Evo-Devo and the Post-Postmodern Synthesis: What Does Integral Have to Offer?

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evodevo

Editor's Intro [Chris]:  This essay is an in-depth, highly sophisticated examination of the use and meaning of the term evolution in post-postmodern philosophy of science and how integral thought to date measures up (or perhaps doesn't) to this research.  It's a major contribution and I thank Bonnitta for it. It is however for those interested in serious theoretical issues--in other words this piece isn't for a general audience.   

Introduction

 

I am currently working on an article about epistemic challenges to evolutionary theory, and it seemed timely to receive an invitation from Chris Dierkes to contribute to the ongoing discussion here at beamsandstruts on evolution.  More specifically for this audience, I am addressing the question of what does integral have to offer to evolutionary theory as it moves into its post- postmodern phase.

The various new approaches to evolutionary thinking I am researching, are post-postmodern in the sense that the theorists are themselves aware that a theory of evolution is both created within and constrained by the epistemic, conceptual framework any particular theory is working from. These new approaches to evolutionary theory are part of a larger new inquiry into science studies in the wake of the postmodern assessment of scientific reason. There is, for example, a number of Philosophers of Science who are trying to define a “naturalistic turn” that would serve as a post postmodern re­-construction of science. This, too, requires inquiry into various conceptual assumptions and frameworks that have become embedded in the scientific world-view, as well as some delicious thinking about entirely new conceptual tools with which to approach science. Evolutionary theory is reaping exciting benefits from this “naturalistic turn” in particular, through an emerging field of theory and research that is attempting a grand synthesis of evolution and development, called Evo-Devo.

It is easy to recognize Evo-Devo’s naturalistic turn in Dr. Richard Lewontin’s words quoted in Integrating Evolution and Development.[1]

 All sciences, especially biology, have depended on dominant metaphors to inform their theoretical structures and to suggest directions in which the science can expand and connect with other domains of inquiry. Science cannot be conducted without metaphors. Yet, at the same time, these metaphors hold science in an eternal grip and prevent us from taking directions and solving problems that lie outside their scope. p. 37

The epistemic challenge for a naturalized science of Evo-Devo is, as Werner Callebaut notes in the same book

Theoretical perspectives coordinate models and phenomena; such coordination is necessary because phenomena are complex, or scientific interests in them are heterogeneous, and the number of possible ways of representing them in models is too large. Adequate theorizing may require a variety of perspectives and models—a point worth keeping in mind in discussing what the “right” account of evo-devo is. p.38

One primary candidates for an adequate account is Susan Oyama’s developmental systems theory. Oyama is both a psychologist and philosopher of science, and her work The Ontogeny of Information: Developmental Systems and Evolution, is regarded as the foundational text in the field. Evan Thompson’s enactive approach attempts to carry DST (developmental systems theory) forward by interweaving through it a theory of the phenomenology of autopoeitic systems.

Not surprisingly, given its postmodern sensibilities, the naturalistic turn in science has also embarked on a re-conceptualization of socio-cultural evolution. There is an interesting twist here in which the notion of socio-cultural evolution is being extended “back” into biological evolutionary theory by asking new questions about the “fundamental unit of evolution,” The answer it seems, may turn out to look more like socio-cultural adaptation and its relatedness to the environment, than any current theory based on a combination of genetic and epigenetic forces and natural selection processes in the environment.

Again, in Lewontin’s words,

Any theory of the evolution of human life which begins with what are said to be individual biological constraints on individuals, and tries to create a picture of society as the sum of those constraints, misses what is really essential about the social environment, which is that in moving from the individual to the social level we actually change the properties of objects at the lower level. This whole problem of levels of explanation, of levels of evolution, of levels of action, is one of the deepest ones with which we have to deal in our understanding not only of sociobiology, but of evolution in general.[2]

I hope this short introduction to my research gives you a taste of how exciting these times are for evolutionary and developmental theory as well as for philosophers who are looking at the activity from a meta-theoretical level.

 

What does Integral Have to Offer?

Evolution, development, meta-theory and a post postmodern synthesis – one might hope that Integral Theory would have the capacity to lead the discourse. Sadly, Integral Theory comes nowhere near the level of scholarship in these fields. Worse, I see a kind of hubris in the integral community when it comes to thinking about BIG IDEAS like evolution and development. More than a few people identified with “integral” deploy simplistic concepts and overtly simplified generalizations and then stake out gigantean claims such as evolutionary imperatives, cultural evolution, the evolution of consciousness, and Kosmic development. Notions such as these have become tag lines for a kind of mainstream integral cultural groove – not because they are founded on quality research or scholarship, but because they create compelling “feel good” narratives for a generation that seems to have been starved from epistemic satisfaction. My friend and colleague, Tom Murray identifies “epistemic drives” as the phenomenology of satisfaction (a hit of dopamine, perhaps?) that the body-mind receives from enjoying grand unifying notions and elegant models conveying beautiful images that resonate with a particular epistemic desire.

As Callebaut cautions,

.. we must ask to what extent the close links that are often suggested between specific theoretical notions and specific metalevel views are really robust or even inevitable or rather the result of the contingencies of one’s scientific and philosophical education, social background, or standing. The question is important because as, for example, Maienschein has shown, “epistemology (can) actually … drive the science.” [3]

Epistemically pleasing, or narratively compelling visual as well as conceptual images that are particularly apt to engender intelligibility to a broader, more mainstream public, because they show “how possibly, or how plausibly” rather than how actually, things work, “must not be confounded with the correctness of an explanation.” And because “intelligibility typically evokes emotions, which may act as positive motivators,” such examplars “often will convince us even if, as shorthands for explanations, they are misleading.[4]

One such overused exemplar of mainstream integral theory, is the notion of transcend-and-include and the holarchical organization that results from it. When “transcend-and-include” describes a dynamic, it is describing a simple, linear dynamic that creates nested sets of levels that are related in simple linear ways. If instead of associating the term “integral” with a set of exemplary beliefs and the community wit large that promote them, we identify the adjective “integral” in “Integral Theory” as pertaining to a level of cognitive abstraction, also known as meta-systematic [5], then no theory that entails simple, linear transcend-and-include dynamics can pass the test; and certainly none of the BIG IDEAS about evolution and development can be addressed in terms of simple linear dynamics. This holistic, holarchical world-view that is engendered by the linear forces of transcend-and-include dynamics, is neither postmodern nor modern, but harkens back to the pre-modern notions of the perennial philosophies.

Consider, for example, someone who is generally thought of as a “founding father” of mainstream integral – Teilhard de Chardin. Through his writing, he gives us a very good picture of what happens when a premodern worldview attempts to integrate a modern theory like evolution. As a devout Jesuit, Teilhard’s worldview was steeped in Christian eschatology. We could say he had a strong epistemic drive to “see” or “reason into” evolutionary change, a strong, spiritual purposiveness. That same epistemic drive persists in mainstream integral today – which tends to over-emphasize Teilhard’s notion of the evolutionary Omega point, while disregarding the counter-balancing aspects of his thought. The truth is, the notion of progress is a non-empirical value – and poses a significant epistemic challenge to evolutionary theory and its modern syntheses.

In the book Taking the Naturalistic Turn, Callebaut cautions “there is nothing in the basic structure of the theory of natural selection that would suggest the idea of any kind of cumulative progress” (p 468) and quoting Julian Huxley (the man who actually coined the term “holon”) adds:

[A]fter the disillusionment of the early twentieth century it has become fashionable to deny the existence of progress and to brand the idea of it as a human illusion, as it was fashionable in the optimism of the twentieth century to proclaim not only its existence but its inevitability… p. 469

Michael Ruse explains the problem

… non-cognitive or non-whatever-you-want-to-call-it-values are very important in what drives science. Evolutionary theory in particular has in its history been one of grappling with the notion of progress. It is no exaggeration to say that the science is a mere epiphenomenon of human hopes of social progress. I don’t mean that every evolutionist working on every problem has been thinking about it, but it permeates the theory.

In a similar vein, Zachary Stein (in my estimation one of the most scholarly integral people) has highlighted the normative assumptions that permeate integral theory in general, and developmental theory in particular.[6]

Still, Teilhard’s own work on evolutionary theory deserves a closer look. I will narrate his story through a series of diagrams.

A holarchy can be represented as a set of nested levels as in the following diagram. You can see from the series labeled “Christianity” that this worldview would have been consistent with the kind of eschatology that Teilhard was exposed to as a Jesuit priest.

 

great chain

But Teilhard was also an avid student of evolutionary theory – the workings of which create entirely different kinds of organization, and can not be represented as nested sets, but need to illustrate diverse and discontinuous form branching from a kind of evolutionary tree, as Darwin sketched in his own notebooks:


Just how accurate Darwin’s insights were can be seen by comparing his early sketch with a modern schematic of the distribution of phylogenetic families:

phylogenetic tree

What is noteworthy about these diagrams is that evolution produces discrete categories that are cotemporaneously discontinuous across evolutionary lines. What intrigued Teilhard was the phenomenon of “radiation” – which can be seen as the “bursts of forms” that radiate from the “nodes” representing foundational ancestors. As Teilhard envisioned it, the primary cause of the variety and diversity found in nature, was this “radial force” – a notion that is strongly visualized in this computer-generated hyper-graph of actual evolutionary processes seen in bacteria in a laboratory setting. You can literally see the forms arranged in families of Types, as they “radially burst forth” from common nodes.

Teilhard1 

Teilhard himself sketched his ideas about radial forces driving evolutionary processes in the following ways. You can see both how some original branches from the early fan-like period, are culled, to produce a dominant foundational ancestor, which in turn “radiates” other foundational ancestors, which themselves produce radial bursts of descendent forms. The twin processes of divergent radial production and natural selection was for Teilhard, the primary engine of evolution for all phylogenetic forms, including the human.

teilhard2

With respect to the noophere, however Teilhard envisioned a different dynamic altogether. The essential force of the noosphere, he reasoned, was convergent and therefore “tangential” – as sketched in the following:

teilhard4

There was something, Teilhard thought, about the human condition, which was like a flourishing or flowering toward an omega point. Starting from the Neolithic period to the present, Teilhard crossed-hatched the “social zone” (between 10 and 0, present day) as the defining characteristic of human evolution. There is an interesting correspondence to this and Lewontin’s statement above about the essential nature of evolution in the social environment “which is that in moving from the individual to the social level we actually change the properties of objects at the lower level.”

One of Teilhard’s full depiction of evolutionary dynamics looks like this:

teilhardfull

This does not tell a simple story, but represents a complex theoretical inquiry into the nature of change through time. Only when we see one of Teilhard’s final illustrations, does his story of radial and tangential forces come into full view for the postmodern mindset:

teilhardradiation

To me, this one illustration reveals the essential piece of the story Teilhard could not have had, because it is a postmodern epistemic tool – the notion of a self-organizing system. Only if instead of a bounded sphere that posits a single omega point “directing” the tangential forces, we conceive of an unbounded whole, like the universe itself expanding and enfolding in a complex, self-organizing fashion, we can derive both the apparent radial and tangential forces that Teilhard conceived, and invite Teilhard into the post-postmodern synthesis.

Which brings me to the question of where does integral theory fit in this post-postmodern synthesis? EDU (Evo-Devo Universe) describes itself as:

a scholarly research community exploring how our understanding of the universe as a complex system might be augmented by insights from information and computation studies, evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) biology, and hypotheses and models of quasi-evolutionary and quasi-developmental process applied at universal and subsystem scales 

According to that definition, then “integral theory” via Ken Wilber and Erwin Laszlo, is identified as a “devology” or “universal evolutionary development” – that is, primarily concerned with describing both evolution and development at a universal scale, with the addition of accelerating hierarchical complexity in the universal, biological and human-historical record – and states that “many of our synthetic models remain less well-grounded than modern science demands.”

This is of great concern to someone like me who identifies with “integral theory” but not with less-well grounded ideas like devology. Integral theory is interested in both development and evolution, but without rigorous distinctions and adequate epistemic tools, integral will continue to fail to make the grade. I have shared just one simple story of how an overly simplistic dynamic can trump more sophisticated scholarship in the integral community. There are several more, equally important epistemic challenges facing integral theory today, including the sloppy conflation of developmental processes with evolutionary ones, such as Spiral Dynamic’s (inappropriate) appropriation of Graves’ theory of individual cognitive development onto a narrative of socio-cultural evolution. Once again, the post postmodern scientists and naturalistic philosophers are leading the way forward, and integral is lagging behind. But that story awaits another invitation.

--

[1] Sansom & Brandon (2007) Integrating Evolution and Development. MIT Press

[2] Richard Lewontin from Callebaut (1993) Taking the Naturalistic Turn U. Chicago Press. p.255

[3] Callebaut, Muller and Stuart from Sansom & Brandon (2007) Integrating Evolution and Development. MIT Press p. 39

[4] ibid

[5] This is consistent with the definition of “integral level” in cognitive-developmental theories such as Torbert, Cook-Greuter, and Fisher

[6] . See for example his article On the Normative Functions of Metatheoretical Endeavors at Integral Review:  http://integral-review.org/current_issue/metatheory-issue_index.asp

  

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6 comments

  • Comment Link Vanessa Fisher Tuesday, 07 December 2010 06:55 posted by Vanessa Fisher

    Great article, Bonnitta! I really appreciate that you are teasing these nuances and distinctions apart...

    I feel like Jean Gebser's work is a nice insight into some of these issues. I haven't read a ton of his work (and you are more of an expert on him than I), but it seems that his notion of the integral structure of consciousness and his deployment of the arational is quite different than the more straightforwardly linear perspectives on evolution that have taken hold in the integral community.

    I too have felt concerns and questions about this, as I think the standard narrative in integral circles can come off with a more simplistic modernist flavor (and as you say, even pre-modern flavor) that often lacks a solid integration of the insights of postmodern critique in a healthy way that would take it to the next level of truly post-post modern synthesis... I sometimes feel this results in a kind of "hope projection" about the theory and about human development that doesn't feel totally substantiated or grounded in reality.

    Do you have any thoughts around how Gebser's view might help with this? I know you are quite involved in his work and I'd be curious to get your perspective...

    Anyways, all very interesting and good food for thought.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Tuesday, 07 December 2010 21:56 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Hey Vanessa!
    Nice to be able to converse in this space (thanks Chris) .

    Post-hoc I wanted to make the distinction between the value of a compelling narrative - how it can serve the community, how it can be a source of richness for the community -- and how we as a community hold those narratives/beliefs. Versus how we engage inquiry at a higher level (meta-systematic, paradigmatic, meta-paradigmatic) of discourse. To keep both those and hold them in the right spaces/ places.

    But yes, there are similar problems with how mainstream integral translates Gebser. I am hoping to write a sequel to outline some of this with respect to cultural evolution and structures of consciousness -- as seen by Gebser versus spiral dynamics, for example.

    Thanks for the headsup. I guess I should go to work on that!

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Thursday, 30 December 2010 04:43 posted by Bergen Vermette

    Great essay Bonnitta, thanks so much for joining us on the site. There's a bunch of ideas I want to respond to:

    1. "The answer it seems, may turn out to look more like socio-cultural adaptation and its relatedness to the environment, than any current theory based on a combination of genetic and epigenetic forces and natural selection processes in the environment."

    This is very interesting. Are you saying that the socio-cultural components of an organism (say, its interactions with herd, family, clan, nation, etc.) contribute to the biological evolution of that organism? I’ve previously only thought of biological evolution as a physical event, but this addition makes sense. I guess it also lends credence to Wilber’s assertion that all phenomena (including the evolution of an organism) ‘arise across 4 quadrants’. Do biologists agree with this?

    2. "If instead of associating the term “integral” with a set of exemplary beliefs and the community wit large that promote them, we identify the adjective “integral” in “Integral Theory” as pertaining to a level of cognitive abstraction, also known as meta-systematic [5], then no theory that entails simple, linear transcend-and-include dynamics can pass the test; and certainly none of the BIG IDEAS about evolution and development can be addressed in terms of simple linear dynamics."

    Touché! Well argued Bonnita.

    3. "My friend and colleague, Tom Murray identifies “epistemic drives” as the phenomenology of satisfaction (a hit of dopamine, perhaps?) that the body-mind receives from enjoying grand unifying notions and elegant models conveying beautiful images that resonate with a particular epistemic desire."

    I find this assertion particularly compelling. It’s something I’ve been intuiting for some time but haven’t had a deep enough understanding of to begin putting words to it. So glad you’re able to. In particular I feel that we (those interested in Integral theory in particular, and those raised in the West in general) actually have a deeply held teleological view of history and cultural change, more so than we might realize. I happen to believe that much of this belief is well founded.

    However, as I think you and Murray are suggesting, we may get into trouble by haphazardly extending a simplified sense of telos into all areas of life and culture, which, instead of encouraging proper research and debate, may just make us feel satisfied that everything ‘fits together’ and makes sense. It’s a really subtle point, but that feeling of a ‘dopamine hit’ is there for sure when we succeed in moulding an idea/observation to fit our existing worldview. It’s as though our way of seeing the world becomes ‘right’ and we are ‘confirmed’. Everything works out and we don’t need to consider it further. Yep, it feels pretty good. But it may also prevent us from further investigation and nuanced understanding.

    I’m going to write up full article to respond to this point a bit more, it should be up in a few days. I’ll post a link here when it’s up. ☺


    4. "The truth is, the notion of progress is a non-empirical value – and poses a significant epistemic challenge to evolutionary theory and its modern syntheses."

    This point seems important, but I’m not sure I follow you entirely. Could you please say more on it.

    5. "There are several more, equally important epistemic challenges facing integral theory today, including the sloppy conflation of developmental processes with evolutionary ones, such as Spiral Dynamic’s (inappropriate) appropriation of Graves’ theory of individual cognitive development onto a narrative of socio-cultural evolution. Once again, the post postmodern scientists and naturalistic philosophers are leading the way forward, and integral is lagging behind. But that story awaits another invitation."

    Looking forward to this piece Bonnita. As someone interested in community development at the local and national levels, I feel some trepidation around conflating individual developmental models with socio-cultural ones. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Sunday, 09 January 2011 21:21 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Bergen,
    These are all really good questions. I am happy for the discussion.

    1. "The answer it seems, may turn out to look more like socio-cultural adaptation and its relatedness to the environment, than any current theory based on a combination of genetic and epigenetic forces and natural selection processes in the environment."

    Bergen: This is very interesting. Are you saying that the socio-cultural components of an organism (say, its interactions with herd, family, clan, nation, etc.) contribute to the biological evolution of that organism? I’ve previously only thought of biological evolution as a physical event, but this addition makes sense. I guess it also lends credence to Wilber’s assertion that all phenomena (including the evolution of an organism) ‘arise across 4 quadrants’. Do biologists agree with this?

    Bonnie : I guess that was a kind of “teaser” sentence. Of the many anomalies in evolutionary theory that is of particular interest to the evo-devo group, is the period of pre-mendelian evolution in single cell organisms. They didn’t just exist in their “soup” like Brownian particles, they combined together to create actual discrete species, without genetic exchange. By doing so, they could inhabit different niches, exploit new niches, and resist environmental change. Now this is something that we see in embryological development. All the cells have the same DNA, but they respond (“somehow”) by aggregating in “collectives” that are called modules that are responsible for different embryological ends (laying down different body parts for example). Since there doesn’t seem to be any over-arching “controller” to the process, it may be the case that these cells are responding to environmental cues, like the cells in the pre-mendelian soup. That extends the notion of development beyond the embryo, and to a certain extent, even beyond the mother’s body. These larger fields are being considered as a “developmental modalities”; and the hypothesis is that it is these “developmental modalities” that evolve.



    3. "My friend and colleague, Tom Murray identifies “epistemic drives” as the phenomenology of satisfaction (a hit of dopamine, perhaps?) that the body-mind receives from enjoying grand unifying notions and elegant models conveying beautiful images that resonate with a particular epistemic desire."

    Bergen: I find this assertion particularly compelling. It’s something I’ve been intuiting for some time but haven’t had a deep enough understanding of to begin putting words to it. So glad you’re able to. In particular I feel that we (those interested in Integral theory in particular, and those raised in the West in general) actually have a deeply held teleological view of history and cultural change, more so than we might realize. I happen to believe that much of this belief is well founded.

    However, as I think you and Murray are suggesting, we may get into trouble by haphazardly extending a simplified sense of telos into all areas of life and culture, which, instead of encouraging proper research and debate, may just make us feel satisfied that everything ‘fits together’ and makes sense. It’s a really subtle point, but that feeling of a ‘dopamine hit’ is there for sure when we succeed in moulding an idea/observation to fit our existing worldview. It’s as though our way of seeing the world becomes ‘right’ and we are ‘confirmed’. Everything works out and we don’t need to consider it further. Yep, it feels pretty good. But it may also prevent us from further investigation and nuanced understanding.

    Bonnie : This is a big topic. And I bring it up because for me, this is where integral can indeed lead. Before I read Wilber or any “eastern metaphysics” and before I met others who did, I spent 10 years on a theory called “Telos” (coming out of Schopenhauer and Whitehead) – the goal of which was to explain the “apparent teleology” in the universe. Now, obviously we can’t get into all that here, but I bring it up to share that I agree this is an important and compelling narrative. And I am happy that you agree that it deserves close examination. I know for me this kind of koan was a portal to some pretty intense transpersonal and spiritual experiences. I was fortunate that the first book I read in response to these experiences was Trungpa’s “Cutting through Spirital Materialism” – as he seemed to save me from all that trail and error before I could even get started! Now that I have “been around” these communities for a while, I am forever deeply grateful for having read Trungpa – and continue to find gems in his other works today.

    My own basic feeling about this is that there is deep purposiveness embedded in the universe. In “Mind in Life” Evan Thompson talks about the fundamental structure of this purposiveness at the scale of the cellular organism, and then, by extension, to all life, including the life of the mind. This fundamental structure is autopoeitic enfoldment (interior and exterior co-enact) It doesn’t take a lot of philosophical moves to work from this notion, combine it with deep interdependent connectivity, to see that the system self- coheres. This coherence, I believe, even though it is enacted at all scales and spontaneously arises, is what we experience intuitively as a telos or a trajectory.
    This is a more nuanced understanding, that does not make the mistake of misplacing the “concreteness” of interacting, co-interdependent auto-poetic mutually-enfolding structures across all scales onto something like a reified concept of a “concrete” directionality or intentionality, or omega point. In my opinion (an opinion of one). I am certainly also interested in yours!


    4. "The truth is, the notion of progress is a non-empirical value – and poses a significant epistemic challenge to evolutionary theory and its modern syntheses."

    BR : The notion of progress is a value judgement and for anyone inside the system, it is always a relative judgement. But there is no one outside of “reality” to make that kind of context-transcendent judgement. For example, using a simplistic materialistic example, if I were a being very far away, looking at our solar system, I wouldn’t see any resource wars, since if I measured energy and matter, I would be that nothing is lost, nothing is gained – the sum total of things would not vary.
    The problem with talking about “progress” from a post postmodern standpoint, is that there is a shadow element to it – there is the part that is being privileged over the whole – but there is the shadow of the part that is being degraded. .Gebser saw the notion of “progress” as a sign of the pathology of late-stage rational. – But that is part of the next story I’d like to tell.

    Much thanks for this opening to these topics that are important!! Looking forward to carrying forward this level of discourse.

  • Comment Link Bergen Vermette Monday, 24 January 2011 05:41 posted by Bergen Vermette

    Hi Bonnita,

    Sorry for the slow reply on this end, I meant to post a full response instead, and that is still on the way. However, due to other engagements I've had to keep delaying the final draft, and now it probably won't be up for another month or so.

    In the meantime I didn't want to leave you hanging here and also wanted to say that I was super glad to hear that you've been investigating telos for a decade or more!

    In all honesty, your piece here sent me into three full days of philosophical tailspin around the current conception I hold of telos and culture's conception of it at large. To say it threw me for a loop would be an understatement - so thanks for that :)

    I'm really looking forward to digging more deeply into this topic on the site and hope we can have a generative exchange around it. I will post the telos piece as soon as I can.

    Thanks again!

  • Comment Link Jennifer Grove Thursday, 17 March 2011 06:44 posted by Jennifer Grove

    Holy crap! This is exciting! Almost as exciting as the first time I saw "The Matrix".

    I love it when something shakes the can of categories in my head and forces them to all spill their contents and get all broken up.

    I'm getting the hint that the SD model is poo-poo'd here and I'm okay with that. I'm still hearing some language in regards to cognitive development levels which I am less familiar with because I have a hard time with the reading and I don't have alot of access. The SD model is all over the interweb. "Evolution" still seems to be an acceptable narrative and that's okay with me too.

    But what feels new is the promise of a more elegant way to hold or integrate all the bits while at the same time making a new set of differentiations. For me, anyways. I am in a foreign country and must learn a new language in a particular dialect. But I can't do a bunch of reading. I have to pick it up by being in conversation with all y'all. That's the only way I can do it.

    I hope that I can read this completely. I don't know if I can, but I'll try. If I shoot out some questions while I get thru it, will you guys help answer them for me?

    ~J

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