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.


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 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’.”


“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.


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

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

What is the question really asking?

Are we heading somewhere?

0002 The problem?

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

Everyone knows where we are going.

We are going to hell.

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

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

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

But, this is not the case.

0004 Why is it not the case?

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

0005 Here is a quick summary.

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

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

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

0006 Here is a picture of the quick summary.

Figure 01

0007 What is a niche1b?

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

0008 Does that mean that biological evolution has direction?

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

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

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

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

0012 Does that mean that biological evolution has a direction?

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

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

So, a niche1b is all about staying alive.

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

0015 So, where are we heading?

Ian Hodder suggests an answer.

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

He calls this adaptation: “entanglement”.


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


Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origin” (Part 1 of 13)

0180 If David Graeber and David Wengrow’s recent book, subtitled, A New History of Humanity, is a breakthrough in postmodern anthropology, then it is so because it displays a semitic textual structure, instead of a greek textual structure.

These two styles are discussed in An Instructor’s Guide to An Archaeology of the Fall.  Rather than eliminating possibilities in order to arrive at the most likely correct interpretation, these authors play literary tricks, coupling chapters one and twelve, A:A’, chapters two and eleven, B:B’, and chapters three through nine and chapter ten, C:C’.

Figure 24

0182 The semitic structure is A:B:C:C’:B’:A’.  In Comments on David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Book (2021) The Dawn of Everything (by Razie Mah, available and smashwords and other e-book venues), the work is discussed in the pattern A:A’, B:B’ and C:C’.  Notably, the bulk of the book covers the last layer, C:C’, and balances seven chapters (three through nine, C) against one chapter (ten, C’).  Chapter ten is twice as long as any other chapter.

0183 Plus, chapter ten stands on its own, allowing me to place an examination in Razie Mah’s blog, with the title Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origin”.  If the reader first encounters the blog, the commentary is available.  If the reader first purchases the commentary, then the reader can call the blog to the attention of others.


Looking at David Graeber and David Wengrow’s Chapter (2021) “Why The State Has No Origin”(Part 13 of 13)

0255 Graeber and Wengrow’s exploration of the dawn of everything ends with a cruel joke.

The “state”2b, as defined by social science, cannot indirectly emerge from (and situate) righteousness1aC, while, at the same time, manifesting the characteristics of “domination”2a.

So, how is the contemporary left’s dream of achieving the virtues of liberty, equality and fraternity through the apparatus of the state2b going to work?

Thus ends the third layer, C:C’, of the author’s wide-ranging exercise in the semitic textual style.  The Dawn of Everythingis contemporary postmodern social science at its finest.  The authors start by searching for the origins of social inequality.  They end with the promise of a new history of humanity.

These authors do not know what they do not know.  But they do suspect this…

0256 …A new history of the world awaits.  There is a new way to describe the dawn of everything, where “everything” corresponds to “our current Lebenswelt”.

Yet, their explorations play out as a dark joke, almost as cruel as the joke that, long ago, a talking serpent plays on a naive young woman.

My thanks to the authors.  My condolences as well, on more than one level.

These comments provide views that dramatically re-present the vistas intimated in David Graeber and David Wengrow’s book.  Welcome to a new age of understanding: The Age of Triadic Relations.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 1 of 16)

0001 Biologist Daryl P. Domning and theologian Monika K. Hellwig collaborate in a work, entitled, Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution.  Domning professionally studies the evolution of sirenians, sea cows, while maintaining an interest in Catholic theology.  The sea cows, like the whales and the seals, are land mammals that adapted to an aquatic environment… or should I say?… niche.

0002 In terms of human imagination, sea cows associate to mermaids.  Mermaids are chimeric.  They are half woman and half fish.

0003 The titular word, “selfishness”, is chimeric as well.  It starts in Germany as an emphatic, added to a pronoun (A).  For example, I can say, “I myself” or  “you yourself” or “he himself” or “she herself” and so on.  Then, in Old English, the emphatic coalesces into a noun, “self” (B).  Then, the noun becomes an adjective with an added,”-ish” (C).  “Selfish” denotes an emphasis on self by self.  Then, the adjective converts back into a noun with an added “-ness” (D).  Selfishness (D) is the state of being selfish (C).

0004 So, there is an evolution to the word, “selfishness”, as well.

What games we play with words.

It makes me wonder whether the evolution of this spoken word has anything to do with evil in the light of evolution.

0005 If I change the mode of talk to hand-talk, I may say POINT TO MYSELF.  I may not say I POINT TO MYSELF, because the pronoun, I, is signified by pointing to myself.  I may gesture, POINT TO MYSELF twice, or with dramatic flair, but that is not equivalent to the spoken word, “self” (B) or “selfish” (C).  It may be equivalent to the emphatic, “I, myself” (A).

0006 If language evolves in the milieu of hand talk, then our distant ancestors do not hand talk the equivalent of the spoken words, “self”, “selfish” or “selfishness”.

Does this fact provide a clue to original sin in light of evolution? 

At least, it provides a clue to a divide in the course of human evolution.

The emphatic, I-myself (A), associates to hand talk and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

The explicit abstractions of self (B), selfish (C) and selfishness (D) associate to speech-alone talk and our current Lebenswelt.

0007 Our current Lebenswelt is not the same as the Lebenswelt that we evolved in.

In 2006 (and perhaps, anytime before Domning reads this), the author does not suspect that there may be a twist in human evolution.  In general, evolutionary biologists have no idea.  Like Domning, they are focused on genetics and natural history, not cultural turns.  The hypothesis of the first singularity first appears in 2012 with the masterwork, An Archaeology of the Fall, available at smashwords and other e-book vendors.


Looking at Daryl Domning’s Book (2006) “Original Selfishness” (Part 16 of 16)

0097 Original sin is the absence of original justice.

That is what Saint Thomas Aquinas claims.

The association between original justice, the state of Adam before the Fall, and the Lebenswelt that we evolved in is developed in Comments on Daniel Houck’s Book (2020) “Aquinas, Original Sin and the Challenge of Evolution”.

0098 This examination of Daryl Domning’s book adds depth to that commentary.

By separating the universal (descent from common ancestor) and moral (the traditional definition of concupiscence) realities of original sin, Domning offers me a path to discover one of features of the Lebenswelt that we evolved in, as well as one of the features of our current Lebenswelt.

0099 What games we play with words.

My thanks to Daryl Domning and Monica Hellwig for their speculative effort, trying to reconcile evolutionary science and Christian doctrine.  Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in Light of Evolution is first published in 2006 by Ashgate.  My copy is published in 2016 by Routledge.  The first edition in paperback is issued in 2021.  ISBN is 978-1-03-224358-0.


Looking at Loren Haarsma’s Book (2021) “When Did Sin Begin” (Part 1 of 21)

0001 Loren Haarsma is an old man, a physics professor and a Christian.  As a fellow of the American Science Affiliation, he has lectured on the intersection of science and faith.  He is a scholarly voice in the Biologos network.

The full title of his book is When Did Sin Begin: Human Evolution and The Doctrine of Original Sin (2021, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI).

If one goes to the resources page for the Biologos.org website, then selects the topic, “Bible”, and the subtopic, “Adam and Eve”, one will find an extensive collection of essays on the concerns in Haarsma’s title: timing, evolution and original sin.

0002 How do these concerns fit into a category-based nested form?

Timing calls forth a normal context3.  The question, “when?”, implies an event.  Here, the event is a transition.  For evolution, the transition is a topic of natural inquiry.  For original sin, the transition is a topic for theologians.

Human evolution and original sin belong to the realm of actuality2.

The only item not mentioned is potential1.  Here, the question mark applies.  For human evolution2, the potential must be adaptive change1.  For original sin2, the potential is the start of sin in our current Lebenswelt1.

0003 To me, these concerns yield two category-based nested forms.

Here is a picture, following the recipe in A Primer on the Category-Based Nested Form.

Figure 01

0004 These two normal contexts exclude one another.

0005 The upper normal context3 associates to evolutionary science.  The focus of attention is on natural history and genetics.

Typically, an adaptive change produces speciation.  However, in human evolution, an adaptive change may be cultural.  Human evolution is both biological and cultural.  Since natural history and genetics do not adequately describe culture, they may not be enough to scientifically describe human evolution.  Indeed, no natural science convincingly addresses cultural change.

0006 The lower normal context3 associates to theological science.  The focus of attention is on special and general revelation.

Special revelation includes Genesis 1-11.  Genesis 1-11 divides into two parts.  In the Primeval History (chapter 2:4-11), Adam is brought to life as the first human, even though um… in the Creation Story (chapter 1-2.3), humans are already intended, created and blessed, in the framework of six days of creation.

General revelation includes Greek philosophy, among other traditions.  Greek philosophy is useful for resolving contradictions.  For example, some theologians resolve the contradiction inherent in the two parts of Genesis 1-11 by claiming that Adam (in Genesis 2.4-4) is the male and female “them” that God intended, created and blessed (in Genesis 1).

Say what?

In the Creation Story, God creates them, male and female.  So, Adam must have had some sort of divided consciousness, one operating in his mind and the other working in his ribs.

Just kidding.

0007 Greek philosophy’s usefulness is not limited to resolving contradictions, no matter how silly the resolution may be.  Greek philosophy may also be used in situations where contradictions cannot be resolved.  Such a situation occurs here. Human evolution2 and original sin2 belong to a single actuality.  They both pertain to one realness2.

Here is a picture.

Figure 02

0008 Two (apparently independent) category-based nested forms intersect in the realm of actuality2.  The two constituting actualities cannot escape the one realness, because they constitute the one realness.  Certain contradictions are accidental. Certain contradictions are essential.  Greek philosophy is useful for separating the accidental from the essential.  A set of essential contradictions is called “a mystery”.