Out of Eden, Part Four — Secondary Altriciality and the Origins of Culture: Why We Can’t Get No Satisfaction and What It Has to Do With Being Born Helpless

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Human Nature, Culture, Pelvic Size, and Plato’s Cave: Needs Which We as Newborns Ache to Fulfill Are Satisfied by Other Species Perfectly adam_and_eve

Secondary Altriciality and Culture

Let us now add another factor to this development of supposed intelligence and culture. Let us talk about the consequences of secondary altriciality.  As I said, altricial means humans are born helpless. We would die if not cared for. Secondary altriciality of humans, and only humans, means our brains and consequent functioning are even less advanced than other species at birth. We are, in essence, born premature relative to other species.

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So, the consequence of secondary altriciality is that the newborn requires a period after birth of getting its needs satisfied in the same complete way as it did prior to that in the womb. This is a characteristic of Homo sapiens. It is another one of those very few things that definitively distinguishes us from all other species known. That is, the human infant is in a more dependent state, when born, than any other species, when its young is born. The human infant at birth in terms of its degree of development, is at a level corresponding to that at which, in every other mammal, it would still be in the womb.  In other words, we are born, comparatively, “premature.”

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By comparison, all other mammals, when born, are more able to provide for themselves, are further along in their development toward independence when born, are more capable of bringing about or at least initiating the satisfaction of their needs . . . hence they are less dependent, and vulnerable, than are human infants.

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Why We Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Secondary altriciality in human infants means that there is a greater need for care, for “mothering” — because of the newborn’s greater helplessness, greater dependence, greater vulnerability — than that of all other mammals postnatally. But even the best mothering cannot be as perfect in satisfying the infant’s biological needs as was the situation for it in the womb. Hence, there is going to be a gap between need and fulfillment inherent in this prematurity, an inherent frustration of need to at least some extent, and, hence, inherently an increase of at least some amount, in the degree of pain suffered by the newborn and infant in the nonsatisfaction or incomplete satisfaction of its biological needs.

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But secondary altriciality is important in another respect.  Since this phase represents a dependent phase that corresponds to phases that occur to other species en utero — this leaves Homo sapiens vulnerable to neurosis and mental illness (its roots in the pain of unmet biological need) to an extent unprecedented, in any other species . . . hence also contributing to increased brain size, increased secondary altriciality, and so forth in the way discussed above for birth. Thus, we have another vicious cycle, again with “fevered” brains and culture the byproduct.

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Pelvic Size

In this light it is interesting to point out that Moore (1987) presented evidence of the significantly larger pelvic size in our ancestral line of hominids which would have either (1) allowed for a gestation period of up to twelve months or (2) allowed for an exceptionally easy birth — the increased brain size being much more readily passed through a larger opening.  Either of these propositions, or a combination, is provocative in light of the above.

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In other words, we can speculate that either (1) increased pelvic size in females was naturally selected for as brain size became larger, so as to minimize the deleterious effects of painful birth (as in creating neurosis in the adult, hence reduced reproductive fitness) or (2) gestation period was prolonged, with increasing brain size, to minimize the deleterious effects of imperfectly met biological needs which are a consequence of secondary altriciality.

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In this second instance, the disadvantages of secondary altriciality are lack of precociousness in the infant, requiring an increase in maternal care after birth and reducing the economic potential of the female during that period.  But it logically follows that there is a limit to which gestation can be prolonged without itself becoming an economic disadvantage to the female — certainly the proposed gestation period of two years, twenty-one months to be exact, for full precociousness at the level we see in nonhuman primates would be a substantial economic hardship on the female. Thus it would be selected against, in evolutionary terms.

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Human Nature

Therefore, we may speculate that a combination of these factors resulted in a compensatory system where the fact of increasing brain size is eventually resolved, to date, by a comparatively reduced gestation period accompanied by increased need for child care after birth, increased need for economic dependency overall (both during and after gestation) by the female, increased need for male parental investment in providing for both female and child, and increased birth pain correlating with increased cultural development to offset or mitigate the effects of birth pain (See Fromm, 1955, on culture as providing the neurosis as well as the “opiates” to deal with such).

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The net effect is a species with prolonged child care, increased tendency toward single-family units, increased brain size, greater cultural elaboration, increased birth pain for the neonate, increased “intelligence,” and increased neurotic and psychotic behavior (thus idiosyncratic and variable behavior) which requires further cultural accommodation, hence cultural elaboration — all evolving simultaneously, interrelating and mutually reinforcing each other.  All in all, with these considerations, we have the basic factors which outline our distinctive human nature — that is, which constitute (for good or ill) our fundamental distinctions from other species.

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The Result: Plato’s Cave

At any rate, the point is that viewing it either psychologically or historically, it can be said that the Fall from Grace in Eden is such that ever afterwards humans are indirectly related to God and Nature. By this I mean they are indirectly related to the processes of reality of either the physical or metaphysical (including their own inner life, their subjectivity) sort.  They have turned their back on the beneficence of God, or Nature, and seek to go it on their own, to control Nature, to focus on survival. In that they are focused now on the world, they can see only a reflection of the Divine. They are confusing the map and the territory.

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And in that reflection they seek to discern God’s will. In those shadows they seek to understand Truth.

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To Be Continued with Primal Return, Chapter Two: Isaac’s Eyes

Return to Birth Pain Causes a Feverish Human Mind, Struggling Against Nature and the Divine, Which We Call “Intelligence”: Out of Eden, Part Three — Birth, “Intelligence,” and Culture

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Chapter One, Out of Eden, References

Adzema, Michael. (1985). A primal perspective on spirituality. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 25(3), 83-116.

Baba, Sathya Sai. (1984). Sathya Sai Speaks: Volume IV. Tustin, CA: Sathya Sai Book Center of America.

Baba, Sathya Sai. (1991). Sanatha Sarathi, November, 295.

Bird-David, Nurit. (1992). Beyond “the original affluent society”: A culturalist reformulation. Current Anthropology, 33(1), 25-47.

Buck, Sharon. (2011). The evolutionary history of the modern birth. Totem: The University of Western Ontario Journal of Anthropology, 19(Iss. 1, Art 7), 80-92. Available at: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/totem/vol19/iss1/7

Chamberlain, David. (1988). Children Remember Birth. New York: Ballantine.

Farrant, Graham. (1987). Cellular consciousness. Aesthema: The Journal of the International Primal Association, No.7, 28-39.

French, Marilyn. (1985). Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals. New York: Ballantine Books.

Fromm, Erich. (1955). The Sane Society. Greenwich, CN: Fawcett.

Grof, Stanislav. (1976). Realms of the Human Unconscious. New York: Dutton.

Grof, Stanislav. (1985). Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death and Transcendence in Psychotherapy. Albany, NY: SUNY.

Grof, Stanislav. (1988). The Adventure of Self-Discovery: Dimensions of Consciousness and Mew Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Inner Exploration. Albany, NY: SUNY.

Hannig, Paul. (1982). Feeling People: A Revolutionary Concept in Therapy, Lifestyle and Human Contact. Winter Park, FL: Anna Publishing Inc.

Janov, Arthur. (1971). The Anatomy of Mental Illness. Berkeley: Medallion.

Janov, Arthur. (1983). Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience. New York: Coward-McCann.

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Kuhn, Thomas S. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lake, Frank. (1981). Tight Corners in Pastoral Counseling. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Mahler, Margaret S.; Pine, Fred; & Bergman, Anni. (1975). The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant. New York: Basic Books.

Moore, James. (1987). Colloquium presentation, 16 November 1987. Department of Anthropology, University of California/ San Diego, La Jolla, CA.

Peoples, Karen M. and Parlee, Bert. (1991). The ego revisited: Understanding and transcending narcissism. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 31(4), 32-52.

Sahlins, Marshall. (1972). Stone Age Economics. London: Tavistock.

Skibbins, David W. (1991). Letter to the editor. The Quest, 4(3), 5.

Sroufe, L. Alan; Cooper Robert G.; & DeHart, Ganie B. (1992). Child Development: Its Nature and Course. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Turnbull, Colin M. (1961). The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Verny, Thomas, and Kelly, John. (1981). The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. New York: Dell.

Yogananda, Paramahansa. (1946). Autobiography of a Yogi. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.

To Be Continued with Primal Return, Chapter Two: Isaac’s Eyes

Return to Birth Pain Causes a Feverish Human Mind, Struggling Against Nature and the Divine, Which We Call “Intelligence”: Out of Eden, Part Three — Birth, “Intelligence,” and Culture

For an Overview and Links to Other Parts of This Work-in-Progress, Go to Prodigal Human: The Descent of Man

Falls from Grace: The Devolution and Revolution of Consciousness – Michael’s latest book – is now available in print and e-book formats.

at http://www.amazon.com/Falls-Grace-Devolution-Revolution-Consciousness/dp/1499297998/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1400787010&sr=1-3

Planetmates: The Great Reveal is also available in print and e-book format. at https://www.createspace.com/4691119

and at Amazon at

http://www.amazon.com/Planetmates-Great-Reveal-Return-Grace/dp/1496083326/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399084684&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+adzema

To purchase any of Michael Adzema’s books, available in print and e-book formats, go to Michael Adzema’s books at Amazon.

To purchase a signed copy of any of my books, email me at sillymickel@gmail.com … Discount for blog subscribers.

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About sillymickel

Activist, psychotherapist, pre- and perinatal psychologist, author, and environmentalist. I seek to inspire others to our deeper, more natural consciousness, to a primal, more delightful spirituality, and to taking up the cause of saving life on this planet, as motivated by love.

Posted on June 10, 2014, in Anthropology, authenticity, being yourself, Birth, Child Abuse, Consciousness, Environmentalism, Evolution, God, individualism, life, meaning, Metaphysics, Mystical, nonconform, Philosophy, Primal Spirit, Primal Spirituality, Psychology, Religion, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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