Neoteny and the Orchestral Theory of Evolution

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fiddlerpianist
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12 Nov 2009, 9:16 pm

Is anyone familiar with this theory?

Neoteny explained

Quote-worthy sections:

Quote:
Neoteny is the evolutionary biological principle that the infant features of a species can evidence themselves in the adults of their descendants. Our chimp-like evolutionary precursor had infants with features very much like contemporary adults (small jaws, big eyes, large head, playful disposition, upright posture, etc). Neoteny is integral to how humans evolved. I hypothesize that social structure and environmental effects are integral to how neoteny influences our evolution.

Apparently this is theory that was put forth by Stephen Jay Gould back in the 70s, though it has never been applied to humans before. The author believes that neoteny and autism are closely related.

Quote:
I hypothesize that if a mother with an embryo behaves in ways or is exposed to factors that increases or decreases these hormone levels in her womb, the maturation rates and timing of her children will be affected. I posit that a result can be the prolongation or acceleration of maturation, accompanied by changes in the timing of maturational events. For example, increasing a mother’s testosterone and estrogen levels will decrease her son’s testosterone and estrogen levels. A lower rate of testosterone slows maturation. A lower level of estrogen delays the timing of specific maturational events. A net result may not only be a slower maturing son, but a son with less synapse pruning of the right cerebral hemisphere when very young. A hallmark of facile language use is a smaller right cerebral hemisphere. If this pruning is diminished or delayed, the son may be challenged in the use of language. Adjusting the timing of maturation can result in differences in adult predilections or behaviors. This is how I connect neoteny with autism.

The author also believes that we are evolving back towards a matrifocal society since the sexual revolution of the 60s. Women are choosing more autistic mates than a few generations ago, which actually should indicate that there is slow rise in autism rates over the last few decades.

Thoughts on any of this? This is the most plausible relationship between autism and evolution I've heard to date.


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Aietra
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12 Nov 2009, 10:34 pm

Check out this article (if you haven't seen it already):

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12 ... rs_pr.html

I think the statement that pretty much sums it up is that one about "computer culture, for instance, may favour a somewhat autistic cast of mind". I thought this was a pretty plausible theory.



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13 Nov 2009, 6:42 pm

I find it really plausible.


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13 Nov 2009, 7:31 pm

Too bad we can't know whether rates really are going up. Any actual rise in cases just gets buried under all those new diagnoses.


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14 Nov 2009, 1:51 pm

fiddlerpianist wrote:
Thoughts on any of this? This is the most plausible relationship between autism and evolution I've heard to date.

I think there are other equally plausible explanations for Autistic Disorders, although on the surface I do not see anything immediately wrong with the what is being suggested at least as a possible cause of some instances.

Quote:
Women are choosing more autistic mates than a few generations ago, which actually should indicate that there is slow rise in autism rates over the last few decades.

Not according to the theory, because it is not claiming that heritable factors play a role in Autism, and further the theory does not require the involvement of genetics as a causal factor in Autism. So if the theory is true, we would not expect to necessarily see any correlation between the reproductive rate of Autistic people (relative to the general population) and the rate at which Autistic people are being born (relative to the general population).



fiddlerpianist
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15 Nov 2009, 12:05 am

pandd wrote:
fiddlerpianist wrote:
Thoughts on any of this? This is the most plausible relationship between autism and evolution I've heard to date.

I think there are other equally plausible explanations for Autistic Disorders, although on the surface I do not see anything immediately wrong with the what is being suggested at least as a possible cause of some instances.

I was kind of hoping you'd show up, Pandd. I highly value your opinion on this subject matter. It's good to hear that I'm not completely loony for thinking that this explanation makes quite a bit of sense (though I'm sure, like you said, that this theory doesn't cover all instances).

pandd wrote:
Quote:
Women are choosing more autistic mates than a few generations ago, which actually should indicate that there is slow rise in autism rates over the last few decades.

Not according to the theory, because it is not claiming that heritable factors play a role in Autism, and further the theory does not require the involvement of genetics as a causal factor in Autism. So if the theory is true, we would not expect to necessarily see any correlation between the reproductive rate of Autistic people (relative to the general population) and the rate at which Autistic people are being born (relative to the general population).

I'm not quite sure I understand. If, as the theory goes, high testosterone females are mating with low testosterone males more often today than they were, say, even 10 years ago, wouldn't that be creating a more optimal environment for autism to occur? That is to say, such a factor would not be related to the reproductive rate of autistic people. Rather, it would be related to the choices that everyone (autistic and non-autistic alike) were making about mates.


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15 Nov 2009, 11:11 am

Neotenizenation topic

Autism and Neoteny? The most neotenous nation on earth, according to Jeremy Taylor, author of Not a Chimp: The hunt to find the genes that make us human (2009), is China, and this is because of the group nature of the society. Group think and a high degree of socialization are anathema to autism. China therefore is not a welcoming place for autistics, unless of course they are tolerated because they bring economic/scientific advantages to that country.


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15 Nov 2009, 6:12 pm

On the other side "all kid are autistic". You are looking at it in an incomplete way.

Suppose that you can have 50 neoteny, 10 cause autism. 40 cause other kind of mutation. Chineses have 30/50 but those 30 are of the 40 without autism. I have 5/50 but 5 out of the 10 causing autism. They have more neoteny than me but it doesn't mean anything.


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15 Nov 2009, 6:34 pm

fiddlerpianist wrote:
I was kind of hoping you'd show up, Pandd. I highly value your opinion on this subject matter. It's good to hear that I'm not completely loony for thinking that this explanation makes quite a bit of sense (though I'm sure, like you said, that this theory doesn't cover all instances).

You are making me blush. Your own judgement is probably a reliable indicator of plausibility anyway as you do not appear prone to wild flights of fancy or poor critical thinking.

Quote:
I'm not quite sure I understand. If, as the theory goes, high testosterone females are mating with low testosterone males more often today than they were, say, even 10 years ago, wouldn't that be creating a more optimal environment for autism to occur?

If you look at one of the details that is relied on in this theory, it is that if a woman has heightened levels of testosterone and estrogen, she will produce children with lowered levels. This limits and constrains the proportion of people across any two generations who can have heightened levels of testosterone and estrogen. So if environmental factors cause larger proportions of women to have high levels of these hormones then it also causes their off spring to have low levels and this has implications for the number of people with high or low levels of hormones in the next generation. In essence the effect of a large number of people having high levels of these hormones in one generation is a reduced number of such people in the next, so the effect if it occurs will be generation limited and is likely to have occured earlier as part of an ongoing cycle of ebb and flow that never actually increases or decreases the proportion of Autistics in the population as a whole (as the population as a whole is comprised of multiple generations).

Quote:
That is to say, such a factor would not be related to the reproductive rate of autistic people. Rather, it would be related to the choices that everyone (autistic and non-autistic alike) were making about mates.

Certainly, but unless the changed hormone levels are heritable (and they are alleged by the essay to be counter heritable, in that raised levels in the mother produces decreased levels in her off spring) then the effect is constrained within any generation by the number of females with raised hormone levels, and this is inversely correlated to the number of females with raised hormone levels in the proceeding generation. If there is a shift in the balance of females with raised hormones who could be choosing males with lowered hormone levels in one generation, then there will be a reactionary shift in the next generation going in the other direction, so across multiple generations the effect is limited in its scope to alter the overall proportion of Autistic people in the general population.



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15 Nov 2009, 10:23 pm

This ties things together that have no connection. As pandd said, it would reverse in the next generation, which in folk lore, grandparents and grandchildren are more alike than the parents in the middle.

This flipping would add stability to long term.

There is a historic view, life in Rome was 42 years for the well to do. It seems almost a constant through many groups, except those who lived in isolation, who lived half again as long.

It also shows in the differance between domestic and wild animals, even domestic gone feral, they are tough, mean, and have short lives.

Domestic animals show smaller horns, less agression in their group, and to others. Neotony does show in their kept and comfortable life. They act and look younger than the wild lines, and live longer.

The Romans ate well, roughly the same diet as today, but being part of a constant warfare state, it aged them.

Everyone would have high hormone levels, be built for combat, and would run out the clock faster.

Neotony would have lower levels, would not be chosen for war, and would be put to work making the tools of war.

It is said during times of war women give birth to warrior heros, stress producing high hormone levels.

Wars of old did drag on for generations. The historical view of the time was each generation was tougher, meaner, and more fit for combat.

Perhaps there is truth in a decrease in the next generation, but how high do we start from when towns are being looted and burned, and everyone killed?

High levels would produce fast maturity, short lives lead to marry at 14, and maybe live to see your grandchildren at 32. When the leading cause of death was raids from the neighbors, high stress, fast cycle, and a warrior culture.

So I can see this going both ways, times of peace, rare as they are, would produce Neotony, longer lives, and mental development.

The very NT traits that autism lacks would be needed for war. They do not think things out, they react.

In the good old days the biggest and baddest were the army, and when battles were over, they covered the field. This selected some traits out of the population. Vargas lead Legions north, and lost them all, some 18,000 of the best troops. The other side likely lost most of their best warriors, genetic selection in action.

Even in recent wars, only one in ten goes to the front, the rest are support, run typewriters, and have a high survival rate. I had an uncle who was drafted for WWII, he went right to a business school, and spent his time learning to type fast.

I would connect AS/HFA with thinking, technology, and war production.

The other effect was women who went into the factories for war work, Rosie the Riveter was no one to mess with. They are either to young or to old, and that left aspie war workers.

Dueling was legal till the 1870s, it was practiced by members of government. The normal civilian death rate from murder was high. The Five Corners area of New York City was a long gang war. In the south most men traveled armed, many still do.

By the 1970s technology was growing, Viet Nam ended, and the main influance was peace and prosperty, and a lot of weed.

As an old guy, it was a lot rougher in my day. If you were not ready to fight about it, you should stay home.

Our view is the children are not growing up, but it is a lot less dangerous.

Matching this change there is IQ creep, overall up one point per decade. Records only go back a bit over a hundred years, but are consistant. We have not had a war in country in a hundred years.

If it was evolution, going back to the Vikings, they would have had an IQ of 2.

Peace, low stress, low hormones, lead to Neotony, rising IQs, and an experimental AS/HFA development that can focus on things, rather than avoiding being whacked in the head on the street, or being invaded.

The home computer, internet, Wiki, developed out of brains looking at things, thinking, which has been a rare thing.

While some try to connect it with a rise in Autism, meaning non verbal, low IQ, and a diaper, it is not like that. We had that back in the day, it seems the same now.

AS/HFA are an edge of Geek Syndrome, Half-Aspies, which has been the growth sector, and been driving the computer advances. Intelligence, focus, technology are the defining issues.

This group hardly existed in my youth. I met few technocrats during the 60s, but have watched it grow industries since. Our exports have gone up five times in value, but are still the same weight. We export knowledge.

Most of our job losses are not from exporting jobs, but from improving productivity.

Broader Autism Phenotype for lack of a better term, is taking over the world, and they are a bunch of baby faced old children.

They started showing with Comic Book conventions, then Science Fiction, Anime, computers, and now are a broad sub culture.

Wrong Planet was a timely thing, for the thought patterns here attract some group that thinks alike, and very different than the majority. It is leaning more and more to PhD Syndrome.

Where else could you find a conversation about the work of Stephen Jay Gould from the 1970s, with such insight into his work and that which has followed, and where it might be going?



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16 Nov 2009, 7:31 am

sartresue wrote:
Autism and Neoteny? The most neotenous nation on earth, according to Jeremy Taylor, author of Not a Chimp: The hunt to find the genes that make us human (2009), is China, and this is because of the group nature of the society.

Not entirely sure how he drew that conclusion (being that I don't own a copy of the book), but it seems he quotes Richard Wrangham on several occasions to support his "self domestication" theory, such as here:

Quote:
I think we have to start thinking about the idea that humans in the last 30, 40, or 50,000 years have been domesticating ourselves. If we're following the bonobo or dog pattern, we're moving toward a form of ourselves with more and more juvenile behavior. And the amazing thing once you start thinking in those terms is that you realize that we're still moving fast. I think that current evidence is that we're in the middle of an evolutionary event in which tooth size is falling, jaw size is falling, brain size is falling, and it's quite reasonable to imagine that we're continuing to tame ourselves.

In my opinion, it's quite a leap to suggest that dropping tooth, jaw, and brain size has anything to do with neoteny. The way I understand it, neoteny is generally believed to be a phenomenon that would lead to a larger brain, not a smaller one. How does he equate neoteny with group think? Again, I thought that the opposite was true. So it strikes me that his knowledge of neoteny is cursory. It's not really the point of his book, so I don't entirely blame him.

Here is an interesting article here from Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=being-more-infantile

Quote:
Other experts certainly think that neoteny’s role is reasonable. The ability of the brain to learn is apparently greatest before full maturity sets in, “and since neoteny means an extended childhood, you have this greater chance for the brain to develop,” says molecular phylogeneticist Morris Goodman of Wayne State University, who did not participate in this study. In other words, human evolution might have been advanced by the possibilities brimming in youth.

As someone else pointed out, simply being neotenous would not necessarily equate to being autistic. Neoteny is a broad concept, and developmental delays take many shapes.


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