01/31/24

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.

01/18/24

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.

01/17/24

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.

10/30/23

Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 1 of 22)

0001 The full title of Deely’s book is Semiotic Animal: A Postmodern Definition of “Human Being” Transcending Patriarchy and Feminism: to supersede the ancient and medieval ‘animal rationale’ along with the modern ‘res cogitans’.  The book is published in 2010 by St. Augustine’s Press in South Bend, Indiana.

John Deely (1942-2017 AD) starts as a Thomist interested in Heidegger and becomes a semiotician.  He becomes a really, really good promoter of the study of signs.  He writes a history of philosophy from the point of view of the revelation… or, is it discovery?.. that the sign is a triadic relation. For years, he teaches at University of Saint Thomas, Houston.  He retires, moves to Latrobe, Pennsylvania, home of St. Vincent’s College, then dies.

This examination is to be read in parallel with or after reading (and writing marginalia) in Deely’s book.  My argument may run like a dog on a long leash, compared to Deely’s argument.  But, there is reason for the analogy.  Thirteen years have passed since publication and five years since Deely’s burial, and the Age of Triadic Relations continues to manifest.

Semiotics is the study of signs.  A sign is a triadic relation.

0002 Chapter one considers a question that we ask ourselves.

Humans, what type of animals are they?

Chapter two addresses the answer.

0003 Modern philosophy starts (more or less) when Rene Descartes (1596-1650 AD) presents a sensation, as an idea and an image where the object of experience directs a construct of the mind.  Consequently, he regards humans as thinking things… or the owners of thinking things (minds)… or something like that.

In terms of Peirce’s philosophy, there are two contiguous actualities, characteristic of the category of secondness.  They are an object of experience and a construct of the mind.  The contiguity (which, for nomenclature, is placed in brackets) is “directs”.

Here is a picture of Descartes’ dyadic actuality.  In Latin, the title is “res cogitans“.

Figure 01

0005 As already noted, this hylomorphic structure is coherent with Peirce’s category of secondness.  The actuality corresponds to a sensation. Sensation exhibits a dyadic character.  Sensation is like cause [and] effect or matter [substantiating] form.

There is an implicit claim that this dyad describes the way humans think.

Plus, a superior claim (not realized until Charles Peirce (1839-1914 AD) wrote about it) may be asserted.  Humans think in terms of triadic relations, such a signs, mediations, judgments and category-based nested forms.

Say what?

See A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form and A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0006 With the superior claim in mind, it is no surprise that when later philosophers build epistemologies upon Descartes’ foundation, they end up shifting Descartes’ terms out of secondness, the realm of actuality, and into thirdness, the realm of normal contexts, and firstness, the realm of possibility.  

Here is a category-based nested form that sort of captures Kant’s epistemology.

Figure 02

The normal context of the mind3 brings the actuality of an object of experience2 into relation with the potential of a particular condition1. What is that condition? The thing itself [cannot be objectified as] what one sees, hears, smells, tastes or touches.

0007 So, the experience of the five senses2 becomes an object2 as it simultaneously is contextualized by the mind3 and arises from the potential of a particular condition1.  Plus, the particular condition1 is that the object of experience cannot be the thing itself1.

It sort of like saying that my image in a mirror is not me, even though I appear to be the object of experience.

0008 Welcome to modern… philosophy?… er… science?

The Positivist’s judgment formalizes the quasi-Kantian category-based nested form by thirdly, replacing the mind3 with a positivist intellect3.  The positivist intellect3 rules out metaphysics.  Secondly, the object of experience2 is replaced by an empirio-schematic judgment2, where disciplinary language (relation) brings observations and measurements of phenomena (what is) into relation with mathematical or mechanical models (what ought to be).  Firstly, the thing itselfand what one senses1 are replaced by Latin terms, the noumenon and its phenomena1.

Here is a diagram of the Positivist’s judgment as a category-based nested form.

Figure 03

0009 The implications of the conversion of Descartes’ dyadic formula for sensation to a modern quasi-Kantian nested form for how humans think are most curious.

It seems that the construct of the mind weaves a normal context3 and potential1, sort of like a spider spinning a web in the hope of catching a flying insect.  The metaphorical flying insect, is an experience2 that immediately becomes an object2as the manifestation of the realness of the normal context3 and potential1.  Plus, the object2 is inside of the observer and the thing itself1 remains (potentially) on the outside.

Similarly, for the Positivist’s judgment, the scientist weaves the normal context of the positivist intellect3 with the potential that phenomena1 may be the observable and measurable facets of a noumenon1, then waits for observations and measurements (what is) to reveal patterns that can be modeled (what ought to be) and discussed with disciplinary precision (relation between what is and what ought to be)2.  One of the oldest adages in science says, “First, observe phenomena.  Second, explain them.”

0010 What a curious implication.

It is almost as if the construct of the mind is looking for an actuality2 that fits its ideals.  And when it does, it transforms whatever enters the realm of actuality, such as an experience2 or a measurement2, into an object2 or an empirio-schematic judgment2.

10/2/23

Looking at John Deely’s Book (2010) “Semiotic Animal”  (Part 22 of 22)

0172 Deely concludes with a sequel concerning the need to develop a semioethics.

The meeting of the two semiotic animals in the previous blog is a case study.

Surely, that brief clash of objective worlds entails ethics, however one defines the word, “ethics”.

Perhaps, the old word for “ethics” is “morality”.

0173 Deely publishes in 2010.

Thirteen years later, his postmodern definition of the human takes on new life.  This examination shows how far semiotics has traveled, swirling around the stasis of a Plutonic publishing world where Cerebus guards the gates.  Please throw a sop to the editors in order to publish, rather than perish.  While academics guard the way to the underworld of professional success, Deely looks down from the heavens above.

And what does he say?

Humans are semiotic animals.

0174 Okay, I have to correct myself.

I don’t know whether Deely is looking down from a heavenly perch.

Surely, many will sheepishly testify to his devilish, as well as his angelic, qualities.

As a shepherd, he is always trying to lead his rag-tag flock of semioticians, explorers and Thomists.  He gets so far as to impress upon every one in his flock the validity of his claim that humans are semiotic animals.

0175 Razie Mah takes that lesson to heart and asks, “If humans are semiotic animals, then how did they evolve?”

The resulting three masterworks are available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

An Archaeology of the Fall appears in 2012, followed by an instructor’s guide.

How to Define the Word “Religion” appears in 2015, followed by ten primers.

The Human Niche appears in 2018, along with four commentaries.

As it turns out, no contemporary scientist takes Deely’s claim seriously. Yet, the implications are enormous.  If humans are semiotic animals, then triadic relations must be key to understanding human evolution.

0176 This examination of Deely’s book takes that lesson one step further.

The specifying and exemplar signs step out from Comments on John Deely’s Book (1994) New Beginnings as expressions of premodern scholastic insight.

The interventional sign steps out from Comments on Sasha Newell’s Article (2018) “The Affectiveness of Symbols” and establishes a postmodern life of its own.

0177 Humans are semiotic animals and how we got here shines like a revelation.

07/31/23

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. 

07/10/23

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

0135 Chapter eight brings the reader to modern times.

What has the first singularity wrought?

Need a visual?

Newson presents a photograph (Figure 8.1) of a steampunk skull cyborg sculpture.

Here is an example of how speech-alone talk operates.

Unlike hand-speech talk, speech-alone talk permits explicit abstraction.  In this sculpture, a resin-based human skull is explicitly extruded… oh, I meant to say… abstracted and converted into the foundation of what appears to be an audio-headphone machine.  Body (skull) and mind (machine) fuse into a monstrosity.

0136 What are the authors not saying?

They do not say that this work of art initiates implicit abstraction.  An innate relational structure for sensible constructiontells the viewer that social construction is needed.   I know this from my visceral reaction to the photograph.

(See Razie Mah’s Comments on Religious Experience (1985) by Wayne Proudfoot, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.)

0137 Here is a picture of the failing sensible construction.

Figure 41

0138 This disturbing work of art characterizes modernity.  Newson and Richerson tell a story in two interludes.  Culture, originally defined as “shared information”, is now disorienting.  The consequences?  Throughout the world, fertility declines.  Only local cultures, consciously avoiding modern urban cities, now have numerous children.

Surely, today, there are enough people.

The problem is that children are becoming more and more rare.

0139 Is this a problem of sign-processing?  Does today’s “information” trade “something that adorns us” for children?  Is there a foundational difficulty with speech-alone talk?  What happens when words no longer picture or point to their referents, as they once did in hand-speech (and hand) talk?  What happens when we construct artifacts in order to validate our spoken words?  What happens when the artifacts fail to deliver?

These types of questions are raised in Razie Mah’s masterwork, An Archaeology of the Fall, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0140 All the words that we use today in public discourse seem to have two meanings: a traditional one and a new-fangled technical one.

Need an example?

Consider the new-fangled, yet technical terms, “phenotype” and “adaptation”, in the following figure.  

Figure 42

Compare that to the simpler scientific use of the terms in points 34 through 38.

Figure 43

0142 The new-fangled terms cross categorical levels within a complete three-level interscope.  The aesthetics of such conjunctions make this book very attractive.

The old-fashioned scientific terms cannot be reconciled.  Adaptations associate to the discipline of natural history.  Phenotypes associate to the discipline of genetics.  Each biological discipline would seem to be independent except for one awkward fact.  Both sciences deal with a single entity, which one may call an individual, a species or a genus.

0143 In the epilogue, the authors proclaim (more or less), “Let us abandon the idea of ‘human nature’.”

Why?

“Human nature” is just a spoken term.  The traditional meaning loads the term with political messages and connotes the presence of immutability.  The new-fangled meaning looks at the term in the same way that a traditionalist gazes upon a steampunk cyborg sculpture. Surely, there is something wrong with this term.

Here is how the category-based nested form, which may be an innate cognitive principle for humans, understands how to define the term, “human nature.

Figure 44

0144 Perhaps, abandoning the idea of “human nature” will free us from the notion that our gut feelings, our hearts, and our minds can help us mate and raise a family.

But, abandoning “human nature” would leave us open to cultural influences.

0145 Cultural influences?

Psychological researchers investigate how social interactions [stimulate] hormonal responses and how culture [informs] brains.  Do these actualities sound vaguely familiar?  The corporate sponsors of these psychological researchers want to learn how to make their products more addicting and more real that they otherwise would be.

Ah yes, cultural influences need brains to inform.

0146 Consider the three-level interscope that guides the authors.  The beauty of their intuition is that a completed three-level interscope is inherently intellectually satisfying.  Satisfaction gives a feeling of completeness and accomplishment.  The reader says, “Yes, here is a story about us.  Here is a new look at human evolution.”  The reader cannot put spoken words to the feeling that the book provides.  Here is the arc of human evolution and history, in content, in situation and in perspective.

0147 These comments add value to Newson and Richerson’s book by introducing an option that the authors do not know.  Humans adapt to sign-processing.  Yes, human evolution manifests culture-gene co-evolution.  But, the human niche is the potential of triadic relations, such as signs, mediations, judgments and category-based nested forms.

Surely, this book is somewhat addicting.  Surely, this production seems more real than it otherwise would be.  Why?  The authors offer a new look at human evolution.  So what if the new look is in terms of style, rather than substance.  The authors offer something that other books on human evolution do not.

They offer acts of imagination.

06/30/23

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”.

06/12/23

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

0102 Where are we heading?

Where have we been?

Once Hodder’s entanglement theory encounters the hypothesis of the first singularityeverything we know turns inside out.  Hodder attempts to generate an explicit abstraction that, given time, will convey the essence of implicit abstraction.  The category-based nested form is instrumental in displaying the relational theatrics that Hodder performs.

0103 Hodder is clever.

Things are content level.

Humans are situation level.

A third level, the perspective level, appears as a complication in points 23 to 31.  Here is a wrinkle worth exploring.  A good place to start is A Primer on Sensible and Social Construction, by Razie Mah, available at smashwords and other e-book venues.

0104 My thanks go to Dr. Ian Hodder for opening an inquiry that nudges open the door to a new age of understanding.  These comments show that the latch is already unlocked.

0105 Where are we heading?

We are moving towards a fourth age of understanding: The Age of Triadic Relations.

05/19/21

Looking at Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language” (Part 1 of 5)

0001 Chris Sinha, writing from Hunan University, publishes another article on human evolution.  The journal is Interaction Studies (volume 19(2), 2018, pages 239-255).  The complete title is “Praxis, Symbol and Language: Developmental, Ecological and Linguistic Issues”.

The title of Razie Mah’s commentary is Comments on Chris Sinha’s Essay (2018) “Praxis, Symbol and Language”. The commentary is found at the smashwords website under the series: Buttressing the Human Niche.  Other vendors also sell the e-commentary.

0002 This blog complements the commentary.

0003 Sinha’s article covers from the start of the Homo genus, around two million years ago, to the speciation of Homo sapiens, around two-hundred thousand years ago. That is a lot of territory.

Several issues intertwine.  One is individual development (devo).  Another is a transition in natural selection (evo) from ecology-driven adaptations (eco) to adaptations driven by social interactions (socio).

0004 Sinha loves terminology.  He searches for a EcoEvoDevoSocio framework.