Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 1 of 16)

0001 Twenty-two thousand years ago, during the maximum of the last ice age, people roamed (along with other large mammals) in a land that bridged modern-day Siberia and Alaska.  Glaciers on the eastern (or American) side prevented humans from advancing further.  Until they didn’t.

Humans found a way around the blockade.  By ten thousand years ago, humans occupy both American continents.

0002 The Siberian-Alaskan landmass displayed one type of ecology (some would call it a frozen wasteland).  Yet, Paleolithic people migrating into the Americas adapted to a large variety of ecologies (including the tropics).

0003 How could this be so?

The authors conclude that humans are adapted to niche switching.  Humans culturally adapt to novel ecological niches by operating as both generalists and specialists.  Humans are behaviorally flexible because they can oscillate between established traditions (which the authors call, “culture”) and problem-solving (which the authors call, “consciousness”). Consequently, humans can “switch” from one niche (such as ice-laden Beringia) to another niche (such as California’s San Joachim Valley).

0004 But, I wonder, “Are not traditions (‘cultures’) specialist oriented?  The specializations may not be wildly complicated, but meaningful enough.  For example, someone who does well at running with a lance might fit in to the specialty of hunting large game.  Someone who is good at identifying mushrooms may fit into the specialty of fungi forager.  So, everyone can be a generalist problem-solver, but also work as a specialist too.

“Plus, everyone, whether lance-bearer or mushroom-gatherer, must learn their craft, and must innovate in the face of new challenges.

“So, the human gift of ‘niche-switching’ indicates that humans can find ways to make a living in every ecology.  The recent territorial expansion of anatomically modern humans into the Americas serves as an outstanding example.”

0005 Okay, then what is a “niche”?

The authors are modern biologists.  When modern biologists hear the word, “niche”, they think “ecological or environmental conditions”.  But, there is another technical definition for the word, “niche”, that expands that narrow frame.

0006 What is a “niche”?

The Darwinian paradigm can be diagrammed by following A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

Here is a picture.

Figure 01

The normal context of natural selection3 brings the actuality of adaptation2 into relation with the potential of ‘something’1, which biologists label “niche1.


Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 2 of 16)

0007 Okay, if the word, “niche” labels the possibility of  ‘something’1, then what is this so-called ‘something’?

Now, I turn to A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues).

‘Something’ is a content-level actuality2a that is independent of the adapting species.

Consequently, the niche1b is the situation-level potential1b that virtually emerges from (and situates) a content-level actuality2a that is independent of the adapting species.

Figure 02

0008 The most notable feature of this sensible construction is that the content-level actuality2a has no apparent normal context3a or potential1a.  In order to understand this actuality2a, one must ascertain its normal context3a and potential1a, which is a very difficult assignment.

Perhaps, this difficulty is why modern biologists say that the actuality2a reflects environmental or ecological conditions.  Well, “conditions” also has the advantage of implying a specific material ‘something’ that a species adapts to.  Such specificity implies that all niches are proximate.

0009 When the authors use the term, “niche switching”, they are saying that humans are adapted to flourishing in a wide-variety of ecologies and environments.

How do humans accomplish this flourishing?

Well, the generalist within us solves problems.  The specialist within us modifies a skill set.  Consciousness (or, is it culture?) is adaptive because it draws out an understanding that a content-level actuality3a has a normal-context3a and a potential1a that the person (along with others) can adapt2b to.  In other words, the content-level independent actuality2a is meaningful.

Figure 03

0010 There is another advantage of a category-based depiction of Darwinian evolution.  It explains the idea of niche construction.

Niche construction occurs when a situation-level adaptation2b alters the content-level actuality2a by introducing a content-level normal context2a and potential1a.  To a beaver, a rapidly moving stream surrounded by woods2a has the normal context3a of a place to settle3a and the potential1a of damming the creek to make a home1a.  Once this happens, once beavers down enough trees to block the water’s free flow, the independent actuality2a becomes a slow moving creek and glen2a.

Humans are even more sophisticated, since the independent actuality2a becomes meaningful.  Our lineage adapts to a niche1b, where the potential of understanding comes from converting an actuality2a into a sign, a mediation, a category-based nested form or some other triadic relation.  The sign-relation has three elements: sign-vehicle, sign-object and sign-interpretant.  The mediation has three elements: matter, form and mediator.  The category-based nested form has three elements: normal context3, actuality2 and potential1.  The subscripts refer to the three categories detailed by American philosopher, Charles Peirce: thirdness, secondness and firstness, respectively.

0011 Triadic relations are real (although immaterial) beings (that entangle the material world).  Until recently, no biologist imagines that these ephemeral beings could compose an actuality independent of an adapting species2a.  Yet, many biologists suggest that the human niche consists of niche construction, or, as with these authors, “niche switching”.

The hypothesis that the ultimate human niche is the potential of triadic relations appears in Razie Mah’s e-book, The Human Niche.  The hypothesis is tested in four commentaries.

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

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

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

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

All are available at smashwords and other e-book venues.  They are listed in the series: A Course on the Human Niche.

0012 Here is a diagram of Darwinian evolution for the Homo genus.

Figure 04

Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 3 of 16)

0013 Chapter one of Heying and Weinstein’s book is titled “The Human Niche”.

The hypothesis that the ultimate human niche1b is the potential1b of triadic relations2a accounts for the authors’ claim that humans adapt to “switching” among proximate niches.  A proximate niche roughly corresponds to an ecology or an environment.  The switch entails finding opportunities through understanding.  Understanding is the act of adding a normal context3a and potential1a to an independent actuality2a.  Understanding is an adaptation2b to the potential1b of triadic relations2a.

0014 Say what?

The ultimate human niche (of the potential of triadic relations) allows humans to rapidly “switch” from one proximate niche (defined as an ecology or an environment) to another.

In Darwin’s paradigm, a niche is the potential that underlies an adaptation.  For most species, one finds that a creature’s adaptation solves problems (or finds opportunities) in the so-called “environment of evolutionary adaptation”.  By labeling the niche as “the environment of evolutionary adaptation”, modern biologists put on cognitive blinders.  “The environment of evolutionary adaptation” implies material beings, not relational beings.

Material conditions goes with proximate niches.

Relational conditions goes with ultimate niches.

The label “environment of evolutionary adaptation” fixes the gaze of modern biologists onto proximate niches.

No modern biologist has come up with a simpler or a more productive hypothesis of an ultimate niche for the Homogenus that the one proposed in Razie Mah’s e-book, The Human Niche.

0015 Once evolutionary biologists (and psychologists) come to terms with the proposition that the ultimate human nicheis the potential of triadic relations (which are purely immaterial beings), they will come face to face with the mystery of human (and all biological) evolution.

0016 Say what?

Mystery of evolution?

At this juncture, I recapitulate a portrait developed in Razie Mah’s masterwork, How To Define the Word “Religion”.   The presence underlying the word, “religion”, corresponds to a particular arrangement of category-based nested forms.

Already, the reader of this blog has encountered the two-level interscope.  There is another way to combine two category-based nested forms.  The intersection is already applied to evolution in Comments on Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight’s Book (2017) Adam and the Genome, along with other commentaries in the series, A Course on Evolution and Thomism, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

So, for me, this is familiar territory.

0017 Here is the two-level interscope for Darwinian evolution.

Figure 05

0018 This figure is only half the picture of modern evolutionary biology.

Contemporary biologists are more than mere Darwinists.  They call themselves, “NeoDarwinists”.  The “Neo-” of NeoDarwinism points to genetics.  Each lineage carries DNA, which is foundationally distinct from the actuality that is independent of the adapting species2a.  I could say that DNA is foundationally dependent on the actuality2a of the species.  But, DNA is not responsible for the adaptations of the species, even when it serves as an internal foundation to the lineage.  DNA is responsible for the phenotypes of the species.

In other words, in the normal context of body development3b, the phenotype2b emerges from (and situates) the genome1b.  Plus, the situation-level genome1b is the potential1b of the species’ DNA2a.  DNA2a is an actuality on the content level.

The following figure is the other half of the picture of modern evolutionary biology.

Figure 06

0019 What about epigenetics?

Ah, epigenetics (as it is currently formulated) has the same character as niche construction.  Epigenetics alters the expression of DNA2a by altering its normal context3a and potential1a.

0020 The authors are natural historians, rather than geneticists.  Natural selection comes to the fore in their book.  Nevertheless they pay tribute to genetics with a concept, called “the omega principle”, where culture is an adaptation and culture evolves to serve our genes (that is, our lineage).  This principle is confusing, because it confounds adaptation2band phenotype2b in a world where biology has specialized into natural historians and geneticists.

I ask, “Is there another way to formulate the mysterious omega principle”?


Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 4 of 16)

0021 The authors formulate an “omega principle” that confounds adaptation2b and phenotypes2b and mixes natural history and genetics.  The omega principle states that long-lived cultural traits are likely to be adaptive.

Long-lived cultural traits are epigenetic features that guide human development.  As such, long-lived cultural traits are genomic.  Even though they do not directly influence the transcription (or lack of transcription) of DNA2a, they do so indirectly.  As an example, the authors discuss an optical illusion that applies in Western civilization, but not to indigenous cultures in the Americas.

0022 Another way to say this?

Long-lived cultural traits influence phenotypic expression.  After all, contemporary Western civilization has traits that allows writing, programming, race-car driving, ballet dancing and so on.  These arise from the Western “cultural DNA”.

And, according to the omega principle, these cultural traits are likely to be adaptations.

So, adaptation2b and phenotype2b are linked.  One does not situate the other.  So, they intersect.  They both contribute to a single actuality.  I label the single actuality, “species”, in the widest sense of the term.  A species ranges from the biological definition of a type of living being to cultural definitions of types of specializations.

0023 For biology, NeoDarwinism entails the intersection of adaptation2b and phenotype2b.

Here is a picture.

Figure 07

0024 Of course, there is a more aesthetic way to depict an intersection.

Figure 08

0025 This intersection applies to biological evolution.

However, the omega principle suggests that this intersection somehow… maybe, metaphorically… applies to cultural evolution, as well.


Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 5 of 16)

0026 How to theorize the nature of the author’s portrayal of an omega principle?

Humans adapt to the potential of triadic relations.  Triadic relations are indifferent to nature and culture.  Nature is perfused with triadic relations.  So is culture.

0027 How does the intersection change when passing from the biological to the cultural?

Here is my guess.

The niche1H situates ‘something’ external to the species.  Adaptations2H exploit that ‘something’ in the normal context of cultural selection3H.

The genome1V situates ‘something’ internal to the species.  DNA resides in lineages.  So, this ‘something’ is foundational to a cultural lineage1V and gives rise to the form of the cultural being2V in the normal context of institutional development3V.

0028 So, here is the resulting intersection.

Figure 09

0029 How about an application?

Here, I will develop a narrative… a theoretical expression… applying the omega principle to the authors’ professional trauma.

This theoretical expression does not capture the nightmare that these professors endured.  Rather, it is a speculation about the evolutionary changes within their narrative.  In particular, the intersection for biological evolution somehow applies to a contemporary shift occurring within cultural selection3H and institutional development3V.  Figuratively, the intersection applies to a cultural episode of punctuated equilibrium.

0030 I start with the institution that these two professors labored in for fifteen years.  Evergreen State College (pre-2017) is an institution that evolved in American civilization.

Here is a picture of the intersection for Evergreen State College (before 2017) at the beginning of the authors’ journey.

Figure 10

That is a start.

Further specification is required.


Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 6 of 16)

0031 How should I specify the elements in the prior diagram?

A little history may assist.

State colleges spring up to train returning soldiers after the Hot War Among Fraternal Ideologies (1938-1945 AD).  The authors are employed by one of these colleges, located in the State of Washington.  Then, the institution changes in 2017

0032 Let me consider Evergreen State College prior to 2017.

The adaptations2V?

Obviously, the term goes with the faculty.  Professors2b(2H) are selected for by the college3b(3H) for their disciplinary expertise1b(1H).  Disciplinary expertise1b expresses the potential of empirio-schematic inquiry2a, characteristic of such fields as physics, chemistry, biology, quantitative sociology, cognitive and evolutionary psychology, and so on.  Empirio-schematic inquiry2a is a style of rational thought2a.

Diagrams for empirio-schematic inquiry are developed in Comments on Jacques Maritain’s Book (1935) Natural History.  The empirio-schematic judgment is rational thought.  However, it is not rational in the same way as Aristotelian or scholastic thought.  Empirio-schematics characterize the modern Age of Ideas, which starts around 1600 AD.  Scholastics characterize the Latin Age, stretching from around 300 to around 1600 AD.

0033 Here is the two-level interscope for the axis corresponding to Darwinism, for Evergreen State College, before 2017.

Figure 11

0034 Heying and Weinstein are selected as professors2b and serve well, for one and one-half decades, until a shift in both cultural selection3b and the actuality2a virtually underlying their positions2b.

0035 What happens leading to 2017 and beyond?

On the content level, an imitation empirio-schematics2a fashions itself as a style of rational thought2a.  Consider the blog for April at www.raziemah.com, titled Looking at Gad Saad’s Book (2021) “Parasitic Mind”.  Like all fashions, inquiries pursuing social construction, critical theory and social justice take on the appearance of ‘something’ beautiful in order to adorn the one who wears the fashion

Something beautiful?

Think of an adornment that signals one’s virtue, while sparkling with the certitude that accompanies empirio-schematic research.

On the situation level, the ones who fashion themselves as “righteous, in addition to rational” are instructors1b.  Why?  Instructors are defined by the potential of the faux empirio-schematics of social construction, critical theory and social justice2a.  Their reward is in a fascination of their own varieties of righteousness

In contrast, administrators2b exploit instructors1b, just as adaptations2a exploit a niche1b, in the normal context of cultural selection3b.

Here is a picture of the horizontal axis after 2017.

Figure 12

0036 In 2017, Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein resign their professorships at Evergreen State College.


Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 7 of 16)

0037 What about the vertical axis?

0039 The vertical axis of biological evolution goes with body development3b, the phenotype2b and the genome1b.  The genome1b is the potential1b of DNA2a, an internal actuality that is defines the lineage.  DNA2a manifests descent with modification.

0040 How that translates into a metaphor for cultural development depends on the species… er… I meant to say… the institution.

An institution2b is like the phenotype2b.  Traditionally, an institution2b virtually situates a traditional mission2a.  So, a mission statement1b manifests the potential1b of a traditional mission2a and supports the institution2b.

Here is the corresponding two-level interscope.

Figure 13

0041 All this changes, leading to the trauma of 2017 at Evergreen State College.

Rather than a mission2a, whose normal context3a and potential1a should be protected by long-standing tradition, the content-level actuality2a changes to advocacy.

What is advocacy2a?

I could say advocacy2a is a type of mission2a.  However, it is the type of mission where the normal context3a and potential1a are generated by another institution (safely hidden offstage, so to speak).  Advocacy2a is like modified DNA2a.  Advocacy2a supports indoctrination under the name of “education”.  Advocacy statements1b manifest the potential1b of advocacy2a.

Here is a picture of the two-level interscope.

Figure 14

0042 Now, I combine the above situation-level nested forms to visualize interscopes for pre-2017 and post-2017 higher education.

The following diagram presents the system that selected for Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein as professors2H.

Figure 15

After the resignation of these professors, Evergreen State College may be portrayed by the following intersection.

Figure 16

0043 Higher education is a single actuality.

Before 2017, faculty2H are selected on the basis of their expertise1H.

After 2017, administrators2H are selected for on the basis of their ability to manage instructors1H (as well as other abilities).

The metaphorical niche1H changes and so does the metaphorical genome1V.


Looking at Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s Book (2020) “A Hunter Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century” (Part 8 of 16)

0044 Where did I leave off?

After 2017, Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein find that they no longer have jobs.  But, surely, they remain professors.

0045 So what happens next?

The culture of podcasting on the internet3H values (selects for) people2H with disciplinary expertise1H.

Yes, the podcasting “culture” is looking for pre-2017 types of professors2H.

0046 Bret Weinstein launches the Darkhorse podcast, a very attractive production in the internet arena.  He remains a professor.  Now, he also professes more than biology.

And, that brings me to the book, which applies lessons from evolutionary theory to life in the 21st century.

Podcasting and book-writing are very similar to higher ed.  Each podcast has its own mission statement.  Each podcast format displays a certain expertise.  Advertisers support well-subscribed podcasts.  Patrons support the podcast directly.

0047 Here is a picture of what (I suppose) podcasting looks like, in terms of an intersection that appropriates the relationality of biological evolution for cultural evolution.

Figure 17

0048 What label applies to the single actuality that is the union of professor2H and podcaster2V?

How about the term, “guidance”?

One watches podcasts for guidance.

0049 On that note, allow me to recall the full title of Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s book, A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and The Challenges of Modern Life.

If the single actuality is “guidance”, then I ask the reader how phrases in the title associate to elements in the above intersection.


Looking at Brian Kemple’s Book (2019) “The Intersection” (Part 1 of 4)

0001 According to Neoplatonic legend, the descent of the soul starts with a small immaterial gem resting on an undefinable pillow in the presence of transcendental beauty.  Then, a trap door opens and the little source of illuminationbegins to fall.  As it descends, it accrues matter.  Matter enters form.

One may say that the matter is evil and the soul, good, and conclude that the immortal soul becomes encased in corruptible matter.  But, the story is more complicated, because the term, “matter” slyly includes the capacity to become entangled with purely relational being.  Matter holds the capacity for meaning.  Matter substantiates form.  So Christians, following the complication, witness the baby as bearing a message.  The message?  Baptize me.

0002 The book before me is Brian Kemple’s The Intersection of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue, published in 2019 by Walter de Gruyter Press (Boston/Berlin).  The masterwork is dedicated to the memory of John Deely (1942-2017 AD), who served as Kemple’s professor.

0003 The book presents a complex argument.  I, a simpleton, fixate on the titular word, “intersection”.

For me, the term has a technical definition, as formulated in the chapter on message in the e-book How To Define The Word “Religion” (by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues).  An intersection is a single actuality composed of two actualities, each with its own category-based nested form.

Say what?

See A Primer on the Category-based Nested Form.

0004 A photon is an example of an intersection of two actualities: a wave and a particle.  The normal context of a diffraction apparatus3 brings wave properties of light2 into relation with the potential of ‘observations of wavelengths’1.  The normal context of a metal plate3 brings particle properties of light2 into relation with potential ‘observations of the photo-electric effect’1.

0005 Here is a picture.

Figure 01

0006 Here is another way to look at the photon as intersection.

Figure 02

0007 In the following blogs, I will endeavor to visualize whether Kemple’s use of the term, “intersection”, coheres with this technical definition.

In order to do so, I will locate two category-based nested forms, one for both Peirce and one for Heidegger, and see whether the two actualities meld into one. 


Looking at Brian Kemple’s Book (2019) “The Intersection” (Part 2 of 4)

0008 The intersection is a technical term describing a single actuality constituted by two seemingly independent actualities.

Figure 03

Now I collect two nested forms from prior works by Razie Mah.

0009 For Peirce, I consider A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction.  Point 0062 presents a three level interscope, depicting Peirce’s social construction.  Here is a diagram of the virtual nested form in the realm of actuality.

Figure 04

0010 The content-level actuality2a is the discovery that signs are triadic relations2a.  Triadic relations are luminous2a and Peirce cannot situate that luminosity2b within the modern philosophies of his day.  This difficulty2b situates the content-level actuality2a and demands social construction3c. Peirce realizes that three categories contextualize all experience2c(because all experience utilizes signs2a).  The categories of firstness, secondness and thirdness are discussed in detail in chapter four of Kemple’s book.

0011 For Heidegger, I turn to Comments on Alexander Dugin’s Book (2012) The Fourth Political Theory.  Point 0037 presents a three-level interscope for Heidegger’s construction of Being (Sein).  Once again, the virtual nested form in the realm of actuality captures my attention.

Here is a diagram.

Figure 05

The normal context of inzwischen2c (in between-ness) brings the actuality of Dasein2b (the realization that Being is there (da-)) into relation with the possibilities inherent in Sein2a (Being Itself).

0012 For these two virtual nested forms to serve as the nested forms for an intersection, the perspective-level actualities2c, must take on the character of thirdness (over and above their location in secondness).  This makes sense in so far as the perspectivec level corresponds to thirdness, the realm of normal contexts.

The same “taking on” applies to the content-level actualities2a.  They take on the character of firstness (over and beyond their location in secondness).  This makes sense because the contenta level corresponds to firstness, the realm of possibility.

0013 Here is the resulting intersection.

Figure 06