Anyone following this blog knows that I have an identity problem between being what I have always been which is northeastern ivy league skeptic, and being a faith want-to-be. I’ve been in a funk recently. I’ve figured how to believe in God without faith, but it simply does not go over with my type of person. It works for me, but – hey – I was the one who thought it up. So I’m fed up with my kind of person and am now pivoting to people who really do have faith in God, the old fashioned way, people that I truly admire. So, at least for now, I am going to pitch my wares to that group again. I somehow think that people of faith are more open to science than people of science are to faith. I’m not going to sit here and analyze all that but am going to pump out some more scientific creationism.
The fight-flight responses of individuals were inherited from all preceding creatures. Driven by the benefits of mutual protection, primate hierarchical groups began forming about 50 million years ago. This transformation occurred as the dual fears of separation and being trapped outside groups gradually inhibited the fight-flight responses to produce the stable mental states of dominance and submission in groups. Stated another way, the fears of increasing distance from the center of groups and decreasing distance from the periphery of groups “stretched out” the time-limited and antisocial responses of fight and flight into the continuously present interactive states of dominance and submission. Just as birds became specialists in flight, monkeys and apes became specialist in their internal hierarchies. Every single primate creature knows exactly where he or she stands in their hierarchies and behaves accordingly. This is what our “primate brain” is all about.
Then six million years ago a unique circumstance occurred. The lush forests of East Africa in which apes had thrived for over ten million years had been thinned by a drying and cooling trend, driving them into near extinction to be replaced by monkeys. The only two “refuge” species remaining were the distant ancestors of the gorillas and chimpanzees that are still hanging on.
The bonobo apes evolved from chimpanzees about one million years ago.
Chimpanzees have radically changed from the last common ancestor we shared shared with them six million years ago, as have we.
Question: which of these three species has made more evolutionary “progress?”
The reason that the apes were going into near extinction was due to their low birth rates. In the new harsher climate, apes could no longer afford the utterly wasteful politics of males competing for females without any participation in childrearing. In other words, the females were having too few children to maintain their colonies and were getting fed up with the males spending all of their time competing for sexual access to them. Sound familiar?
As a result of this sorry situation, those few female apes that were born with a feisty temperament and wouldn’t continue putting up with being routinely gang-raped, started to prefer the more sensitive guys who might even stick around and help out with the kids. Lo and behold, those tough gals and gentler guys started having more offspring than anyone else! And, what’s more, their female children took after their tough mothers and their male children took after their more straight-arrow dads. So, a couple hundred generations of picky girls and steady-Eddie guys having most of the babies, ended up evolving into a monogamous mating system, which is by far the most efficient social system for producing as many offspring as possible. All of the male energy that had been put into competing for females was converted into helping mom with the baby-sitting and “shopping.” But this was only half the story.
Monogamous groups in nature are not particularly sociable because there is too much concern about—you guessed it—cheating on your mate. If you’re a male and the sort that allows your mate to have someone else’s children, forget it, your genes are history. So, gibbons, for example are monogamous but they live in separate nuclear families having little to do with each other. There also is the problem with the females, especially when pregnant, being vulnerable to predation when the males are off foraging. So, simultaneous with the evolution of monogamy, God chose this moment in the universe to intervene with a unique kind of evolution that was destined to transform the laws of nature into the rules of right and wrong.
When monogamy was evolving within groups, it was not just the individual mated pairs that were selected on account of their productivity, but also random subgroups of mates within groups who were more productive than other permutations of subgroups. As it happened, those subgroups that were more protective of strict monogamy out-produced those that permitted a little fooling around on the side and goofing off on the serious business of raising children. Remember, we were in the midst of a desperate, do-or-die-turnaround-make-over of a disappearing breed (apes). This new kind of evolution forged a way to effectively police cheating and freeloading and thus liberated a monogamous group from their competitive instincts to develop a degree of cooperation never before conceived on this earth.
The dominance and submission interaction that had served as the emotional building blocks of the social infrastructure of primates for millions of years underwent a momentous transformation. The establishment of monogamy evolved within the relationship between the sexes. Males are males and females are females for a lifetime. Back in those days, you could not change into the opposite sex midstream. However, that is not true of dominance and submission.
When you choose a puppy, the breeder might talk about how he or she can identify one that is going to be more dominant or submissive, but it is all relative. You might choose the most dominant dog from one litter that would turn out to be submissive to an even more dominant dog from another. It is the same in apes. All dogs and apes have the potential to be both dominant and submissive. In any single interaction the dominant animal suppresses its submissive mentality and the submissive animal suppresses its dominant mentality. Although these two mental states had never functioned simultaneously in a single individual, they became the “raw material” for God to fashion them into two sides of a single and entirely new coin.
Those subgroups within a group whose dominance mentalities tended to protect not just their own mate, but the integrity of the paired mates “next door” started to bear more children as a group. As an integral part of this process, their submissive mentalities became specifically responsive their own collective dominance mentalities’ protection of the inviolability of the pair-bonds in the subgroup. So what had been for millions of years a competitive interaction between individuals transformed into single, two sided group process that served to suppress that very same competition. We have names not only for the two sides of this group entity into which the dominance and submissive mentalities transformed, but also for the two group functions that were to become the foundation of our success as a biological family (hominids).
The dominance mentalities of individuals became authority in groups. It is vital to note that authority does not “belong” or emanate from the individuals of a group but from the group itself. When someone attempts to speak with authority, take note of how their voice changes. It drops an octave and it comes from deeper in the throat. That signals that they are not just speaking on their own behalf, but on behalf of their group. The group is now talking through that individual, or that is what he or she would want you to believe. Back when authority first evolved the fakers would not have made it through. The authority of subgroups either made them more productive or just withered away. The genetics of authority is derived from the collective DNA of a (sub)group of individuals but its evolved intentions resided within the same spiritual space as is occupied by God.
Then the other side of this group process was that the submissive mentalities of individuals became obedience in groups. Very important in analyzing whether someone speaks with genuine authority is the tone of submission, which is much harder to fake. There is humility in authentic authority which is difficult to describe, but you can feel it and recognize it when you hear it. We also have words for what this newly evolved, group entity of authority and obedience was “about.”
Morality is the most basic word we have for it. Morality describes a system of rules whereby a group of monogamously bonded mates can function most productively together. The “thou shalt not” golden rules help define it. It is important to note that in this context morality is not just one’s conduct with others but whether the individual is working hard enough in a group effort, either within a pair-bond or a group of mated pairs. The issue of freeloading pertains to morality. If you have ever wondered why certain cohesive religious groups like the Mormons are so productive, it is because they observe these rules.
From a biological point of view, I will focus on the underlying genetics of morality that evolved six million years ago and formed the foundation of the success of all subsequent hominid species including our own. These genes are similar to homebox genes, known as HOX genes.
Back 500 million years ago when complex, multicellular life was first forming, a variety of basic body types evolved. The vast majority of life from flies to elephants followed a basic segmental body pattern of mouth, rear, front and back. The genes that underlie this basic body pattern have been strictly conserved over all these years because, if they mutate or change at all, the fetus will simply not survive. Just as HOX genes form the foundation of individual bodies, I view the genes underlying morality as similarly forming the foundation of all hominid groups. If they go awry, the group fails. This leads us to another word for what group authority and obedience are about.
Justice is about the enforcement of morality. Once again, using a biological metaphor, justice is like the immune system of these newly evolved hominid groups. The function of an immune system is to identify and then destroy invaders that are pathological to the organism. The twin sided group agency of authority and obedience became similarly sensitive to behaviors that were immoral, freeloading or otherwise individually competitive that would cause a group to fail. Those groups that did not evolve justice simply were not as productive as those that did and fell by the wayside.
Now you will declare that I am describing some far-out Nazi morality concentration camp where immorality is persecuted. Remember, we are talking about biology here. Hominid groups became organisms like your body is an organism. Your body is a success story just like hominid groups are a success story. Millions of your ancestors fell by the wayside and did not make it because parts of your “innards” did not get along with each other, but now that you are healthy, everything seems to run smoothly. Your immune system mostly operates “under the radar” except when you get very sick. It was the same with hominid groups. This process probably happened over several hundred thousand years, which is a brief period of time for an evolutionary event of such magnitude. However, once established, there was no hell fire and brimstone. All the riffraff had long since been swept away, and the group “immune system” was also under the radar with only occasional “flare-ups” when rare mutational backsliding into individual dominance behavior appeared.
Before delving further into the mythos of these early tribes, one central feature must be highlighted. Standard Darwinian doctrine is that evolution is a struggle and that this struggle is most severe between individuals of the same species. You have heard it over and over: “survival of the fittest.” Darwin dreamed up his theory on the basis of the teeming jungles of South America. Here, I am painting a very different picture of a creature – the last ancestor common to us and chimpanzees – faced with extinction in deteriorating climates pushing the envelope of evolution to find a way to be more productive of offspring. The revolutionary answer they came up with was to stop the idiocy of competing with each other in such a circumstance and convert those same instincts into a new kind of group organism that could survive on account of its superior productivity. A large part of the genius of this new group creature was its lack of competition either within or between groups. This kind of evolution was completely passive in that those behavioral expressions (phenotypes) of genes that were more productive proceeded forward and those that were not so much simply faded out in several generations.
Those that are immersed in the Darwinian ethos and have studied many other animals simply cannot conceive of the creature that I am in the process of describing because it just does not exist out there. Believe it or not we hominids have been a unique family of critters from the beginning and our history of unprecedented achievements testifies to that.
One objection that is immediately raised in light of the sexuality in chimpanzees and our own Homo sapiens species (the diverse foibles of which I have and again will address elsewhere), how did these early hominid creatures deal with mate choice and sexual competition? Sexuality is very malleable in evolution and in this case was molded to suit group productivity. The group agency of authority and obedience simply biologically suppressed individual sexuality, releasing it solely for cementing procreative monogamous bonds.
As to the issue of mate selection, any competitive aggression in the process was not only a turnoff but was simply not tolerated. Sex and aggression were evolved to serve the group organism. There would have been mutual attraction towards complementary temperaments that fostered the temperamental balance of their offspring, which was the most adaptive emotional trait in such a social system. During the decade that I was active in marital counseling I spent a great deal of time pointing out the complementarity of couples, much to their surprise.
Most scientists agree that there is no way to deduce what the social system of the early hominids was from the bone fossils that have been found. I have dreamed up this mythos of early man from my study of psychiatric illnesses, but let’s see how well it fits what is known from the bones.
The most complicated issue is why upright posture is such a “drop dead” requirement to be included into the hominid family when any orthopedic surgeon can testify to the physical costs of upright posture. Therefore upright posture must have been absolutely indispensable for this new group organism to function right from the beginning. The answer to this conundrum is the development of communication through an entirely new kind of language. In order for the group organism to dispense morality and justice, everyone in a given group had to “stay on the same page” by simultaneously and constantly expressing and comprehending information about the coordination of their group behavior. This would be similar to a musical band making small adjustments to stay in sync with one another. In essence this new expressive and receptive language served as a rudimentary “nervous system” for these creatures.
It is a fact the brains of these early creatures did not get any larger than those of present chimpanzees, but notable experts have allowed that there could be evidence of “reorganization” in early hominid brains. This is consistent with the fact that all that really happened in these creatures was a reorganization of dominance and submission into obedience to group authority. However the absolute need for everyone in a given group to be constantly “in touch” using what Darwin called the “language of emotion” – probably mainly gestural at first – would have required them to stand up right from the beginning. That upright posture is such an emblem of our hominid family is testament to the central function of language as the nervous system of the group organism.
How well do other aspects of early hominid bones fit our myth? The most ancient set of complete bones are those of 4.4 million year old Ardipithecus ramidus in which the male canines are noted to be reduced in size relation to apes indicating reduced aggression. The best known characteristic of early hominids like the famous Lucy are huge molar teeth used to grind up low quality foods like grasses and sedges. This is consistent with a creature evolved to avoid the divisiveness of competition for high quality foods
Size differences between males and females, often used to determine the degree of monogamy (the more equal the more monogamous) in other animals would not pertain to a non-competitive species that is strictly organized at the level of groups because individuals were not competing for mates. Size differences would pertain not to how many females could be controled, but to the division of labor between the sexes for-the-good-of-the-group.
There is one more striking aspect about the early hominids. They all evolved in a “mosaic” fashion from being ape-like to being more human-like. Different parts of these species evolved at different speeds, such as the feet, ribcage, spine, hands and shoulders, but they all were moving in the same direction. The bones do not reveal a bush, with every one headed their own separate direction, but a highly constrained march, albeit uneven, in the direction of our own Homo genus.
So what was it like living in one of these early hominid groups? In my mind, I imagine these early manifestations of God’s creation as all spending their days crouching together munching on grasses at first sight like herd animals. But as you observed a group of them over time, you would start to note something very different about them. You would not notice it at first, because their constant communication would be subtle, but you would note that they were strikingly in tune with one another. They would be doing different things, but they were not like ordinary herd animals that all seem to react simultaneously. You would sit there for days, trying to figure out how they were different. Then it would hit you. This group was not just cooperative with one another; they were coordinating their behavior as if they were a single creature.