Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Evolution--the Extended Synthesis: Read All About It : Evolution for Everyone

Expand Messages
  • William Benzon
    DS Wilson says a thing or three about this new book at the link below. One of the most stimulating workshops that I attended during 2009, the year of Darwin,
    Message 1 of 7 , Mar 29, 2010
    • 0 Attachment
      DS Wilson says a thing or three about this new book at the link below.

      " One of the most stimulating workshops that I attended during 2009, the
      year of Darwin, was titled "Evolution--the Extended Synthesis" and held at
      the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Altenberg, Austria. Sixteen evolutionists met
      to discuss how our field has changed since Julian Huxley's Evolution: The
      Modern Synthesis, which was published in 1942 and represented a consensus
      view formulated by major figures such as Ernst Mayr, Theodosius Dobzhansky,
      and George Gaylord Simpson."

      Bill B

      http://scienceblogs.com/evolution/2010/03/evolution--the_extended_synthe.php
    • Jeff P. Turpin
      Bill--Thanks. It s next on the list. I m just finishing Milton Brener s Evolution and Empathy: The Genetic Factor in the Rise of Humanism. General themes
      Message 2 of 7 , Mar 30, 2010
      • 0 Attachment
        Bill--Thanks.  It's next on the list.  I'm just finishing Milton Brener's Evolution and Empathy: The Genetic Factor in the Rise of Humanism.  General themes are that 1) evolution can happen very quickly, 2) epigenetic, somatic structures and processes can cause rapid evolution, and are heritable, 3) 1 and 2 caused a sudden increase in empathy in human populations that sponsored the Greek Miracle and the Renaissance.  Anybody have comments pro or con? JT

        Jeff P. Turpin, PhD.
        Turpin and Sons Inc.
        Cultural Resource Management
        2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
        (512) 922-7826
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Monday, March 29, 2010 5:28 PM
        Subject: [biopoet] Evolution--the Extended Synthesis: Read All About It : Evolution for Everyone

         

        DS Wilson says a thing or three about this new book at the link below.

        " One of the most stimulating workshops that I attended during 2009, the
        year of Darwin, was titled "Evolution-- the Extended Synthesis" and held at
        the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Altenberg, Austria. Sixteen evolutionists met
        to discuss how our field has changed since Julian Huxley's Evolution: The
        Modern Synthesis, which was published in 1942 and represented a consensus
        view formulated by major figures such as Ernst Mayr, Theodosius Dobzhansky,
        and George Gaylord Simpson."

        Bill B

        http://scienceblogs .com/evolution/ 2010/03/evolutio n--the_extended_ synthe.php

      • Stephen Berer
        ... Hi Jeff. Is Brener thus suggesting that significant social stressors can generate evolutionary changes? Or more generally, that consciousness can generate
        Message 3 of 7 , Mar 30, 2010
        • 0 Attachment
          On 3/30/2010 7:49 AM, Jeff P. Turpin wrote:
          General themes are that 1) evolution can happen very quickly, 2) epigenetic, somatic structures and processes can cause rapid evolution, and are heritable, 3) 1 and 2 caused a sudden increase in empathy in human populations that sponsored the Greek Miracle and the Renaissance. 
          Hi Jeff.
          Is Brener thus suggesting that significant social stressors can generate evolutionary changes? Or more generally, that consciousness can generate evolutionary gradients?
          Thanks.
          smb
          -- 
          Wut ar the koeld hard jeyommetreez 
          	ov the hewman mien
          Tu the flexxen kervz ar naecher?
               http//www.shivvetee.com
               http//shivvetee.blogspot.com/
        • Jeff P. Turpin
          Stephen--Excuse the delay, but I wanted to give Brener a full read. I suspect he would answer affirmatively to both of your questions, with time frame for
          Message 4 of 7 , Mar 31, 2010
          • 0 Attachment
            Stephen--Excuse the delay, but I wanted to give Brener a full read.  I suspect he would answer affirmatively to both of your questions, with "time frame for generation" being the qualifier.  My extended synopsis--
             

            Evolution and Empathy: The Genetic Factor in the Rise of Humanism

            Milton E. Brener.  McFarland 2008

             

            Brener is a retired attorney, and approaches his argument with predictable rigor, on 5-6 fronts.  I am only superficially conversant with some of these areas, which is why I am looking for feedback.  Brener uses art history, literary history, world history, neuro-biology, brain trauma studies, and evolutionary theory, to argue that physiological changes facilitated by genetic mixing (via sexual selection and racial or sub-racial integrations) and heritable epigenetic factors within the body that govern gene expression and phenotypic plasticity initiated and/or increased the capacity for empathy within certain Mediterranean populations, and that this empathic capacity sponsored a radical change in human psychology, reflected in our plastic arts and writings, and "the rise of humanism."  Along the way Brener explicitly calls out Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins.  He is, however, talking specifically about what happened in the past, not about what is happening hear and now, although I think there are implications for current developments

            The biological arguments are explicitly neo-Lamarckian, neo-Baldwinian, and somewhat parallel to Dennett’s discussions of learned neural pathways, suggesting that learning and environmental demands can bias us toward repeated phenotypic expressions in certain areas; that the factors which regulate phenotypic expression are heritable, and can be altered quickly by repetition and environmental interaction; that they can eventually become codified in genes; and that genetic mixing and other "heterogeneous environments" provide a “theater of opportunity” for this more rapid level of evolution.  The arguments seem plausible on the surface, and Brener cites numerous studies to justify his assertions.  He doesn’t use mirror neurons as a major part of his argument, which is a bit of a surprise.

            The data from art and literary history is a little more familiar to me.  He discusses the transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional paintings, the use of perspective in paintings, the move from stylized facial sculpture to statues that express human emotions, and the emotive representations of nature in literature and art, all emerging around 6th century BC (main examples are from Greece, but with extensive cross-cultural comparisons), and re-emerging in Italy after the Middle Ages, arguing that these are evidence of a change in right-brain capacities for empathy.

                The evolutionary arguments are attractive, but of course they all hinge on the claim that evolution can be, and has, accelerated well beyond the rates suggested by the Modern Synthesis, and that it produced empathy capacity in the brain at certain times in history.  Throughout he argues that the Hitlerian implications of discussion of race have unfairly blocked progress in discussion of genetic variation in humans, and argues that the Modern Synthesis has codified this informal social censorship.  His dense discussion of modern neurobiology works to modify the Modern Synthesis, and his deft claims that 1) racial mixing (rather than putative racial purity) provided the “theater of opportunity” (a claim which makes empirical sense to me); 2) the modern conventions of love and appreciation for nature were sponsored by the rise of empathy; and 3) this advanced capacity for empathy is what makes us modernly human, all make his thesis politically palatable, which is an unfortunate but requisite attribute of any theory derived initially from formal racial differences.  And his incredibly detailed art history stands up to lay scrutiny. But it would take an expert art historian, historical comp lit expert, comparative cultural anthropologist, cutting-edge neurobiologist, and competent evolutionary synthesist to thoroughly assess the argument.
                The big question is, of course, whether modern evolutionists are comfortable with acknowledging and discussing significant genetic differences within human populations (already accepted for most other animals) that were isolated for long periods prehistorically, and whether the subsequent re-mixing could indeed provide fertile ground for more rapid change (and whether his process of sped-up change holds up).  At places the book is necessarily tortuous to read, but the beginning and end chapters are quite accessible, and provide an easy entre into the denser arguments. 

            Jeff P. Turpin, PhD.
            Turpin and Sons Inc.
            Cultural Resource Management
            2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
            (512) 922-7826
            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 6:33 PM
            Subject: Re: [biopoet] Evolution--the Extended Synthesis: Read All About It : Evolution for Everyone

             

            On 3/30/2010 7:49 AM, Jeff P. Turpin wrote:

            General themes are that 1) evolution can happen very quickly, 2) epigenetic, somatic structures and processes can cause rapid evolution, and are heritable, 3) 1 and 2 caused a sudden increase in empathy in human populations that sponsored the Greek Miracle and the Renaissance. 
            Hi Jeff.
            Is Brener thus suggesting that significant social stressors can generate evolutionary changes? Or more generally, that consciousness can generate evolutionary gradients?
            Thanks.
            smb
            -- 
            Wut ar the koeld hard jeyommetreez 
            	ov the hewman mien
            Tu the flexxen kervz ar naecher?
                 http//www.shivvetee .com
                 http//shivvetee. blogspot. com/

          • Stephen Berer
            Dear Jeff, Thanks for the careful summary and review. Very helpful. While I am disposed to believe that we are in a phase of rapid and accelerating evolution,
            Message 5 of 7 , Mar 31, 2010
            • 0 Attachment
              Dear Jeff,
              Thanks for the careful summary and review. Very helpful.
              While I am disposed to believe that we are in a phase of rapid and accelerating evolution, and that our evolution is increasingly affected by cultural and personal stresses, and are thus driven by conscious analysis and interpretation, which will increasingly minimize the reliance on random mutations (pant, pant), I will read Brener with some skepticism, especially in his art history and comp lit arguments. I am curious how he interprets the long interlude between Greek and Renaissance flowerings. Devolution? Also, Chinese, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Biblical literature all express remarkable empathy and subtlety in individual characterization and some or all significantly predate Greek writing. Chinese, Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian sculpture arguably rival Greek sculpture. And the belief that perspective and dimensionality in Renaissance art implies greater empathy or knowledge, has long been argued back and forth. But I say this, not having read Brener.
              I am going right now to buy his book. (We'll see how well I manage to slog thru it!)
              Again, many thanks.
              smb

              On 3/31/2010 11:39 AM, Jeff P. Turpin wrote:
               

              Stephen--Excuse the delay, but I wanted to give Brener a full read.  I suspect he would answer affirmatively to both of your questions, with "time frame for generation" being the qualifier.  My extended synopsis--
               

              Evolution and Empathy: The Genetic Factor in the Rise of Humanism

              Milton E. Brener.  McFarland 2008

              Brener is a retired attorney, and approaches his argument with predictable rigor, on 5-6 fronts.  I am only superficially conversant with some of these areas, which is why I am looking for feedback.  Brener uses art history, literary history, world history, neuro-biology, brain trauma studies, and evolutionary theory, to argue that physiological changes facilitated by genetic mixing (via sexual selection and racial or sub-racial integrations) and heritable epigenetic factors within the body that govern gene expression and phenotypic plasticity initiated and/or increased the capacity for empathy within certain Mediterranean populations, and that this empathic capacity sponsored a radical change in human psychology, reflected in our plastic arts and writings, and "the rise of humanism."  Along the way Brener explicitly calls out Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins.  He is, however, talking specifically about what happened in the past, not about what is happening hear and now, although I think there are implications for current developments

              The biological arguments are explicitly neo-Lamarckian, neo-Baldwinian, and somewhat parallel to Dennett’s discussions of learned neural pathways, suggesting that learning and environmental demands can bias us toward repeated phenotypic expressions in certain areas; that the factors which regulate phenotypic expression are heritable, and can be altered quickly by repetition and environmental interaction; that they can eventually become codified in genes; and that genetic mixing and other "heterogeneous environments" provide a “theater of opportunity” for this more rapid level of evolution.  The arguments seem plausible on the surface, and Brener cites numerous studies to justify his assertions.  He doesn’t use mirror neurons as a major part of his argument, which is a bit of a surprise.

              The data from art and literary history is a little more familiar to me.  He discusses the transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional paintings, the use of perspective in paintings, the move from stylized facial sculpture to statues that express human emotions, and the emotive representations of nature in literature and art, all emerging around 6th century BC (main examples are from Greece, but with extensive cross-cultural comparisons) , and re-emerging in Italy after the Middle Ages, arguing that these are evidence of a change in right-brain capacities for empathy.

                  The evolutionary arguments are attractive, but of course they all hinge on the claim that evolution can be, and has, accelerated well beyond the rates suggested by the Modern Synthesis, and that it produced empathy capacity in the brain at certain times in history.  Throughout he argues that the Hitlerian implications of discussion of race have unfairly blocked progress in discussion of genetic variation in humans, and argues that the Modern Synthesis has codified this informal social censorship.  His dense discussion of modern neurobiology works to modify the Modern Synthesis, and his deft claims that 1) racial mixing (rather than putative racial purity) provided the “theater of opportunity” (a claim which makes empirical sense to me); 2) the modern conventions of love and appreciation for nature were sponsored by the rise of empathy; and 3) this advanced capacity for empathy is what makes us modernly human, all make his thesis politically palatable, which is an unfortunate but requisite attribute of any theory derived initially from formal racial differences.  And his incredibly detailed art history stands up to lay scrutiny. But it would take an expert art historian, historical comp lit expert, comparative cultural anthropologist, cutting-edge neurobiologist, and competent evolutionary synthesist to thoroughly assess the argument.
                  The big question is, of course, whether modern evolutionists are comfortable with acknowledging and discussing significant genetic differences within human populations (already accepted for most other animals) that were isolated for long periods prehistorically, and whether the subsequent re-mixing could indeed provide fertile ground for more rapid change (and whether his process of sped-up change holds up).  At places the book is necessarily tortuous to read, but the beginning and end chapters are quite accessible, and provide an easy entre into the denser arguments. 
              -- 
              Wut ar the koeld hard jeyommetreez 
              	ov the hewman mien
              Tu the flexxen kervz ar naecher?
                   http//www.shivvetee.com
                   http//shivvetee.blogspot.com/
            • Jeff P. Turpin
              Stephen--Glad you are getting the book. A few postscripts: Brener does a thorough job of explaining the gap between the Greeks and the Renaissance, but I ll
              Message 6 of 7 , Mar 31, 2010
              • 0 Attachment
                Stephen--Glad you are getting the book.  A few postscripts: Brener does a thorough job of explaining the gap between the Greeks and the Renaissance, but I'll let you read it, since it informs his whole argument.  I also thought about the early historic Far East, and agree that its absence from his text is problematic.  However, he explicitly says that he is not arguing that this only occured in Greece and Italy, and that he is not arguing for a specifically Western bias.  It's just that this is the best place to document the change.  He compares art from much (not all) of the rest of the world to ground his claims.  I will be interested in your read.

                Jeff P. Turpin, PhD.
                Turpin and Sons Inc.
                Cultural Resource Management
                2047 Lakeshore, Canyon Lake, TX 78133
                (512) 922-7826
                ----- Original Message -----
                Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 6:21 PM
                Subject: Re: [biopoet] Evolution--the Extended Synthesis: Read All About It : Evolution for Everyone

                 

                Dear Jeff,
                Thanks for the careful summary and review. Very helpful.
                While I am disposed to believe that we are in a phase of rapid and accelerating evolution, and that our evolution is increasingly affected by cultural and personal stresses, and are thus driven by conscious analysis and interpretation, which will increasingly minimize the reliance on random mutations (pant, pant), I will read Brener with some skepticism, especially in his art history and comp lit arguments. I am curious how he interprets the long interlude between Greek and Renaissance flowerings. Devolution? Also, Chinese, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Biblical literature all express remarkable empathy and subtlety in individual characterization and some or all significantly predate Greek writing. Chinese, Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian sculpture arguably rival Greek sculpture. And the belief that perspective and dimensionality in Renaissance art implies greater empathy or knowledge, has long been argued back and forth. But I say this, not having read Brener.
                I am going right now to buy his book. (We'll see how well I manage to slog thru it!)
                Again, many thanks.
                smb

                On 3/31/2010 11:39 AM, Jeff P. Turpin wrote:

                 

                Stephen--Excuse the delay, but I wanted to give Brener a full read.  I suspect he would answer affirmatively to both of your questions, with "time frame for generation" being the qualifier.  My extended synopsis--
                 

                Evolution and Empathy: The Genetic Factor in the Rise of Humanism

                Milton E. Brener.  McFarland 2008

                Brener is a retired attorney, and approaches his argument with predictable rigor, on 5-6 fronts.  I am only superficially conversant with some of these areas, which is why I am looking for feedback.  Brener uses art history, literary history, world history, neuro-biology, brain trauma studies, and evolutionary theory, to argue that physiological changes facilitated by genetic mixing (via sexual selection and racial or sub-racial integrations) and heritable epigenetic factors within the body that govern gene expression and phenotypic plasticity initiated and/or increased the capacity for empathy within certain Mediterranean populations, and that this empathic capacity sponsored a radical change in human psychology, reflected in our plastic arts and writings, and "the rise of humanism."  Along the way Brener explicitly calls out Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins.  He is, however, talking specifically about what happened in the past, not about what is happening hear and now, although I think there are implications for current developments

                The biological arguments are explicitly neo-Lamarckian, neo-Baldwinian, and somewhat parallel to Dennett’s discussions of learned neural pathways, suggesting that learning and environmental demands can bias us toward repeated phenotypic expressions in certain areas; that the factors which regulate phenotypic expression are heritable, and can be altered quickly by repetition and environmental interaction; that they can eventually become codified in genes; and that genetic mixing and other "heterogeneous environments" provide a “theater of opportunity” for this more rapid level of evolution.  The arguments seem plausible on the surface, and Brener cites numerous studies to justify his assertions.  He doesn’t use mirror neurons as a major part of his argument, which is a bit of a surprise.

                The data from art and literary history is a little more familiar to me.  He discusses the transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional paintings, the use of perspective in paintings, the move from stylized facial sculpture to statues that express human emotions, and the emotive representations of nature in literature and art, all emerging around 6th century BC (main examples are from Greece, but with extensive cross-cultural comparisons) , and re-emerging in Italy after the Middle Ages, arguing that these are evidence of a change in right-brain capacities for empathy.

                    The evolutionary arguments are attractive, but of course they all hinge on the claim that evolution can be, and has, accelerated well beyond the rates suggested by the Modern Synthesis, and that it produced empathy capacity in the brain at certain times in history.  Throughout he argues that the Hitlerian implications of discussion of race have unfairly blocked progress in discussion of genetic variation in humans, and argues that the Modern Synthesis has codified this informal social censorship.  His dense discussion of modern neurobiology works to modify the Modern Synthesis, and his deft claims that 1) racial mixing (rather than putative racial purity) provided the “theater of opportunity” (a claim which makes empirical sense to me); 2) the modern conventions of love and appreciation for nature were sponsored by the rise of empathy; and 3) this advanced capacity for empathy is what makes us modernly human, all make his thesis politically palatable, which is an unfortunate but requisite attribute of any theory derived initially from formal racial differences.  And his incredibly detailed art history stands up to lay scrutiny. But it would take an expert art historian, historical comp lit expert, comparative cultural anthropologist, cutting-edge neurobiologist, and competent evolutionary synthesist to thoroughly assess the argument.
                    The big question is, of course, whether modern evolutionists are comfortable with acknowledging and discussing significant genetic differences within human populations (already accepted for most other animals) that were isolated for long periods prehistorically, and whether the subsequent re-mixing could indeed provide fertile ground for more rapid change (and whether his process of sped-up change holds up).  At places the book is necessarily tortuous to read, but the beginning and end chapters are quite accessible, and provide an easy entre into the denser arguments. 
                -- 
                Wut ar the koeld hard jeyommetreez 
                	ov the hewman mien
                Tu the flexxen kervz ar naecher?
                     http//www.shivvetee .com
                     http//shivvetee. blogspot. com/

              • Stephen Berer
                ... I can live with that! I look forward to talking again about it. best, smb -- Wut ar the koeld hard jeyommetreez ov the hewman mien Tu the flexxen kervz ar
                Message 7 of 7 , Mar 31, 2010
                • 0 Attachment
                  On 3/31/2010 7:46 PM, Jeff P. Turpin wrote:
                  However, he explicitly says that he is not arguing that this only occured in Greece and Italy, and that he is not arguing for a specifically Western bias.  It's just that this is the best place to document the change. 
                  I can live with that!
                  I look forward to talking again about it.
                  best,
                  smb
                  -- 
                  Wut ar the koeld hard jeyommetreez 
                  	ov the hewman mien
                  Tu the flexxen kervz ar naecher?
                       http//www.shivvetee.com
                       http//shivvetee.blogspot.com/
                Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.