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VI. Earth Life Emergence: Development of Body, Brain, Selves and Societies

2. Complex Local and Global Societies

Rakoczy, Hannes. Collective Intentionality and the Roots of Human Societal Life. Roska-Hardy, Louise and Eva Neumann-Held, eds. Learning from Animals?. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press, 2009. In a volume to “examine the nature of human uniqueness,” a Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology researcher cites a prime difference as the rise of purpose-oriented societal fabric. One wonders however might it ever be intentionally imbued with an obvious Me and We reciprocity?

The upshot of these two studies is that the rudiments of second-order intentionality that develop in human ontogeny at around 1 year are probably not so uniquely human after all; our common cognitive primate heritage runs deeper that previously thought. (110) What is uniquely human, however, and a likely foundation of specifically human forms of life is the ability, developing from the second year in human ontogeny, to enter into collective (or “We”) intentionality. (110)

Read, Dwight. A Multitrajectory, Competition Model of Emergent Complexity in Human Social Organization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 99/7251, 2002. The theories of agent-based complex adaptive systems are employed to reveal a consistent, discernible social dynamic throughout human history.

The repeated pattern of emergent human organization at a societal level going from small-scale, egalitarian decentralized societies to complex, stratified and centralized societies is well-documented in the archaeological record of past societies. (7251)

Richerson, Peter and Robert Boyd. Not By Genes Alone. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. Some two decades after their groundbreaking 1985 work Culture and the Evolutionary Process, a comprehensive review and update of how human societies can be joined with and founded upon Darwinian genetic and selective features. Richerson’s website contains additional resources in this regard. By these advances, the fields of cultural, behavioral and anthropological studies can gain a common basis, whereby to paraphrase Dobzhansky, “Nothing about culture makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Riddihough, Guy, et al. Human Conflict: Winning the Peace. Science. 336/819, 2012. An introduction to a special issue by anthropologists, behavioral scientists, and social philosophers who consider in 21st century retrospect primate, hominid, and human proclivities for either constant war or harmonious accord. In “The Antiquity of Empathy” Frans de Waal tries to right an over-emphasis on competition, while Christopher Boehm’s “Ancestral Hierarchy and Conflict” reviews fighting or its absence within chimpanzee, bonobo, and human groupings - always by males, sometimes mitigated by females. “The Group Self” by Leiden University psychologist Naomi Ellemers notes how allegiances can influence both clashes or concord. A prominent essay “Life Without War” by “peace, mediation, and conflict researcher” Douglas Fry, Abo Akademi University, Finland, contends that local and global amity is innately possible. As Yoko Ono’s renowned quote from our home page avers, “Let’s visualize all the people living in peace. Let’s carry the clearest vision of a peaceful world. And do it with a spirit of fun and joy. War is over if you want it.”

An emerging evolutionary perspective suggests that nature and human nature are less “red in tooth and claw” than generally acknowledged by a competition-based view of the biological world. War is not always present in human societies. Peace systems, defined as groups of neighboring societies that do not make war on each other, exist on different continents. A comparison of three peace systems—the Upper Xingu River basin tribes of Brazil, the Iroquois Confederacy of upper New York State, and the European Union —highlight six features hypothesized to be important in the creation and maintenance of intersocietal peace: (i) an overarching social identity, (ii) interconnections among subgroups, (iii) interdependence, (iv) nonwarring values, (v) symbolism and ceremonies that reinforce peace, and (vi) superordinate institutions for conflict management. The existence of peace systems demonstrates that it is possible to create social systems free of war. (Douglas Fry, 879)

Rubin, Paul. Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002. An Emory University economist sketches an evolutionary basis for altruistic, political and religious mores, as is underway for psychological behaviors, along with recommendations for how we might do better.

Sanchez, Angel and Jose Cuesta. Altruism may Arise from Individual Selection. Journal of Theoretical Biology. 235/2, 2005. A theoretical difficulty has been to explain the human tendency to cooperate in large groups with non-kin which appears to offer little benefit to the individual. This study describes an agent-based model of evolutionary game theory to show how personal fairness and selection can indeed result in an altruistic strong reciprocity.

Sawyer, R. Keith. Social Emergence. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. A Washington University psychologist articulates a novel conceptual basis by which to appreciate societies as complex dynamic systems. This is a “third wave” of social science after Talcott Parsons’ structural functionalism and general systems theory. In this regard, a thorough survey of the course of sociology from Comte to Durkheim to the present day, along with how social orders emerge from individual interactive agents. In the final chapter an “Emergence Paradigm” is proposed to synthesize and transcend the Structure and Interaction schools. One of the best works on the active presence of universal complex adaptive systems in human societies.

Schaller, Mark, et al, eds. Evolution and Social Psychology. New York: Psychology Press, 2006. Ranging broadly, the essay seek to broach and reconceive human cognitive, behavioral and cultural mores within an evolutionary setting.

Schweitzer, Frank. Sociophysics. Physics Today. February, 2018. The ETH Zurich professor of systems design with doctorates in physics and philosophy has been a pioneer complexity theorist since the 1990s. This popular essay reports latest achievements to interpret our economic and societal domain as an emergent continuance from a physical and mathematical source. It opens with a history of this endeavor since David Hume and Auguste Comte in the 18th and 19th century, which then continued through the 20th century and into our worldwide 21st century. Circa 2018, a mature quantification is possible by way of computational methods and complex dynamic network topologies. As a result, human persons in societies can be appreciated as an extension and expression of natural, universally generative patterns.

Smaldino, Paul. The Cultural Evolution of Emergent Group-Level Traits. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 37/243, 2014. A Johns Hopkins University psychobiologist contends that viable social groupings can be rightly seen to possess organism-like features of their own. Properly perceived, these findings would support animal and human assemblies as a further evolutionary stage. In a commentary, Lan Shuai and Tao Gong propose that language also arose via group interactions. David Sloan Wilson adds: I applaud Smaldino for advancing the “groups as organisms” theme. In this commentary, I will argue that his points apply to all multilevel evolutionary processes.

Many of the most important properties of human groups – including properties that may give one group an evolutionary advantage over another – are properly defined only at the level of group organization. Yet at present, most work on the evolution of culture has focused solely on the transmission of individual-level traits. I propose a conceptual extension of the theory of cultural evolution, particularly related to the evolutionary competition between cultural groups. The key concept in this extension is the emergent group-level trait. This type of trait is characterized by the structured organization of differentiated individuals and constitutes a unit of selection that is qualitatively different from selection on groups as defined by traditional multilevel selection (MLS) theory. In this target article, I discuss the emergence and evolution of group-level traits and the implications for the theory of cultural evolution, including ramifications for the evolution of human cooperation, technology, and cultural institutions, and for the equivalency of multilevel selection and inclusive fitness approaches. (Abstract)

Smith, Eliot and Frederica Conrey. Agent-Based Modeling: A New Approach for Theory Building in Social Psychology. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 11/1, 2007. An extensive, tutorial article about a conceptual advance for this academic field via complex systems science. A bit late in this regard, as most other domains are well into this shift. Although carefully done, the endeavor proceeds, as usual, with little imagination that behavioral and societal dynamics could spring from and manifest a deeper, universal source. Again a common, interdisciplinary terminology is in much need.

This article describes an alternative approach to theory building, agent-based modeling (ABM), which involves simulations of large numbers of autonomous agents that interact with each other and with a simulated environment and the observation of emergent patterns from their interactions. (87) The complex adaptive systems approach, like the more recent ABM approach, emphasizes the ways dynamic and nonlinear combinations of simple behaviors can result in the construction of emergent, complex patterns. (90)

Smith, Kenny, et al. Cultural Transmission and the Evolution of Human Behavior. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 363/3467, 2008. An introduction to a topical issue, but with a male authorship the effort proceeds without any “philosophical” guidance that could admit a greater reality or genesis, the very idea eludes. As a result an array of features such as modularity, niche construction, recursive language, gene-culture links, group cognition, and so on struggle to reach a coherent scenario. Notable papers such as Culture, Embodiment and Genes by Michael Wheeler and Andy Clark remain compromised by this tacit lapse. If one might broach, what the well-intentioned researchers are attempting to describe is a worldwide humankind as a nascent planetary person, the next major transition, with its (her/his) own cerebral, linguistic, and cognitive faculty.

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