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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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V. Life's Corporeal Evolution Encodes and Organizes Itself: An EarthWinian Genesis Synthesis

G. Universal Gestation: Phylogeny and Ontogeny

Nelson, Katherine. Young Minds in Social Worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. The emeritus CCNY psychologist offers a lifetime synthesis of self-organizing developmental systems theory, Jean Piaget, Merlin Donald, and much more, which proceeds to confirm an analogous recapitulation between a child’s cognitive advance and evolution’s course from primate groups to global humankind. Each individual is seen to advance through levels of acumen from sentience itself, to social sharing, theory of mind, self-reflection, integrative narrative, and onto cultural communities. Similarly, with Donald, this childhood emergence repeats evolution’s basic stages from mimetic hominids to the external symbolic repositories of human society.

Niklas, Karl and Ulrich Kutschera. From Goethe’s Plant Archetype via Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law to Plant Evo-Devo 2016. Theory in Biosciences. Online October, 2016. Senior Cornell University and University of Kassel system botanists broach a 21st century revival of the distinctive 18th and 19th century Naturphilosophie of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” This distinctive paradigm, aka “universal gestation,” pervaded Darwin’s age and thought. While Haeckel’s original version has been set aside, since it has lately gained sophisticated finesse, the parallel is seen as broadly accurate. This paper serves to evince its presence across flora realms.

In 1790, the German poet Johann W. v. Goethe (1749–1832) proposed the concept of a hypothetical sessile organism known as the ‘Plant Archetype,’ which was subsequently reconstructed and depicted by 19th-century botanists and can be considered one of the first expressions of Evo-Devo thinking. Here, we present the history of this concept in the context of Ernst Haeckel’s (1834–1919) biogenetic law espoused in his Generelle Morphologie der Organismen of 1866. We show that Haeckel’s idea of biological recapitulation may help to explain why various phenomena, such as the ontogenetic transformations in the stellar anatomy of lycopods and ferns, the transition from primary to secondary anatomy of seed plants, the presence of unfused juvenile cone scale segments in the Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), and the transition of C3- to C4-photosynthesis in the ontogeny of maize (Zea mays), appear to support his theories. In addition, we outline the current status of plant evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-Devo), which can be traced back to Haeckel's biogenetic law. (Abstract)

In light of these findings, the pronouncement ‘‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’’ (which presumes that embryogenesis begins with a shared ancestral morphology and progressively adds species-specific specializations during embryogenesis) has been replaced by the view that early metazoan embryogenesis is divergent among even related species, but converges onto a shared pattern (called the phylotypic stage) only to subsequently diverge once again. Taken at face value, this bottleneck in metazoan embryological patterning provides evidence for the evolution of an early and successful strategy for achieving the basic metazoan body plan. (6-7)

I am a plant evolutionist who uses physics, engineering, and mathematics to understand the relationship between plant form and function and how this relationship has evolved in consort with the physical environment over the course of Earth's history. My focus is on plant evolution, particuarly how the shape, size, internal structure and reproductive biology of plants have changed over the course of millions of years of evolution. I consider myself a teacher and a scientist. I love working with students, and I love doing research. (Karl Niklas website)

Olsson, Lennart, et al. The “Biogenetic Law” in Zoology: From Ernst Haeckel’s Formulation to Current Approaches. Theory in Biosciences. Online February, 2017. Friedrich Schiller University biologists Olsson, Georgy Levit and Uwe Hossfeld review its past 150 years from Haeckel’s General Morphology of Organisms to Alexei Sewerzoff (1866-1936) and Adolf Naef (1883-1949) and onto recent work by Karl Niklas (search), Olivier Rieppel and their own “hour-glass model.”

Ordin, Mikhail. Speech Rhythm as Naturally Occurring and Culturally Transmitted Behavior Patterns. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Online September, 2019. A Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain and Language scholar finds the course of individual linguistic development to well parallel and recapitulate the way that language-specific rhythmic patterns emerged in hominid to human populations.

Rhythm is fundamental to every motor activity. Neural and physiological mechanisms that underlie rhythmic cognition, in general, and rhythmic pattern generation, in particular, are evolutionarily ancient. As speech production is a kind of motor activity, investigating speech rhythm can provide insight into how general motor patterns have been adapted for more specific use in articulation and speech production. As speech capacity is a prerequisite for developing a language faculty, studies on speech rhythm may cast some light on the mystery of language evolution in the human genus. Hereby, we propose an approach to exploring speech rhythm as a window on speech emergence in ontogenesis and phylogenesis, as well as on diachronic linguistic changes. (Abstract)

Ostachuk, Augustin. On Novelty, Heterochrony and Developmental Constraints in a Complex Morphological Theory of Recapitulation. Evolutionary Biology. 43/3, 2015. As the abstract explains, a National University of San Martin, Argentina theoretical biologist describes how novel 21st century findings can affirm the broadly conceived anatomical parallels between ontogeny and phylogeny phases that Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) first proposed. A unique, insightful contribution by a young researcher.

Darwin proposed natural selection as the main evolutionary mechanism in 1859. However, he did not think that this was the only process by which new species were generated. It was the so-called Modern Synthesis who established natural selection as the only mechanism responsible for evolution. Since then, the evolutionary process is explained by the pair mutation-adaptation: new species are generated by the appearance of new mutations, which in case of allowing new adaptations to the environment, they will be fixed and organisms will survive, therefore resulting in new species. An alternative view to the plasticity promoted by the adaptationist program is to think organisms as truly organized structures, having different levels of structural organization, which would mean that not every form is possible, but only those that correspond to a certain building plan. This would be reflected in the appearance of structural constraints, showing the limits imposed to the organism during its evolutionary development.

In this work, I studied the ontogeny and development of three species of the genus Trophon (marine mollusks) by geometric morphometrics, in order to clarify important concepts in evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-Devo). Integrating theoretical and empirical investigations, I could propose a new conceptual framework for heterochrony in a context of a complex theory of recapitulation. Furthermore, I could detect a developmental constraint in Trophon, which provided an opportunity to reconstruct the concept of constraint and propose a synthesis between heterochrony and constraint that explained evolution as a process fueled by them, that is, as directive and driving force. (Abstract)

Parker, Sue Taylor and Michael McKinney. Origins of Intelligence. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. A significant confirmation with regard to the development of mental capacities, which summarizes over twenty years of work from a “neorecapitulationist” position. The authors go on to claim that increases in morphological and behavioral complexity define an obvious evolutionary progress if one is inclined to look for it.

It seems that, as our complex brain matures (e.g., synaptogenesis, myelination), especially the prefrontal cortex, our general ability to ‘think’ by manipulating ideas (and objects and words) recapitulates the evolution of those abilities of our ancestors. (344)

Proietti, Renato. Language, Communication and Development of the Self. Grant, Colin, ed. Rethinking Communicative Interaction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2003. An essay on how selves arise both in evolution and in individual persons within a constructivist approach based on the autopoietic theories of Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela.

The ontogenetic development of consciousness and self can be conceived on an individual level as the reproduction of phylogenetic development. (81)

Raff, Rudolf and Elizabeth Raff. Evolution in the Light of Embryos: Seeking the Origins of Novelties in Ontogeny. Laubichler, Manfred and Jane Maienschein, eds. Form and Function in Developmental Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. In a volume about the Evo-Devo reconvergence of evolution and embryology, a chapter by the Indiana University biologists and authors that advises how over the past century a sense of such parallel, recapitulated paths has persisted because properly understood it really does convey a valid comparison. And this may be particularly evident for marine sea urchin larvae.

The influence of Haeckelian recapitulation may well have persisted because a von Baerian form of recapitulation does occur in the development of many taxa. This kind of recapitulation is reflected in the similarities of developmental events observed among animals that possess similar body plans. Thus, mammals can be seen to recapitulate structures or events seen in the development of more basal vertebrates, and indeed a body plan with a number of shared features is present in vertebrate development. (104)

Reindl, Eva, et al. Young Children Spontaneously Invent Wild Great Apes’ Tool-Use Behaviours. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Vol.282/Iss.1825, 2016. University of Birmingham researchers quantify strong parallels with regard to spontaneous tool-use abilities between a great ape phylogeny and a human children ontogeny.

Richards, Robert. Darwin’s Romantic Biology. Jane Maienschein and Michael Ruse, eds. Biology and the Foundation of Ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. On the naturphilosophie roots of Darwin’s thought.

Darwin never referred to or conceived of natural selection as a mechanistic principle and the nature to which selection gave rise was perceived in its parts and in the whole as a teleologically self-organizing structure. (130)

Rochat, Philippe, et al. Social Awareness and Early Self-Recognition. Consciousness and Cognition. 21/3, 2012. Emory University child psychologists employed the mirror mark experiment with some 86 children, aged 14-52 months. The classic test is to see when and how a fledgling individual will notice as their own a crayon mark on their forehead in a mirror, touch it, try to remove. Positive results of emerging self-recognition and identity then are seen to parallel the evolutionary rise of self-consciousness among primates.

Self-concept or the idea of me as an objectified entity among other entities is taken to be a major cognitive landmark from both an evolutionary and developmental perspective. (1491) In both the phylogenetic and ontogenetic perspective, mirror self-recognition tends to be viewed as a solipsistic process by which an individual begins to contemplate herself for herself, as an objectified and differentiated entity. (1491)

Seeley, William and Bruce Miller. Disorders of the Self in Dementia. Feinberg, Todd and Julian Keenan, eds. The Lost Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Noted more in Part VI, A Symbiotic Self, this chapter observes that selfhood arises in personal ontogeny by the same, recapitulated path as it appears to do in an emergent evolution.

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