics.  Joint attention2a or models in evolutionary psychology concerning hominin cognition2a,associates to adaptations and natural history.

0087 Tomasello uses the word, “origins”, in his title.  Does this suppose that human communication may be regarded as a phenotypic trait or as an adaptation?  Or maybe, the conjunction is “and”.

In the above figure, I get the idea that the phenotype virtually contextualizes the adaptation.  But, that is not really the case.  The phenotype2b virtually situates a species’ or individual’s DNA2a.

Here is a diagram.

0088 Not surprisingly, this diagram in genetics has the same two-level relational structure as Darwin’s paradigm for natural history.

0089 What does this imply?

A mystery stands at the heart of evolutionary biology.

The adaptation is not the same as the phenotype.

Yet, together, they constitute a single actuality, which may be labeled a genus, a species or an individual.

Two category-based nested forms intersect in the realm of actuality.  It is like two streets that meet.  The intersection is constituted by both streets.  As far as traffic goes, intersections are sites of dangerous contradictions.  Traffic from one street should not collide with traffic from the other street.  I suppose that the intersection of adaptation and phenotypecarries irreconcilable contradictions as well.

0090 Perhaps, Tomasello’s vision may be resolved by considering both joint attention2a and human ontogeny2c as adaptations, even though the latter is technically, phenotypic.

I suggest this because selection is the normal context for all three levels in Tomasello’s vision.  Since natural selection goes with adaptation, the vision is one of natural history.

0091 That implies that the potentials for all three levels are like niches.

Human ontogeny2c is an adaptation that emerges from and situates the potential of human culture2b, where human culture2b is like an actuality independent of the adapting species of individuals undergoing development3c.

Human culture2b is like an adaptation that emerges from and situates the potential of joint attention2a, where joint attention2a is like an actuality independent of the adapting ways of doing things3b.

Joint attention2a is like an adaptation that emerges from and situates sociogenesis1a, where sociogenesis1a is the potential of… what?… I have run out of actualities independent of the adapting species.

0092 Here is where the foundational Tomasello-Mah synthesis enters the picture.

Ah, so here is a problem.

Tomasello’s vision of the origins of human communication conceals the actuality underlying sociogenesis1athe potential1a giving rise to joint attention2a.  The human niche is the potential of triadic relations.

0093 What about the subscripts in the preceding paragraph?

They belong to Tomasello’s vision.

0094 This subscript business can be confusing.

To me, the concealment in Tomasello’s vision is not necessarily a drawback.  Rather, it presents an opportunity to re-articulate Tomasello’s arc of inquiry using the category-based nested form and other triadic relations.

0095 In the prior series of blogs, examining a book published in 1999, I introduced an interscope for the way humans think that derives from work by medieval schoolmen, the so-called “scholastics” of the Latin Age.

Here is a picture of the scholastic version of how humans think, packaged as a three level interscope.


Looking at Michael Tomasello’s Book (2008) “Origins of Human Communication” (Part 12 of 12)

0176 Once again, here is Tomasello’s adjustment to the scholastic interscope.

Is this the [substance] of Tomasello’s research?

The exemplar sign is foregrounded.

A hominin perception2b (SVe) stands for a judgment2c (SOe) in regards to a common conceptual ground3c operating on the potential of ‘mutual expectations’1c (SIe).

0177 Here is the original scholastic interscope for how humans think.

The exemplar sign is foregrounded.

A species expressa2b (SVe) stands for a species intelligibilis2c (SOe) in regards to what makes sense3c operating on the potential of ‘contextualizing the situation’1c (SIe).

0178 With these two signs in juxtaposition, consider the three processes that Tomasello identifies as basic to the evolution of hominin cooperation: informing, requesting and sharing.

All three processes associate to the exemplar sign.

0179 So, chapter five invites a question, asking, “What are the conditions where exercising the exemplar sign increases reproductive success?”

The answer must be cooperative activities that increase reproductive success.

That is the topic of the next book in this series.

0180 But, before I leave this examination, I would like to return to prior expositions of the three steps of hominin evolution (points 0097 and 0132).

0181 The adaptations of joint attention and mutual intentionality associate to step one in the origins of hominin communication.

0182 The zeroth period stretches from the last common ancestor to the start of the Pliocene, where the first bipedal apesappear in the fossil record.  Bipedalism is an adaptation away from tropical forest and into mixed forest and savannah.  In these new conditions, collaborative foraging pays off.  As soon as cooperation in foraging activities increases reproductive success, the niche of sociogenesis opens up.  The team is the first social circle to benefit from joint attention and mutual intentionality.

The last common ancestor dates to around 7Myr (million of years ago).  The earliest bipedal apes appear around 4.2Myr.  So, I give an additional 0.7 million years for these walking creatures to start to realize that collaboration pays off.

0183 The first period nominally starts at 3.5Myr.  During the next 1.7 million years, natural selection explores the adaptive spaces generated by joint attention.  This includes the space for the evolution of hand talk within collaborating teams.  The Homo genus appears in the fossil record around 1.8Myr.  The expansion of the hominin neocortex is testimony to an increasing number of successful teams.  For each team tradition that increases reproductive success, subsequent adaptations routinize that success. More common grounds and styles of mutual intentionality are programmed into an expanding brain.   Each hominin team becomes better and better at what it does.

The second period begins around 0.8Myr. Homo erectus has already migrated out of Africa and into Eurasia.  The domestication of fire ensues. This is the beginning of the next phase, where hominin hand talk becomes fully linguistic.

0184 Even though Tomasello proposes a significantly different timeline, the following list expresses this examiner’s opinion of what Tomasello’s timeline should be.

The discrepancy between Tomasello’s proposed timeline and this examiner’s list needs to be accounted for.

0185 This commentary is not a substitute for Tomasello’s text.  It is a complement to his explorations.  Tomasello is an excellent, well-organized writer.  My examination may be scattered and disorganized, but it adds value by re-articulating his arguments in a semiotic framework.

The term, “semiotics”, does not appear in the index of Tomasello’s book.  But, that is not a drawback.  That is an opportunity for me, a semiotician, to demonstrate a deep correspondence between Tomasello’s arc of inquiry and Razie Mah’s masterwork, The Human Niche (available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

0186 Sociogenesis is the potential of triadic relations.


Looking at Daniel Dennett’s Book (2017) “From Bacteria To Bach and Back” (Part 4 of 20)

0027 What about the other way around?

What if the specifying sign-relation is analogous to Darwin’s paradigm?

Well, let me just transfer the sign-labels from one to the other.

0028 Gibson’s term, “affordance”1b, replaces “niche”1b, as the potential of the specifying actuality2a.

To me, “affordance”1b suggests an immediate potential, which I associate to a proximate niche.  An affordance is like money in one’s pocket.  That is always good and should be sought after.  An affordance is like owing someone who wants to be paid.  That is always bad and should be avoided.

0029 So, what are biologists doing when they “reverse engineer” an apparent adaptation in order to explain it?

They start with something like a specifying sign-object2b and end up with something like a specifying sign-vehicle2a.  They reverse engineer something that is analogous to a specifying sign.  A specifying sign-interpretant (natural selection3band affordance1b) designs a sign-object (an adaptation2b) in regards to a sign-vehicle (an actuality independent of the adapting species2a).

The result?

An actuality independent of the adapting species2a (SVs) stands for an adaptation2b (SOs) in regards to natural selection3b operating on an afforance1b (SIs).

0030 If Darwin’s paradigm is like a specifying sign, then biologists work from something like a sign-object towards something like a sign-vehicle.

0031 The term, “design”, is a point of contention.

Replace the word, “adaptation2b” with the term, “designed product2b“.

For an engineer, the normal context is design3b.  Aristotle’s causes are material, instrumental, final and formal.  Design is a formal cause.  Note how all four of Aristotle’s causes come into play in the following figure.

For a biologist, the normal context is natural selection3b, the actuality is an adaptation2b and the potential is labeled “niche”1b.

For a philosopher or an engineer, the normal context is design3b, the actuality is a developed product2b, and the potential is labeled “afforadance”1b.

0032 In the final chapter of Dennett’s book, the author asks the question, “When will experts start using natural selection3b as one of their tools for designing3b in their various enterprises?”

What a wonderful question.

I think the answer has something to do with arrangements for payment1b.

Exactly who are engineers working for?

God or mammon?


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 Lesley Newson and Peter Richerson’s Book (2021) “A Story of Us” (Part 1 of 16)

0001 Lesley Newson and Peter J. Richerson research human evolution at the University of California, Davis.  Richerson is an early proponent of culture-gene co-evolution, back in the 1980s.  Since 2000, Newson tries to apply evolutionary theory to current rapid historical changes.

Perhaps, the first five chapters should be read with Richerson’s voice and the last three with Newson’s.  Also, various interludes, colored with a gray background, should be read with Newson’s voice.  These interludes contain acts of imagination.

0002 Acts of imagination?

In a book on human evolution?

What a surprise.

0003 To me, stylistic innovation is welcome.  Imagination is called for.  Razie Mah opens the curtains on the hypothesis of the first singularity with a work of imagination, titled, An Archaeology of the Fall.

0004 What about substance, in addition to style?

The full title of Newson and Richerson’s book is The Story of Us: A New Look at Human Evolution (Oxford University Press, New York).  The new look is stylistic, not substantive.  Indeed, much of this examination will entail a comparison of this text to a work of substantive innovation: Razie Mah’s The Human Niche, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

The Human Niche builds on four commentaries, also available for purchase.

Here is a list.

Comments on Clive Gamble, John Gowlett and Robin Dunbar’s Book (2014) Thinking Big

Comments on Derek Bickerton’s Book (2014) More than Nature Needs

Comments on Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky’s Book (2016) Why Only Us?

Comments on Steven Mithen’s Book (1996) The Prehistory of Mind

0005 These commentaries, along with the masterwork, The Human Niche, and A Primer on Natural Signs compose the series, A Course on The Human Niche.

0006 What does this imply?

At the time of their writing, these authors are not aware of the substantive hypothesis contained in The Human Niche.

In reference 2 of chapter one of Newson and Richerson’s book, the authors list a dozen books, none of which are listed above.  This implies that Newson and Richerson, like so many of us, live and study in a cognitive bubble.

Their book is not a substantive new look at human evolution.  Rather, it is a new look in terms of style, compared to the books on their list in reference 2 of chapter one. 


Looking at Lesley Newson and Peter Richerson’s Book (2021) “A Story of Us” (Part 2 of 16)

0007 Newson and Richerson start their inquiry by asking, “What is it to be human?”

Does a scientific understanding of how our species evolved shed light on the question?

Scientists hope so.  Recently, torrents of new information about human evolution has been coming from geneticists and natural historians, including researchers interested in understanding the adaptive natures of women and children.  What were they up to during the past two million years?

Well, among other things, they were harnessing males to help them survive.  Surely, the family is evolutionarily ancient.  Plus, it complements mother-infant bonding.

0008 The new information does not further the notion of a gene-defined or an environment-based human nature.  For example, neither genes nor environment do good jobs in predicting how children will turn out.  One child may be resilient.  One child may be delicate.  Nevertheless, there are some consistencies.  Children connect to mom and dad.  Children connect to (and compete with) their siblings.  In short, children belong in a family.

0009 What may seem strange to say, at this moment, is that the family (among other things) is a purely relational structure that can be diagrammed using the category-based nested form.  Examples are found in A Primer on The Familyand The First and Second Primers on the Organization Tier, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0010 Imagine that.

Our genus adapts to the opportunities and dangers offered by purely relational structures.

As soon as one imagines the possibility, one recalls a story.  Stories are tools for thinking about what might have happened in our evolutionary history.  Archaeological evidence does not tell a story.  Rather, evidence renders certain stories as plausible and others as implausible.  So, the anthropologist’s task is to fashion a plausible story.  In this book, the gray-colored interludes attempt to present plausible tales.

0011 How can one fashion a plausible story with archeological evidence at hand?

Evidence serves as real, tangible actualities2 that inquirers can place into the normal context of archaeology3 and over the potential of ‘something relevant’1

What is relevant?

Well, a plausible story about us fits the bill.

If I follow the method in Razie Mah’s A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form, I arrive at the following.

Figure 01

0012 Well, what about genetics?

Aren’t torrents of information about human evolution coming from genetics as well as natural history?

Okay, allow me to expand the picture.

Figure 02

Looking at Lesley Newson and Peter Richerson’s Book (2021) “A Story of Us” (Part 3 of 16)

0013 The normal context of evolution3 brings the actuality of genetics [and] archaeological evidence2 into relation with the potential of ‘a story about us (humans)’1.

What is going on with the “and” in brackets?

Actuality is the realm.  Secondness is the category.  Secondness contains two contiguous real elements.  These two elements are subject to the logics of contradiction and non-contradiction.  This is the logic that we typically think about when we hear the word, “logic”.  If an actuality is logical, the two real elements should agree, or at least, not disagree, and if they do disagree, we should be able to figure out the precise manner in which the disagreement occurs.

Here, the two real elements are genetics and archaeological evidence.  I place the contiguity in brackets.  Here, the contiguity is [and].  [And] is not exactly an evocative contiguity.  But, in earlier days, Richerson frames another term for [and].  The term is “co-evolves”.  Genes and culture coevolve.

0014 The result is two similar hylomorphic structures.  

Figure 03

0015 Both belong to the realm of actuality2 in the normal context of evolution3.  Both arise from the potential of ‘stories about us (humans)’1.

Figure 04

0016 In order to drive home where the evolution3 of our genus has brought us, the authors relate the story of Jemmy Button, a native of Tierra de Fuego in South America, who was captured (as a child) and brought to England, then grew up in England before returning to his native land (as an adult).  What a tale!  Jemmy grew accustomed to both cultures, implying that each one of us has a tremendous potential for cultural plasticity.

0017 It makes me wonder about the contiguity, [co-evolve].

Clearly, human DNA codes for brains of great plasticity, in addition to function, and this allows culture to inform our brains.  Jemmy Button could function as an Englishman and a native of Tierra de Fuego.  But, he has only one brain.

0018 This implies that I can expand on the previous category-based nested form in the following manner.

Instead of the normal context of evolution3, I can think in terms of the phenotype of brains (on a content level) that is situated by the adaptability of the same brains (on a situation level).  I imagine two normal contexts.  Body development3ais the normal context3 of the contenta level.  Sociality2b is the normal context3 for the situationb level.  So, sociality3avirtually situates body development3a.

For actuality, originally culture [co-evolves with] genes.  Now, [co-evolves] corresponds to a relation between the situation and content levels.  On the content level, genes become the dyad: DNA [codes for] brains2a.  On the situation level, culture becomes a dyad: culture [informs] brains2b.  Notably, in chapter one, Newson and Richerson describe culture as “shared information”.

For potential, originally the potential is ‘something relevant’1, which becomes ‘stories about us’1.  Now, ‘stories about us’1becomes a content-level ‘function or plasticity’1a and a situation-level ‘situating content’1b.  

0019 Here is a two-level interscope.  Interscopes are introduced in A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

Figure 05

0020 Now I can ask, “What exactly goes into the slot for potential1 on the situationb level?  What is ‘situating content’1b?”

Towards the end of chapter one, the authors are clear.  Their book intends to tell how our ancestors managed to harness culture2b.

I wonder, “Aren’t they putting the cart (of culture2b) in front of the horse (of ‘situating content’1b)?”