VI. Earth Life Emergence: A Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies
With evidence in place for an organic conducive macro-cosmos, (Part III) and an overall evolutionary developmental gestation (Part V), this extensive chapter goes on to document how its independent, genetic-like complex self-organizing system (Part IV) becomes exemplified for each micro strata, phase, and entity. It opens with Universal Principles that can now be gleaned and distilled as they manifestly repeat and reiterate everywhere. Life’s Nested Gestation of anatomy and physiology is chronicled in nine sections from fractal geology to a Gaian biosphere. Subsequent modules then record a progressive cognition, sentience and self-recognition, as brain and mind rises in tandem with body. Human beings and humankind altogether are similarly found to represent individually and collectively the universal complementary code.
Many references which introduce and describe common principles and phenomena are cited in Parts III: Organic Universe, IV: A Cosmic Code and V: A Quickening Evolution. This natural genesis found by a worldwide science develops from a singular, independent creative system distinguished by agent and relation, individual and group, masculine and feminine-like complements. Their dynamic activity gives rise to an emergent, self-organized evolutionary nest of complexity and sentience. In this manner, the universal source becomes manifestly exemplified at each stage of a living nature. From non-random genomes to desert biotas, human commerce, global climate, and the interstellar raiment, the same pattern and process repeats over and over. Modularity, symbiosis, autopoiesis, complementarity, synchronicity, self-similarity, scale-free, power-law networks occur in every instance.
A tour of the sequential, multilevel scale of animate entities from their geological substrate to a self-regulating bioplanet. The import conveyed here is that each phase such as Microbial Colonies or Dynamic Ecosystems, as a paradigm shift in each domain, is becoming found and understood to express in form and process the independent self-organizing principles.
All aspects of earthspheres from land, sea and sky are just the same being found to exhibit and be formed by invariant, self-organized topologies from rivers, deltas, coastlines, continents, and earthquakes to the cascade dynamics of fractal weather patterns. See also Global Climate as a Complex Dynamical System for even more.
Around 1960 when I began my readings, an opaque discontinuity stood between the presence of evolving earth life and the extant physical cosmos. In the years since and especially the last decade the dissonance has been mostly bridged. Researchers have reconstructed many of the primordial components and steps such as rudimentary genetic molecules and protocell vesicles. Three main features are now seen to define living systems – a vital metabolism, bounded compartments, and information programs. A significant advance has been to identify the universal self-organizing dynamics at work in the guise of autocatalytic networks, hypercycles, autopoiesis, and so on. By these lights the occasion of emergent life, mind and selves can be ever more deeply rooted in an increasingly fertile, amniotic universe.
Individual bacteria, such as the amoeba or paramecium we met in school, were long thought to act as isolated, competive entities. But as lately advised by the nonlinear theories, microbes are now understood to exist and prosper within social assemblies engaged in constant chemical dialogue. Such microbial communities are often seen as an exemplary model of a complex adaptive system. This image of a self-organizing bacterial community is from the website (http://star.tau.ac.il/~eshel/gallery.html) of the prime researcher in this regard Eshel Ben Jacob, Maguy-Glass Chair in Physics of Complex Systems at Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Again when this section went online in 2004, the presence of such a bacterial symbiosis was on the sidelines, often in question. As entries here, in Systems Evolution, and elsewhere attest, since circa 2012 this natural procreative propensity has become widely agreed upon as a main method by which life proceeded in its nested emergence. In the later 2010s, as noted by the title, due to Scott Gilbert, Jan Sapp, Seth Bordenstein, Joan Roughgarden, and other advocates, an integral perception of organisms, and our human selves, as a unitary microbiome of bacterial multitudes came to the fore. In regard, Ilana Zilber-Rosenberg and Eugene Rosenberg dubbed these symbiotic selves as holobionts to note their communal membership.
Impelled by self-organization and selection, unitary cells continuted to complexify, associate and combine into larger multicellular animal and plant communities. In so doing, diverse, modular organs were formed which altogether evolved into unitary variegated, mobile, oxygen-breathing, land-living creatures with nervous systems, brains and proactive behavior, along with environmental vegetation.
As multicellular animals evolved in somatic and cerebral intricacy, they ever increasingly gathered into social assemblies. A major revision of evolutionary theory over the past few years has been the realization that Darwinian competitive survival of the fittest is mediated by and in fact secondary to an inherent proclivity for mutual cooperation. This effect is variously known as quorum sensing or reciprocal altruism, and is founded on a salutary complementarity of individual and community. As a result, these metabolic and cognitive groupings, with rudimentary properties of an organism, are then perceived as a new level of selection. A tacit, albeit precarious, balance of conflict and accord, often along gender lines, is now seen to distinguish and enhance animal societies, especially within the primate phylum. This natural attribute of competitive coherence, creative union, mutual aid, and so on is further seen as a universal principle that serves evolving life from microbes to ecovillages.
Intricate natural environments such as rainforests, prairies, coral reefs, and every biota are no longer held to seek an equilibrium or balance state, but to exemplify self-organizing, complex adaptive systems and nested networks in constant flux over many invariant scales from biofilm microbes to communities of organisms to whole bioregions. These novel understandings of dynamic ecosystems of flora, fauna, and their resident realms are aiding our human respectful endeavors to maintain and foster their viability.
Evolutionary schemes and complex system perspectives are also being employed by the fields of primate studies, archaeology and anthropology to better explain how simians became hominids and social humans. This multiplex emergence is considered to occur through a co-evolution of increasing brain size, dexterous tool making and especially social interactions facilitated by novel language abilities. These diverse citations report reconstructions of the meandering, interlinked pathway. No longer a linear march to homo sapiens, it is replete with branching and interbreeding. Who then is late collaborative humankind to finally commence on this retrospective? What is a self-revealing genesis universe trying to learn and achieve through our phenomenal education, witness and co-creation?
Earth’s biosphere is now known to have regulated itself for some billion years in a homeostatic fashion so as to sustain favorable atmospheric and geochemical conditions for life’s continued survival. Since the 1970's, the British geochemist James Lovelock, with Lynn Margulis and many others, have provided theoretical and experimental support for life as a planetary phenomenon. Lovelock's country neighbor, the author William Golding, suggested the name of the earth goddess Gaia. The concept has received intense scrutiny, often rejection, over past decades but is now generally understood and accepted as an innovative model. Its proof is an actual worthwhile service to global ecological research programs. This section also contains references for the field of Earth systems science and Earth’s formative history.
The nested, recurrent stages of skeletal, anatomic complexity from life's origin to we peoples just surveyed can then be seen by our worldwide compass to facilitate a progressive encephalization, the embryonic body gains a bilateral brain. Metazoan creatures across invertebrate, aquatic, amphibian, reptilian, avian and mammalian scales evolve a mosaic, modular cerebral capacity, enhanced communicative cognition, proactive behavior, relative consciousness and in this human phase a communal, reflective corpus of remembered knowledge.
While a general increase in bodily complexity and dexterity from trilobites to humans is admitted, what is in tandem process (and there really is something going on) is an essential ramification of cerebral capacities. By attributes of bilateral asymmetry, semi-specialized modules, which array in concerted and mosaic modes, crowned by a frontal lobe neocortex, brains evolve by much expanding the size of these components in place from the earliest neural stirrings. This steady course of life’s encephalization adds a further component to trace a central evolutionary axis and vector.
As these anatomical, physiological, and neural faculties evolve and ramify they further achieve an increased measure of cognitive acumen and retained memory, appropriate to an organism’s certain ecological niche. Before the 21st century, a standard, preferred view was that only humans possessed a conscious knowledge. Animals were automatons, and treated as such. A revolutionary advance since is the admission and quantification of the presence of similar, relative intelligence, sentience and self-cognizance coursing throughout the entire animal kingdom from primates to dolphins, crows, parrots, zebra fish, to colonial invertebrates. The late Donald Griffin of Harvard University was a pioneer advocate of clever creatures, as our furry, feathery, finned companions teach us each day, which has now been robustly proven.
Another notable aspect of the vectorial evolutionary rise of encephalization and sentience is the appearance of an asymmetrical brain into left and right hemispheres. Each bicameral half has characteristic abilities of a finer detail or coarser spatial focus. Until recently these features were thought to only be evident in humans. But new research findings of the past decade has identified common, similar bilateral qualities throughout the animal kingdom from primates to birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even invertebrates and insects. To this 2002 cover volume, we add the 2013 work Divided Brains to confirm this remarkable discovery. By this cerebral complementarity, the universal creative system is equally manifest in our cognitive faculties.
As our Earthwise retrospect expands its temporal and spatial compass, we add a 2018 section to report abilities to recover, reconstruct and quantify how all manner of creatures conspecific chatters, emostly for sustenance, reproduction and survival in manifold groupings. While Microbial Colonies, cites quorum sensings via chemical signals, here we are concerned with audible vocalizations across aquatic, reptilian, amphibian, mammalian, primate classes onto hominids and proto-homo sapiens. While A Cultural Code reports on diverse languages and linguistic discourse, we cite here studies about how our voluble literacy arose from evolutionary life’s distinctive feature of cross-talk by many means. In regard, birdsong serves as an iconic exemplar, a distant parallel with both human wordy alphabets and rhythmic prosody for meaningful conveyance.
In Part III, The Information Computation Turn, we saw how space, time, matter and energy is becoming seen as suffused by an informative, program-like quality. Part IV, Cosmic Code, went on to document such an independent procreative system, while Part V, A Quickening Evolution, reported humankind’s nascent integral synthesis of the oriented, gestation of life, mind and self-cognizance. This extensive Part VI, Earth Life Emergence, will attempt to show how these innate, genetic-like, complementary principles are in similar manifestation everywhere. To continue this scenario, its most familiar exemplar, of course, is the genome code that informs the form, function and life span of every organism and person. Since circa 2001, with the sequencing of the human genome, a whole scale revision has been underway as to what constitutes genetic phenomena, broadly considered, which is still being worked out. This section will try to chronicle the many concerted efforts, see also Systems Biology and Genetics above.
This 2015 section is posted to gather novel advances of genetic research as human beings proceed to decipher, sequence and avail nature’s cosmos to children code. By this vista, a temporal “paleo” evolutionary retrospect, a current breadth of biospheric creatures from insects to sapiens, and a spatial “cosmo” milieu from universe to us can be perceived. As the entries describe, incipient attempts began in the 1980s and 1990s to recreate the DNA genomes of hominids and primates. After the 2001 Human Genome project, aided by sophisticated instruments and computer informatics, it became increasingly possible to sequence any present or past entity from Neanderthals and monkeys to dinosaurs and invertebrates. A revolutionary new method and window is thus opened for our whole scale evolutionary reconstruction.
Around 1970, the linguist Roman Jakobson and biopsychologist Jean Piaget opined that these prime informational domains ought to have common similarities. The common phrase Book of Life, along with analogous usage of language terms in genetics went on even earlier. Over the subsequent decades, as gathered here, the parallels grew in veracity and value, often serving as insightful comparisons. We now enter this 2016 section because several recent contributions strongly confirm, as naturally should be, an innate similarity. A March 2016 issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A on “DNA as Information” (search Cartwright) braces this result by novel rootings of genome phenomena in nature’s mathematics, physics and chemistry. As our worldwise humankinder personsphere arises to learn on her/his own, a truly textual, poetic code script narrative, the Magnum Opus quest of perennial tradition, is at last being fulfilled, revealed and proven.
As a worldwise sapiensphere proceeds to learn on her/his own, we add this new section, akin to Quantum CS, Systems Neuroscience and others, because an increasing number of studies are coming to view and treat genetic phenomena by way of common informational self-organized, complex modular systems. In our current -omics age, just as quantome, neurome, languagome, and cosmome, whole genomes are being found exemplify the universal, independent mathematical source. DNA nucleotides + AND regulatory networks across dynamic scales serves to form and guide ourselves, each creature, life’s evolutionary gestation, and a celestial ovoGenesis. Earlier, precursor work is included along with frontier contributions as this significant domain becomes rooted in an encompassing physical cosmos as it becomes more alive and informed.
Evolutionary transitions in individuality may provide the clearest examples of multilevel selection in nature. Canonical cases are the aggregation of prokaryotic cells into eukaryotic cells, cells into multicellular organisms, and multicellular organisms into colonies or societies. In each case, the dominant level of selection, and the level which is most “individuated,” shifted from the members to the aggregate as a whole. Carl Simpson, “The Evolution of Reproduction during Evolutionary Transitions in Individuality”
In the 19th century, before and sometime after Darwin's The Origin of Species, a recapitulation between an organism’s embryonic development and the evolutionary course of species was widely accepted. The comparison was discarded around 1900 as anatomical studies came to find contradictions to the older close parallels. Today after a century of intensive, quantified research, a much better understanding of and broad agreement between ontogenetic development and phylogenetic evolution is accepted in several areas. In addition to fetal gestation, its necessary occurrence is recognized for cognitive, behavioral and especially linguistic qualities. From our late retrospect, the entirety of earth life’s somatic, cerebral and societal evolution increasingly seems to take on the similar appearance to the development, motor learning, mental achievement, and acquisition of language of a human individual. The title phrase "universal gestation" is said to represent this 19th century natural philosophy view, in which Charles Darwin was immersed. So a grand accord, as every other age and cultures knows, may again be realized between personal and planet, a vital discovery by humankinder.
As we now reach our very own ourselves in this long evolutionary traverse, it is worthwhile once more to review the website’s outline. Parts III, IV and V documented an amniotic cosmos, its genetic-like code, and life’s embryonic quickening on Earth. This extensive Part VI goes on to report how each nested phase from geological strata to whole humankind reflects the universal complementary system in its discrete and relational modes and their spiral path of self-making.
By a novel “developmental systems theory” approach, cited herein, the same complex dynamics found to self-organize cosmos and evolution seem to be in similar effect to guide an infant’s and child’s advance in bodily maturation, visual perception, kinetic agility, behavior and sequential stages of cognition.
The broad field of neuroscience has similarly found the principles of complex self-organization to equally apply to a brain’s anatomical and physiological development, form and function, via its dynamic hierarchy of neural networks, modules, and its global workspace integration. In the 2010s, an “omics” mode has been dubbed a “connectome.” This large section, reflecting much worldwide research activity, might be seen as a late realization that any organism’s brain, and our emergent human phase, is a grand exemplary microcosmic “embrainment” of this macrocosmic independent, complementary archetypes.
An Emergent Bicameral Brain above (VI.C.3) reported a consistent trajectory of reciprocal cognitive faculties across evolutionary animal lineages. This present section records their full manifestation in human beings with distinctive left and right hemisphere qualities. While long intimated, a scientific proof began in the 1960s by the CalTech neuroscientist Roger Sperry, followed by wide 1970s, new age interest. After decades of clinical study, aided by advanced neuroimaging, a bilateral, asymmetric verification has been well quantified. In general, the left side focuses on finer, discrete objects out of context, with a right complement connects the dots within a holistic field of view.
Due much, it is said, to the 17th century Cartesian divorce of mind from body, conscious awareness was long set aside as a spurious epiphenomenon. With recent advances in philosophies of mind and scientific capabilities, consciousness has become a legitimate subject for quantified research and validation. A knowing sentience is now perceived to arise through life's long evolution, as noted earlier in Animal Intelligence and Awareness, in similar fashion for each person before birth to adulthood, and constantly in a human brain from quanta to intellect. Additional aspects and inputs in regard were noted in Part III, An Emergent Consciousness and Intelligence. As these references attest, it is most characterized and facilitated by a proactive informational content. The image is from an international conference held at the University of Arizona.
As we continue to consider individual persons, the most significant feature of anyone’s life is surely their gender. As we well know, feminine and masculine identity roles have historically been replete to this day with self-serving cultural agendas, distortions, definitions, and resultant abusive injustice, that is to say defined by men. We are aware, for example, of the September 2017 Scientific American Gender issue and do not wish to add one more opinion. Rather, into these later 2010s, via an emergent, bicameral humankinder, it might be finally possible to cite a natural, cosmic phenomenal basis for egalitarian complementarities, which by this advance may at last be properly understood. As this sourcebook tries to document, the worldwise discovery of a greater organic genesis which exists on its own (truly a woman’s ecosmos) can reveal innate, constant bigender principles, as they array across, distinguish and inform a familial procreation.
Over the last century, the field of psychology has sought to clarify and understand our human panoply of mental domains, behaviors, emotions, and so on, with increasing reference to their neuroanatomical, biochemical and genetic substrates. A prime concern, often equated with Sigmund Freud, was to identify and mitigate the psychic maladies that inflict night and day. In an initial analytic stage, the endeavor segmented into many subsets and factions, which along with its subject matter inhibited general theories. In the 1980s a confluence of neuroscience, linguistics, cognition, artificial intelligence, and philosophy, became known as cognitive science. Humanistic and transpersonal psychologies in their turn sought to shift the focus from illness to positive enhancement.
Throughout our lives, we are always participating in a biological and spiritual individuation process that has taken billions of years. Helene Shulman
The first four sections of Part VI, Earth Life Emergence, documented a nested evolution of organic entity, sentience, formative program, and awareness from bacteria to biosphere. A parallel was then noted between this overall phylogeny and individual (human) ontogeny. In Integral Persons, we saw much evidence for people as active exemplars of and participants in a self-organizing earthly and cosmic genesis.
For still another manifestation, as it must, the universal dynamic, self-organizing, fractal system is found to infuse in the evolution of human language, with regard to constructive grammar and syntax, along with its informational content, equally for script and speech. This latest mode of social communication is now seen to have a deep congruence with the molecular genetic code, as if a "languagome." And so once more a Systems Linguistics can be initiated. This congruence serves researchers in both domains and is another example of nature using the same procedure over and over. Circa 2012, with their increasing proliferation, citations that well perceive literary content and discourse as complex, scale-free networks are included in the Rosetta Cosmos section.
As the case with the field of psychology noted above, the growing application of nonlinear science to the multi-faceted subject of sociology has also led to the discernment of a common, innate mathematical basis. Rather than one random event after another sans any deeper context, a global science is able to perceive how complex dynamic systems similarly organize the shape and interaction of groups, assemblies, settlements and cities, from a few members to a metropolis. As introduced in Organic Societies earlier, such communities proceed to evolve toward an organism-like cognitive coherence. A premier distinction at best is a reciprocal symbiosis between free individual and supportive group. By these insights, as various papers report, from political elections, sporting events, social media, financial commerce, to migrations, and even battlefield chaos, can yet be found a constant mathematical format. And if this unbeknownst mathematical dimension might be revealed and availed, fed back from humankind to its peoples, a better, more peaceful world might accrue.
Historians, architects, and scholars have often advised that societies, especially in urban settings, seem in their material circulations, skeletal infrastructure, and cognitive cultures to take on a likeness of the developing anatomy, metabolism and nervous system of an organism. As an intensifying human presence converges over and is compressed by the finite biosphere, a further evolutionary emergent phase is arising in the guise of a global super-organic personage. Its cerebrally collaborative ‘noosphere’ able to achieve such a perspective was documented in Mindkind, with additional personal qualities covered in Sustainable Ecovillages such as local "social protocells." This section also reports a shift in finance and commerce from a mechanical equilibrium model via another dynamic complexity revolution, aka econophysics, so as to imply a "Systems Economics."
“East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet” wrote Rudhyar Kipling long ago. Nowadays many research studies in social psychology report that western and eastern cultures do generally reflect polar autonomous individual or communal group attributes. For the purposes of this website, such quantified findings may then show how the universal archetypes seem manifest even on a global stage. But these reciprocal phases have rarely been understood and as set in opposition have caused much international strife and injustice. If civilizations that currently “clash” could actually be seen as naturally recurrent complementarity, a palliative path to their reconciliation might result. A unique role for Muslim culture as bridge between West and East is suggested in Bicameral World Religions.
The comparative study of religious traditions is another project of composite humankind. The great world faiths, both Abrahamic and Asian, arose in a first “axial period” circa 500 B.C. to 700 A.D. Within the theme of this website, we suggest that a worldwide complementarity might also be found between Western and Eastern modes of belief and doctrine. As many scholars note, the spiritual sentiments these hemispheres hold to basic responses or dichotomies of God and the human, heaven or earth, linear or cyclical time, and so on. Surely this is a huge, vested subject and these brief thoughts and references try to broach ecumenical openings and rapport.
An historic reconvergence of scientific and religious encounters is underway but the project seems daunted by trying to reconcile the old, materialist, Darwinian version with belief in and proof of a Divine creator. Signs of an ordained design by way of the “anthropic principle” are a prime endeavor. Glimpses of an innately self-organizing cosmos occur but the waxing realization of a genesis universe whereof earth and human have their own intrinsic value has not yet registered.
An ambition of historians and philosophers has long been to discern the topologies, forces and trends, if any, that might underlie, move, and trace the course of human affairs, peoples, cultures, nations, creeds, and civilizations. Because these efforts, in their partiality, were often socially misapplied, not due to theory but its misuse, the project of seeking such a ‘metanarrative’ is now abandoned. The difference proposed here is a 21st century perception of a self-organizing genesis universe found by humankind. A first step is to admit that intrinsic generative forces exist at all. For an exemplary 2010s source view the content of Cliodynamics: Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History. An ability to gain novel knowledge via such sciences of complex complementarity could provide beneficial guidance for a kinder, more sustainable world, as Part VII next will suggest.
As this site tracks the scientific and academic literature, a growing trend is the widespread acceptance of this nested, repetitive scale as a way to define life’s episodic emergence from replicative biomolecules to human linguistic societies. It was first conceived in two volumes The Major Transitions in Evolution, (1995) and The Origins of Life (1999) by the theoretical biologists John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary. They are reviewed in Systems Evolution, along with many reports on their presence across fauna, flora, neural, and group instances. The original seven stages are shown in Ascent of Genetic Information since each comes with a certain code. This robust 21st century version of an oriented sequence from which people arise now sets aside an old Darwinian aimless, contingency, which as yet remains in textbooks.