Neolithic Troubles

Born Expecting the Pleistocene
by Mark Seely
p. 31

Not our natural habitat

The mismatch hypothesis

Our bodies including our brains—and thus our behavioral predispositions—have evolved in response to very specific environmental and social conditions. Many of those environmental and social conditions no longer exist for most of us. Our physiology and our psychology, all of our instincts and in-born social tendencies, are based on life in small semi-nomadic tribal groups of rarely more than 50 people. There is a dramatic mismatch between life in a crowded, frenetic, technology-based global civilization and the kind of life our biology and our psychology expects [14].

And we suffer serious negative consequences of this mismatch. A clear example can be seen in the obesity epidemic that has swept through developed nations in recent decades: our bodies evolved to meet energy demands in circumstances where the presence of food was less predictable and periods of abundance more variable. Because of this, we have a preference for calorie-dense food, we have a tendency to eat far more than we need, and our bodies are quick to hoard extra calories in the form of body fat.
This approach works quite well during a Pleistocene ice age, but it is maladaptive in our present food-saturated society—and so we have an obesity epidemic because of the mismatch between the current situation and our evolution-derived behavioral propensities with respect to food. Studies on Australian aborigines conducted in the 1980s, evaluating the health effects of the transition from traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle to urban living, found clear evidence of the health advantages associated with a lifestyle consistent with our biological design [15]. More recent research on the increasingly popular Paleo-diet [16] has since confirmed wide-ranging health benefits associated with selecting food from a pre-agriculture menu, including cancer resistance, reduction in the prevalence of autoimmune disease, and improved mental health.

[14] Ornstein, R. & Ehrlich, P. (1989). New World, New Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster.
[15] O’Dea, K., Spargo, R., & Akerman, K. (1980). The effect of transition from traditional to urban life-style on the insulin secretory response in Australian Aborigines. Diabetes Care, 3(1), 31-37; O’Dea, K., White, N., & Sinclair, A. (1988). An investigation of nutrition-relatedrisk factors in an isolated Aboriginal community in northern Australia: advantagesof a traditionally-orientated life-style. The Medical Journal of Australia, 148 (4), 177-80.
[16] E.g., Frassetto, L. A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Snyder, M., Morris, R. C., & Sebastian, A. (2009). Metabolic and physiological improvements from consuming a Paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63, 947=955.

pp. 71-73

The mechanisms of cultural evolution can be seen in the changing patterns of foraging behavior in response to changes in food availability and changes in population density. Archaeological analyses suggest that there is a predictable pattern of dietary choice that emerges from the interaction among population density, relative abundance of preferred food sources, and factors that relate to the search and handling of various foods. [56] In general, diets become more varied, or broaden, as population increases and the preferred food becomes more difficult to obtain. When a preferred food source is abundant, the calories in the diet may consist largely of that one particular food. But as the food source becomes more difficult to obtain, less preferable foods will be included and the diet will broaden. Such dietary changes imply changes in patterns of behavior within the community—changes of culture.

Behavior ecologists and anthropologists have partitioned the foraging process into two components with respect to the cost-benefit analysis associated with dietary decisions:
search and handling. [57] The search component of the cost-benefit ledger refers to the amount of work per calorie payoff (and other benefits such as the potential for enhanced social standing) associated with a food item’s abundance, distance, terrain, proximity of another group’s territory, water sources, etc. The handling component refers to the work per calorie payoff associated with getting the food into a state (location, form, etc.) in which it can be consumed. Search and handling considerations can be largely independent of each other. The residential permanence involved with the incorporation of agriculture reduces the search consideration greatly, and makes handling the primary consideration. Global industrial food economies change entirely the nature of both search and handling: handling in industrial society—from the perspective of the individual and the individual’s decision processes—is reduced largely to considerations of speed and convenience. The search component has been re-appropriated and refocused by corporate marketing, and reduced to something called shopping.

Domestication, hands down the most dramatic and far-reaching example of cultural evolution, emerges originally as a response to scarcity that is tied to a lack of mobility and an increase in population density. Domestication is a way of further broadening the diet when other local sources of food are already being maximally exploited. Initial experimentation with animal domestication “occurred in situations where forager diets were already quite broad and where the principle goal of domestication was the production of milk, an exercise that made otherwise unusable plants or plant parts available for human consumption. . . .” [58] The transition to life-ways based even partially on domestication has some counter-intuitive technological ramifications as well.

This leads to a further point about efficiency. It is often said that the adoption of more expensive subsistence technology marks an improvement in this aspect of food procurement: better tools make the process more efficient. This is true in the sense that such technology often enables its users to extract more nutrients per unit weight of resource processed or area of land harvested. If, on the other hand, the key criterion is the cost/benefit ratio, the rate of nutrient gained relative to the effort needed to acquire it, then the use of more expensive tools will often be associated with declines in subsistence efficiency. Increased investment in handling associated with the use of high-cost projectile weapons, in plant foods that require extensive tech-related processing, and in more intensive agriculture all illustrate this point. [59]

In modern times, thanks to the advent of—and supportive propaganda associated with—factory industrial agriculture, farming is coupled with ideas of plentitude and caloric abundance. However, in the absence of fossil energy and petroleum-based chemical fortification, farming is expensive in terms of the calories produced as a function of the amount of work involved. For example, “farmers grinding corn with hand-held stone tools can earn no more than about 1800 kcal per hour of total effort devoted to farming, and this from the least expensive cultivation technique.” [60] A successful fishing or bison hunting expedition is orders of magnitude more efficient in terms of the ratio of calories expended to calories obtained.

[56] Bird & O’Connell [Bird, D. W., & O’Connell, J. F. (2006). Behavioral ecology and archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Research, 14, 143-188]
[57] Ibid.
[58] Ibid, p. 152.
[59] Ibid, p. 153.
[60] Ibid, p. 151, italics in original.

pp. 122-123

The birth of the machine

The domestication frame

The Neolithic marks the beginnings of large scale domestication, what is typically referred to as the agricultural revolution. It was not really a revolution in that it occurred over an extended period of time (several thousand years) and in a mosaic piecemeal fashion, both in terms of the adoption of specific agrarian practices and in terms of specific groups of people who practiced them. Foraging lifestyles continue today, and represented the dominant lifestyle on the planet until relatively recently. The agricultural revolution was a true revolution, however, in terms of its consequences for the humans who adopted domestication-based life-ways, and for the rest of the natural world. The transition from nomadic and seminomadic hunting and gathering to sedentary agriculture is the most significant chapter in the chronicle of the human species. But it is clearly not a story of unmitigated success. Jared Diamond, who acknowledges somewhat the self-negating double-edge of technological “progress,” has called domestication the biggest mistake humans ever made.

That transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture is generally considered a decisive step in our progress, when we at last acquired the stable food supply and leisure time prerequisite to the great accomplishments of modern civilization. In fact, careful examination of that transition suggests another conclusion: for most people the transition brought infectious disease, malnutrition, and a shorter lifespan. For human society in general it worsened the relative lot of women and introduced class-based inequality. More than any other milestone along the path from chimpanzeehood to humanity, agriculture inextricably combines causes of our rise and our fall. [143]

The agricultural revolution had profoundly negative consequences for human physical,
psychological, and social well being, as well as a wide-ranging negative impact on the planet.

For humans, malnutrition and the emergence of infectious disease are the most salient physiological results of an agrarian lifestyle. A large variety of foodstuffs and the inclusion of a substantial amount of meat make malnutrition an unlikely problem for hunter gatherers, even during times of relative food scarcity. Once the diet is based on a few select mono-cropped grains supplemented by milk and meat from nutritionally-inferior domesticated animals, the stage is set for nutritional deficit. As a result, humans are not as tall or broad in stature today as they were 25,000 years ago; and the mean age of death is lower today as well. [144] In addition, both the sedentism and population density associated with agriculture create the preconditions for degenerative and infectious disease. “Among the human diseases directly attributable to our sedentary lives in villages and cities are heart and vascular disorders, diabetes, stroke, emphysema,
hypertension, and cirrhoses [sic.] of the liver, which together cause 75 percent of the deaths in the industrial nations.” [145] The diet and activity level of a foraging lifestyle serve as a potent prophylactic against all of these common modern-day afflictions. Nomadic hunter-gatherers are by no means immune to parasitic infection and disease. But the spread of disease is greatly limited by low population density and by a regular change of habitation which reduced exposure to accumulated wastes. Both hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists are susceptible to zoonotic diseases carried by animals, but domestication reduces an animal’s natural immunity to disease and infection, creates crowded conditions that support the spread of disease among animal populations, and increases the opportunity for transmission to humans. In addition, permanent dwellings provide a niche for a new kind of disease-carrying animal specialized for symbiotic parasitic cohabitation with humans, the rat being among the most infamous.
Plagues and epidemic outbreaks were not a problem in the Pleistocene.

There is a significant psychological dimension to the agricultural revolution as well.
A foraging hunter-gatherer lifestyle frames natural systems in terms of symbiosis and interrelationship. Understanding subtle connections among plants, animals, geography,
and seasonal climate change is an important requisite of survival. Human agents are intimately bound to these natural systems and contemplate themselves in terms of these systems, drawing easy analogy between themselves and the natural communities around them, using animals, plants, and other natural phenomena as metaphor. The manipulative focus of domestication frames natural systems in antagonistic terms of control and resistance. “Agriculture removed the means by which men [sic.] could contemplate themselves in any other than terms of themselves (or machines). It reflected back upon nature an image of human conflict and competition . . . .” [146] The domestication frame changed our perceived relationship with the natural world,
and lies at the heart of our modern-day environmental woes. According to Paul Shepard,
with animal domestication we lost contact with an essential component of our human nature, the “otherness within,” that part of ourselves that grounds us to the rest of nature:

The transformation of animals through domestication was the first step in remaking them into subordinate images of ourselves—altering them to fit human modes and purposes. Our perception of not only ourselves but also of the whole of animal life was subverted, for we mistook the purpose of those few domesticates as the purpose of all. Plants never had for us the same heightened symbolic representation of purpose itself. Once we had turned animals into the means of power among ourselves and over the rest of nature, their uses made possible the economy of husbandry that would, with the addition of the agrarian impulse, produce those motives and designs on the earth contrary to respecting it. Animals would become “The Others.” Purposes of their own were not allowable, not even comprehensible. [147]

Domestication had a profound impact on human psychological development. Development—both physiological and psychological—is organized around a series of stages and punctuated by critical periods, windows of time in which the development and functional integration of specific systems are dependent upon external input of a designated type and quality. If the necessary environmental input for a given system is absent or of a sufficiently reduced quality, the system does not mature appropriately. This can have a snowball effect because the future development of other systems is almost always critically dependent on the successful maturation of previously developed systems. The change in focus toward the natural world along with the emergence of a new kind of social order interfered with epigenetic programs that evolved to anticipate the environmental input associated with a foraging lifestyle. The result was arrested development and a culture-wide immaturity:

Politically, agriculture required a society composed of members with the acumen of children. Empirically, it set about amputating and replacing certain signals and experiences central to early epigenesis. Agriculture not only infantilized animals by domestication, but exploited the infantile human traits of normal individual neoteny. The obedience demanded by the organization necessary for anything larger than the earliest village life, associated with the rise of a military caste, is essentially juvenile and submissive . . . . [148]

[143] Diamond (1992), p. 139. [Diamond, J. (1992). The Third Chimpanzee. New York: HarperCollins.]
[144] Shepard (1998) [Shepard, P. (1998). Coming Home to the Pleistocene. Washington, D.C.: Island Press]
[145] Ibid, p. 99.
[146] Shepard (1982), p. 114. [Shepard, P. (1982). Nature and Madness. Athens Georgia: University of Georgia Press]
[147] Shepard (1998), p. 128.
[148] Shepard (1982), pp. 113-114.

Integral, the Paleolithic, and the Liminal

Integral, the Paleolithic, and the Liminal

Posted on Jul 1st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
This is an extension to my previous blog post about Fictional Worlds and Fictional Drugs and a partial response to Balder’s blog The Wilber-Combs Lattice and the Pre/Trans Fallacy.

In my previous blog post, I mentioned Paul Shepard.  His theories are ones that I come back to every now and again even though its been quite a number of years since I’ve read one of his books.  It conflicts with the more optimistic vision of most Integralists.  However, I see potential truth in both of them.  Shepard sees that a misdevelopment occurred in humanity’s early development.  Wilber doesn’t see this early misdevelopment, but rather places the blame of misdevelopment on later stages such as his theory of Mean Green Meme.

I’ve heard of one theory that could bring the two together.  It was brought up in a discussion on Wilber’s site.  The person was speculating that maybe Spiral Dynamics should be seen as descriptive instead of prescriptive.  It is an accurate model describing how social development has occurred so far (in Western societies and non-Western societies influenced by Western culture).  But this doesn’t mean that development couldn’t have happened differently nor does it mean that Spiral Dynamics represents the best possible outcome of development.  These are the types of thoughts that came to me when I first studied Wilber.  It seems an obvious possibility, but it rarely comes up in discussion and I haven’t yet seen it in a book about Integralism.

This seems to bungle up the workings of Wilber’s aesthetically elegant model.  If we can’t be sure that the development model we have is optimal, then it undercuts other theories such as the pre/trans fallacy.  How can we be sure that we have it right?  From one perspective, the model is prescriptive, but maybe from another perspective it could be proscriptive.  So, is their a larger context in which to place this all?  Is their a perspective of perspectives that transcends and includes both idealism and pessimism? 

I must admit that I’ve been more interested in the potential of a Theory For Anything (TFA) and less interested in a Theory Of Everything (TOE).  But I don’t know what a TFA would look like.  I reference back to Jung’s archetypes and personality types because it seems to give something closer to a morally neutral perspective and less hierarchical.  I especially find personality types insightful because it clearly shows how often differences are just differences.  This fits in with my criticism of Wilber’s model and those attracted to it being more Apollonian (MBTI NT?).

All of this interesting enough, but my mind has been focused on another set of ideas.  I’ve just started the book The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen (here is the author’s blog and here is an article by the author about skepticism).  This book brings some important questions to rationality.  I can’t summarize this authors views at the moment, but let me pull out some quotes and ideas to give a sense of where he is coming from.

Okay… many philosophers have considered the mind to be binary and this goes back to the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaximander.  From this tradition, we get Aristotelian logic with its binary opposition (a or not a) and its “the law of the excluded middle”.  And one end of the binary opposition is usually privileged.  We enter a different perspective with the liminal (introduced by Van Gennep and further elucidated by Victor Turner). “When a structure is subverted or deconstructed, there is a reversal of the positions of privilege or a blurring or collapse of the line dividing the pair.” (p. 62)  This liminal between is the space that post-modernists see as empty, but which earlier anthropologists saw as being where the paranormal and supernatural can be properly placed. 

“Deconstruction calls attention to ambiguity and uncertainty, and at its core, it is about the problem of representationin all forms.” (p. 76)  

“Like magic, the problem of meaning is banished from the consciusness of science.  Deconstructionism raises the issue overtly.  It points out that meaning is neither neutral nor transparent.  It asserts that language precedes science and thus has primacy over it.” (p. 377) 

“The Issue of power again leads back to Max Weber.  Weber’s discussion of authority was about power and domination.  He identified three types of authorrity: charismatic, traditional, and bureaucratic.  Pure charisma, the most fundamental, involves supernatural power.  The other types are rationalized forms of it.  One need only recall Weber’s insight that the process of rationaliziaion calls for the elimination of magic form the world (in actuality, elimination of the conscious awareness  of magic by cultural elites).  With the process of disenchantment virtually complete in the academy, deconstructionists (and everyone else) display an almost complete amnesia as to the primitive foundations of their school of thought.  Neary all have forgotten the taboo areas, the liminal regions, those betwixt and between categories, the anomalous, the supernatural.” (pp 377-378)

In this, we can see the questioning of dualistic models.  This is where the questioning can also be turned to Wilber’s pre/trans fallacy.  I don’t fully understand the implications as of yet, but it opens up some space for further discussion about experiences that may not be dualistic nor either pre or trans.  If all it does is bring up more unanswered questions, then that is fine by me.  I’m looking more for a model of questions than a model of answers.

What I’m trying to figure out is how can we step outside of Wilber’s models to see them objectively.  To the extent that we commit ourselves to a model, we can’t see it clearly.  This is a problem because we can’t understand a model either if we look at it entirely detached.  Does the liminal provide a space where we don’t get stuck too far in either direction?

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 11 hours later

Marmalade said

Prerational and Transrational Spirituality: The Difference Is?

That old discussion on the Integral Pod hit upon something that is on my mind.  I think that its easy for the rational to be confused with the transrational when someone is trying to differentiate their experience from the prerational.  This reminds me of the analysis of the theory of the Mean Green Meme.  Here is what I said in the Integral Ideology thread in the God Pod:

“Jim linked to an article about the Mean Green Meme.  In that article, Todorovic looked to the statistics to see if it supported this hypoethesis.  According to this view, the criticisms of Green Meme are more likely to come from Blue and Orange than from Second Tier Yellow.  She explains that the supposed Second Tier criticism is actually First Tier criticism masking as Yellow which she calls Yellow False Positive.”

Many people are attracted to Integralism because its a very rational model.  It does give room for the non-rational, but still its primarily rational.  I don’t know if a transrational model is possible.  So, if we become too identified with the model, we by necessity become stuck in the rational.  Where does this leave the transrational?  Can the the term ‘transrational’ within a rational model be anything more than a placeholder for the unknown, a finger pointing at the moon?

The nonrational is another category I’m interested in.  There may be some states that are neither specifically prerational nor transrational.  How does Integralism deal with this possibility?  So far in my research, I’d say it doesn’t to any great extent.  I’ve done some web searches about Integralism and Wilber using terms such as ‘paranormal’, ‘supernatural’, and ‘liminal’… but not much came up in the results.

My sense is that Wilberian Integralism hasn’t yet fully come to terms with the nonrational.  Even the category of the transrational feels somehow inadequate.  I think part of the problem is the medium.  Rational language and linear modelling are inherently limited.  I suppose poetry and art more capable of expressing the transrational and nonrational than any Integral theory ever will be able to do.  This is why I’ve been thinking about how can the imaginative and playful be emphasized more within Integral theory.  And in general I’ve been wondering how the rational and nonrational can be experienced without conflict, without either trying to supplant the other.

Balder : Kosmonaut

about 19 hours later

Balder said

Hi, Marmalade,
An interesting post!  Thanks for your reflections here – they resonate with a number of my own interests and concerns.
Was the person who was suggesting that Spiral Dynamics might be better understood as descriptive than prescriptive possibly me?  I don’t expect I’m the only person to have thought of this or discussed it, but this is something I explored on the Integral Multiplex (and possibly also the I-I pod) a number of months ago.  My suggestion was that typical descriptions of Orange, for example, often appear to presuppose elements that might be better regarded as historical accidents rather than developmental necessities, and that there may be a wide number of “ways forward” as Amber societies mature – that, while there are social and cultural constraints that might work to encourage development in a particular direction, there still may be a wide degree of freedom in how a post-Amber society takes form (wider than conventional descriptions of Orange appear to allow for).  I was using these two particular levels just as an example; the suggestion would apply across the board.  Though conceivably, the lower levels are likely harder to shift, just because they have greater historical force behind them.
I agree with you that possibilities such as this do have the potential to “bungle up” the pre/trans fallacy – or, rather, the application of the pre/trans fallacy.  But I do think that it would still be a valid tool.  Because even if a particular trajectory isn’t the only available one, it would still be possible to distinguish – and also to potentially confuse – earlier and later stages of that trajectory.
You wrote:  I must admit that I’ve been more interested in the potential of a Theory For Anything (TFA) and less interested in a Theory Of Everything (TOE).  But I don’t know what a TFA would look like.
This is an interesting idea and I’d like to hear more about what you mean here.  I relate it to another “vision” with which I’m involved – the Time-Space-Knowledge vision, which I have practiced for a number of years and which I’ve also explored in relation to Integral Theory.  Where it differs primarily from Integral is that is more a visionary mode of inquiry and “engagement” with experience than a “map” of the world.  With Integral Methodological Pluralism, we get more into the territory of active exploration and engagement (and begin moving away from strictly “mapping” the world or various worldviews).  This is why I became interested in exploring Integral in relation to TSK, because TSK already has this open-ended, inquiry-centered orientation.  Starting with basic “elements” of reality (time, space, and knowledge), without taking any of them for granted or at face value, it opens various ways to explore the nature and dynamics of our world, ultimately with an interest in the potential of transformative vision.  It is a “way” that invites intimate engagement with reality through radical questioning and inquiry, and so in that sense serves (for me) more as a theory for everything rather than a static representation of everything.
Concerning your discussion of George P. Hansen’s perspectives on models and rationality, I am also interested in these questions.  If you’re interested, I have a paper online which looks at some of them from the points of view of Integral and TSK.  Here is a link to the relevant section of the paper:
TSK and Instrumental Knowledge.
Best wishes,

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 19 hours later

Nicole said

Bruce and Ben, thanks, I tend to side more and more with Ben in these discussions. I guess it’s because he is so darned persuasive! Or something.

I’d really like to hear your take on TSK, Ben, as I have been meaning to dig into it, but this week will not be my chance…

Ben, does this discussion here help?

or what about this application here?

this looks like a good article:

Balder : Kosmonaut

about 22 hours later

Balder said

Bruce and Ben, thanks, I tend to side more and more with Ben in these discussions.

Gee, thanks, Nicole!

Seriously, I assume you mean side with Ben against any number of others, since I’ve only had a couple conversations with him so far…

And for the record, I appreciate his perspective as well.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 23 hours later

Marmalade said

Balder, so far we seem to agree on some things.  Its hard for me to say what I agree or disagree with at the moment.  I’m presently in exploratory mode and it will take me a while to get my bearings… if ever.  😉  There is so much out there about Integralism that I can feel lost and confused sometimes.

“Was the person who was suggesting that Spiral Dynamics might be better understood as descriptive than prescriptive possibly me?”

It might’ve been.  I can’t remember when it was that I noticed those ideas.  Would you mind linking to your comments from there?

I’ll be getting back to this blog soon… maybe this evening.  For right now, I’ve been reading through and formulate a response to Julian’s blog post about Christianity. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

1 day later

Marmalade said

I can’t speak for Nicole, but my guess is that her agreement is partly with my view of personality types.  It seems to me that certain types have more of a preference for certain kinds of thinking such as NTs preference for rationality.  From this, I conclude that some differences are just differences.  Nicole and I have been discussing typology quite a bit lately and she seems to find it helpful.

BTW there is a particular theorist within the typology field who interests me the most.  Her name is Lenore Thomson.  She wrote the book Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual, and there is a wiki about her work.  Her view of typology touches upon my own thoughts about a TFA.  Basically, a TFA to me is a perspective of perspectives.  Some relevant pages from the wiki:

Rhetorical Stances

Beyond Personality

Philosophical Exegesis

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

Here is the first thread I started at Open Source Integral.

TFA and Perspective of Perspectives

Discussion didn’t really get going in the thread and I never came to any conclusions.  I was just throwing around ideas and possibilities.  And that is still what I’m doing.  I gave up on the idea of a TFA, but I’m glad its come up again in this discussion.  It seems some kind of TFA should be possible.  I probably should first figure out what purpose a TFA should serve.

Balder, I looked at your paper.  I’m curious about it, but it will take me a while to process it.  Its a nice addition to Wilber’s models.  Time and space also come up in explanations of typological function-attitudes, but typology is less abstract in how it speaks about them.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

Yes, Ben, your ideas on typology but so many more, actually. Funny since in many ways we are so different, but I had a long chat with Centria (Kathy) last night on the phone, and of course you were one of the people who came up, since we both think you’re so interesting and intelligent. I was saying that to me you have felt like a soul brother, and she said she saw that energy in some of our blog discussions, like the Rilke ones…

And yes, Bruce, I can see you appreciate Ben as well. Good! I appreciate you too, very much, I hope you know. For example what you offered in balance in that very immoderate Mod Pod discussion lol.

Ben, I will wait to hear more about your thoughts on TSK, it does seem very intriguing for you.

Perspective of perspectives eh? :):) Yes, that’s my Ben… 

Balder : Kosmonaut

1 day later

Balder said

Hi, Ben,

Thanks for introducing me to Lenore Thompson.  Her work seems very promising and interesting to me.  The typological system I’ve studied the most is the Enneagram.  A thought that has occurred to me from time to time is that Integral needs to better integrate typology.  It does explicitly include it – AQAL (or AQALALASAT) stands for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types – but I have noticed that, in typical discussions in Integral circles, the only types that get much mention are masculine / feminine.  I have also found that frequently, when people are “assessing” or categorizing each other, they will go very quickly to labels which describe level or altitude, apparently not considering that there may be different typological expressions of the same level.  In my case, I have looked at this through the Enneagram, talking about how certain features of a 9 or a 3, for instance, might give the impression of a level, but that actually it’s just more of an overall mode of interaction that can be expressed at any number of levels.

If you haven’t already, and if you’re interested, I think you should write something on Lenore’s work to introduce it to the Integral community.

Personally, I have doubts that a type model is sufficient in itself, and would not expect it to work well as a theory for anything.  I don’t think everything can be reduced to or explained in terms of horizontal types.  But I do think that it is a very valuable lens you can adopt – one of several different perspectives on perspectives that AQAL incorporates.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

I find it difficult to speak about any particular thing using only one model.  It often leads to making exaggerated claims.  We need multiple models in order to fine-tune our ability to discern differences and to discern their potential meanings.

I was feeling challenged to speak clearly in one of Julian’s blogs.  Rational can mean so many things to so many people even within the Integral community.  There is this idea that if someone is being rational they must either be orange or second tier, but nobody at green could be rational.   

Why do some people seem to think that second tier is just a more complex version of orange with green being a temporary irrational blip in development?  And why do so many equate rationality with a materialistic worldview?  Why do people who idealize rationality feel such a strong need to deny anything spooky?  How would someone act if they were well-developed in orange and yet had come to be centered in green?  Or, considering someone who is a more intellectual type (ie NT), how would they think rationally if they were strongly green? 

I’ve noticed too that the only type that gets much Integral discussion is gender.  Here is something I said about it in another thread at OSI:

There is the matter of whether a type is used consciously or not and this relates to development, and there is a specific order that each type will likely develop each function. This is highly theoretical and I don’t know what research has been done on it. Another theory presents how each function itself develops which is equivalent to saying that each function represents a separate line of development. There is some correlation of MBTI with models of psychological development.

For instance, how the Judging functions(Thinking and Feeling) have much similarity with Gilligan’s work on gender differences and the hierarchy of development that either gender will tend to follow. Typology brings a slightly different slant to this. Statistics have shown that their is a slight preference of males for Thnking and females for Feeling. Also, Thinking males tend to have stronger Thinking preferences than Thinking females, and Feeling females tend to have stronger preference for Feeling than Feeling males.

However, this gender preference is only around 60-70%, and that leaves a good portion that doesn’t fit the social expectations. David Deidda recognizes that gender patterns are only general. He says that his advice for men doesn’t apply to less masculine men and does apply to more masculine women. As a Feeling guy, I don’t entirely resonate with his advice.


Here is something Wilber said about gender in

“Based mostly on work by Carol Gilligan and Deborah Tannen, the idea is that the typical male orientation tends to be more agentic, autonomous, abstract, and independent, based on rights and justice; whereas the female orientation tends to be more permeable, relational, and feelingful, based on care and responsibility.”

That makes me wonder.  A tendency towards the abstract is considered more masculine and I’ve heard people make this observation before.  But the MBTI research has shown no correlation between abstract cognition and gender.  My theory on this is that there are different types of abstraction.  An NF appears less abstract because their way of abstracting is less structured as they aren’t Thinking types.  So, the definition of abstract used in gender studies is probably NT biased… maybe because most scientific researchers are NTs (?).

Anyways, you’re probably right that a type model couldn’t be a TFA.  But it could be a decent model of a Theory Of Theorizing (TOT).  Typology gets at the intricacies of our cognitive and perceptual biases.  For instance, personality research has shown that certain types and traits are most prevalent in certain professional fields.  That is partly the basis of my suspicion that Integralism has a personality bias.  Different types of personalities will tend to be attracted to different types of theories, and some types of personalities won’t like abstract theorizing whatsoever.  And none of it necessarily has anything to do with what developmental stage they’re at.

I’ll start a thread about Lenore Thomson soon, but not today.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Hey Balder, I noticed you started a thread about AQAL and TSK at the II Multiplex.
And another thread of yours about TSK.
I noticed you’ve blogged about TSK.
And so has Davidu.
Ronpurser has some videos about TSK on youtube.

Also, is this the thread you were referring to earlier about Spiral Dynamics?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Ben, when you put it like this, it does seem very odd! supposedly so advanced and not really dealing with personality types, and generalising in such limited ways about men and women…

Balder : Kosmonaut

2 days later

Balder said

Hi, Ben,

Thanks for collecting all of those links together.  Yes, I’ve talked about TSK (by itself and in relation to Integral) on a number of forums online.  I also have a TSK pod here on Gaia.  I am also friends with both Davidu and Ron Purser.  A small world!

And yes, that thread on Spiral Dynamics is exactly the one I was thinking of.

Best wishes,


Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said


Integral has such a focus on development that types can get short shrift.  I think Wilber was trying to remedy that with his further developments of the quadrant model, but I’m still uncertain what I think of the quadrants.  The quadrants are useful, and the same probably goes for other similar models.  In some ways, quadrants seems more of a convenient way to categorize things than necessarily an accurate representation of fundamental structures.

It might be helpful to compare certain aspects of integralism and typology.  Wilber uses internal and external as categories, but in some ways it feels like a crude division.  OTOH Introversion and Extraversion are attempts to explain how the human brain actually processes information.  And yet there seems a basic conception that both systems are getting at.  Introversion/Extraversion is likely the most accepted and understood traits in all of personality research.  It touches upon something fundamental to human experience.  I get the sense that Wilber is trying to get at this same human experience but coming at it from a standpoint that emphasizes objectivity (ie categorization).

I don’t know if that makes sense.  Its just something that has been on my mind for a long time.

For whatever reason, I have a bit more interest in types than in developmental lines and stages.  Types can speak more to our immediate experience… whereas development speaks more to potential future experience.  As long as someone is moderately intelligent and aware, they can grasp the fundamentals of a system such as MBTI.  But a system such as Spiral Dynamics is only meaningful to someone who is already fairly developed.  I think Spiral Dynamics requires more abstract thinking to understand it than does MBTI.  MBTI has its complex abstract theorizing, but it has been honed for the purposes of therapeutic insight and so has been designed in a very user-friendly fashion. 

So…  MBTI is a system that can be understood by all of the types it describes.  Spiral Dynamics can’t be understood by all of the vmemes that it describes.  That isn’t a weakness of Spiral Dynamics, just a challenge of any developmental model.  MBTI is also a developmental model, but in its most basic form the developmental aspects aren’t directly emphasized.

I’d love to see someone attempt to create an integral theory of types similar to how Wilber has created an integral theory of development.


Your welcome.  I like collecting links.  Its a hobby of mine.  🙂

BTW I don’t think it was your Spiral Dynamics thread where I saw these criticisms/questions being brought up.  If I remember correctly, it was an older thread.  Anyways, I was happy to read your comments about this.  I haven’t yet read through the whole thread, but I plan on doing so.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

Yes, yes, Ben, I agree totally.

While I was looking for more useful links I found this about Haridas_Chaudhuri

Are you and Bruce familiar with him?

Balder : Kosmonaut

2 days later

Balder said

Yes, I’m familiar with him.  His integralism is rooted more in Aurobindo’s model, which was initially one of Wilber’s big influences as well.  Wilber ended up going in other directions, though recently he has returned to Aurobindo, using a number of Aurobindo’s stages of consciousness as the highest levels of his model of development. 

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Nope, never heard of him.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

I just commented on Julian’s blog The Transformative Power of Development: A Three-Part Distinction:

Balder, I appreciated what you said here:
“If rationality begins with 3p, and transratonality begins at 5p (or expanded 4p), then it just isn’t correct to call a temporary state experience at a rational level (3p) transrational.  Because transrational is a structural designation, not a state designation.”

I’m starting to understand the importance of separating states and stages.  So, if transrational is a structural designation, then does that mean the pre/trans fallacy doesn’t apply to stage designations?  If transrational isn’t the correct label for a temporary stte, then what is?

Even though I didn’t mention it in my comment, I was thinking about the category of the nonrational.  I was considering that it might be appropriate to speak of rational and nonrational in terms of states.  But if states are differentiated from stages, then pre/trans doesn’t apply.  This makes sense to me. 

My understanding of the nonrational is that it isn’t specifically developmental in Wilber’s sense, but it does relate to the process of development as the liminal is inherent to initiation rituals.  States aren’t static even if they aren’t dynamic in terms of linear development.  Maybe states follow more of a cyclical pattern.  This could help to show the connection between the theories of Grof and Wilber.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

interesting! but i am being called away … back later or tomorrow

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

Leaving?  You just got here!  Called away… sounds mysterious.

Oh well… I hope the rest of your day goes well.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

ah, just family. i urgently was required to watch a Nicholas Cage movie, light and funny. not much punishment there lol. and then to bed.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

I see.  Just spending some quality time with family and Nicholas Cage.
What movie was it?
I’m watching some Outer Limits episodes right now.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said

cool! It was um… hang on… LOL! I remember the second part of the title – Book of Secrets – anyway you will find the whole title somewhere else – i know i mentioned it earlier to you. you see the depredations of old age, Ben. 🙂

Marmalade : Gaia Child

3 days later

Marmalade said

You have depredations?
Sounds horrible.
Is that a medical condition?
You probably should see a doctor about that.
I hope they find a cure for it before I get old.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

3 days later

Nicole said


Myth, Religion, and Social Development: Part II

Myth, Religion, and Social Development: Part II

Posted on Apr 8th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
(This is also posted in the God Pod.)

I want to bring together the evolutionary causes at work behind myth and religion.  I mentioned these earlier: Campbell’s view on the transition from hunter to planter societies, Philippe’s ideas about the paganism incorporated into Christianity, Spiral Dynamics, and the Axial Age.

To this I want to add Paul Shepard’s theory about Pleistocene man.  Shepard believes that the transition between hunters and planters was the most important shift in social development… or disruption rather.  This shift was world-wide and is comparable to the Axial Age.

Add this all up, and it gives us 2 major shifts connecting 3 major eras.  Its Spiral Dynamics that allows us to map this out.  (It goes without saying that this is all tentative.)

First Era: Prior to the post-Pleistocene shift, we have the vmemes of beige and purple.  It seems that Campbell and Shepard are treating these two inseparably.  As we know very little about the myths of beige, we don’t need to worry about it.  Still, its beige that Shepard is somewhat romanticizing.  In addition, I think the individualistic focus of red vmeme gets mixed in because the myths were written down during the development of the blue vmeme, and red came to represent all of the past.  There is the theory that the vmemes switch between a focus on the individual and a focus on the collective, and it makes sense to me.  So, beige and red would be individualistic which isn’t to say the individual has yet fully developed.

Anyways, to simplify, this first era is the Age of the Shaman… Campbell’s Shamanistic Titan seeking personal power through personal sacrifice.  But the Shaman isn’t a monk… the Shaman is also the Warrior and the Hunter.  Visions have power.

Also, this was the time when the divine man-animal was worshipped, the prototype of all later dying/ressurection gods.  Here is a quote from a review of a book by Paul Shepard(along with Barry Sanders) titled The Sacred Paw:

They give a really good argument for the shifting of the emphasis of the myths from the Bear Mother to the adventures of her sons, who eventually become purely human heroes. The Underworld and Rebirth themes of the Bear Mother are slowly stripped form her until she is nothing but a memory.

Post-Pleistocene(or rather post-hunter/gatherer) shift: The cause of this is explained variously.  Did the Ice Age traumatize the collective psyche of the human species?  Or, according to Shepard, did the shift occur from within… for some unknown reason man falling out of alignment with his environment?  Or was it some kind of Telos(God?) that propelled social evolution?  And was this shift a good thing(an evolugionary advantage) or a bad thing(Shepard’s collective madness)?  For our purposes, answering these questions isn’t necessary.  All we need to know is that a major shift happened.

As for Spiral Dynamics, my guess is that this shift was red vmeme and also red shifting into blue.  This shift probably occurred over a very long period of time.

Second Era: This is the beginnings of civilization proper: agriculture and city-states, and the great Matriarchies… this is very early blue vmeme which isn’t blue as we know it now.  This era was blue in a more pure form, not adulterated by orange and green as found in the Third Era.

At this time, society became hierarchical and the caste system came about… and with it the division of labor.  Life was extremely organized including religion… the visions of the shaman became the oracles that served the priesthood, and the myths became complex rituals.  Life revolved around the seasons and the seasonal celebrations.  This was where we got our celebrations of the Equinxes and Solstices as Solar symbolism was the focus.

(A shift within the Second Era)  In the later part of this era, the Matriarchies lost power and written history began.  But the Patriarchies were also blue and they retained the hierarchical structure even if a different gender was on top.  The primary difference was that orange was beginning to develop with a reemergence of individualism, meaning the hierarchy was not quite as strict as previously.  The shift between Matriarchy and Patriarchy is significant, but it isn’t my focus for the moment.  The development of Patriarchy was a disatisfaction with the old ways.  One explanation(that Jeremy Taylor brings up) is that the precession of the equinoxes altered the timing by which the Matriarchies had planted and harvested.  This led to priesthood no longer being able to predict the seasons and so social unrest followed.  This disatisfaction with the prior Goddess worship can be felt in the myth of Gilgamesh.

Axial Age: (Karl Jaspers first wrote about this, and Karen Armstrong wrote a whole book about it.)  This is when first arose all of the world religions that we know today.  Or, in the case of Hinduism and Judaism, when previous religions were revisioned.  The Old Testament was written down for the first time during this time.  Christianity and Islam were later manifestations of this Age.

Blue is still in power, but orange has developed enough to allow some incisive questioning of tradition.  Also, green is first showing itself to any significant degree.  So we have the development of rationality and self-inquiry along with a sense of social equality and justice.  Liberation was the spiritual response and democracy was the political response.

Mythologically, we have the development of the savior stories as we know them today.  Jesus doesn’t change the world by conquering nations.  He changes the world by confronting himself, challenging the human condition.  The prophets of this age tended to turn inward.

The agricultural city-states were being forced to develop new modes of politics.  The Greeks developed democracy and philosophy.  The great myths were being written down and questioned which meant man was no longer controlled by the gods, but could choose their own destiny.  The heroes of this time often challenged the gods.  Man could save himself, man was coming of age.

Third Era: The age of empires… symbolized in the West by the Romans and the later Catholic Church.  Blue is still very much the dominating paradigm, but orange has become established.  However, the green that showed itself in the Axial Age is squelched back out of existence not to be seen again until the Rennaisance.

Religion becomes more ritualized and homogenized than it had ever before.  Using the Roman Empire as its structure, the Catholic Church destroys and/or incorporates every religion it comes into contact with.  And this is why we have such a strange mix of mythologies in Christianity today.  But also this paved the way for us moderns to see the universal truths behind all myths.  (Buddhism did something similar for the East.)

During this time, Jesus the prophet and savior becomes the Ruler of the World.

To be continued…

Access_public Access: Public 3 Comments Print Post this!views (190)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 1 hour later

Nicole said

i’m really enjoying this series… thanks so much for cross posting!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

I’m glad you’re enjoying it, but I do hope some others will respond.  I really don’t know to what degree this all makes sense.  My knowledge of Spiral Dynamics is pretty basic, but its not the most important part of my thinking here even though I’m using it as a central context.

I don’t have any perfectly clear ideas at the moment.  I’m just pondering the possibilities of patterns.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

excellent! yes, we are in a bit of a lull at the moment on the God Pod… just catching our breath before the next waves of activity i’m sure! 🙂

Psychology of Politics, Development of Society

I’ve been thinking out some complex issues and data.  In particular, my mind has been stuck on the issue of liberal and conservative. 

This relates to personality types and traits, but furthermore it relates to genetics.  Scientists have discovered specific genes that correlate with specific tendencies of political attitudes.  That isn’t exactly surprising as trait research has already determined many psychological differences are passed on from parent to child.  But this is particularly paradigm-shifting on the level of politics.

I plan to write more about this, but I just wanted to outline my thinking for the moment.  There are multiple facets that interrelate in ways I’m trying to determine.

There does seem to be an evolutionary angle that would be very important.  Different genetics enhanced species survival as humans developed ever more complex societies.  One theory I came across proposed that liberal genetics are a more recent evolutionary adaptation.  As humans spread out from Africa, specific traits became more desirable: curiosity, openness to new experience, adaptability, empathy, diplomacy, ability to imagine new possibilities and consider multiple perspectives, etc.  These are all traits that research has proven are correlated with each other, and they together seem to create the framework for the liberal attitude.  Still, the older genetics remained useful because any given society would still need the majority of its population to be fairly conservative in order to create social stability and cohesion.

This development happened when humans were still hunter-gatherers, and so at that time the genetic differences wouldn’t have been as magnified.  With the rise of settled agrarian cultures, an entirely new way of social organization became possible.  This was a traumatic time in the devlopment of the human species.  It’s been a while since I’ve read Paul Shepard, but as I recall he saw this era as being pivotal where something irreversibly switched in the human brain.  This was the beginning of civilization.

I was just tonight reading again some of Derrick Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe.  I consider him to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century.  I’d forgotten much of the specific ideas in this book, but one particular thing stood out.  He goes into great detail about how civilization rests on the back of slavery.  Every civilization was built with slave labor (including the early democracies).  Even the modern industrialized nations with their supposed democracies and free markets are dependent on slave labor and sweatshops in the third world countries.  Many of the earliest immigrants to the Americas were indentured servants and slaves.  Civilization as we know it would collapse if there wasn’t some class of people enslaved or in oppressed servitude. 

(I also wonder how this fits in with prostitution as the oldest profession and temple prostitutes who lived in servitude.  In early civilization, prostitution represented the civilizing of primitive desire as the temple prostitutes served the highest ideal of their societies and the temples they worked in were at the center of those cultures.  The example that comes to mind is “The Epic of Gilgamesh” where the wild man is civilized by a prostitute.)

Jensen’s explanation of all of this is just brilliant.  Combined with Shepard’s work, this explains a lot about how we became this way.  The earliest records of humans are about the laws upholding civilization and these laws speak about slavery (e.g., Code of Hammurabi).  The Old Testament in various stories and the 10 commandments promotes slavery.  The Christian Gospels even promote slavery.  The Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans all were dependent on slavery.  Until modern times, few people even thought too much about slavery being a bad thing.

However, some people back then began to question such issues.  During the Axial Age, the origins of modern Enlightenment ideals began to take root.  Those early ideals were in complete conflict with the very structure of civilization and that conflict persists to this very day.  So, where did this conflict come from?

Earlier in social development, humans perceived the world animistically.  According to Julian Jaynes, the very understanding of the individual as clearly separate from the world didn’t even fully exist throughout much of early civilization.  It was a slow shift while individuality formed.  As division of labor in society became more important, so division of labor within the human mind became more important.  The world and the gods stopped being experienced as immediately alive realities.  The world became objectified and so did humans.  Individuality and objectivity go hand in hand, and this is what allows for the objectivication of humans in the form of slavery.

This growing sense of individuality came to a crisis point during the Axial Age.  The brutality of slavery had become very apparent, and people began hoping for something more.  People were less satisfied to simply be in servitude whether to other people or to the gods.  The divine had become distant within hierarchical society, and in response the desire for divine closeness became extremely strong.  Humans started to perceive the divine as being among humans which is reminiscent of the animistic past, but this divine closeness was now built on a relationship of individuals as equals.  The first communes formed which was out of which Christianity took root.  However, Christianity and all of the Axial Age religions were brought back in line with hierarchical slave society, and the brief glimmer of the Axial Age prophets was almost entirely forgotten for the next thousand years.

However, it was never entirely forgotten.  The Axial Age ideals were the liberalism of their day.  I wonder if that liberal urge that kept popping up relates back to the genetics that first formed when humans left Africa?

It seems like there has always been this push and pull within human society that is shown in the the earliest historical records.  Since civilization began, this concept of progress formed.  Civilization is dependent on endless progress and this seems to relate to its dependence on slavery.  In order to maintain a slave population, the early civilizations (as well as later civilizations) were forced to be constantly at war by attempting to conquer other people.  Enslave or become a slave.  Endless progress, endless growth, endless conquering, endless usurpation… which continues to modern civilization as well (even if endless wars now have a larger global context). 

This is where I’m feeling a bit murky.  Civilization is simultaneously built on this ruthless progress, but civilization wouldn’t have been possible without those early liberal traits of diplomacy and whatnot.  This seems to be a part of that internal conflict that is the very fabric of civilization.  As society became more hierarchical and more divisioned, the liberal traits of curiosity and experimentation were focused towards technological innovation.  Even fairly early in Greek society, a well-educated leisure class had already taken hold (with Socrates being the ultimate representative).  The liberal instinct in some ways became even more important as empathy and diplomacy would’ve been absolutely vital during this time of cultural clash.

There was a shift that happened after the Axial Age.  The liberal instinct had a temporary burgeoning in society, but the liberal instinct was looked upon with ever greater suspicion as Empire building became the central impulse.  The Roman Empire as it was inherited by Christianity was quite oppressive, and it didn’t take long for the heresiologists to oppress the liberal impulse within Christianity itself.  This is where many see the proper beginning of Western civilization.

Ever since that time, the conflict between the liberal and conservative impulses has led to much violence.  But, with the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance, the liberal impulse began to have greater influence than it had in a long time.  Also, progress began to happen more quickly.  The liberal impulse is the gas pedal of civilization, but this is balanced with the brake of the conservative impulse.  The fight between the two hasn’t been pretty.

The main issue isn’t specific beliefs or values.  Liberalism and conservatism are relative tendencies.  What was liberal during the Axial Age has become the norm for modern Western civilization.  Generally speaking, even modern monotheists have forsaken their own texts in denying slavery.  The conservative impulse wants to hold on to what has become the norm which is perceived as being traditional.  It’s not important, however, that the perceived traditional values actually correspond to the actual historical tradition.  For example, family values have been centrally important for all of Christian history, but what Christians today consider as family values isn’t what the early Christians considered family values (and Jesus himself didn’t value family at all).  So, liberal and conservative are dependent on the historical context which is always changing with the endless progress that we call civilization.

This has served us moderately well up to this point.  Even so, we find ourselves at a new crisis point and so some people conjecture that we’re experiencing a new Axial Age.  It does seem that the level of cultural mixing in modern society hasn’t been seen in Western civilization since the earlier Axial Age.  The religious sensibility forming now is to Christianity as Christianity was to Judaism, and I think this would explain why fundamentalists have essentially created a new religion that has little to do with early Christianity (which fits into the ideas of Karen Armstrong).

Much of what I’ve talked about can be explained using the model of Spiral Dynamics which would add a lot of much-needed detail.  The history following the Axial Age I somewhat explained in my post Just Some Related Ideas and Writers which basically follows a Jungian view of Western development.  But there is a further aspect that is more central to my thinking at the moment.  Along with Jensen’s The Culture of Make Believe, I’ve also been re-reading Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini.  The two books make for good companions as they both analyze Western society from different perspectives. 

Giannini’s book is helpful because he is coming from the Jungian tradition, and more importantly he combines his roles as Jungian analyst and MBTI practitioner.  He carefully considers Jung’s view on personality as it fits in with Western sociohistorical development.  He sees a split in our society between tendencies towards the personality types of ESTJ and INFP with the former dominating the Western psyche since sometime shortly after the inception of Christianity.  Essentially, ESTJ and INFP are just a more complex way of saying conservative and liberal.

However, this more complex language is helpful because it’s grounded in decades of psychological research.  Also, it brings me back to where I began this post.

(I want to note one other book: The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P. Hansen.  The author discusses two issues relevant to this post.  He discusses Max Weber’s theory about how rationalization and bureaucratization increases as society becomes more complex and hierarchical.  He also discusses Ernest Harmann’s boundary types.  He mentions research that shows thick boundary types with their conservative attitudes tend to promoted to upper management in hierarchical organizations.  Any major organization is hierarchical and so our society in general is ruled by thick boundary types which is just another way of stating the theory Giannini puts forth.  These highly promoted people tend to have thicker boundaries than even the average person and so the people at top perceive and behave differently than the lower classes.  A seeming implication of this is that even Washington Democrats will be more conservative than the average liberal.) 

The reason I’m so interested in all of this is two-fold. 

The most obvious reason is that the conflict between liberals and conservatives is the most intense that I’ve seen in my lifetime.  And it’s a rather personal issue as I’m liberal and my parents are conservative. 

Secondly, I suffer from obsessive curiosity syndrome.  I feel compelled to try to understand the society I was born into.  There seems to be a narrative to our culture and I suspect that it’s our collective unawareness of this narrative that keeps us stuck in it.  We play these roles we are given and we come to identify with them.  Some of this is genetics and so can’t be changed, but genetics are just predispositions.  I want to believe that the liberal and conservative impulses don’t have to be eternally at odds.  Maybe I’m just a dreamy-eyed liberal with my head in the clouds.

 – – –

Let me give this some more contemporary context.

I’ve been doing some web research on personality types/traits, political attitudes, and career predispositions.  Here are some of the ideas I’m tossing about at present:

The problem with liberal and conservative as labels is that they’re highly relative.

The vast majority of scientists and journalists identify as liberal (or at least they do in the US), but it just means that these groups of people identify as more liberal than how they perceive the general population of their particular society.  In the most general usage, conservative means what is traditional or conventional and liberal means what is not limited to the traditional or conventional.  As such, liberal journalists are only moderately liberal.  They’re liberal because they aren’t perfectly aligned with the average person (or rather they don’t perceive themselves as such), but they’re clearly moderate in their being closer to the mainstream than they are to radicals on the fringe.

However, different societies will vary greatly in their political spectrum.  It’s probably true, though, that scientists and journalists in any society will be comparatively more liberal because those professions seem to demand a liberal mindset (at least liberal in terms of personality traits).

The further issue is how close is the correlation between liberal as political self-identification and liberal as personality trait.  Research on personality traits show that they can’t be categorized as either/or, black/white.  Some people are on the extreme ends, but most people are near the middle.

There is no one way to define these terms.  Liberal and conservative can apply to many issues, and so a person can be simultaneously liberal on some issues and conservative on others.  And any given issue can only be labelled as liberal or conservative relative to the context of the societal norms and the historical era.  Many political positions that seem conservative in a modern industrialized society would be deemed liberal (even radically liberal) in pre-modern and non-industrialized societies.  Liberal and conservative are labels that are inseparable from confounding factors of individual and collective development.

With development, other issues such as intelligent and morality have to be considered as both of those relate to intelligence.  There is a correlation between liberalism and IQ (i.e., traditional methods of testing intelligence), and so that probably explains much of the reason for scientists and journalists identifying as liberals.  As a personality trait, liberalism signifies openness towards new experiences and curiosity towards new information.  Higher education is largely defined by new experiences and new information.

Nonetheless, plenty of people with more conservative personalities go to college as most of the population is fairly conservative personality wise (or rather according to MBTI statistics the conservative SJ temperament represents the largest portion of the population; the question then is how well does the SJ temperament represent the normal definition of political conservatism).  These college educated conservative types tend to be drawn to careers in law, politics, and business.  Most interestingly is the fact that policymakers tend to identify as conservative.  But, even in liberal fields, the top administrators in hierarchical organizations (which includes every major private and public organization) will be more conservative than what is the norm even for the general population.  Scientists may be liberal, but the administration of scientific labs and the corporate funding for science likely is controlled by conservatives.  Journalists may be liberal, but the editors, owners and CEOs of media companies are generally more conservative. 

(The so-called liberal media bias is false.  It may have once been true when newsrooms were independent and reporters were more free to do their own thing.  But in recent decades (because of pressures to increase profits) reporters have been increasingly told what to do by upper management (this is based on a lot of research I’ve done and isn’t an just an ideological claim).  However, this isn’t to say that media is precisely conservative biased in any simple sense.  Let us just say there is conflict of biases where the conservative bias at the moment has gained the upperhand.)

Social liberals are going to be more interested in intellectual inquiry and social conservatives will be more interested in ideological norms.  Because of this, most social scientists and those interested in social science will be moral liberals (research supports this conclusion).  As for moral conservatives, they’re either less interested in or else actively mistrust social science research and theory.  For example, the evidence that certain psychological traits and types (personality, moral inclinations, political ideology, behavior, etc.) are largely inheritable undermines the idea that everyone is completely responsible for themselves as individuals (which is a major aspect of moral conservatism).  The tendency to see human nature as complex is more attractive to the social liberal, and so the liberal attitude is more open to the possibility of nature being equal to or greater than nurture (which could explain why they have a more open view of family values).  The reason why evolution vs creationism seems so central to the culture wars may be because it reflects on the large-scale the same issues of nature vs nurture (I’m a bit unclear on this point).

I’ve come across the theory that conservatives tend to look at media and art in terms of how it serves or undermines their ideology (i.e., the perceived ‘norm’).  This would be supported by the Christian cultural critic who I heard speak a few years ago.  She discussed the need of morally conservative Christians to use film and pop culture to promote their views.  Immediately after this talk, I went over and looked at a William Blake exhibit which presented his vision of the relationship between religion and art.  

There couldn’t have been a better contrast between the conservative and liberal views.  Blake’s art was inspiring because it didn’t represent ideology in any simple way (i.e., no overt political messages, no promotion of group norms).  Instead, Blake’s art pointed towards truths that transcended mere politics.  I sensed that Blake wasn’t limiting himself to his own preferred bias.  

Is the conservative view of art as ideology comparable to the conservative view of news as ideology?  I’ve noticed that many conservatives don’t see a difference of the bias of Fox News from the bias in more liberal news, but to many liberals this is an insult.  I’ve noticed that quite a few liberals seem to idealize intellectual objectivity as a moral value, and they’re not content with the cynical view of extreme conservatives.  The social conservative tends to see humanity as fallen and traditionally this fallen nature included the failure of human reason.  Social conservatives are more mistrusting of reason which explains why they mistrust science (be it Darwinian evolution or climate change).

By the way, this also relates to the tendency of most comedians to be liberal.  Humor is very much related to curiosity and openness to experience.

Anyways, it’s all very interesting.  Journalists, Scientists, and comedians all are dominated by self-identified liberals and Democrats.  I remember offhand that only 6% of scientists (including in the hard sciences) identify as Republican.  That does seem to be saying either something about human nature (psychology, genetics, etc) or something about modern culture… or, as I suspect, a bit of both.

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I’m, of course, speaking of liberal and conservative in their most extreme manifestations (i.e., exaggerated stereotypes).  It’s important to keep in mind that as personality traits the population distribution is found mostly in the middle rather than on the polar opposite ends.

Also, liberal and conservative don’t always equate with Democrat and Republican.  For example, earlier last century Republicans were the liberal party especially in the South.  So, when I speak of liberal I’m talking about an attitude based on personality traits and not party affiliations which represent shifting labels of shifting demographics.  I was looking at data from the Pew Research Center.  Their definition of liberal corresponds with Democrat only slightly more than it corresponds with independent.  I’m willing to bet, though, that if Democrats dominated for a couple of decades the number of liberals identifying with independent would increase just as how recently many have left the Republican party.

As for psychological attitudes, I do wonder if the way society is structured is causing these genetic traits to become increasingly magnified.  I was thinking that this possibility could be a contributing factor to the present intense political conflict.

Here is a theory I’ve been thinking about the last couple of years.

I’ve looked at mappings of demographic data.  Liberals are concentrated in urban areas in and around cities.  Conservatives are spread out in rural areas.  However, a confounding factor is that ever since the Industrial Age began people have been slowly migrating to cities.  This is how liberals became concentrated in cities in the first place, but the population in general has now become concentrated in cities.  For this reason, cities are more ideologically diverse and so liberals have been forced to adapt to diversity which happens to be one of their talents anyhow. 

The other result is that rural areas have become less diverse and more extremely conservative.  This makes me wonder if conservative politics has become more radicalized partly because of this concentration.  Even the moderate conservatives would tend to move to the cities leaving behind the most extreme conservatives (those who are so resistant to change that they’d rather remain even in poverty-stricken areas).

Ignoring the possible genetic component, our political system by itself would magnify the concentration of extreme conservatives in the rural areas.  American democracy is representative.  In an attempt at fairness, sparsely populated rural areas get more representation per capita.  What this means is that extreme conservatives get more representation per capita.  The result of this is that public debate gets pushed to the right.

This is important as sometimes presidents get elected even though the majority of the population voted against them.  How does a president lead a country when he doesn’t represent a majority of the population?

Also, the media focuses on the extremes.  The rural areas represent the far right-wing.  The Republican politicians tend to be moderate conservatives, but the more radical conservatives of rural areas hold great sway.

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I don’t know what to make of this, but it’s very interesting.  It seems our entire political system is rather messed up.  I’m hoping by placing US politics in a larger context that I’ll be able to see beyond the polarizing tendency of public debate as it gets shown in the media.

Anyways, it goes without saying that all of this is largely speculation and hence tentative.  I am basing my speculations on actual data, but it is very complex.  Trying to disentangle the threads is difficult if not impossible.  The challenge of making sense of it is only slighly lessened by the fact that some great minds before me have written some insightful books.