😱 We have Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology 🏰🚀

Dedicated to the unforgettable Edward O Wilson whose affinity with Nature and unity of knowledge have stirred biophilia and spurred consilience in SoundEagle🦅ೋღஜஇ

Just as there are evolutionary bases in people’s sense of morality and in their behaviours as well as in their religiosity, so too are there ingrained features behind people’s propensity for being unduly influenced or manipulated by their emotions, as revealed by new understandings in multidisciplinary fields such as sociobiology, evolutionary psychology and behavioural sciences, epigenetics, brain and cognitive sciences, gene-culture coevolution and the like, especially if those emotions are primal in origin, necessary for survival, conducive to surveillance, or associated with dread, anxiety, paranoia, uncertainty and doubt. For instance, fearmongering unequivocally manifests a potent appeal to fear to the extent that those who are capable of exploiting or attacking the psychological vulnerability of human beings can exert far-reaching control over people and place them under their reign or sway.

Emotive rather than analytic delivery of a message is an age-old phenomenon. As highly interactive and social animals, human beings have long learnt to engineer or exploit many of their quotations and statements to efficaciously press the emotional buttons of their peers, readers and audiences for the purpose of eliciting emotive reactions, dramatic responses or reactive stances in order to deliver an idea, to drive home some issue, or to incite certain action via the emotional rapport or resonance in positive cases, or via the emotional disgust or agitation in negative cases, all the more so with respect to sensitive, controversial or provocative matters. Emotional reaction or emotive impulse can indeed get the better of those who either fail to recognize appeal to emotion as a formal fallacy (also called logical fallacy, deductive fallacy or non sequitur), or neglect to moderate their feelings, emotional states or reactions as a result of being persuaded or stimulated by some emotion-based claim or argument carried by a quotation or statement, especially if the claim or argument is fallacious (based on a mistaken belief), biased (unfairly prejudiced for or against someone or something), misleading (giving the wrong idea or impression), or misguided (having faulty judgement or reasoning).

Emotions fuelling biases and flaring opinions can be seen as a major, volatile contributor to innumerable social flashpoints, cultural minefields and ideological infernos, where truths become victims and martyrs. The quality of news, information, journalism, public discourse and social life as well as politics and governance have been adversely impacted by Hype, Bias and Affect, thus negatively affecting democracy, civil society, civic activism, legitimate journalism and the world at large. In particular, the ease and frequency with which countless people from all walks of life readily or unreservedly slip into the cacophony of opinions and partialities in flagrant disregard for factuality and fairness have indubitably pointed to a deep-seated aspect of Homo sapiens. The perennial predilection for drama and the persistent preoccupation with emotion are part and parcel of (the (eu)social world inhabited by) the human species, simultaneously constituting the defining strength and the Achilles’ heel of the naked ape, insofar as large swathes of the human population have been held captive by biologically-based psychological states — the neurophysiological edifices that have been holding sway over much of humanity and showing no sign of abatement through the ages, whilst being magnified by institutional and technological advancements. As a recipient of many fellowships, awards and honours (including two Pulitzer prizes), and as an American entomologist, biologist, naturalist and writer who has specialized for many decades in ecology, evolution and sociobiology, who has been known as the father of “sociobiology” and “biodiversity”, and who coined the term “biophilia”, Edward Osborne Wilson summed up during a public discussion between himself and James Dewey Watson (an American molecular biologist, geneticist and zoologist) moderated by NPR correspondent Robert Krulwich on 9 September 2009 in a sold-out event at Sanders Theatre of the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Massachusetts with the following sobering words to serve as a stark warning for humanity still entrenched in and enslaved by the primitive nature and shackling influence of emotions, the vulnerability of which has been rendered even more acute by the ascents of institutional power and technological prowess that are contributing to worsening existential crisis, unless successfully (re)mediated by philosophical reflections of and rational inquiries into the origin, identity and destination of humankind:

Will we solve the crises of next hundred years? asked Krulwich. “Yes, if we are honest and smart,” said Wilson. “The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.” Until we understand ourselves, concluded the Pulitzer-prize winning author of On Human Nature, “until we answer those huge questions of philosophy that the philosophers abandoned a couple of generations ago—Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?—rationally,” we’re on very thin ground.

In the tone of a skilfully appointed gloom and the tenor of a fatefully apportioned doom, interspersed with a dreamlike fascination with scientific triumph and technological prowess, a similar view regarding humanity is expressed in the second paragraph of Chapter 1 named “The Human Condition” in Wilson’s 27th book entitled The Social Conquest of Earth and published in 2012. The tone and tenor swing dramatically from wide-eyed wonder at the advancements of science, technology and civilization to world-weariness at the current state of the human condition still incapable of fathoming let alone solving the great riddle of life, worsened all the more by humanity’s wayward violence, aggressive expansion and scant apprehension of its own existential mess, pernicious strain and destructive streak:

Humanity today is like a waking dreamer, caught between the fantasies of sleep and the chaos of the real world. The mind seeks but cannot find the precise place and hour. We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology. We thrash about. We are terribly confused by the mere fact of our existence, and a danger to ourselves and to the rest of life.

When carefully understood and appreciated, the messages conveyed in Wilson’s concluding statements can indeed be simultaneously pessimistic, prophetic, profound and poignant. There are serious reasons and implications for their being construed by the most thoughtful and perceptive amongst our fellow human beings as such, at least to the extent that emotion, the most intimate aspect about human existence, has been brought to deep reckoning by the unflattering realization or blunt revelation that although emotions and heuristics have facilitated adaptive responses to environmental challenges and provided advantageous solutions to ancient and recurring problems facing our ancestors living in prehistory, they can readily become overwhelmed by and ill-suited to the hectic pace, facile trend, incessant change, fast consumption, vast complexity and heightened interconnectedness of modern life coupled with its global nature and ecological impact, insofar as the scale and speed of anthropological and ecological transformation driven by the interaction between evolutionary factors of the social, cultural, economic and technological domains have no historical precedents, substantially affecting people’s material (work, income, house), psychological (personal relationships) and sociocultural (continuous updating of knowledge and professional skills) lives.

Undoubtedly, the emotional realm and journey of humanity have been fraught with recurring problems, many of which are being exacerbated by escalating issues confronting present-day societies and the contemporary world. Two contrasting dilemmas continue to exist and defy foreseeable solutions. On the one hand, “answer[ing] those huge questions of philosophy that the philosophers abandoned a couple of generations ago—Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?—rationally” will remain exceedingly difficult and persistently problematic when emotion continues to be as intrinsically difficult and fuzzy a subject to fathom as consciousness itself. Despite wide-ranging contributions from physiology, psychology, evolutionary science, (affective) neuroscience, endocrinology, medicine, history, sociology and computer science, there is still no scientific consensus on a concept or definition of emotion that is universal or all-inclusive, let alone what emotional states have in common and how they can be distinguished from nonemotional states. On the other hand, emotional experience has always been the wellspring of ideas and creative genres in songs, music, art, literature and drama (including play, opera, comedy, mime, ballet and narrative (semi)fiction performed in a theatre or on radio, film and television), especially those possessing enduring qualities that are enriching, uplifting, inspiring, informative or beneficial to humankind whilst communicating and reverberating to us important matters such as sentiments, values and ethics. Yet, regardless of how great and prodigious such human achievements have been, that “we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology” is a succinct, sombre and down-to-earth reminder that genetic evolution endowing humans with their emotional faculty — the fundamental vehicle and defining source of their expressive humanity and social intelligence — has hardly kept pace with the speeds and magnitudes of cultural evolution and technological (r)evolution, whose unprecedented scope and power for transforming the material, ideological, sociocultural, political, economic and environmental conditions of human existence are significantly impinging on the very survival of Homo sapiens as well as numerous nonhuman species and habitats around the world, even more so when emotions — the root of feelings, desires and empathy as well as the valenced reactions routinely intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, creativity and motivation — cannot be consistently counted on to recognize and rein in the excesses and repercussions of Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic causing Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity, and in turn stressing or degrading the integrity, resilience and social responsibility of individuals, institutions and technology.

Indubitably, human emotion and temperament in affectively synthesizing the flavour and substance of experiential reality have very significant roles and influences in everyday life with respect to how they readily and regularly engender in people (or render them more susceptible to) various biases, fallacies and blindspots, all of which can be much stronger and far more problematic than those engendered by people’s more objective beliefs and considered premises, especially when Hype, Bias and Affect that Appeal to Emotion and Lazy Thinking are not proportionately modulated by demonstrable evidence, judiciously tested with empirical data, or sufficiently tempered with universal reason. In this regard, human emotion and temperament may no longer be deemed to be valid, admissible or justifiable as a trustworthy source or wellspring from which the core standards or ultimate yardsticks of humanity, let alone the definitive reflections of truth, can be dependably derived. Whilst the diversity of human consciousness requires the ongoing recognition that different experiences and behavioural features exhibited or elicited in the realm of human emotion and temperament all have their meanings and places in life, the validity and reliability of human emotion, even in the light of scientific exploration of human psychology as a way of understanding how individuals and cultures systematically construct and interpret experiences, have been called into serious question on the basis of the perennial inclination or parti pris that manifestly drives people to steadfastly resist even the fiercest onslaught of undeniable facts, sobering veracities, confronting realities, climacteric shifts or paradigmatic changeovers against their misguided beliefs, deplorable (in)actions or execrable (mal)practices, so long as humans are destined to be intractably shackled by their internal “paleolithic emotions”, even if humans can come to their own defence and be fortunate or inventive enough to be morally absolved, materialistically enriched, existentially emancipated, circuitously redeemed or gratuitously aggrandized by their external “medieval institutions; and god-like technology”.

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Regarded as one of the world’s preeminent biologists, Edward O. Wilson spent his boyhood exploring the forests and swamps of south Alabama and the Florida panhandle, collecting snakes, butterflies, and ants — the latter to become his lifelong specialty. His memoir Naturalist, called “one of the finest scientific memoirs ever written” by the Los Angeles Times, is an inspiring account of Wilson’s growth as a scientist and the evolution of the fields [that] he helped [to] define. This graphic edition, adapted by New York Times bestselling comics writer Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by C.M.Butzer, brings Wilson’s childhood and celebrated career to life through dynamic full-color illustrations and Wilson’s own lyric writing.

In this adaptation of Naturalist, vivid illustrations draw readers in to Wilson’s lifelong quest to explore and protect the natural world. His success began not with an elite education but an insatiable curiosity about Earth’s wild creatures, and this new edition of Naturalist makes Wilson’s work accessible for anyone who shares his passion. On every page, striking art adds immediacy and highlights the warmth and sense of humor that sets Wilson’s writing apart.

Naturalist was written as an invitation — a reminder that curiosity is vital and scientific exploration is open to all of us. Each dynamic frame of this graphic adaptation deepens Wilson’s message, renewing his call to discover and celebrate the little things of the world.

Edward Osborne Wilson

Edward O Wilson in February 2003Wilson in February 2003
Born 10 June 1929 at Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Died 26 December 2021 (aged 92) at Burlington, Massachusetts, USA
Nationality American
Education University of Alabama (BS in 1949, MS in 1950)
Harvard University (PhD in 1955)
Known for Popularizing Sociobiology
Epic of Evolution
Character Displacement
Island Biogeography
Acknowledged as The creator of two scientific disciplines (island biogeography and sociobiology), three unifying concepts for science and the humanities jointly (biophilia, biodiversity studies and consilience), and two major advances in global biodiversity conservation (the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) and Half-Earth).
Active as
Major Awards
Major Honours

Scientific Career

Fields Biology (specialized in myrmecology, a branch of entomology)
Subjects Animal Behaviour, Ants, Biodiversity, Biodiversity Conservation, Biology, Biophilia, Biotic Communities, Cognition and Culture, Conservation Biology, Consilience, Evolutionary Biology, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Genetic Psychology, Group Selection, Human Evolution, Insect Ecology, Insect Evolution, Insect Societies, Insects, Island Biogeography, Multilevel Selection, Myrmecology, Natural History, Nature and Nurture, Nature Conservation, Restoration Ecology, Social Evolution, Sociobiology
Institutions Harvard University
Duke University
Thesis A Monographic Revision of the Ant Genus Lasius (1955)
Doctoral Advisor Frank M Carpenter
Doctoral Students Daniel Simberloff (1969)
Donald J Farish (1970)
James D Weinrich (1976)
Mark W Moffett (1987)
Influences William Morton Wheeler
Main Works
Edited Works
Books for which Wilson has written a Foreword
Organizations and Websites
E.O. Wilson’s holy grail was the sheer delight of the pursuit of knowledge. A relentless synthesizer of ideas, his courageous scientific focus and poetic voice transformed our way of understanding ourselves and our planet. His greatest hope was that students everywhere share his passion for discovery as the ultimate scientific foundation for future stewardship of our planet. His gift was a deep belief in people and our shared human resolve to save the natural world.
― Paula J Ehrlich, CEO & President of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, and co-founder of the Half-Earth Project
It would be hard to understate Ed’s scientific achievements, but his impact extends to every facet of society. He was a true visionary with a unique ability to inspire and galvanize. He articulated, perhaps better than anyone, what it means to be human. His infectious curiosity and creativity have shaped the lives of so many, myself included, and I feel lucky to have called him a friend.
― David J Prend, Chairman of the Board, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
Edward O Wilson on Lignumvitae Key in Florida

Oil on canvas of 2006 by Jennie Summerall depicting Edward O Wilson on Lignumvitae Key in Florida, used as part of the National Portrait Gallery Classroom Resources for Teachers and Students at the Smithsonian Institution.

The significance of this portrait can be gauged by reading the following extract from Lisa Thatcher Kresl’s 1995 account published in South Florida Sun-Sentinel (20 August) and Orlando Sentinel (15 October):

The history of the 280-acre islet is sketchy, but it’s believed [that] the now-extinct Calusa Indians used it as a burial ground. It also was a haven for pirates who didn’t mind battling the large supply of bugs, lack of fresh water and unfriendly Indians.

The island was surveyed in 1873, and William Matheson bought it in 1919 for $1. A prominent Florida financier, Matheson cleared about 20 acres, built a limestone house, grew exotic plants and brought in white-tailed deer, hogs, peacocks and horses.

Son Hugh inherited the island, and when he died in 1954, it was sold to three Miami residents who planned to develop a resort. They lobbied for a causeway to be built to the island, but taxpayers voted against it.

When Dr. Wilson, “the father of biodiversity,” came to the Keys in the 1960s for research, he determined to preserve Lignumvitae’s undeveloped beauty. He teamed up with Russell and Charlotte Niedhauk, the island’s late caretakers, and they persuaded the owners to sell it for $1.95 million – about $3 million less than the original asking price. The stipulation: that the island be used for research and education.

Conservation groups joined the crusade, and Lignumvitae became the property of the state in March 1971. It is now a state botanical site. The animals and some of the plants brought by the financier have been removed and his house turned into a visitors center.

Because of the research and education stipulation, Lignumvitae is a restricted area. Only 50 people can be on the island at a time – 25 in the clearing and 25 on the trail accompanied by a ranger.


We have Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology with Planetary Outlook

Whether or not humanity, saddled with “paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology”, has already been accelerating inexorably towards some eventual calamities or runaway cataclysms, being well on track in facilitating a wholesale and terminal decline of Homo sapiens — a species unable to transcend its own fate, incapable of fathoming let alone solving the great riddle of life, and succumbing in due course to not merely a surfeit of wayward violence and aggressive expansion but also exiguous comprehension of its own existential mess, pernicious strain and destructive streak — Edward O Wilson, a fervent biologist, an avid naturalist, a dedicated conservationist and a supreme humanist, as well as a liberal scholar, an indefatigable synthesizer and unifier of knowledge, a veritable polymath who had aimed far beyond expertise and specialization, and who ended up becoming a peerless academic species, a celebrated outlier and a profound thinker, conceded on Big Think (as transcribed from the video below) with well-mannered confidence and seasoned wisdom that the ultimate answers to such Gauguinesque questions as “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” and the most satisfactory response to the search for existential meaning lie prospectively in the efficacious collaborations and cross-fertilizations of scientific endeavours such that

[a]ll those five disciplines [Paleontology, Anthropology, Psychology, Evolutionary biology and Neural biology (PAPEN)] together making bridges here and there are beginning to tell us what the meaning of humanity is. It’s the product of a grand epic. And it’s the full story of humanity. And we’re just beginning to draw it in clarity. And let me just add to that why leaving out history of the whole human species, genetic as well as cultural, you have no chance whatsoever in defining the meaning of human existence because history, that goes back essentially to the origin of literacy, history makes no sense without prehistory. That is to say the biological evolution that’s led up to the human condition at the beginning of history. And prehistory in turn, is a study of our ancestors going right back into the animal kingdom, makes no sense without biology. So we have to have a constant building of concatenation of ideas and information discipline to discipline across scales of the totality of the human population and scales of time going back actually millions of years to our early pre-human ancestors and then forward it to the era of cultural evolution. And then we will have the story of humanity. And then we will not ask in a quizzical manner, “What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of human existence?” We will have our answers.


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🖼 Illustrating Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology 😱🏰🚀

69 comments on “😱 We have Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology 🏰🚀

  1. I am a huge fan of Wilson. His book, The Insect Societies, was required reading in grand school.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. An amazing individual. We have become so dependent on reification that we rarely understand what language and “ideas” are attempting to communicate. We “listen” to our own and others’ ideas and act on thoughts that ARE NOT REAL. they are about reality, a commentary, but that doesn’t make them truthful or accurate. But because they are “our thoughts” then they must be both real and truthful. Humanity seems to be replacing presence and attention with language-based ideas ABOUT reality. We miss life while we “think” about it. All thought and language represent a tiny part of the entire process of a human, being. Great post, you put an enormous amount of effort in every post. I appreciate that. Take care of you, my friend.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. 💜 Goddess is in There SomeWhere Too EveryOne; it must Be Male Sexism Putting Down Ladies 🚺 😉 😏 😜 🤔 🙄 🚺 EveryBody


    Liked by 3 people

  4. until we answer those huge questions of philosophy that the philosophers abandoned a couple of generations ago”. By ignoring these questions we can end-around worth (now measured and mass produced) with circuitry, polymers, and some interesting metallurgy, we have attempted to circumvent (or claim) value by creating powerful gadgets. The ship is foundering. Rather that fix the leaks we invent new ballasts and finely adjustable sails and keep moving! For gods sake keep moving forward!
    Where does the act of futility arise from our roots?

    Liked by 4 people

  5. This is one heck of a read and a great tribute to EOW.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. So so so very much to absorb here. A terrific write up and review of a writer who has made profound contributions to both, science and humanities. Thank you for sharing. A lifetime of learning.

    ●human beings have long learnt to engineer or exploit many of their quotations and statements to efficaciously press the emotional buttons of their peers, readers and audiences●

    Now more than ever this conclusive insight resonates with me.

    ●the neurophysiological edifices that have been holding sway over much of humanity and showing no sign of abatement through the ages, whilst being magnified by institutional and technological advancements.●

    So true, it’s a wholesale hijack, our nervous systems are held are captured, we are held ransom.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. My first thought is that the technology and gagetry referred to are merely the accoutrements of a changing environment. Humanity has survived and flourished until now because of our ability to adapt to environmental change, much of which in recent centuries has been at our own hands. What remains to be seen is whether we can increase the pace of our adaptation to correlate to that of the self-induced changes to our environment.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Sound Eagle,
    Nice post commemorating the life of Wilson! I think much of the challenges that you express here is the result of our hard sciences that describe things other than ourselves have made us amazingly powerful, and yet our soft sciences have remained pathetic. How might we use science to figure out how to better lead our lives or structure our societies, when we fail to grasp our nature itself? So it makes perfect sense that our Paleolithic emotions are only able to foster medieval institutions, and yet hard science permits our situation to become increasingly unbalanced by providing us with god like technology.

    Why do soft sciences (centered upon psychology) fail? I think because the social tool of morality counters the ability of scientists to formally acknowledge our hedonistic nature. Our evolved moral notions instead encourage us to function altruistically — hedonists are characterized as the enemy! Thus without a solid founding premise from which to build we remain unable to develop effective models of how to lead our lives and structure our societies. But don’t count science out! This business should get figured out in coming decades. As our mental and behavioral sciences harden up we should gain theory from which to harness the extreme power that our technology brings.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. L’umanità di oggi si è adagiata al parallelo in cui vive, dove c’è benessere non c’è stimolo, altrove manca la possibilità di realizzare.
    Chi è astuto sfrutta le paure umane per i propri scopi, credo che il viaggio per noi sia ancora lunghissimo, ogni epoca ci porta avanti e poi ci fa fare un passo indietro.
    La conoscenza è grande maestra, ma ancora non è sfruttata come dovrebbe e per gli scopi giusti.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I have often said that we are “cave men with nuclear weapons.” We act and react out of instinct far more than we do out of reason but we like to pretend it’s all reason. Those instincts may have been grand for paleolithic hunter-gatherers in small tribes but often fail in a high tech, densely populated, diverse, and largely anonymous world.

    It may be possible to redirect instincts but you can’t eliminate them.

    When I grew up and then went to college (60s-70s-80s) it was popular to assert that humans didn’t have instincts and that everything was a learned behavior. Unfortunately, I still see that as a dominant theory today.

    Liked by 6 people

  11. Nice post, he sounds like quite a brilliant man who I must get acquainted with, thank you for the intro! I do have a bit of a different take on our ‘social-emotional’ inventory, because the evidence points to our civilization rewarding psychopathy and raising the worst examples of humanity to key positions (ponerology/kakistocracy) and this is a result of our relationship to power which is very recent in civilization. Look at our court system as one example—victims must be coached to present their cases without any emotional content, so they will be believed and trusted. What do our psychiatrists do? Prescribe drugs to dull the emotions. What do you think of someone who is displaying too much emotion, even before you know ‘why’? S/He must be crazy. So what we are experiencing is not an excess of emotional content over rational thinking, but a kind of Stockholm Syndrome where those with extreme power coerce and abuse those of lesser rank to act in only ways that fundamentally approve of the status quo. They might ‘go crazy’ online or in a crowd, because their anger is not pointed in the appropriate direction, at the perps, quite by design.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. I offer the concept of “interrogating memory” to counteract these emotive fallacies. We must approach all knowledge with humility, by which I mean a genuine willingness to be proven wrong in what we thought/think is true, no matter how painful or unsettling. Bayesians call it “updating your priors.” It is the opposite of confirmation bias and all other self-reinforcing logical fallacies.

    For more, please see https://justbearwithme.blog/interrogating-memory/

    Thank you – and an early Happy New Year to you and your many followers!

    Liked by 8 people

  13. Robert and I frequently discuss topics covered in this post. Robert often remarks on how much of human behavior is instinctual, and that some people seem totally in denial of this fact. They choose to ignore overwhelming evidence if it is contrary to the conspiracy theories, distortions and outright lies they find on social media or certain “news” outlets. It amazes me that people allowed themselves to be persuaded to attack the US Capitol and attempt to lynch the Vice President because he had failed to overthrow the results of a presidential election.

    We often marvel at how many people have been led astray and manipulated by the seemingly endless disinformation campaigns that seem to be ubiquitous these days. A lot of the information presented in this post helps to explain the reasons that these disinformation campaigns have been so successful.

    I enjoyed reading this post. Happy New Year to you and your family! ❤

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Reblogged this on MiddleoftheHeart and commented:
    we know that the body keeps the Score…. so why eh o we continue to inflict pain?

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Wilson’s contribution to science is deep no matter how controversial his direction was in questioning the biological roots for our social connections. The fact that biology plays a very real role in determining our state of mind (and thus opening the door to directing and manipulating this state for purposes other than honest inquiry and understanding) is still a wide open area for further scientific inquiry and knowledge. That the scope of how our shared biology’s effect has on how we think and feel is still such a controversial idea in the ‘soft’ science (this month it’s all about group hierarchy, last month about race, next month about economic class, and so on) I think is a banner advertisement of just how disconnected these pursuits STILL are from being able to gain independent knowledge about the human condition rather than what is often the case when we try to learn about it: we are ‘schooled’ in a variety of collections constituted by assertions, assumptions, and assignments that may or may not be the case (I’m looking at you in particular, sociology) and no means to use reality (namely, biology itself) to properly adjudicate these collections.

    I think Wilson was mistaken to lend much confidence later in his life to epigenetics because the evidence for it is so thin. But I do not think this detracts from Wilson’s overall contribution to examine humanity’s shared social aspects through a biological inheritance model rather than the ideological lens so popular today where we are supposedly ‘free agents’ from that biology… at least from the neck up. And as you have so extensively written, SoundEagle, we are just that much more vulnerable to being manipulated by having these shared biological buttons pushed, so to speak, that we don’t even know – or want to admit – we have. Because our biology determines many ways of shortcut thinking that has aided our evolutionary fitness, we fail to grasp that this way of thinking we have inherited can also make us quite vulnerable to dis- and misinformation if packaged in a way to stimulate this kind of thinking. You have made just such lists of ‘problematic’ thinking when brought forward into a complex and nuanced world. And this what EO Wilson was trying to point out with the notion of Paleolithic inheritance interacting with a Star Wars civilization.

    So I think our ‘schooling’ requires much more dedication to revealing the biological basis of how we think in various ways (and the roles our biologically shared humanity has on this process, raising awareness and recognition on these effects) and far less emphasis on what to think.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The evidence for epigenetics has only grown stronger over time. At this point, there is no way to deny the power of epigenetics. But, as their evidence weakens, race realists are feeling desperate to support genetic determinism.

      By the way, much of the advancement has come from the social sciences. The first critics of race realism were anthropologists. That is because the anthropological evidence was so overwhelming, even more than a century ago.

      Also, many of the improvements in research design, even in the hard sciences, come out of the social sciences. That is because social scientists have had to learn to control for complex confounders and to include the biases of researchers. But the hard sciences have been slow to catch up.

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s easy to say the evidence for epigenetics is growing stronger. It’s another thing entirely to support it. So until a mechanism is demonstrated to cause multigenerational inherited change I’ll lend my confidence today to evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne on this issue:

        “Environmentally induced changes to the DNA, usually produced by the placement of small methyl groups on DNA that affect what it does, are almost never inherited beyond one or two generations. This lack of stable change means that such environmental modifications cannot form the basis of permanent evolutionary adaptation. Ergo, it can’t revolutionize our view of evolution. As the prescient Publisher’s Weekly reviewer noted, there’s just no evidence for the heritability of “Lamarckian” changes to the DNA.”

        Whatever your notion of evidence ‘growing stronger’ may be, it hasn’t made much headway in the field of evolutionary biology.

        Liked by 3 people

      • First off, your original comment never made any qualifications about epigenetics in terms of evolutionary biology. Instead, you made a sweeping statement that cannot be supported: “I think Wilson was mistaken to lend much confidence later in his life to epigenetics because the evidence for it is so thin.” The evidence for epigenetics (in general without qualification), as I stated, is strong to the point of being irrefutable. But there is still an ongoing debate about the real world effects in specific areas. It’s simply a fact that a growing number of evolutionary biologists argue for epigenetic influence, as the evidence keeps piling up, and a number of books are out there discussing that evidence.

        The theory is called Extended Synthesis. And there is now much understanding of mechanisms. Certainly, it’s a major are of scientific debate in that field, that cannot be doubted. Others are free to have other views. But the reason epigenetics has gained such support is genetic determinism has turned out to have such little explanatory power. Genetic research on many scientific issues, from obesity to cancer, have failed to offer much insight. One genetic researcher admitted to having lost faith in the field because, after hundreds of genes found linked to obesity, they still could only explain about 2% of obesity. We’re coming to realize that epigenetics, along with environment, has so much more explanatory power. And, by the way, epigenetics (“above the genes”) involves every factor and mechanism in between genotype and phenotype, a vast area of study.

        There are new epigenetic studies and papers coming out constantly and they cover diverse areas and involve numerous species, including humans. They sometimes look at effects over multiple generations and how that might influence evolutionary pathways and mechanisms. It’s easy to say this for someone who is paying the slightest amount of attention to this field of study. But, of course, it’s also easy to dismiss that which one does not know. It’s challenging to understand why some people come to conclusions without first learning about a subject. Doing a web search, we were able in seconds to pull up info on epigenetics and evolutionary biology. Why couldn’t you do the same? But, even with this info put in front of you, the very info you denied as existing, it’s unlikely you’ll admit you were in error and that you made a too sweeping assertion.

        It is true that the study of epigenetics on evolutionary biology is still young, although approaching three-quarters of a century old, and yet the evidence so far is compelling. However one judges it’s strength, the point remains neither you nor I originally made statements about the epigenetics of evolutionary biology alone, as separate from epigenetics more broadly. You only brought that up a qualified statement in your following response. That is shifting the goal posts, going from a wholesale dismissal of epigenetics to a narrow doubt how it applies to evolutionary biology. Your original statement was simply wrong. Even your second qualified assertion was just an opinion that is easily challenged and maybe entirely countered.

        Epigenetics is a serious scientific field. And, indeed, scientific papers have been coming out relating epigenetics to evolutionary biology. Even more interesting, there is the developing field of behavioral epigenetics. So, not only do we know that epigenetics is inherited but that it can effect such things as behavior. For example, there were the rodents who had multiple generations of jumping in response to a particular smell, by way of epigenetic inheritance. Furthermore, there is evidence pointing to how this epigenetic factors could influence evolution as well. It’s a complex field, but the point is it is promising.

        No informed person would dismiss it out of hand. Part of the problem is most genetic determinists fail to understand such things as heritability rates that does not only include genetic factors but all heritable factors such as epigenetics and shared environment. Very little research has been done to disentangle these confounding factors as conventional thought has simply acted as if no problem existed. We’ve already proven epigenetics exists and can, in some situations, have tremendous affect on biology and behavior. How extensive and influential are epigenetics remains to be seen. What we do know is that genetics has failed to live up to its promise. Most of heritable factors remain unknown, despite vast sums of money invested in genetic research.

        Epigenetic Principles of Evolution
        by Nelson Cabej

        Evolution in Four Dimensions
        by Eva Jablonka and ‎Marion J. Lamb

        Inheritance Systems and the Extended Evolutionary
        by Eva Jablonka and ‎Marion J. Lamb

        Extended Heredity: A New Understanding of Inheritance and Evolution
        by Russell Bonduriansky and Troy Day

        Lamarck’s Revenge
        by Peter Ward

        Evolution, the Extended Synthesis
        Front Cover
        ed. by Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd B. Muller


        “This, said Skinner, suggests that environment has a more important role in mutations, disease and evolution than previously appreciated, and appears to be one of the main drivers of intergenerational changes, not simply a passive component. In short, Skinner and his colleagues say, the environment and epigenetics can drive genetics.

        ““There’s not a type of genetic mutation known that’s not potentially influenced by environmental epigenetic effects,” Skinner said.”


        “Over the past few years, a number of authors have been expressing doubts over whether the modern synthesis really does give an adequate account of evolution. Is something more needed, and, if so, is it going to be just a bit of tweaking or will it be a major change, a paradigm shift?

        “We need to be clear about where we are now. If neo-Darwinism were a theory we would expect it to have a canonical definition, but it is really more a paradigm [Kuhn, 1962; see Saunders, 2017], and paradigms are by their very nature hard to define. […]

        “Of the factors that the paradigm considers important in evolution, only natural selection acts outside the genome. And since natural selection is also the only non-random factor, it is the creative force in evolution and the force that gives it direction. There may be occasional exceptions to this rule (certainly enough to make neo-Darwinism immune from falsification, which confirms its status as a paradigm rather than a theory), but they are outside the main thrust of research in evolution: worthy of study no doubt, but of little importance.

        “Whether research into epigenetics has the potential to change this depends on what we mean by epigenetics. If it is restricted to processes that occur within the genome, then the study of evolution will remain gene-centered and natural selection will remain the sole force that gives evolution its direction. Explanation will still be based on finding — or postulating — selective advantages, and the nature/nurture debate will be much the same as it is now. If, however, research broadens to include everything between genotype and phenotype, then the whole way we go about research into evolution, i.e., the paradigm, will change.

        “In fact, this sort of research has been going on for some time, even if few of those who call themselves evolutionists have noticed it. See Ho [2014] and references cited there for a review of the results that are in the literature but are not included in the paradigm.


        “A better understanding of the control of gene expression will obviously be an important contribution to biology. It will not, however, change the evolutionary paradigm. Indeed, taking over the word “epigenetics” and using it to refer only to genome research cold help to protect the paradigm, in much the same way that the epigenetic landscape has been downgraded from a mathematical model to a mere picture.

        “Research into the restricted version of epigenetics may, however, contribute to the overthrow of the paradigm by demonstrating how complicated heredity really is. For example, neo-Darwinists strongly deny, even to themselves, that they actually believe in one gene/one character, but much of their work involves the implicit assumption that there only a single gene involved, or at most a few genes whose effects are additive. It remains to be seen how well their results will stand up when more biologists appreciate how far from the truth this assumption really is and, what is more, that this matters.

        “Ultimately, epigenetics can lead to a paradigm shift only if the definition is broadened to the original one given by Waddington, i.e. if we focus our attention on the whole organism rather than just the genome.”


        “Embedding current research on epigenetics and development within a process-relational relational developmental systems (RDS) framework, we discuss the assertions of genetic reductionist models of human behavior and development. To better clarify the distinctions between process-relational RDS-based and Cartesian mechanistic genetic reductionist models, we recommend that the terms “interaction,” “mechanism,” and “trait” be replaced by terms such as “coaction,” “fusion,” “integration,” and “process” in depictions of process-relational RDS models. We argue that, in the context of epigenetics research, the propositions of genetic reductionist models lead to absurd claims about genetic causation, primarily because RDS-based, epigenetics research underscores the relative plasticity of the embodied coactions within the RDS. We discuss three ways in which genetic reductionist models survive in the face of egregious conceptual and methodological problems, and we make suggestions about the utility of epigenetics for applications aimed at enhancing the course of development for diverse individuals.”


        “Biologists and philosophers of science have recently called for an extension of evolutionary theory. This so-called ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ (EES) seeks to integrate developmental processes, extra-genetic forms of inheritance, and niche construction into evolutionary theory in a central way. While there is often agreement in evolutionary biology over the existence of these phenomena, their explanatory relevance is questioned. Advocates of EES posit that their perspective offers better explanations than those provided by ‘standard evolutionary theory’ (SET). Still, why this would be the case is unclear. Usually, such claims assume that EES’s superior explanatory status arises from the pluralist structure of EES, its different problem agenda, and a growing body of evidence for the evolutionary relevance of developmental phenomena (including developmental bias, inclusive inheritance, and niche construction). However, what is usually neglected in this debate is a discussion of what the explanatory standards of EES actually are, and how they differ from prevailing standards in SET. In other words, what is considered to be a good explanation in EES versus SET? To answer this question, we present a theoretical framework that evaluates the explanatory power of different evolutionary explanations of the same phenomena. This account is able to identify criteria for why and when evolutionary explanations of EES are better than those of SET. Such evaluations will enable evolutionary biology to find potential grounds for theoretical integration.”

        Click to access champagne2.pdf

        “Many biologists are calling for an ‘extended evolutionary synthesis’ that would ‘modernize the modern synthesis’ of evolution. Biological information is typically considered as being transmitted across generations by the DNA sequence alone, but accumulating evidence indicates that both genetic and non-genetic inheritance, and the interactions between them, have important effects on evolutionary outcomes. We review the evidence for such effects of epigenetic, ecological and cultural inheritance and parental effects, and outline methods that quantify the relative contributions of genetic and non-genetic heritability to the transmission of phenotypic variation across generations. These issues have implications for diverse areas, from the question of missing heritability in human complex-trait genetics to the basis of major evolutionary transitions.”


        “Contemporary scientific advances in evolutionary biology and epigenetics have profound implications for describing, explaining, and optimising human development[1]. Increasingly over the last 10 to 15 years, innovative and important theoretical and empirical advances in the study of evolutionary biology and genetic processes have changed the understanding of human phylogeny and ontogeny. These advances have significant implications for human health and welfare, and rest to no small degree on the links within a revised, multi-dimensional understanding of human evolution[2,3,4], epigenetic processes that constitute alterations in the functional impacts of genes across both the lifespan and generations[5,6,7] and human development; and culture[4,5,8]. The aim of this review is to discuss the conceptual vacuity of evolutionary psychology in light of these advances.”


        “Epigenetics increasingly occupies a pivotal position in our understanding of inheritance, natural selection and, perhaps, even evolution. A survey of the PubMed database, however, reveals that the great majority (>93%) of epigenetic papers have an intra-, rather than an inter-generational focus, primarily on mechanisms and disease. Approximately ~1% of epigenetic papers even mention the nexus of epigenetics, natural selection and evolution. Yet, when environments are dynamic (e.g., climate change effects), there may be an “epigenetic advantage” to phenotypic switching by epigenetic inheritance, rather than by gene mutation. An epigenetically-inherited trait can arise simultaneously in many individuals, as opposed to a single individual with a gene mutation. Moreover, a transient epigenetically-modified phenotype can be quickly “sunsetted”, with individuals reverting to the original phenotype. Thus, epigenetic phenotype switching is dynamic and temporary and can help bridge periods of environmental stress. Epigenetic inheritance likely contributes to evolution both directly and indirectly. While there is as yet incomplete evidence of direct permanent incorporation of a complex epigenetic phenotype into the genome, doubtlessly, the presence of epigenetic markers and the phenotypes they create (which may sort quite separately from the genotype within a population) will influence natural selection and, so, drive the collective genotype of a population.”

        Click to access Epigenetic%20Inheritance%20and%20Evolution%28version_finale%29.pdf

        “The aim of this article is to put the growing interest in epigenetics in the field of evolutionary theory into historical context. First, I assess the view that epigenetic inheritance could be seen as vindicating a revival of (neo)Lamarckism. Drawing on Jablonka’s and Lamb’s considerable output, I identify several differences between modern epigenetics and what Lamarckism was in the history of science. Even if Lamarckism is not back, epigenetic inheritance might be appealing for evolutionary biologists because it could potentiate two neglected mechanisms: the Baldwin effect and genetic assimilation. In the second section, I go back to the first ideas about the Baldwin effect developed in the late nineteenth century to show that the efficiency of this mechanism was already linked with a form of non-genetic inheritance. The opposition to all forms of non-genetic inheritance that prevailed at the time of the rise of the Modern Synthesis helps to explain why the Baldwin effect was understood as an insignificant mechanism during the second half of the twentieth century. Based on this historical reconstruction, in the last section, I examine what modern epigenetics can bring to the picture and under what conditions epigenetic inheritance might be seen as strengthening the causal relationship between adaptability and adaptation. Throughout I support the view that the Baldwin effect and genetic assimilation, even if they are quite close, should not be conflated, and that drawing a line between these concepts is helpful in order to better understand where epigenetic inheritance might endorse a new causal role.”


        “After decades of debate about the existence of non-genetic inheritance, the focus is now slowly shifting towards dissecting its underlying mechanisms. Here, we propose a new mechanism that, by integrating non-genetic and genetic inheritance, may help build the long-sought inclusive vision of evolution. After briefly reviewing the wealth of evidence documenting the existence and ubiquity of non-genetic inheritance in a table, we review the categories of mechanisms of parent–offspring resemblance that underlie inheritance. We then review several lines of argument for the existence of interactions between non-genetic and genetic components of inheritance, leading to a discussion of the contrasting timescales of action of non-genetic and genetic inheritance. This raises the question of how the fidelity of the inheritance system can match the rate of environmental variation. This question is central to understanding the role of different inheritance systems in evolution. We then review and interpret evidence indicating the existence of shifts from inheritance systems with low to higher transmission fidelity. Based on results from different research fields we propose a conceptual hypothesis linking genetic and non-genetic inheritance systems. According to this hypothesis, over the course of generations, shifts among information systems allow gradual matching between the rate of environmental change and the inheritance fidelity of the corresponding response. A striking conclusion from our review is that documented shifts between types of inherited non-genetic information converge towards epigenetics (i.e. inclusively heritable molecular variation in gene expression without change in DNA sequence). We then interpret the well-documented mutagenicity of epigenetic marks as potentially generating a final shift from epigenetic to genetic encoding. This sequence of shifts suggests the existence of a relay in inheritance systems from relatively labile ones to gradually more persistent modes of inheritance, a relay that could constitute a new mechanistic basis for the long-proposed, but still poorly documented, hypothesis of genetic assimilation. A profound difference between the genocentric and the inclusive vision of heredity revealed by the genetic assimilation relay proposed here lies in the fact that a given form of inheritance can affect the rate of change of other inheritance systems. To explore the consequences of such inter-connection among inheritance systems, we briefly review published theoretical models to build a model of genetic assimilation focusing on the shift in the engraving of environmentally induced phenotypic variation into the DNA sequence. According to this hypothesis, when environmental change remains stable over a sufficient number of generations, the relay among inheritance systems has the potential to generate a form of genetic assimilation. In this hypothesis, epigenetics appears as a hub by which non-genetically inherited environmentally induced variation in traits can become genetically encoded over generations, in a form of epigenetically facilitated mutational assimilation. Finally, we illustrate some of the major implications of our hypothetical framework, concerning mutation randomness, the central dogma of molecular biology, concepts of inheritance and the curing of inherited disorders, as well as for the emergence of the inclusive evolutionary synthesis.”

        Click to access Richards+and+Pigliucci+2020+Paradigmi.pdf

        “A decade ago, a landmark edited collection of essays made official the ongoing quest for an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES), beyond the classic Modern Synthesis that took shape in the 1930s and ‘40s. When Evolution – The Extended Synthesis was published, research on epigenetic inheritance was at its onset, with the theory being far ahead of the empirical results. An important book, Evolution in Four Dimensions by Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb, articulated the notion of multiple channels of inheritance, including genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbolic. These multiple modes of inheriting information within the biosphere joined a number of other empirical findings and conceptual advances to articulate the early version of the EES. In the intervening decade, our empirical understanding of epigenetic inheritance has improved, so it seems that a reevaluation of where we are and where we may possibly be going, is in order. Progress is constrained by the fact that understanding systems of inheritance requires time-consuming experimental designs that incorporate multiple generations. Further, technological limitations have yet to be overcome and most of our understanding of genome level processes is still confined to model species. In this paper we discuss what we have learned so far about epigenetic inheritance and what developments are needed to make further progress. We conclude with a discussion of the current role of epigenetic inheritance in the EES, and how it has changed in the intervening decade.”


        “When these epigenetics changes are heritable, they can influence evolution. Current research indicates that epigenetics has influenced evolution in a number of organisms, including plants and animals. […]

        “The role of epigenetics in evolution is clearly linked to the selective pressures that regulate that process. As organisms leave offspring that are best suited to their environment, environmental stresses change DNA gene expression that are further passed down to their offspring, allowing for them also to better thrive in their environment. The classic case study of the rats who experience licking and grooming from their mothers pass this trait to their offspring shows that a mutation in the DNA sequence is not required for a heritable change.[10] Basically, a high degree of maternal nurturing makes the offspring of that mother more likely to nurture their own children with a high degree of care as well. Rats with a lower degree of maternal nurturing are less likely to nurture their own offspring with so much care. Also, rates of epigenetic mutations, such as DNA methylation, are much higher than rates of mutations transmitted genetically[11] and are easily reversed.[12] This provides a way for variation within a species to rapidly increase, in times of stress, providing opportunity for adaptation to newly arising selection pressures.

        “Lamarckism supposes that species acquire characteristics to deal with challenges experienced during their lifetimes, and that such accumulations are then passed to their offspring. In modern terms, this transmission from parent to offspring could be considered a method of epigenetic inheritance. Scientists are now questioning the framework of the modern synthesis, as epigenetics to some extent is Lamarckist rather than Darwinian. While some evolutionary biologists have dismissed epigenetics’ impact on evolution entirely, others are exploring a fusion of epigenetic and traditional genetic inheritance.”


        “Epigenetic inheritance likely contributes to evolution both directly and indirectly. While there is as yet incomplete evidence of direct permanent incorporation of a complex epigenetic phenotype into the genome, doubtlessly, the presence of epigenetic markers and the phenotypes they create (which may sort quite separately from the genotype within a population) will influence natural selection and, so, drive the collective genotype of a population.”


        “Epigenetics, one of the emerging areas in the Extended Synthesis, is the focus of this special issue. The importance of epigenetics has long been appreciated at the molecular level (e.g., its role in cell determination and self-recognition). However, the role of epigenetics in evolution and ecology is a more recent focus. Epigenetics has expanded to the study of heritable changes in gene expression and function without alterations in the DNA sequence [4], or the study of stably heritable phenotypes that occur without alterations in DNA sequence [5]. Epigenetic mechanisms interact with genetic, physiological, and morphological systems and may be an important component of organism-environment interactions [6, 7]. Some epigenetic characters can be stably transmitted across generations [8–11]. Thus, epigenetics has a mechanism of heredity that was not considered in the framework of the Modern Synthesis [2]. Epigenetic mechanisms may play critical roles in phenotypic plasticity [12, 13], soft inheritance [4, 14], an individual’s response to environmental stressors [6, 8], invasive species biology [15], and conservation biology [16]. Understanding epigenetics will likely provide insights into individual and population processes at both ecological and evolutionary time scales [6, 7, 17–19].”


        “Epigenetic effects are not only common, but can also underlie and influence many aspects of evolution. This is true for both epigenetic effects that are only expressed within a single generation, as well as for trans-generational epigenetic inheritance. In this special issue, Banta and Richards (2018) show that epigenetics can have profound influence over a number of evolutionary aspects. By using the quantitative genetic formula for the partitioning of phenotypic variance, they show that epigenetic mechanisms can underlie or influence all of its parameters. Moreover, if such epigenetic modulations are also heritable, they can be erroneously misinterpreted as genetic variance. The widespread presence of epigenetic marks in natural populations, thus, poses a challenge for researchers aiming to infer quantitative genetic parameters or estimate population divergence in quantitative traits. While it is well known that phenotypic plasticity can cause similarities between individuals that are not based upon genetic resemblance (Pujol et al. 2008), the same can also hold true for epigenetic inheritance of traits. The authors review the development of breeding designs and analyses that aim to partition epigenetic variance from total genetic variance, but also highlight that epigenetic modulations can still affect the remaining quantitative genetic parameters.”


        “Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that can be transmitted through cell divisions but cannot be explained by changes in the DNA sequence. Epigenetic mechanisms are central to gene regulation, phenotypic plasticity, development and the preservation of genome integrity. Epigenetic mechanisms are often held to make a minor contribution to evolutionary change because epigenetic states are typically erased and reset at every generation, and are therefore, not heritable. Nonetheless, there is growing appreciation that epigenetic variation makes direct and indirect contributions to evolutionary processes. First, some epigenetic states are transmitted intergenerationally and affect the phenotype of offspring. Moreover, bona fide heritable ‘epialleles’ exist and are quite common in plants. Such epialleles could, therefore, be subject to natural selection in the same way as conventional DNA sequence-based alleles. Second, epigenetic variation enhances phenotypic plasticity and phenotypic variance and thus can modulate the effect of natural selection on sequence-based genetic variation. Third, given that phenotypic plasticity is central to the adaptability of organisms, epigenetic mechanisms that generate plasticity and acclimation are important to consider in evolutionary theory. Fourth, some genes are under selection to be ‘imprinted’ identifying the sex of the parent from which they were derived, leading to parent-of-origin-dependent gene expression and effects. These effects can generate hybrid disfunction and contribute to speciation. Finally, epigenetic processes, particularly DNA methylation, contribute directly to DNA sequence evolution, because they act as mutagens on the one hand and modulate genome stability on the other by keeping transposable elements in check.”


        “The importance of epigenetics has long been appreciated at the molecular level (e.g., its role in cell determination and self-recognition). However, the role of epigenetics in evolution and ecology is a more recent focus. Epigenetics has expanded to the study of heritable changes in gene expression and function without alterations in the DNA sequence [4], or the study of stably heritable phenotypes that occur without alterations in DNA sequence [5]. Epigenetic mechanisms interact with genetic, physiological, and morphological systems and may be an important component of organism-environment interactions [6, 7]. Some epigenetic characters can be stably transmitted across generations [8–11]. Thus, epigenetics has a mechanism of heredity that was not considered in the framework of the Modern Synthesis [2]. Epigenetic mechanisms may play critical roles in phenotypic plasticity [12, 13], soft
        inheritance [4, 14], an individual’s response to environmental stressors [6, 8], invasive species biology [15], and conservation biology [16]. Understanding epigenetics will likely provide insights into individual and population processes at both ecological and evolutionary time scales [6, 7, 17–19].”


        “Over the past two decades, the study of epigenetics has emerged as an important discipline for the understanding of biological evolution (for reviews, see, for instance: Bossdorf, Richards, & Pigliucci, 2008; Danchin et al., 2011; Danchin, Pocheville, Rey, Pujol, & Blanchet, 2020; Jablonka & Raz, 2009; Rando & Verstrepen, 2007; Richards, 2006; Skinner, Manikkam, & Guerrero-Bosagna, 2010; Wang, Liu, & Sun, 2017). From the turn of the third millennium onwards, major advances have been generated by exceptional technological advances in high-throughput sequencing that now allow the simultaneous analysis of genomes, epigenomes and transcriptomes in all their complexity. These approaches, initially developed by molecular biologists, are becoming accessible to researchers in other subdisciplines of biology working on both model and non-model species. Consequently, these approaches have provided a new impetus to studies of the relationships between genes, environment and phenotypes in an eco-evolutionary context. A particularly surprising outcome of the use of recent high-throughput molecular technologies was the discovery that the information encoded into the DNA nucleotide sequence by itself is often insufficient to explain biological variation in all its complexity (Maher, 2008). This resulted in the debate about missing heritability and revealed the existence of other forms of information transmission across generations (Danchin, 2013).

        “The discovery of epigenetics (any modification other than changes in DNA sequences affecting gene expression, whether those modifications have been shown to be stable or not) profoundly changed our understanding of the functioning of biological organisms and generated considerable interest in its role as a ‘missing link’ between environmental and phenotypic variation. In particular, recent discoveries have fostered a full revision of the mechanisms of phenotypic plasticity (Bonduriansky & Day, 2018; Herman, Spencer, Donohue, & Sultan, 2014; Jablonka, 2013; Pigliucci, Murren, & Schlichting, 2006; Reed, Waples, Schindler, Hard, & Kinnison, 2010; Sentis et al., 2018; Sultan, 2011; Zhang, Fischer, Colot, & Bossdorf, 2012), inheritance (Bonduriansky, 2012; Bonduriansky & Day, 2018; Danchin, 2013; Day & Sweatt, 2011) and adaptation (Danchin et al., 2011, 2018, 2020; Pocheville & Danchin, 2015, 2017). These three major lines of research in evolutionary biology are at the crossroads between individual-centred approaches (that mostly study proximate mechanisms) and supra-individual approaches (that mostly study ultimate processes) and are all impacted by our understanding of epigenetics (Danchin & Pocheville, 2014; Jablonka & Lamb, 2005; Pocheville & Danchin, 2015). Epigenetics has emerged as a key discipline in the study of ecological and evolutionary dynamics, and this special feature contributes to highlighting the importance of this discipline.”

        Liked by 2 people

      • Well, EO Wilson WAS a very strong proponent of inherited epigenetics which, in biological terms, is a very real problem as Coyne points out: if DNA is not altered (which is a core concept in epigenetics), then the question of how heritability occurs (and the neural changes EO Wilson thought was inherited) surfaces. This is where the strength of the evidence really is called into question (so far), not because epigenetics as a term used for a stand-in describing the interaction between biology and environment as you go on in some length to demonstrate, but because there just isn’t much on the genetic side to show the mechanism for how this heritability actually comes about. That’s not my opinion (and no offered reading list by you is going to alter this fact); it’s a legitimate criticism in terms of the explanatory model to date in the field of inherited epigenetics in biology. To claim this belongs ‘only’ in the realm of evolutionary biology is misguided because when you speak of multigenerational inheritance, you are in fact speaking about evolutionary biology. Show us the mechanism and this will address this particular criticism.

        But in no way does this reduce EO Wilson’s incredible scientific contribution. A very good (short) read is on Coyne’s site by Greg Mayer here.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Surely, Wilson had a complex view on epigenetics, as he had complex views on everything. Also, his views changed over his lifetime and so it’s probably safe to assume he would’ve revised his views on epigenetics with new research.

        Anyway, no, non-alteration of DNA is not a core concept of epigenetics. That is a blatantly false statement. There are many kinds of epigenetic factors and mechanisms. Regulation of genetic switching was only one variety, a point noted in one of the references we quoted. Some of the papers linked discuss the epigenetic mechanisms of multi-generational inheritance and evolution.

        You obviously haven’t read much, if anything, I quoted in my last comment. And you certainly didn’t go to the links to read any of the scientific papers in greater detail. So, whatever points you are trying to make, it just comes down to more dismissing out of hand what you don’t understand and don’t want to understand. Learn something new or don’t.

        Liked by 2 people

      • BDS, you state as if true, “Anyway, no, non-alteration of DNA is not a core concept of epigenetics. That is a blatantly false statement.”

        Oh. Well, I’m sorry the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute disagrees with you there. It states from the start that “Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene function that are heritable and that are not attributed to alterations of the DNA sequence.”

        Maybe they’ve got it all wrong, too. You should go straighten them all out.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Dear tildeb,

        As far as SoundEagle🦅 can ascertain, Jerry A Coyne, an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, used to be mentored by the late Richard “Dick” C Lewontin (born and died in the same years as Edward O Wilson). Being the nemesis and staunch critic of Wilson, Lewontin had had little or nothing good to say about his colleague, whose lab occupied the fourth floor of the Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) Laboratories at Harvard, one floor above Lewontin’s, where Jerry Coyne worked for six years. Ironically, Wilson was the one who originally assisted in the recruitment of Lewontin to Harvard from the University of Chicago.

        In a post entitled “E. O. Wilson died”, Coyne himself, whether rightly or wrongly, still considers Wilson’s view on group selection to be “almost surely wrong” and a “big misstep in a sterling career”.

        Yours sincerely,Rose Greeting

        Liked by 1 person

      • All true. Maybe it’s just me, but I get the impression you are making this comment to suggest perhaps Coyne’s criticism is on a more personal level because of his advisor’s personal dislike of Wilson. But his reasons for criticizing Wilson’s heritability-without-altering-DNA notion seem to me as well as other evolutionary biologists as based not on anything personal or tribal but on scientific merit. (Coyne’s written many compliments of Wilson and his scientific importance contributing to areas like biodiversity and evolutionary psychology but also holds him to account when an explanatory model like multigenerational heritable epigenetics doesn’t measure up to the same standard – so far.) Unless and until a mechanism is demonstrated to cause multigenerational heritability by means of epigenetics without that DNA alteration to cause genetic selection over time, then this criticism remains valid no matter who raises it. That’s just how science works. And it may be overturned when such a demonstrated mechanism is offered. That, too, would be great.

        Liked by 2 people

      • You are demonstrably proving you have not read the quoted and linked material of my above comment. There is no consensus about epigenetics. It’s original meaning was broader, as involving anything between genotype and phenotype. The more narrow definition that some have used came later.

        So, it’s not about me disagreeing but other scientists disagreeing. One of the scientific papers I quoted and linked discussed this exact issue and made an argument against the narrow definition because of the very reason it ignores so much of the broader evidence that exists outside of it.

        Liked by 2 people

  16. well, OK, E.O.W. is one of your heroes. Really off-base though, and his thinking is part of the problem. I mean, of course science has no reasonable idea about what an emotion is or what feelings consist of — because science methodologically abandoned everything which is not physical in the phenomenal cosmos about 400 years ago. which means it has forsaken the possibility of comprehending more than half of natural reality. that is why crazy “certanties” arise like: “there are evolutionary bases for human morality…”. No, there are not! And no exclusively physical science is capable of shedding any light of significance upon this question. Another century must pass, at the least, with people cleaving to such concepts, due to the unsavory momentum set in motion as the birth of the scientific method. Still — Happy 2022!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Many scientific fields have studied in great detail such areas as behavior, cognition, psychology, affect, consciousness, morality, values, etc. There are vast amounts of research out there, for those with curious minds. Besides biological, evolutionary, genetic, and epigenetic studies, there are entire fields in the social sciences that solely focus on these topics and some of them draw insights from the hard sciences.

      The scientific research and theories on emotions and feelings alone would require a lifetime of study to understand, as so many scientists have spent their lives studying it. Just go to Google Scholar and do a search for terms like emotion, feelings, and affect. You will get more results than you’ll ever have time to look at. So, what do you mean that “science methodologically abandoned everything within the phenomenal cosmos 400 years ago”?

      Liked by 1 person

  17. An interesting, informative and comprehensive tribute to a person I must confess to having having heard of until now.
    There is much here to absorb, one aspect which resonated was my own belief that Humanity is a species which is adapting and innovating but is not evolving at the same pace. Thus is in danger of being another evolutionary failure, not even lasting a million years and ending up as just a smear on the fossil record, while Life and The World moves on.
    Best wishes for 2022

    Liked by 4 people

    • Dear Roger,

      Given the escalating social problems and ongoing environmental crises on Earth, sometimes SoundEagle🦅 might indeed feel that it would be very nice to join Roy Neary in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and to leave the Earth for good to achieve or awaken interstellar or (inter)galactic spiritual revolutionaries!

      Let us broach the very topic of venturing into outer space, as some of the most enterprising billionaires have briefly launched themselves and the selected few above the Earth. Unfortunately, the language and stance adopted by those billionaires are very much in the realm of technoutopianism fraught with various issues, oversights and assumptions. Moreover, despite years of fleshing out the (conceptual, philosophical, ethical, practical and/or social) framework in examining the possibility or plausibility of environmentalism meeting the needs and expectations of all humanity to help us to survive as a species, fundamental progress is still far too slow. There may be no hope for humanity on Earth as we continue our wasteful and unsustainable existence plus overpopulation, overproduction, overconsumption and overexploitation.

      As you can see, the Astronaut👨‍🚀 in the background image signifies that humanity is at the cusp of moving into space. Many utopians and technocrats are often too conveniently optimistic about the future of the human species. The repeated statement “We are a perfectly good model for the psychology of an advanced civilisation…” shows such a high degree of conceit, if not a kind of delusion. Humans are doomed if they cannot learn to behave sustainably as individuals and as a species. Given that the environmental, social, political and economic issues and problems seem to be getting larger (and in many cases more dire) by the year, SoundEagle🦅 seriously wonders whether space travel is even affordable and/or sustainable in the future, even when there are many who reckon and advocate that going into space is the (only) solution. The problem or conundrum is whether humans could leave the Earth before they wreck it, and before serious disasters cause the decimation or even extinction of the human species.

      Besides, since the human species has not (always, adequately and/or consistently) been a good custodian of the environment and the Earth (not to mention countless wars, atrocities, resource depletions, species extinctions, environmental degradations and so on, plus an area of rainforest as big as 100,000 football fields is being cleared or destroyed everyday), there is no guarantee that once the human species migrates to another planet, the same problem would not again surface and plague that planet, perhaps at an even quickening and/or devastating pace as a result of better and greater expansion, production and technology. It seems that humanity would export its baggage and problems to other worlds!

      Perhaps we could liken humans to cancer cells on the petri dish that is Earth. Extinction is a euphemism for extermination, considering how many and the manner in which members of many endangered species have met their fate and untimely end.

      In the broader scheme of things, there is the really sobering fact that more than 99% of all species that ever appeared on Earth since life began are already extinct. The average lifespan of a species is one million years. Humanity (counting the early hominids) has lasted six million years. Extinction is the rule; survival is the exception.

      We desperately need a lot more dedicated people and efficacious measures to save the Earth from human follies and transgressions, now causing the sixth mass extinction, as discussed in the the last section named Denouement : Democracy, Education, Legislation & Sustainability within the post entitled 💬 Misquotation Pandemic and Disinformation Polemic: 🧠 Mind Pollution by Viral Falsity 🦠, which you are most welcome to peruse, as it has been greatly expanded. The age of Anthropocene could indeed be a very short one, as humanity seems to be plunging headlong into creating and facing a ghastly future.

      Wishing you and your family a Happy 2022 with the post entitled 🎊 Season’s Greetings: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 🎄🎅☃️.

      Rose Greeting
      Yours sincerely,

      Liked by 2 people

  18. This is beautiful-thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Wow such great words Thank you for sharing all this

    Liked by 3 people

  20. I am greatly astonished by the great achievements of E. O. Wilson. We have lost the greatest treasure just a few days ago and it is an honor for us to learn and find our way to become human beings. By the way, your website is so attractive and attentive. I really love the way it is! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  21. RIP Dr. Wilson.

    Your title is very true– but it’s even more than that: Not only do we have paleolithic emotions, we have emotions from much, much farther back than that. We still have our fundamental reptilian brains and mammalian brains working, with our frontal cortices often barely able to override all that, if at all.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. It never ceases to amaze me how you manage to present so much information and content into a single blog post. I’m filled with admiration for your dedication to the job.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Thank you and blessings for your wonderful perspective, messages of encouragement and hopes for the future.

    We’re off into year 2 of the NWO now

    Where will we be heading next?

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Excellent post. It is true that our technical skills outpace our wisdom. And when you consider that our WMD are in the hands of moody, neurotic humans, the potential for disaster is multiplied.

    E.O. Wilson and others advise that our first step must be to properly understand who and what we are. Pretty lies don’t make sound policy.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Extraordinary post, gives me much to think about, ponder. TY, C

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I wonder if we might solve this problem, at least in part, by getting science the hell out of our values. The existential problems we face right now are, largely, based on the delusion that science has anything at all to say about how we should live, why we are alive or what we ought to care about.

    I’ve been researching ancient religions for a novel project and it’s striking to me how so many of them not only don’t care about scientific evidence – seeing it as fundamentally beside the point – they don’t care about universal morality – seeing it as also beside the point.

    The religion of the Sumerians, the stoics, the Confucians, the Buddhists, free from scientific interference and the nihilism of the scientific “moralist,” gives people a chance to find meaning in the stuff that actually matters for existential problems – ritual, community, the expression of passions and a sense of service to something higher than ourselves.

    Liked by 4 people

    • It seems Wilson, as a scientist and as the opposite of a nihilist, would’ve disagreed with you on this opinion. That is one of the main points of this blog post. Science has everything to do with values and morality.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Not ‘science’ but ‘biology’ plays an important role informing values and morality. To think it doesn’t is to think biological influence somehow stops at the neck.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Scientists can certainly have values but those valued are not and cannot be scientific. And scientific morality, it seems to me, was pretty much the worst stuff humans have ever come up with.

        I’m studying late 19th century and early 20th century totalitarianism and romanticism for my thesis and, reading what people were writing at the time, it’s pretty clear to me that scientific racism, eugenics, Marxism, social Darwinism and facism were all the sincere attempts of well intentioned people to create scientific morality.

        Science, properly understood, tells us “what is.” It has dick squat to say about “what should be,” “why it should be,” or “how it should be.”

        Liked by 2 people

      • Everything humans do is involved in human values. It could not be otherwise. Even to deny some area of human activity lacks values is simply another value judgment. We humans can’t escape human values because, after all, we are human. LOL

        The reason there were horrific values in science in the past, as there were horrific values outside of science in the past, is because everything humans do involves values and because our values, scientific and non-scientific, have changed over time.

        Fascism involved scientific and pseudo-scientific values, but it also involved values that were religious, political, and economic. Fascism, like everything else humans produce, involved values in every area of life. There is nothing unique about this. The same is true of democracy.

        Liked by 2 people

  27. After reading your blog about the primordial basis of human emotions, I find more interesting in studying the behavior of animals. In fact, nearby Lignumvitae would be on my docket there for that very reason. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. That two commenters here denied that science has values and one of those commenters also denied that epigenetics is real demonstrates the absolute necessity of E. O. Wilson’s legacy and why we need more scientific visionaries like him. It’s amazing how scientifically illiterate and scientifically dismissive much of our society remains. That is precisely the point you were making in your biography of this great thinker, which is what all the more made those comments stand out.

    Radical changes of understanding have happened in science, such as epigenetics, and yet most people remain oblivious. One can see this in other fields such as nutrition studies, drug research (statins, antidepressants, etc), linguistics, social sciences, and much else that are in the middle of replication crises and maybe paradigm shift. Furthermore, there is an even larger crisis involving WEIRD bias at the very heart of Western research institutions. This is challenging our very conception of human nature and what underlies it.

    It’s too bad Wilson isn’t still around as a guiding light. He would be fascinated and excited by the constant new info and insights coming out of epigenetics and the Extended Synthesis. His voice could’ve helped break through the conventional stranglehold of the lingering dogmatic extremes of essentialism, nativism, and determinism. Even so, despite the resistance, we are entering a new era of science that is likely to have repercussions far into the future, even as the knowledge at present mostly remains sequestered in academia and research labs.

    You mentioned that Wilson “has been known as the father of “sociobiology” and “biodiversity”.” That is interesting as the founder of human biodiversity, Jonathan Marks, proposed his theory as a refutation of genetic determinism and race realism. But sadly the genetic determinists and race realists co-opted the name of human biodiversity to advocate their reactionary and regressive views. One wonders what Wilson would think about the ongoing backlash that doesn’t only attack science but often dresses itself up in scientific garb and sometimes co-opts the very scientific theories that attempt to counter it.

    On a different note, when we first saw the title of this post, we had a thought about religious language. It’s disheartening how so much of religion is still trapped within metaphorical frames that are millennia old. This stood out to us in listening to an evangelical minister use words like ‘Lord’ and ‘King’. Here we are in a society that was founded on freeing people from aristocrats and monarchs. Yet these metaphors continue to rule so many people’s minds centuries later. That is probably why we struggle to advance in this scientific age. The main metaphors that act as memetic viruses are ancient and powerful. Even as we depend on science, we don’t yet have a scientific culture.


    Liked by 3 people

    • To further reinforce our point, we just now noticed another comment that is relevant. The individual argued that all of science, for four centuries, has completely abandoned all research into emotions, feelings, and morality. That is a bizarre conclusion to come to, considering entire fields of scientific study have been dedicated to these very kinds of issues.

      We just don’t comprehend how some people can make such blatantly unscientific and easily refutable assertions. In only a few seconds, a web search on Google Scholar could bring up a massive number of results that disproves this claim. What we don’t grasp is not merely the unscientific attitude but the lack of basic curiosity.

      Liked by 2 people

    • This definitely gets to a concern of those like Wilson. This far into modernity, scientific literacy among the general public is still rather limited and so the scientific-minded are constantly on the defense. That is because we don’t have a scientific culture, even as we all benefit from and depend on the achievements and products of science. That is demonstrated by the comments we pointed to. Consider the person who made a sweeping statement in dismissing epigenetics as real, which is so obviously false that he he was felt the need to walk back that statement by replacing it with a more narrow and qualified statement, though also unsubstantiated.

      Even as such unscientific views are common, that is far from the most extreme example one could think of. We know a guy who received more than a million dollars of advanced medical treatment based on the best science and it was publicly paid for, and this might have literally saved his life. Yet he is unable to differentiate a religious belief from a scientific theory and so dismisses science out of sheer ignorance because of his lack of education. To his mind, Creationism is equal to Darwinism. Even though we’re glad this guy received the psychiatric and other medical care that he needed, our society would have had a much greater net gain if such millions of dollars was instead spent on public education, particularly scientific education.

      There is a reason non-liberal societies, particularly those that are reactionary and authoritarian, not only devalue science and education but often actively attack it or else co-opt it toward right-wing agendas (e.g., Nazi research on genetic determinism, race realism, and eugenics). Science can only operate well and fully where there are liberal rights and protections (e.g., free speech) as part of a liberal society and government. We’ve taken this argument further still. Democratic institutions like science require liberal proceduralism that structures not only the scientific method but also the scientific mindset, more broadly as a stable egoic individuality. Scientific education, as part of literacy in general, is arguably one way we train and support the WEIRD mentality that is the basis of modern Western civilization. There is much at stake beyond any given debate.

      The Great WEIRDing of the Jaynesian Ego-Mind as a Civilizational Project

      Liked by 2 people

      • The Wetiko mind virus and soul sickness disconnects us from the world around us. That is how people can come to deny that everything humans do is based on values. But it is also how people fall into the reactionary mind, such as conflating democratic science and anti-democratic fascism. It’s psychosis.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Science has no values. It cannot if it wishes to discover truth.

      As Viktor Frankl writes, there is no scientific reason we ought not be eugenicists. There are trancendental reasons, religious reasons, traditional reasons and reasons based on naked emotion, but nothing that can even theoretically be derived from a laboratory. As Albert Einstein says “in this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be…”

      The reason scientific moralities like facism and communism were so much more destructive than irrational systems like religion, tradition or even blind emotion is simple. We can accept that gods, traditions and emotions are arbitrary and unpredictable. This means we always reserve the right to be a heretic or prophet or rebel. However, when we fool ourselves into thinking science has values, and that science has taught us “the verdicts of heredity” (quote from a 1938 Nazi textbook for highschool students) or that Karl Marx has “become the Darwin of History, freeing us from metaphysics” (Friedrich Engels), one has to be “unscientific” to oppose the doctrine.

      If you point out that Marx is a self-deluded Christian who dressed his Christian morality in scientific robes, or that the Nazis were carbon copies of the Maccabees with science sauce drizzled on top, I’d agree. They had no alternative but to copy their values from nonscientific sources because, again, science has no values. The reason Marxists and Darwinians surpassed all other values systems for destruction was quite simply that the science sprinkles made the necessarily irrational process of values formation seem rational and thus unquestionable to the average person.

      If you are truly interested in this, I’m happy to share my sources.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”

    The book “A Course in Miracles” answers these questions and many more. It presents a complete and consistent thought system and worldview. It uses religious language, but in a new way. It claims to be a way to prepare us for knowledge, which is united, whole, and beyond verbal constructs (words). That is, all parts of knowledge merge with and connect to all other parts of knowledge. Omniscience is the only true knowledge. But we cannot obtain knowledge as long as we value separation and specialness.

    The book claims that there are two main types of emotion: fear and love. What we are is love, but we have taken a “detour into fear.” Fear blocks the love and keeps us from knowing ourselves as we really are. Fear is a (pre-) “paleolithic” emotion, to use Wilson’s term. The paradigm of this world is to fear others and to attack what we fear. Do we have to have this kind of world? No, but it takes a willingness to change one’s mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Whether or not Wilson would’ve had any interest in such things, we perked up when we saw your reference to ACIM. We grew up in ultra-liberal woo-woo New Agey religion, mostly New Thought Christianity. And, in that crowd, A Course In Miracles (ACIM) is popular. Our parents, as influenced by our grandmother, raised us in Science of Mind and Unity Church. When we were kids, our parents went to an ACIM reading group and we’d sometimes attend. Then, in high school, we read our grandmother’s copy of ACIM.

      We aren’t particularly religious these days and have no strong opinion about a monotheistic God. But we retain a soft place in our heart for the the ACIM message of love as having no opposite. It shaped some basic elements of our views about the world and humanity. There is a thought we had recently and ACIM came to mind. The notion about how we cling, in fear, to special relationships as a perceived protection has created a sense of division between the worldview of ‘conservatism’ from that of ‘liberalism’, although seeing these two ideologies according to partisan politics as competing special relationships is part of the false understanding.

      Modern liberalism, rather than being essentially political, has its roots in the universalistic and egalitarian ethos of the Axial Age prophets like Jesus. That is strongly heard in what is possibly the original Christian creed that Paul quotes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is more radical than anything heard coming out of mainstream liberalism today. What arose in the Axial Age was the earliest understanding of there being a single humanity with a shared human nature within a common kosmos. This is the opposite of traditional tribalism and modern conservative pseudo-tribalism.

      This goes deep into identity. We seek special relationships because we want to feel special. This is essentially egotism, that we are unique special snowflakes. The purpose of a certain kind of religious practice, be it ACIM or Buddhism, is to see past the illusory boundaries of separation. But it is far from limited to religion, of course. And it requires no religious faith. Anyone can take up such practices in order to discover for themselves the emptiness of experience, that within the ego identity there is no there there. Our clinging has no substance, as there is nothing being held when one clenches one’s fist.

      There has been an ongoing shift in the collective psyche. When the Axial Age prophets first brought such messages of universalism and egalitarianism, very few people had eyes to see and ears to hear. Yet one senses that this worldview is finally catching on. Recent research has found that certain demographics within liberalism now have a “pro-out-group bias”, the first time this has ever shown up in any data. That is probably not quite correct. It’s not that they identify with and care more about those they don’t identify with. Rather, they no longer cling to a narrow identity that excludes others. There is no in-group versus out-group.

      Keep in mind, though, that most people are becoming more liberal over time. Liberal-mindedness, at its heart, has always been a broad identity. That is the liberal dream in a liberal society that seeks to include even those who deny liberalism. Slowly, more and more are coming around to this view, if the political system and the ruling elite resists this paradigm shift. In Western countries like the United States, every generation has become more liberal than the one before. This trend has been going on for a long time, such that American conservatives today are in many ways more liberal than American liberals were a century ago. The liberal value of inclusion is becoming normalized.


      Liked by 3 people

  30. Dear Khai,

    Thank you for sharing some of Mr. Wilsons’s expertise as well as your own views with regard to his work. It seems to me that some of those insights are very timely and without knowing much about Mr. Wilson’s work I can say a lot of what you shared meets my personal observations – increasing more than ever since 2015.

    Maybe, to find answers to those philosophical questions, we need to stop looking for them on the outside and turn inward, listen to our own insights and then share them and listen to each other and find the common denominators as well as constructive spaces for the differences.

    Personally, I would not mind if people could calm down and do so, but looking around I get the impression that presently the majority is of a different mind. That does not keep me from pursuing the path that feels right for me – feeling in a sense of heart-mind perception rather than primeval emotions. Who knows, maybe it will be enough if at least a critical mass of people is reached, who are willing to stop the vicious circle and start looking for those answers, instead.

    So, let’s keep looking!

    Much Love,

    Liked by 2 people

  31. A very interesting article; please keep up your good work.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Since ancient times, man has tried to be master of himself, but also of his surroundings, the plant and animal world and other people around him.

    When dealing with others, various factors play a role, such as feelings and perceptions of immediate events, together with previous experiences. As the years of experience go by, a person will deal with certain situations differently.

    The more experience you have, the more easily you can distance yourself from your emotions in order to analyse events. It is this experience and education that man knows how to convert into the formation of new images that can evoke further reactions.

    The tricky part of human development is that he has to learn to channel everything and learn to form the right reactions to the images he perceives. And this is not always possible, which can cause conflicts. This is exacerbated when the person in question is driven more by emotions than by common sense, but also by influencing factors, because no matter how you look at it, man has still not succeeded in working himself free from the others around him.

    Throughout history, which is constantly repeating itself, because many people do not know this history sufficiently well and therefore do not learn from the mistakes of others, many people fall into the same trap and allow themselves to be carried away by their emotional reactions, dramatic reactions or reactive attitudes provoked by environmental factors and the inability to keep themselves under emotional control.

    We can see that over the years the same errors of thought have regularly been made, or insufficient attempts have been made to investigate matters further and deeper in all serenity. We also see that many have been misled by others or have relied on erroneous reports, claims and/or arguments, as a result of which erroneous actions have been committed.

    One of the problems of the human race today is that the majority of people have drifted very far from the primal man connected to nature. Many have severed their ties with Mother Nature and therefore lack the natural provisions of behaviour and relationships. Because of their disconnection from nature, mankind has become unbalanced.

    The most difficult part in our life is often to liberate ourself from the chain of vanity that may have caught us, and to get to learn that we better have to become an instrument in the Hands of our Creator, following His path He has laid out in front of us. Man in his selfishness prefers to trust himself more than to trust a Being he can not see or hear. Most of the time man himself wants to play for god and wants to be the master in creating things? Which must be said, he doesn’t do badly.

    The annoying thing is that when confronted with ourselves, we get very bored or annoyed and start reacting negatively to others. Sometimes we notice too late that we have reacted wrongly and then make an attempt to repair the damage. But sadly enough, we often have to conclude that this will not work.

    It are those people who are the ones who can simultaneously detach and wallow in emotional feelings and thoughts, who by playing with them, gain the ability to master those emotional feelings and manage to be creative with them and thereby create works of art in one form or another.

    (Further reaction can be found at my site “Some View on the World” in the article “Looking at behaviourism of living beings”)

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Or as I like to say, we are cavemen with H-bombs.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Oh my gosh, so true! This sums up the human condition, especially the Paleolithic emotions part!! All this knowledge at our fingertips and we’re still so tribal!!

    Liked by 1 person

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