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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

1. Systems Physiology and Psychology: Somatic and Behavioral Development

Magnusson, David, ed. The Lifespan Development of Individuals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. A volume from a Nobel conference to explore and integrate “behavioral, neurobiological, and psychosocial perspectives.”

Mangelsdorf, Sarah and Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan. Emergent Family Systems. Infant Behavior and Development. 30/1, 2007. A special issue on new understandings by way of systems principles applied to familial dynamics.

Martins, Mauricio, et al. How Children Perceive Fractals: Hierarchical Self-similarity and Cognitive Development. Cognition. 133/10, 2014. University of Vienna biologists and linguists, including Tecumseh Fitch, accomplish several insights about a correlative cosmos s graced by similar nested repetitions over a geometric scale. Indeed, both our faculties of textual language of spatial vision seem to mirror and reproduce this universal structure. The work once again exemplifies a luminous portal on affinities between human and universe.

The ability to understand and generate hierarchical structures is a crucial component of human cognition, available in language, music, mathematics and problem solving. Recursion is a particularly useful mechanism for generating complex hierarchies by means of self-embedding rules. In the visual domain, fractals are recursive structures in which simple transformation rules generate hierarchies of infinite depth. Research on how children acquire these rules can provide valuable insight into the cognitive requirements and learning constraints of recursion. These results suggest that the acquisition of recursion in vision follows learning constraints similar to the acquisition of recursion in language, and that both domains share cognitive resources involved in hierarchical processing. (Abstract excerpts)

McCune, Lorraine. How Children Learn to Learn Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. The veteran Rutgers University educational psychologist writes her opus which achieves novel insights into a child’s burst of representational speech via the perspective and activity of self-organizing dynamical systems.

Miller, Jeremy, et al. Transcriptional Landscape of the Prenatal Human Brain. Nature. 508/199, 2014. Into the 2010s, an 80 person team from the University of Washington, Harvard, Yale, MIT, UCLA, University of Texas, and USC medical and science schools, whose names reflect every continent, can now achieve this whole scale cerebral atlas. It begs whom is this collaborative “we” in the Abstract that has formed out of our personal craniums to be able to describe the creaturely evolution from which it emerged? By this vista, one could perceive a bicameral world brain, with its own knowledge content and repository, which could be fed back to heal and enhance the fraught beings it arose from.

The anatomical and functional architecture of the human brain is mainly determined by prenatal transcriptional processes. We describe an anatomically comprehensive atlas of the mid-gestational human brain, including de novo reference atlases, in situ hybridization, ultra-high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and microarray analysis on highly discrete laser-microdissected brain regions. In developing cerebral cortex, transcriptional differences are found between different proliferative and post-mitotic layers, wherein laminar signatures reflect cellular composition and developmental processes. Cytoarchitectural differences between human and mouse have molecular correlates, including species differences in gene expression in subplate, although surprisingly we find minimal differences between the inner and outer subventricular zones even though the outer zone is expanded in humans. Both germinal and post-mitotic cortical layers exhibit fronto-temporal gradients, with particular enrichment in the frontal lobe. These data provide a rich, freely-accessible resource for understanding human brain development. (Abstract)

Nelson, Katherine. Emerging Levels of Consciousness in Early Human Development. Terrace, Herbert and Janet Metcalfe, eds. The Missing Link in Cognition: Origins of Self-Reflective Consciousness. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2005. Physical, social, cognitive, representational, narrative and cultural levels of awareness (autonoesis) arise the same in infancy and childhood (ontogeny) as in human evolution (phylogeny), both which appear as a sequential process of awakening to and reflecting upon the world. (The link is “metacognition” or a faculty of knowing that one knows and others do also.)

…many developmental theorists have adopted the perspective of dynamic systems analysis, conceptualizing human development as a self-organizing system involving brain, body, and mind functioning together in interaction with both the internal and external environment… (116)

Nelson, Katherine. Young Minds in Social Worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007. Reviewed more in New Parallels of Phylogeny and Ontogeny, the emeritus CCNY psychologist achieves a grand synthesis of developmental systems theory, Jean Piaget, Merlin Donald, and much more.

Nelson, Kathleen. Evolution and Development of Human Memory Systems. Ellis, Bruce and David Bjorklund, eds. Origins of the Social Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and Child Development. New York: Guilford Press, 2005. Drawing on the work of Merlin Donald and Susan Oyama, a “dynamic developmental systems approach” can enhance evolutionary psychology so a broad recapitulation becomes evident, for example, between the emergence of memory in childhood and in the species. By these lights, a tacit but huge shift is implied from random selection alone to an evolution much more akin to an embryonic maturation.

The systems perspective differs from traditional neo-Darwinism in its emphasis on developmental processes. (357)

Oudeyer, Pierre-Yves. Open Challenges in Understanding Development and Evolution of Speech Forms. Journal of Phonetics. 53/55, 2015. The French Institute for Research in Computer Science (INRIA) director is a leading advocate of dynamical systems theories as the way to understand infant and child maturation. In regard, “embodied self-organization” processes are seen to motivate our innate, constant curiosity-driven learning experiences. His publications page lists prior and later papers about self-organizing vitalities at work across evolutionary and individual lives.

Oudeyer, Pierre-Yves. Self-Organization: Complex Dynamical Systems in the Evolution of Speech. Binder, Phillippe and Kenny Smith, eds. The Language Phenomenon: Human Communication from Milliseconds to Millennia. Berlin: Springer, 2013. In this chapter, an INRIA Bordeaux, France, research director achieves one of the most comprehensive syntheses to date of a spontaneously procreative physical cosmos whose properties serve to engender life’s developmental emergence, which can be exemplified by communicative linguistics. The author spent 8 years previous with Luc Steels at the SONY Computer Science Laboratory, Paris. As the quotes convey, a number of large scientific revisions may now be stated. The sections “Physics, the Caldron of Self-Organized Forms” highlights novel theories of nature’s lively materiality by way of nonlinear propensities. “The Impact of Self-Organization on the Origins of Forms in the Living” traces these effects as they generate evolution’s nested transitions of bodily complexity and cognitive sentience. In “Classic Neo-Darwinism,” since this domain was unknown to Charles and most of the past century, selection alone is seen as quite inadequate.

“Self-Organization Constrains the Space Forms to be Explored” explains how these prior lineaments channels both genotype and phenotype in convergent directions. “Self-Organization and the Evolution of Forms and Structures of Language” goes on to show, as if genome and languagome (my word), a recapitulative continuity from ontogenesis to “glossogenesis” and phylogenesis. As a genesis universe seemingly trying to gain a voice and vision through the human phenomenon, homo sapiens thus came to “speech codes” by the same self-organizing incentives at work everywhere else from. In a summary section “A Unified Mechanism for the Self-Organization of Combinatoriality, of the Universals/Diversity Duality, and of Cultural Sharing” can then be broached. In our second decade of the 21st century, through this work and many like contributions, a robust worldwide revolution is in and fills our electronic air, awaiting an evocative, common translation.

Human vocalization systems are characterized by complex structural properties. They are combinatorial, based on the systematic reuse of phonemes, and the set of repertoires in human languages is characterized by both strong statistical regularities—universals—and a great diversity. Besides, they are conventional codes culturally shared in each community of speakers. What are the origins of the forms of speech? What are the mechanisms that permitted their evolution in the course of phylogenesis and cultural evolution? How can a shared speech code be formed in a community of individuals? This chapter focuses on the way the concept of self-organization, and its interaction with natural selection, can throw light on these three questions. (Abstract)

The tendency of many complex physical systems to generate spontaneously new and organized forms, such as ice crystals or galactic spirals, is indeed present as much in the inorganic world as in the living world. Thus, the explanation of the origins of forms and structures in the living can not only rely on the principle of natural selection, but should be complemented by the understanding of physical mechanisms of form generation in which self-organization plays a central role. This applies to the social and cultural forms of the living, in particular to the forms of speech and language. As a consequence, I will begin by articulating in a general manner the relationships between self-organization, natural selection and Neo-Darwinism in explanations of the genesis of forms in the living. (192)

Nature, especially inorganic nature, is full of fascinatingly organized forms and patterns. The silhouettes of mountains are the same, whether one views them at the scale of a rock, a summit, or a whole mountain range. Sand dunes often arrange themselves in long parallel stripes. Water crystallizes into symmetrical serrated flakes when the temperature is right. And when water flows in rivers and hurtles over cataracts, trumpet-shaped vortices appear and the bubbles collect together in structures which are sometimes polyhedral. Lightning flashes draw plant-like branches in the sky. Alternating freezing and thawing of the rocky ground of the tundra leaves polygonal impressions in the earth. The list of these forms rivals many human artefacts in complexity. And yet they are not designed or conceived by anyone or anything, not even natural selection, Dawkins’ ‘blind watchmaker.’ (192)

To summarize, the self-organizing properties of the dynamic system composed by the cells and their DNA brings essential structuring to the phenotypic space by constraining it, making the discovery of complex robust forms by natural selection much easier. (198) To give a simple picture, self-organization provides a catalogue of complex forms distributed over a landscape of valleys in which and between which natural selection moves and makes its choices: self-organization proposes, and natural selection disposes. Obviously this is only an image to facilitate understanding, because with its movements natural selection actually enables new mechanisms, themselves self-organized, to appear, and these in turn structure the space of forms within which it moves; thus natural selection participates in the formation of these mechanisms which help it to move effectively in the space of forms; vice versa, the mechanism of natural selection certainly appeared in the history of life due to the self-organized behaviour of systems which were as yet completely unconnected to natural selection; natural selection and self-organizing mechanisms thus help each other reciprocally in a sort of spiral which enables complexity to increase during the course of evolution. (198)

Thus language involves a multitude of components interacting in complex ways in parallel on several timescales: the ontogenetic timescale, characterizing the growth of an individual person, the glossogenetic or cultural timescale which characterizes the evolution of cultures, and the phylogenetic timescale, which characterizes the evolution of species. In particular, language is characterized by complex physical and functional interactions among multiple cerebral circuits, several organs, the individuals who are equipped with them, and the environment in which they live. (200)

Overton, Willis. Developmental Psychology: Philosophy, Concepts, Methodology. Lerner, Richard, vol. ed. Handbook of Child Psychology. 6th Edition. Vol. 1: Theoretical Models of Human Development. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2006. The past decades of scientific discourse were characterized by a “split metatheory” traceable to a Cartesian atomism. In its stead a “relational dynamic matrix” is proposed which can resolve and join the “identity of opposites” and “opposites of identity” for both personal and social integrity. See also Overton’s significant writings cited herein.

Relational metatheory, emerging from a view of the world as a series of active, ever-changing forms replaces the antinomies with a fluid dynamic holism and associated concepts such as self-organization, system, and the synthesis of wholes. (19)

Overton, Willis. Life-span Development: Concepts and Issues. Lerner, Richard, editor-in-chief. The Handbook of Life-span Development. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2010. The lead essay for this two volume edition sets out its thematic employ of a “relational developmental systems metatheory.” This “organismic” view is advocated so as to move beyond a mechanistic emphasis, sans any context, on objects alone. Its theme of self-organizing complex adaptive systems is then carried through many articles by authors such as Gary Greenberg, Brian McWhinney, Michael Lewis, and Linda Jarvin. See also Advancing Developmental Science (Routledge 2018) for chapters upon Overton's lifetime contribution.

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