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James Brody
July 22nd, 2004, 11:27 PM
I met Gil Levin in the summer of 1996 at a Cape Cod Workshop and I sent him some ideas for a course on evolutionary clinical psychology to be sponsored by his Cape Cod Institute. He liked them and asked me to organize and teach the course. My first postings on this forum went up in January 1997 and about 800 followed from me, more than matched by contributions from many visitors. Customer demand and server technology required changes that provide opportunities.

Please: keep your entries under 300 words, relevant to evolutionary biology, anthropology, or psychology, and linked to contemporary events. Newsweek, for example, ran a cover story on adultery: most of it matches Buss Precepts for human mating but some of it does not. Is David wrong? Also, I am not only trained in physiological psychology (psychopharmacology) but have also practiced clinical psychology in a rural, small town for over two decades. Nonetheless, I enjoy finding Chuck Darwin, Duncan Watts, or Stu Kauffman inside a human foible, especially inside you free will types.

James Brody
Copyright, 2004, all rights reserved

James Brody
July 30th, 2004, 09:06 PM
Understanding evolution depends not only upon an appreciation of natural selection and who swaps gametes but also on vital concepts from evolutionary-developmental biology (evo-devo), emergent networks, statistical physics, and behavior genetics. For example:

1. "Evolution" refers to systematic change over time in embryological development: such changes in living forms depend on the opportunities that arise from genetic duplication, variation, compartmentation, specialization, recruitment, and cooption. Mutations are no longer proclaimed to be random in frequency or kind. St. Hillaire was correct: we share our genetic architects with fruitflies and even mollusks. Species are defined on the basis of who usually breeds together: llamas and camels, however, produce viable young. And the human gene pool of Albany is distinct from that of Ithaca.

2. Emergent networks, like our atmosphere, are so much a part of our nature that we have only lately found them to exist. The environment in which we evolved consisted not only of savannas, shores, predators, competitors, and prey, but also a sturdy set of statistical benefits for arranging our thoughts and alliances in particular kinds of ways. We are, thus, organized in emergent networks on the inside as we negotiate our way through the emergent networks on the outside. Organism and environment comprise one system and we need a book: Emergent Networks and the Generation of Mind.

3. Statistical physics considers the boundary, a narrow phase transition, between order and chaos. Phase transitions are associated with structure and variation: too much rigidity and evolution halts, too much variation and evolution again stops. One outcome of phase transitions and the power laws that operate within them is that organisms and settings stabilize each other. Large changes become more rare for either partner and species achieve ever tighter fits to environments and become ever more skillful at stabilizing those environments. Our thinking also benefits from phase transitions: a narrow range of information swaps our spouse from good guy to bad as phase transitions probably underlie the on-off switches of concept formation.

4. Behavior genetics tells us that contributions of genes to behavior often increases as we get older. Social environments may be most persuasive in our reproductive years but that persuasion is often temporary: we move into temporary synchrony, tell a lot of fibs that center on kindness, wealth, and loyalty, but backslide five years after each child or when we reach our mid-thirties.

5. EP tells us the brain is primarily an organ that exists not only for survival but also for reproduction: only the old and the psychotic contemplate theorems for long intervals. Our mind is also modular: we solve some problems easily and for fun but struggle through other ones. There are systematic differences between the average man and woman, differences in both reproductive strategies and in cognition, differences that we find no matter what culture we study, differences that are also found in other species, that arise from reproductive chores, and that depend strongly on genetic, instinctive foundations. We also have a mental ledger that calculates what we get from others against what we receive and can sometimes identify from photographs the people apt to cheat us. As Kalman Glantz informed us 15 years ago, screaming between spouses often arises from instinctive equity disputes. Mating, child rearing (kids ARE the boss!), and reciprocity come under the lens of EP and, as Trivers once mentioned, our emotions are often tools for managing social contracts.
These powerful variables assembled not only our bodies but also those for most living creatures. We also share our common sense with those same creatures if only we knew how to ask them. You will understand that cats think and dream for the same reasons that you do. The order that Darwin once found in a tangled bank was an exact parallel to the organization within Darwin's own mind.

James Brody

Copyright, 2004, all rights reserved