The gendered evolution of recursion
Thanks for an interesting read. You mention the possible importance of pregnancy and childbirth a few times and I suggest you focus a lot more attention there. Giving birth is a literal process of externalizing and becoming intimately acquainted with what was previously an internal presence/reality. When my daughter was born, there was a brief but significant period of time when it required effort for me to distinguish our realities. Was her hand resting on her cheek or my cheek? Or was it my hand on my cheek after all? I suspect that everything about pregnancy, birth, and infant care is ripe for the production of startling insights into consciousness.🌼
Thinking like this is one of my major interests. I began a serialized bunch of posts on things related to this - although I cannot write as well as you do about the mythology. But please keep writing - this is really compelling.
women don't get an extra x dosage due to inactivation https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/x-chromosome-x-inactivation-323/
I don't know what to make of the snake cult theory, but I think it's very plausible that women became self-reflective before men did. Anecdotally, they seem to engage in this behaviour more, and they are slightly more likely to report having an "inner voice" compared to men.
A bit of the cultural superconsciousness leaking out in the final moments of the Barbie movie. Kinda weird how appropriate it is given the Eve Theory: https://youtu.be/jxiGNRchawg?si=YLkeip89w_NUOuLV&t=184
Fascinating stuff. To adapt a line in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.....You just keep thinking Andrew!
There's also the possibility that the downside of recursion is less for women than men. In a tribal context being the physically weaker sex would probably make it much less necessary for a schizophrenic woman to be expelled or killed than a man. Just speculating though, I have no idea if there are different reproductive rates among male and female schizophrenics in the modern day.
You considered one aspect of the creation story in which you postulate that science agrees that eve achieved consciousness before Adam. How about the rest? From the dust of the earth made he them. Which dust and where? Just like all cultures have snakes they also have a flood reference. Is there just a possibility that man included individuals from every continent on earth? That has a greater probability of being true than some anti-biological position that dominant genes, like those of the Chinese, evolved from recessive ones. It would also explain differences in race, eye color, and other differences. Adam was created by God, the Bible does not say that he is the only one.
Got the book title wrong “The Descent of the Child”
Thanks. Very interesting. Any one who’s observed children even at elementary age can see that girls brains are much given over to social positions and alliances. But that’s true in most social animals. Female dogs are judges of human competence whereas males are not!
What do you think of Elaine Morgan’s theory that children are evolutionary drivers of traits such as language (in her book Ascent of the Child)? Inter sibling competition is non negligible in survival to reproduction.
The preference for agonic display of intelligence from males (GSOH) had been made much of too in evopsych. Women making each other laugh is a big tool of friendship consolidation and same sex peer preference at most developmental stages suggests that’s not as simple as “big peacock tail energy”
Regarding human burial, this article makes a great case of it evolving biologically for the purposes of signalling to predator animals that we weren't food (by them never having a successful experience of eating one of us, even as an already-dead corpse). So it could have a much simpler mechanism than anything clearly spiritual.
So I’m wondering where you think the mirror test for self awareness fits in here. To recognize “self” one needs a self symbol, thus recursion. Cetaceans, many primates and some birds easily pass the mirror test for recursion. If on the other hand, we are considering an audio “self” or name, then the list might change some. Recursion can occur different ways.
also, nice big scary post
Andrew, I love how you pulled all of this together. Very profound, interesting and helpful. I guess we will have to see how these speculations hold out and whether it is possible to validate them—tricky given the nature of history.
This is not the first time I have heard of the concept of women achieving consciousness before men, though it is the first with a more solid backing of scientific reasoning. The first time I might have heard the concept was via Jordan Peterson in his Biblical series of lectures. In one of his lectures, he brings up one of your points, that of women needing consciousness to effectively take care of vulnerable infants. He also talks about the physical vulnerability of women (and therefore sexual vulnerability) due to the difference in strength between men and women. Both of these could be reasons women achieving consciousness earlier then men.
Anyway, what you have written is a more thorough investigation of the topic, and I found it very interesting and helpful.
If you are interested in what Peterson specifically said, the lecture is at this link, starting from where he is talking about the topic. (He goes all over the place, so it is worth going back a bit if you want more context): https://youtu.be/Ifi5KkXig3s?t=6394
And I have extracted the corresponding part of the transcript, below. Keep in mind that this is an unscripted lecture. I find listening more effective than reading his material.
"The snake’s eternally associated with the tree. We spent God only knows how many tens of millions of years as tree-dwelling primates, and we had three primary predators: snakes, birds, cats. And so the snake has been associated with the tree for a very, very long time. The lesson the snake tells people is, you bloody better well wake up, or something you don't like will get you. And who’s going to be most susceptible to paying attention to the snake? That’s going to be Eve. The reason for that is that Eve has offspring, and there’s nothing tastier to a snake than a child."
"Eve had every reason to be self-conscious and neurotic. Women are more self-conscious and neurotic by men than quite a substantial amount. That’s true cross-culturally, and it emerges at puberty, and part of the reason—as far as we can tell—is women are more sexually vulnerable. They’re also smaller. So that's a problem if you're engaged in any physical altercation. But most importantly is, why would you ever assume that a human female’s nervous system is adapted to her or her well-being? Why wouldn’t you assume, instead, that her nervous system is adapted to the female-infant dyad? Because if it isn’t, then the infants die. And so you might think, well, women are way more susceptible to depression and anxiety than men are. That's a hell of burden to bear, and that's also true cross-culturally, by the way, and it also kicks in at puberty."
"...there’s reasons for it, and it’s also at puberty that men and women start to become sexually dimorphic in terms of size. Men are way more powerful in their upper bodies. It’s incomparably more powerful, and so that makes them a lot more dangerous. The primary human defense mechanism is punching, like with kangaroos. There's some other animals that can punch. Chimps can punch, too, but human beings punch, and most of the force in that is upper body and shoulder, and so a woman is no match for a man in a fight. She has every reason to be nervous, especially when you add to that her additional sexual vulnerability and the fact that she has to take care of extraordinarily dependent infants, who are extremely fragile for a very long period of time. And women are more self-conscious than men. The empirical literature on that is clear. It’s associated with trait neuroticism, because self-consciousness is actually an unpleasant emotion. Who wants to be self-conscious? If I'm self-conscious on the stage while I’m talking to you, then all of a sudden I can't even talk to you. All I'm doing is thinking about me and all the things that are wrong with me, and I fall inside myself. Self-consciousness, although it’s a great gift, is nothing pleasant. It’s associated, primarily, with anxiety."
"6,000 years ago around 95% of all male lineages died out." such a proposed consciousness dimorphism may not be sex chromosome linked directly though, this would possibly confound falsification if not allowed for, it would answer the question that basically women choose men who did more than grunt