16 November, 2012

The Origin of Us

The Origin of Us - What drove Human Evolution

George Gaylord Simpson made perhaps the most telling contribution to the Evolution of Life on Earth with his interpretation of his extended investigation into the development of the horse, with the work that he carried out in what is now the US State of Wyoming, and in which he unearthed in an amazing series of fossils covering many millions of years of the history of this unique animal.

From the dog-sized eohippus all the way to the modern Equus, he collected enough evidence, on the one hand, from fossilised skeletal parts, and, on the other, about changes of climate during very long simultaneous periods of time, to begin to throw important light on the mechanisms involved.

A varying climate put changing and very different demands upon this evolving animal, which varied in response in several important ways. These involved the feet, the teeth and the brain, as evolutionary pressures selected for major changes, with each significantly different imposed lifestyle dictated by how the horse survived, reproduced and even prospered.

Now, the initial animal in this sequence eohippus had five toes on its feet, and teeth for browsing on leaves. It also had the brain functionalities and size of that needed by most prey animals of that size and mode of living.

But as climate changed, the most successful selective response in our dog-like animal was for increased speed of escape and for wide ranging locomotion to find ever-rarer areas of appropriate food. And these pressures gradually selected for a decrease in the number of toes, down first to three, and finally down to one. (See image below)

At the same time its teeth became those for grazing rather than browsing, and, most significantly of all, the brain grew considerably in functions and in size.

Now most evidence from the very distant past is invariably very incomplete, and conclusions drawn about the actual trajectory of development, between these scarce and widely separated signposts were naturally very unreliable.

Evolution of the horse

But Simpson’s chosen ground was remarkable for its truly large and relatively complete fossil record of these animals, that seemed to have lived in the same area for vast periods of time as both the ground beneath their feet, and the prevailing climate, changed dramatically.

Literally, the whole development was regularly delivered by enough fossils to make much sounder interpolations than were usual in most other circumstances.

And, of course, it was Simpson who was doing the investigating and the interpreting.

He was able to align his fossil evidence in a time-sequence, and could see developments in different parts of the animal’s anatomy as often parallel and connected changes. He was able to match these sequences both with a known sequence of climate changes and also, and significantly, with each other.

Crucially, he was able to see how changes in climate demanded changes in behaviour, which selected for important changes in the animal’s structure in various parts of its body. And, with such an almost sufficient record, his conclusions were much more reliable than usual.

Now, this section of my paper is only supposed to be a brief preface to a review of a TV programme, The Origin of Us, presented admirably by Dr. Alice Roberts as a BBC series (currently being repeated by The Eden TV Channel). So, clearly, I am not attempting a thoroughgoing description of Simpson’s work. [By to those who don’t know of this work, I recommend his great book, The Meaning of Evolution].

But his relating of a changing environment to the selection of modifications in the mode of life, and resultant changes in various functional parts of the animal as it evolved were exemplary.

For his crucial conclusion was how the single-toed foot for maximum speed on the plains, plus all those muscles that could facilitate the turns and changes of the chase, also and inevitably led to changes in the brain to control these new features effectively.

The various possible means of movement of the “horse”, which included co-ordinated use of both locomotive and balance muscles led to a rapid development of the brain to cope with such demands.

And, once the brain had significantly expanded in this way, the possibilities of other new functions could also arise to take advantage of the extra brain cells.

And it is this interpretation that I believe throws important light upon Alice Roberts similar interpretation of the development in human evolution over several million years. For in this series, Alice draws attention to the developments evident from the skeleton in finally producing homo sapiens as it was in its evolved state as a hunter/gatherer.

Homo sapiens possessed two remarkable things: first, it kept all five digits in its forelimbs, which also ceased to perform any part in locomotion, because the species became bipedal. It stood and moved on only two legs. This totally released the forelimbs as arms. And their digits became manipulative fingers. So, clearly this meant that a whole new set of possibilities, and consequent uses of their hands demanded, and got, by selection appropriate control developments in the brain.

But, this was a very unlikely predator. It certainly wasn’t strong, and had NO enormous claws or teeth. Indeed, the most important evolutionary development was (as with the horse) in its supreme ability to run and it could also sustain that for very long periods.

Many associated and necessary developments occurred, due to the emergence of a natural Running Man.

Balance, as well as locomotion, required appropriate changes in the brain, while the liberated hand became the most dextrous limb in the whole animal kingdom, and consequent brain changes ensued in that connection too. To see just how brilliant this limb became, merely watch a concert pianist playing a major concerto.

Now my reason for writing this review – apart from thoroughly recommending the viewing of this excellent series, is also to disagree with Alice Roberts allocation of the development of the large human brain to adequate sustenance and hence down to the use of fire in cooking food.

Though this was undoubtedly very important, I cannot agree that merely sufficient cooked food caused the growth of the human brain. It helped, of course, but Simpson’s reasons for a similar development in the horse far outweigh sustenance in the rapid acceleration in brain size.

Working Human Hands

As Engels outlined in The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man, it was the hand that did it. And his 19th century contribution, plus the revelations from George Gaylord Simpson, and even Alice’s comments on the Running Man, are surely the main generators of the developed human brain. For once it had been established it could do a great deal more.

Kuhn’s Non-Revolution

Staying in the Right Mode
In a 50th Anniversary celebration of publication, Ian Hacking contributes an article on Thomas Kuhn, the author, in 1962, of his book The Structure of Scientific Revolution.
Now Kuhn’s idea of revolutions in Science stands in direct contrast with the Emergentist description and explanation of such things in general, which, of course, they do not restrict to a single area such as Science, but are said to occur in all spheres of human endeavour, as well as in natural developments in all areas of Reality.

For Kuhn’s version considers only the Forms of scientific research, and the consequent treatment of the acquired results, and as such concerns itself with appearance only, and is by no means a causal revelation of either the “revolutionary” contribution, or its consequences in the conceptions and research of those who thereafter followed that event.

He explains that what most scientists did after such a revelation, actually only conforms to a new current template of what legitimate research should be. Kuhn described what was taken on by the scientists as a new paradigm (though he also considered calling it an exemplar).

For, once established in any new area of study (by a brilliant new discovery, say), the actual work is taken as the new way of doing such research, and is rapidly copied as to its forms and method by literally everyone thereafter. Not, it must be emphasized, by just repeating the very same research, but certainly by doing their chosen work in-the-same-way as was thereafter a consensus paradigm or template.

The “successfully used way” of the innovator becomes universal, but because it is mainly an approach, method and means of presenting the results (perhaps as an equation), it is certain to be, to some extent, an example of “the tail wagging the dog” – in that it, to a remarkable degree tends to determine the sorts of areas and sorts of questions that are tackled.

An excellent example is the discovery almost a century ago that Accelerator Experiments with elementary particles, would be a very productive form for research in Sub Atomic Physics, and that paradigm has persisted ever since: only the size and power of the Accelerators used changing to give results unobtainable by earlier kit.

This paradigm, being only a template pattern, has long ago turned into a straight jacket for such research, and has merely demanded ever bigger machines culminating currently in the Large Hadron Collider, and search for the fabled Higgs’ Boson – the supposed creator of all matter. [It begets a fixed theoretical standpoint and keeps well within its assumptions and ideas]

You similarly have to follow the effects of the Giant Astronomical Telescopes, which commenced with Hubble at Mount Wilson, and has worked up through ever-larger devices in ever more conducive circumstances, until the process moved out into space with the famed Hubble Space Telescope.

Such a paradigm gives the most blinkered, yet “productive”, trajectory of progress. For, being technology driven, the newest and most powerful kit will always deliver new information to interpret, which wasn’t available previously. Pure kit development, doing exactly what was done before, is guaranteed to deliver an ever-increasing access to entirely new data.

I could go on with many other examples of the same ilk, but what is crucial is that instead of a new piece of crucial research opening up the prospect for a different and revolutionary stance, and the necessary of a complete change in our assumptions and basic beliefs, we get instead the easiest way to “progress” along a well tried and developable path.

And because of this, it turns out to be basically reactionary: it does NOT focus all efforts at correcting the previously wrong stance. No major reassessing and redefining of the fundamental bases occur.
It does not have to recognise real revolutions in conceptions, and errors in our assumptions, and because of this cannot lead to the necessary root and branch revolution in Science, that the original work warranted.
On the contrary, it merely re-directs research into a “proved-to-be-successful” method.

So, as such, it wasn’t revolutionary or even revelatory in the way it was responded to.
It was instead a definition of a Royal Road by a well-established route, but as to your destination, that would be put down to trusting the pattern-setting innovator, or alternatively producing the same as before, only more so!

Now, it may be asked with justice, why I am critical of Kuhn’s contribution. And the answer is, “It is because it doesn’t in any important way lead to the implied and necessary revolution in Science!
Indeed, it led to the exact opposite in particular with the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory.

For, instead of the significant discovery of the Quantum leading to a major break through in Science, and the conscious abandoning of the incorrect assumptions and principles on which it had previously stood, it not only kept many of the worst of these (Zeno must have been spinning in his grave), but, in addition gave cover for a debilitating retrenchment in Science, away from an increasingly materialist approach, to strengthen immeasurably the ever-present conception of eternal and abstract Natural Laws driving Reality like the Hand of God.

A thoroughly idealist, maths-led approach was not only considered justified, but actually demanded, and attempts by anyone at “old-fashioned”, theoretical explanation were henceforward banned as purely misleading self-kid.

Clearly Kuhn, in looking for an absolutely necessary revolution in Science, was waylaid by a mere change in approach and method – a paradigm.
Instead of a switch to the study of Emergences – where revolutions actually occur, we grasped at the “templates” for productive, technological and pragmatist Science. We joined the side of the innovators by “doing what they did”.

The main objective of moving constantly towards an ever better explanation of Reality was abandoned “Because” as they insisted, “it is always mistaken anyway!

Now, having mentioned the study of Emergences as the only way to deal with Revolutionary (qualitative) Change In Science, as everywhere else), we must go a great deal further, and make clear the significant differences between an Emergence and a Change of Paradigm.
The former, if completed, really is a Revolution, but the latter certainly isn’t: it, at best, involves a change of standard exemplar or template for scientific endeavours, established by a significant piece of scientific work, which demolishes many “past truths”
But let us be absolutely clear what a “revolutionary” contribution in Science ought to engender, and judge whether a paradigm shift, in any way, fulfils that requirement.

Detailed study of all kinds of Emergences (revolutions), in a whole variety of situations has revealed the essential trajectory of different phases that has to happen in such an Event.
For example, all such Events start with a thoroughgoing cataclysm. The whole edifice of the preceding Stability seems to be crashing down into total chaos. Yet at some Nadir of Dissolution, and almost miraculously, things change around and, though none of this is smooth, a vigorous growth of a New Order emerges, which can be finally established as a wholly New Level of Reality. [For the original work on Becoming, as he called it, read Hegel].

The initial dissolutory Phase is essential for it in terms of Science, leads to a total re-evaluation of the basic assumptions and premises, which we unquestioningly assume as our basis. And, as each one collapses, it trips another and thereafter causes a chain reaction, and the whole edifice crumbles.

NOTE: The writer of this review on Kuhn mentions the attitude of Pauli who definitely felt this avalanche of dissociation and seriously thought of quitting Physics altogether.

Now, this certainly began to happen with the Quantum, but somehow the usual transformation process was stopped.

An analogy can be made with the 1905 Social Revolution in Russia, which certainly also began this avalanche of dissolution, but it too was stopped, and returned to Stability, if only for a time.
Of course, both these cases involve thinking Human Beings and hence forces for the status quo can act strongly against the tumult of changes, and sometimes win.

With the Copenhagen Interpretation a significant move was made to halt the avalanche. To avoid that calamity certain major changes were essential, and as in the 1905 revolution had to be reactionary: they had to be a strong step backwards!

Let us clearly lay out the new rules:-

Explanation was to be jettisoned!

Formal Equations were to become the main objectives!

Materialism was to be rejected and replaced by positivist idealism: for Reality was as it was because of the immutable Natural Laws that drove it!

Finally, the pragmatism of Technology was to replace the “always wrong” theoretical explanations, so USE could carry on as usual.

To gain from radical and revealing experiments, we should “copy its Form” – use it as a template, exemplar or paradigm, which if followed will keep new work “within the ground” of the revolutionary contribution.

But, note the major changes instituted and acclaimed as revolutionary changes, were in fact reactionary returns to past modes of activity.

The retreat was acclaimed as a victory!
Forms changed but the foundations remained the same, and Theory took a major step backwards.
The crucial thing about these paradigms is that they effectively blinkered scientists from the true revolutionary implications of significant system-breaking contributions, and allowed things to continue as before in precisely what had to be thrown out.
Indeed, the walling-off (like a Berlin Wall) kept the revolution at bay until a Back Door could be found into a World where the revolution wasn’t necessary.
That was, and still is, the parallel World of Ideality – the World of Pure Form alone, where most modern physicists prefer to dwell.

The Paradigm We Call Fashion

As someone who has spent a lifetime attempting to understand the World, and hence assuming that everyone else must be doing that too, though perhaps to a greater or lesser extent, , I always found fashion to be somewhat perplexing.

For it seemed to indicate that certain “things were in”, yet only for an indeterminable short time, after which what was the fervent aim of almost everyone, had suddenly become extremely derisory and extremely passé. The whole thing certainly didn’t bode well for Progress, and seemed to be a measure of how the successful.practitioner could be most like everyone else.
I am, of course, well aware of the so-called fashion-setter, but that is a very different thing, as for every one of those, there must be hundreds of “weirdos”, and tens of thousands of fashion-followers.
And the most striking thing about those followers is how poor they generally are at wearing what suits them. It is a slavish conformity that seems to make fashion what it is.

Now, elsewhere (see above) I have been considering the ideas of Thomas Kuhn with regard to paradigms in Science, where once a significant piece of scientific research has been achieved, and applauded by all, the form or paradigm of that work is rapidly taken as the new norm for all following research.

Everyone follows the leader in doing the same sort of investigations: surely they too are “following the fashion”, and it will change again with the next serious and significant contribution. Once you recognise the “follow-the-leader" pattern, you begin to see it absolutely everywhere.
TV programmes fit like a glove. Each successful and innovatory contribution is immediately followed by a rash of similar or closely related offerings on all channels.
Indeed, a whole TV channel culture has been built on merely repeating successful programmes from the past, time after time.

Paradigms it seems are for the totally unimaginative.

06 November, 2012

A Shell Model

Is This How Our Universe Actually Is?

This image of a supernova is very significant!

Most images are of the actual explosion itself, and hence what is photographed is visible light – in other words when the supernova is producing vast amounts of energy by nuclear fusion.

What is really required is a picture of the totally inert Matter ejected by such an event, and, of course, that would be “dark” – not producing any visible light at all.

Fusion may occur again much later when these “dark” fragments aggregate and burst into new stars, but not for a very long time. So, by choosing this image taken only in the infrared and X ray parts of the E-M spectrum, we might well be getting the image we require.

Now, if we are, it is extremely significant, for we can see right through the middle to a background of stars.

This implies NOT a sphere of ejaculates, but a shell!

And the use by this author of a multiplied-up version of a supernova (the final explosion of a single star) to also be a model for a collapsed, then exploding Universe, which acts in a similar formal way. The analogy shows that the assumption of a Shell Universe from the Big Bang Event could indeed be valid. And, if it is, many consequences have already been demonstrated to follow.

For though, in this image, we are seeing only inert matter from a single star, in our scaled-up version, the shell would comprise all the matter from a preceding and collapsed Universe. Indeed, it would be so packed with matter, that within it not only new stars would eventually form and shine, but whole galaxies of such stars would also appear given sufficient time.

And all would be occurring within that thickness of the Shell itself, and such width would be defined by exactly how long that initial Bang lasted.

Now, of course, the scale of such a shell would be gigantic – so large, in fact, that even this thickness would be an enormous width.

Any observer within such a Universe , would not be aware that he/she was existing within such a shell: they would misinterpret what they see, without any doubt.

What such observers might “see” is unlikely to inform them of that context. Indeed, this author assuming total internal reflections of all radiation arriving at the boundaries of that shell, would create significant illusions, by delivering multiple images of the same source, at different times in their histories and at seemingly different directions, depending upon the actual paths travelled by that received light.

An Apologist for Liberal Capitalism

Marxism Will Give Health To The Sick

Joe Jervis’s article Is Marxism Dead?, as published on e-International Relations on 26th October 2011, is a remarkably biased, complacent and finally ignorant document.

And, because of this, it isn’t evident exactly who his intended audience is supposed to be! It is neither addressed to those who might “misguidedly” consider that Marxism may be the place to look to guide their own political activity, nor, absolutely certainly, to those who want to participate in the further development of that philosophical standpoint.

It is clearly a criticism from without, that is, from an a priori and clearly opposing position. For, when you do that you never attempt to explain anything. You already know “the Truth”, and hence cherry-pick your arguments to prove it.

Indeed, it was much more like a speech at a Party Political Conference – an applaud-able prejudice against the agreed enemy: an unlikely obituary by the graveside, hardly able to hide the broadest grin.

He catalogues the myths that were Marxism, and the unavoidable triumph of what he chooses to cal Liberal Capitalism. And he writes this in 2010, without a syllable on the World Capitalist Crisis, which commenced two years earlier, was deepening again at the time of writing, and has continued unabated, to be accompanied by the Arab Spring long before he actually published at e-International Relations. He clearly lives in his own tiny world, where none of these events are in the least significant.

He speaks of ideology and politics at length, and only once mentions philosophy in the same sentence as Marxism (and then entirely incorrectly).

It is clearly all about alternative Belief Systems to him, and that people arrive at their chosen position by listening to people like him, who can prove historically that Marxism was always mistaken, and could give you Chapter and Verse as to its total lack of validity with ordinary people “like us”. Some observers of the political landscape arrive at a particular ideology, more in hope than by good judgement, while others by careful consideration can, and do, approach “the real truth”. A major group of the former type he identifies as the Revolutionary Left, and “demonstrates” that they are chock-full of self-kid, and no real understanding of the World.

And he does this while identifying the very least revolutionary organisations as examples, such as the various Communist Parties, and even says that the McCarthyite Witch-hunt of the USA were understandable due to the intention of these lily-livered organisations to first foment, and then lead actual Revolutions (in the USA?).

He ranges over recent history picking out the salient features, and in conclusion pronounced Marxism as finally and permanently Dead!

What does he think Marxism is?

Clearly, he considers it an inverted myth, meant to guide political action: a programme for activists only, which he believes, he has proved to have failed entirely.

But, to write about Marxism without a single word on any of its historical origins in academic Philosophy, reveals that he had exactly what he wanted long before he did any research.

He does not mention Hegel, and the revolutionary nature of his contributions to Philosophy, nor the inversion of his idealist standpoint to Materialism by the very best of his disciples – the Young Hegelians, led by Marx and Engels, nor of the fact that Marx for many years wrote on European history and politics for a leading newspaper in the USA. He finds it irrelevant that these philosophers also integrated the brilliant contributions of Michelet in his Materialist conception of History, or of the great British contributions the Political Economy that were also a cornerstone of Marx’s developed position. To read this ignorant account, you would think that Marx was an uneducated dreamer.

Indeed, the width and depth of the contributions of the major figures in these developments get the briefest and most misleading of mentions. and only then when he thinks that such things could be made to fit his own damning analysis.

The First, Second, Third and Fourth International Workers Associations don’t get a single word, and without any proof at all he makes Stalin the natural consequence of this “ideology”

Revolutions he ignorantly thinks were the intentions of these Marxists, as if anyone at any time could merely decide to have one.

Clearly, this commentator is totally ignorant of what a Social Revolution is, how it happens, and what it actually achieves. The past revolutionary phase with Cromwell following the English Revolution, Napoleon following the French Revolution, Stalin following the Russian Revolution and Mao following the Chinese Revolution, he makes no comments upon.

But the first two mentioned established Capitalism!

He is clearly an ill-informed apologist for Liberal Capitalism, and his analysis of the decline of “communism” as an ideology, rather than of Marxism as a philosophy, does nothing to re-arm the Working Class during this extended Recession.

He is certainly NOT on our side!