Dr. Randy Nesse
Randolph Nesse

It was with great excitement that I arrived at the University of Michigan in 1988 to attend a meeting to organize and initiate the Human Behavior and Evolution Society. The meeting was put together by psychiatrist, Randolph Nesse, whose goal was and remains to bring the Darwinian revolution not only to psychiatry but to medicine in general. He struck me as an extremely dedicated, sensible professional with a laudable mission. In 1994 he would write an excellent book with an eminent evolutionary biologist, George Williams (who, incidentally, had been very instrumental in discrediting the idea of group selection), entitled Why We Get Sick. So far the most important applications of Darwinian principles in medicine have been in understanding the rapidity of adaptive behavior in pathogenic microorganisms. I heard Dr. Nesse say some years later that Darwinian ideas haven’t caught on more in medicine because they haven’t been instrumental in a big breakthrough.

Evolutionary biologist, William Hamilton
William Hamiltom

For me the highlight of the meeting was an informal talk by William Hamilton, to whom Richard Dawkins had referred as “the greatest Darwinian since Darwin.” I was seated with a handful of others right in front of this shaggy, self-effacing man talking into his corduroy jacket, when he said that what was needed was an evolutionary “topology.” I felt as if the greatest genius of his generation had thrown me a bouquet as I feverishly rushed to the nearest dictionary to look up what topology meant. I found to my utter enchantment that it was the mathematical study of the geometry of shapes that remain continuous in the process of stretching and twisting, but that are not ruptured by tearing.

Social anxieties stretching fight-flight inot dominance & submission

The following is a topology of emotional evolution:

 1) The fight and flight responses were “stretched out” in the TIME DIMENSION by the progressive inhibition of the “prosocial anxieties”—a) separation anxiety, which increases with distance from the center of a group, and b) the anxiety of being trapped at the periphery of a group, which increases with decreasing distance from its “edges.”  The dynamic equilibrium with these two inhibitory anxieties “stretched out” the intermittent, antisocial fight-flight responses into the continuously stable interactive structures of dominance and submission within groups.

Dominance & submission were "twisted" together.

2) Then in hominids, by means of an evolutionary process directly analogous to sexual selection, the dominance and submission mentalities were “twisted together” into the single entity of the authority of and obedience to the evolved intentions of their small groups to survive as coordinated organisms.

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