Humans are driven towards diversity.

The trend of all physical and biological evolution has been towards greater diversity. The cosmic egg split apart with the Big Bang has diversified into a hundred types of atoms and over three hundred particles, and humans are even finds ways to make new ones. And consider biological development since the origin of life, most likely simple chemical soups in the oceans, to the almost unimaginable complexity of life today. Complexity is basically a function of the number of parts in the system, of the number of types of parts in the system and, most importantly, of the number of relationships between the parts. As the physical universe evolves, complexity increases.

So it is as well with the mind. Consciousness has evolved along with the complexity both of the nervous system of animals and of the animals interactions amongst themselves. We may say that the complex functioning of brains gives rise to the mind. What is mind? Mind is actually a process rather than a thing. A great analogy for the mind is that it is like a sentence: it has a noun and a verb. The noun is memory and the verb is consciousness. This verb's particular action is of focusing attention on internal and external memes (memories and perceptions, respectively) and resolving the system. A resolved, or harmonious system (mind) means a mind that is sane, happy and intelligent. Happiness comes from the gratification of values, some of which are inborn (genetic) but the vast majority of which are environmentally-acquired. An example of the former has to do with my ideal-comfort body temperature and an example of later would be me smiling as I hug my fast, cute iMac. Values are memes, which will be dealt with under memory, below. Concsiousness, the verb, is the holy grail of cognitive science, something which has eluded the explanations of millenia of philosophers and psychologists. The best way that I could put it is that mind attends to perceptions and memory, seeking to resolve impediments to the organism's complete and total gratification (full belly, finding God, you name it). Since consciousness is harder, I'll start with memory first.

Memory is a repository for memes. My head is festering with probably from twenty-five to fifty thousand memes, each vying for my conscious attention. They all bubble in the background of my consciousness, each vying for attention ("vying to be attended to") and wanting to be 'completed'. A meme is complete when it is a coherent thought and it is 'happy'--that is to say, it is at home with the particular environment of memes in that given mind (non-sequitur links: plays well with others, found a happy home), by which I mean it 'makes sense to you'. Memes in any given mind are subject to natural selection (via a slashdot or E2 kind of ranking system) as the organism interacts with others via linguistic behavior, or with the environment through simple perception and action. If enough people tell me that '2+2=5' is a bad idea, eventually this becomes deselected and that particular meme dies in my mind. It ceases to have any influence upon the community of ideas currently residing in my mind. The '2+2=5' meme might find some small econiche in which to dwell, namely in the minds of mathematicians who can imagined curved spaces in which such a proposition might seem plausible and therefore be very fit. Other memes may be extremely fit and enjoy great reproductive success; the meme-complex of monotheism might even be properly considered a virus. If this doesn't make sense, check out Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, who both do a much better job of explaining this than me, and of course start with the node on meme if you haven't done so already. (Here's a The Matrix-type spin: the concept of memes is itself a meme subject to natural selection. If it is to survive, someone must use it to build a complete theory of consciousness. If someone builds a complete theory of consciousness that does not contain the concept of 'memes', it will die.)

So now that we know how ideas can reproduce themselves, what are they? Ideas are conceived in either figure/ground or polar-continuum dualities: self/other, man/woman, light/dark, life/death, space/time and even mind/matter. I believe I can hazard a primitive explanation for this. The fundamental distinction of mind is between the self and the other. The self is more or less the motor cortex and the other is more or less the sensory cortex (I'm thinking more eyes and ears, rather than bellyache). This is a crude oversimplification, like the concept of the triumverate brain, but it may prove to be an accurate fuzzy outline of what's going on. Intelligence progresses as we acquire the ability to make discriminations. As we gain depth perception, we learn to make figure/ground discriminations. Even as this is happening, the neonate is doing 'face dances' with its mother, gaining the first self/other discrimination. As we mature, we ultimately progress to vastly more complex discriminations, such as "Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot." Discrimination is not intended in the sense of racism (although that is such a meme, however noxious), but in the sense of rationality, a ratio. An icon for the essence of rationality would be a person standing, holding an apple in one hand and a lemon in the other. Memes compete for control of our value systems, which in turn guide attention.

As you get more intelligent, acquiring more memes and integrating them into a more functional whole, the capacity for happiness also increases. Dumb people can only enjoy a football game on the most basic level. A guy like John Holland can also enjoy it on the levels of game theory, adaptive strategies, territorial politics and perhaps also as a metaphor for certain social relationships. It's kind of like the old Murphy's Law: "A pipe gives a wise man time to think, and a fool something to stick in his mouth." Smarter people have more potential for happiness, in the sense of potential energy.

So it is with individuals, so it is in macrocosm with evolution. We are being pulled towards greater diversity, increased novelty and hetereogeneity. Perhaps the end of time is a strange attractor towards change. Perhaps human social evolution is on a rugged-fitness landscape that is presently favoring an increase in the number of types of players in the game, consequently increasing the number of possible interactions between players (strategies and executions) exponentially.

"Human Diversity" by Mike Eschman.

I wrote this article for a classroom session
on the nature of racial differences today.

The scientific principals upon which this book rests
is to be found in:

Human Diversity.
by A Lewontin, Richard.
Scientific American Library.
New York, 1995.
paperback, halftones, index.
ISBN 0-7167-6013-4.
179 pages.
TOPIC : The realities of human biological variation.

----Book Review (excerpts) -----

Human Diversity
Richard Lewontin
Scientific American Library 1995
A book review by Danny Yee - - Copyright © 1998

Differences between people or groups of people, and the biological bases of such differences,
are common subjects for dinner-party debates and mass-media stories, especially when sex,
intelligence, or race are involved. But popular thinking in this area is beset with confusions -
perhaps not surprisingly given that such confusions and inaccuracies are all too common among
scientists and scholars, even in fields such as anthropology. A straightforward, accessible
explanation of the realities of human biological diversity, Human Diversity therefore answers
a vital need.
it presents must, I think, be high on any ranking of "essential human knowledge", if only because
bad science in this area has played a role in some terrible deeds. It really should be in every
school library.

25 December 1998

---End of book review excerpts ------------

An Essay on "Human Diversity" by Mike Eschman

Life on Earth is about half over. The first traces of life in the fossil record are three
billion years old. About four billion years from now, the Sun will become a red giant,
consuming the inner planets of the Solar System, and extinguishing whatever life remains on
Earth. Failure is an intrinsic result of living. Among all discovered species, only .001%
are known to survive today. The typical carnivore genus survives about the million years.
The lifespan of individual species within that genus tends to be much shorter. As for individuals,
the outcome can not be modified by intentions and behaviors. Death is a fundamental condition of
life at every level of organization.

The human family is about ten thousand generations old, diverging into geographic variants, or races,
fifteen hundred generations ago. Due to the mechanism of migration, we have remained a single species,
with a common gene pool. In the West, humanity humanity has embarked on the road to a common culture
and environment. Physical human variation has passed high tide, and is no longer a significant trend.

Americans defend the equality of all peoples, and, with equal or greater vigor, the right of each of
us to our personal, religious and ethnic diversity. Make us identical in every way, and many of us
would lose the will to live. By bloodtype, a black grandfather from Chicago, a white carpenter in New
Orleans, and a Vietnamese female executive in Washington, D. C. may be alike, but few of us would have
trouble distinguishing one from the other. The black, or white, however, might have trouble distinguishing
a Vietnamese from a Cambodian or a Thai. In the case of identical twins, the parents are usually able to
distinguish between the pair with ease. That same couple might have trouble "separating" another couples'
twins. That difficulty would vanish, however, if the similar offspring differed in sex.

What factors account for the ability to perceive individuality at a glance? Why is this ability common
within social groups, but rarely across them?

Three factors may account for this.

First, social conditioning.
Second, sex and gender differentiation.
And, third, modern concepts of individuality.

Social Conditioning.

Society trains us to assign meaning to individual variation, and to make decisions about what
differences are to receive attention, particularly when an unfamiliar group is being evaluated.

By this process, objective differences between the groups are developed and perpetuated.

That's important.

By this process, objective differences between the groups are developed and perpetuated.

These differences may be physical, linguistic, or in terms of social power. They eventually
extend to patterns of sickness and mortality.

"The inequalities of status, wealth, and power in the world are not distributed at random.
There are poor and rich nations, and, within nations, social classes to which families
belong for many generations. In the United States, social class is confounded with race
and ethnic origins. The existence of permanent hereditary underclasses is even more of a
challenge to political notions of freedom and equality than is inequality among individual

Americans are uncomfortable with the notion of a caste system, and want an objective basis to
order classes within society. We believe mental ability gives us a "golden mean". We have faith
in the power of reason. Modern industrial society is based upon abstract reasoning. As a result,
we constantly test each other for everything, and at every opportunity.

"The important social claim of mental testing in not simply that IQ tests measure intelligence,
but that they explain the variance in social success." Being able to identify the abilities
that lead to social success, we could foster those abilities in all of our children from an
early age. If this were a reasonable premise, we might attain the elusive "more perfect union"
in the span of a few generations. "Historical statistics clearly demonstrate that, for male heads
of households in the United States, factoring income, occupation, and years of schooling, a man of
average IQ from an upper class family has an advantage of 7.5 times over a man of the same IQ from
the poorest family."

In my opinion, when society is in balance, the richest is able to imagine life on the lower rungs of
the social ladder with a fair degree of empathy. In the 1700s, the richest man in town might lose
a daughter to whooping cough, or spend a winter without fresh vegetables. In the 1910s, the owner
of the town bank might lose a wife to influenza, or step into horseshit crossing the street, or have
to take a cold water bath. When the Black Plague finally subsided, the Europeans responded in remorse,
and with considerable relief, by creating the banking system, and, in the process, the middle class,
which the whole world wants to join today. So much death gave them a new appreciation of the life about
them, for a time.

In today's world of private health insurance, freeways and suburbs, it is not unusual to be insulated
from community. Many come to believe that community is a series of temporary partnerships, based on
convenience. Once that view is adopted, wealth is focused on maintaining the isolation.

In the process, children of the poor get damaged. Stereotypes are born. This is unfortunate.
Improper nutrition causes permanent damage in individuals, as does inadequate medical care.
It's not something you can make up for later, if you have a change of heart. But when those children
are also denied love, you produce adults that "push back" in really unpleasant ways. Of course,
that reinforces the urge to isolate. In the end, it might be more like Hitler's Germany, than like the
country our grandparents grew up in.

Stereotyping is dangerous, as it is self-perpetuating. Once you let it loose, there's no putting it
back in the box. I can't think of a single human stereotype that hasn't generated at least a pound of
misery for each ounce of good it may convey.

Sex and Gender Differentiation.

If you go to a friend's house to pick a puppy from a litter, you might hold each puppy in your hand,
inspecting the puppy's bottom to determine its sex. What work for a pet would cause serious problems
with work or school mates! With your mates, it is better to LOOK for signs of breasts, or beards.

Being male or female is a matter of sperm and eggs, not a matter of bras and facial hair. These
secondary characteristics, gender identity traits, are used to regulate social behavior. We insist,
even demand, that men and women are fundamentally different, in areas far removed from reproduction.

"It is connonplace to say that the differences between boys and girls is genetic. Yet sex has no
heritability, in the sense that height does. Tall parents may have tall children, and short parents
may have short children, but every boy and girl must have one parent of each sex. Nor has anyone
discovered a gene that is present in one sex, but not in the other. The social reality of sex is
that there are differences in self image, in power, in social roles, in the distribution of males
and females by occupation, by personality type, and by causes of sickness and death."

As children, our parents and families create a framework for our social lives. A fundamental part
of the framework is gender identity, a set of behaviors. Familial expectations compel children to
adopt specific modes of behavior, which are rewarded by commonly accepted social responses. "What
begins as a difference in plumbing fixtures becomes a remodeling of the building."

Modern concepts of Individuality.

In an immutable world, past and present are identical. History does not, can not, exist. Individuals
exist as a part of a community. They have no meaning taken out of that context. In reality,
individuals are unique. The tendencies that come together at birth come apart again when that
person produces sperm or eggs.

The systems that make up the world are in a constant state of flux. "The present must not simply
follow the past, it must be a consequence of it." We ask how circumstances that dominate our culture
came to pass, and decide what changes will be made. Yes, that's right. Decide. "The relevance of
the past for the present does not carry over into the future for most physical systems." In pursuit
of the future, we do not abandon logic. "No matter how useful it might be for an organism to be able
to fly, no vertebrate animal has ever been able to develop wings, except at the expense of a pair of
limbs ... Pegasus was a developmental impossibility."


Individuals in a society are able to distinguish various degrees of individuality among its members
according to a complex set of rules that constitute the fundamental social pact. These rules are
based on the expectations of each individual's family, the overall expectations of the community
towards each member regarding reproduction, and the decision of the community in allowing a range
of variation in individuals.

It is crystal clear that family life is the mechanism by which social training is transferred from
the community to the individual. Other aspects of the social contract are not so clear. In
industrialized societies, and more primitive societies where population has become unbounded,
reproductive roles require consideration and reflection as never before in human social history.

The way we agree to distinguish individuals by our laws, and our science, will determine our collective
future, as well as the future of the concepts that our country embodies. Our ability to forge consensus
based on tolerance and opportunity, will determine if we are a beginning, or an end. If we rise above
ourselves, for the sake of our children, we may become more than human, just like Mom said.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.