"Aposyndesis," from Greek "bound together away from," refers to the study of instinctive behaviors that bind people together in groups away from other groups and also to a search for the evolutionary origins of those behaviors.
Aposyndetic behaviors include those of religion and politics and war. The behaviors of aposyndesis spring from instincts that are millions of years old and that operate down to levels deep below our conscious minds.
Through much of 2016 to now, a great many people in the USA drew themselves up into two increasingly hostile political camps. One could hear, from each, an "aposymphonic chorus" self-organizing itself as it berated the other. Each group developed shibboleths by which members of that group identified themselves as such and each came to recognize markers by which members of that other group gave themselves away as such.
In each, some otherwise intelligent members seriously regarded members of the other group as insane, or stupid, or immoral.
This act of societal division illustrates the hypothesis that there are instincts of aposyndesis by which a potential congregation self-organizes itself -- as mechanistically as a swarm of locusts or a swarm of robots, each operating its copy of the same program but on its own data.
There are species of animals, including humans, that survive by living in groups.
Some animals live in groups that persist for generations. But
A group can die of disease, famine, fire, flood, war, ...
Since, sooner or later, a group of a social species must die, how can there continue to exist groups of that species? We conclude that
Social Fission Hypothesis: We speculate that after hundreds of millions of years of selection-pressure,
instincts exist that, under suitable-enough conditions, guide the reproduction of the group.We will try to begin to figure out how, in humans, such instincts might have worked before agriculture and how they might manifest themselves today.
Aposyndetic: "apo sin DEH tic" was coined by Texas mathematician F. Burton Jones, whom I heard explain is to be interpreted as
Here Aposyndesis is used to refer to natural processes, and also to the study of those processes, that, in some species of animals, bind members of one group together, away from or against members of one or more other groups.
Aposyndesis can be thought of as involving the contest of groups for access to resources (e.g. via defense and conquest of territory) that enhance the reproduction of genes.
Here are some assumptions I make about the human mind, some of which might be new, even questionable, to you:
"Instincts" involve behaviors. I assume that every animal (and every etho-robotic agent) has, at every instant, a set of potential acts (perhaps thousands of them) that it might do next. Each of these acts has these three parts: a behavior, a motivation, and a releasing stimulus. For each potential act B, there is Urge(B) which is derived from internal factors such as Motivation(B) and external factors such as Stimulus(B), a measure of the "strength" or relevance of existing stimuli. Urge(B) might be the product Motivation(B)*Stimulus(B) plus some other quantities.
During the 1960s, I saw events suggesting that, episodically, teenagers in a society would be gathering into large groups and would become increasingly rowdy as weeks passed. Historically, such gatherings would take place in social "movements" but also, it seemed, in preludes to war. It seemed probable that these periods of fomentation occurred when the population density of males, approximately aged 15 through 35, was higher than during calmer periods. I wondered how one could gather relevant data on demographics, percentages of people of various ages, preceding various wars. I also wondered what sense, in terms of evolution, there might be to such disruptive, even destructive behavior. Did signals relating to population density set off some instinctive mechanism of social behavior? What are the components of the mechanism: behaviors, releasing stimuli, and motivations?
Hypothesis: A civil war is more likely as the density of adolescent males is higher.
What sensory inputs, possibly sensitive to density-of-adolescent-males,
begins the chain of events that can lead to a civil war?
When, before 1975, I first began to think of social instincts and the evolution of groups, the concept of instinct was frowned upon in many American universities where much of the research into the behavior of animals was conducted. European "ethologists" led me away from that frowning crowd. Honey bees were a favorite topic.
Observers of bees reported that their tiny brains encode instinctive mechanisms resulting in several distinct roles that can be played by a worker bee in the course of her life. Contrary to prevailing fashion, I reasoned that the much larger brains of humans might hold hundreds of instincts that can be activated, or not, in the course of one's life. Most human instincts are not noticed as such. Consider the eyebrow flash. Often, when you come upon a friend you rapidly raise and lower your eyebrows before you smile. You instinctively, unconsciously, emit a signal. Your friend, just as instinctively and without conscious awareness of the flash of your eyebrows, reacts both with internal emotion and external smile. The changed emotions change the Motivation(B) and change the liklihood, up or down, of those various possible subsequent acts, B, of interaction.
Unconscious Instinctive Motivation. It has seemed to me that humans are unconscious of many of their behaviors and unconscious of instinctive aspects of motivations of their social behaviors.
As Jordan B. Peterson has observed: every human is more complex than a smartphone. To assume you understand yourself when you cannot understand the inner workings of a smartphone "is just wrong."
Rationalizing of Imitation. Sometimes, people imitate others without being conscious they are doing so. Often, when caught at it and asked, they give answers that convey no meaning that is both clear and credible. They "rationalize," just as people do on-stage after they follow some absurd post hypnotic suggestion. In this sense, "hypnosis" might artificially, tap into instincts that usually operate, everyday, with little to no conscious awareness.
A side note on "hypnosis:" Various examples of "hypnotic behavior" suggest these three reliable (in a proportion of the population) phenomena: 1) pain-reduction, 2) spontaneous (not connected directly to "suggestions") amnesia for the hypnotic episode, and 3) following suggestions, given in an episode of "hypnosis," but seemingly not remembering them and, upon questioning, "rationalizing" that following of suggestions in some way that does not include the acts of suggestion.
Believing can be initialized by imitation and, subsequently, rationalized. In a recent U.S. Presidential election, millions of people ardently supported one side or another while uttering rationalizations having tenuous connections to reality. (I am not referring to you or to me, of course.) This behavior of asserting and rationalizing belief-without-understanding seems pervasive around the world. I suspect that it represents an evolved complex of social instincts. What is the evolutionary sense of this ardent non-sense?
Steven Pinker has seen a practicality that might seem to almost explain the evolution of ardent holding of nonsensical beliefs -- without reference to group-based selection of genes:
"People are embraced or condemned according to their beliefs, so one function of the mind may be to hold beliefs that bring the belief-holder the greatest number of allies, protectors, or disciples, rather than beliefs that are most likely to be true."
In 2017, I learned that David Sloan Wilson had independently been developing ideas similar to mine. For example, he independently reached a disturbing observation something like:
"The truth content of a belief system is irrelevant."
Note on Epistemology and "God": the word "god" is not a term of science. The word "religion," if it is used as a term in science, is not to be given a meaning in a sentence that uses "god." I have invented the word "beliefplex" to serve some of the purposes that might, more commonly be served by "religion" -- but is not limited to "religion."
There seems to be no good word for "group," as a biological unit selected upon in evolution; so, I invent one: kinclade. As a first step in clarifying the word, a kinclade is a group of animals such that there are reproducing pairs in the group and the group can reproduce itself through instinctive potentials in its members.
It is good that many people have a natural sense of mathematics or a practical sense of "how things work." To decipher human social behavior, objectively within the context of broader science, will require a mathematical or a practical intuition which complements or augments the empathetic mode of thinking that is more commonly used in attempting to understand people.
Instinctive mechanisms are often hidden and seldom to be discovered by empathy but by thinking about functionality that might be represented in "models" (clear enough to be, potentially, represented in computer code), and by thinking about populations of alleles of genes, and by, with a "prepared mind" (Louis Pasteur 1854), stumbling upon new evidence and new ideas.
Aposyndetic behavior is seen in war and, in particular, civil war. And while war is an important topic, the topic of reproduction of groups has been holding back the Science of Man. Perplexing behaviors of believing can be involved in war, but they might also function in the reproduction of the kinclade. Understanding that groups-regularly-reproduce unlocks the mind for better using the concept of evolution to deepen our understanding of social behaviors of all species of social animals and of many troublesome aspects of human behavior -- such as adolescent delinquency.
In every social species of animals there is at least one instinctive mechanism for reproduction of the kinclade.
The simple fact that "groups die" entails that, in a social species, groups must reproduce. It seems, to me, unlikely that reproduction of groups would, in even one social species whatsoever, fail to become an object of evolution and come to involve instinctive mechanisms. We give the name kintomis to an hypothesized instinctive mechanism for reproducing a kinclade (kintomis might also be called a politomism instinct, POL ih TOH mism.). A variant of "kintomis" is "kintosis," tempting in its similarity to "meiosis" and "mitosis."
Behaviors of aposyndesis are seen dividing a parent-kinclade, binding together members of one child-kinclade apart from another child-kinclade, so that the parent splits geographically or erupts in civil war.
A mechanism of reproduction of a group, in a species in which groups are sufficiently reproductively isolated one from another,
would seem to result in evolutionary selection among groups.
Some skeptics might reason like this:
At least one species of ape has behaviors suggesting a mechanism of group-reproduction. If such behavior arose in a common ancestor then the kintomic instinct might have been part of our evolution for more than five million years.
Once understood, the Social Fission Hypothesis can lead to a programmable mathematical model to demonstrate circumstances in which some environmental influences make selection of some genes stronger via groups than via individuals.
In its life, an oak tree produces how many tens of thousands of acorns? Yet on average, over the past million years, how many child-trees does an oak have that produces an oak tree?
My answer is "one." See if you can reason to the same result.
Generally, most reproductions ultimately fail. One acorn succeeds where tens of thousands fail. Such waste might be true of every species? Over the eons, most swarms of honey bees have died without surviving long enough to spawn a new swarm. A high rate of failure might be expected in the social fission of humans -- in the natural order that existed for eons prior to agriculture.
Hypothesis: most colonizing human-groups have died without spawning another.
There is also this:
Evolution requires death of the old making place for youth. For a more or less constant number of individuals, if the old never died, then there would be no place for new alleles of a gene to spread. The briefer the life of the kinclades of a social species, the faster can selection-on-groups replace one allele of a gene with another. Thus, this
Hypothesis: a population of pre-human having a greater measure of inter-village warfare also had a greater rate of evolutionary change in characteristics, such as a kind of "intelligence," related to surviving wars.
If that average is a bit less than one then the species of bee will slowly die.
A Group's Self-Identifying Stink.
The stink of a group need not be chemical. A group-identifier, a tribal marker, can work through sights or sounds generated by behavior.
In some sense, the behavioral "stink" of a cult or clique of humans binds members of that group away from others.
There exist group-instincts related to discriminating a group more or less strongly from other groups.
In humans, stinky group-recognitions of "self," are usually cultural - involving learned behaviors. This does not preclude their impacting evolution.
One can imagine that, after a panicked flight, a family of zebras can re-form itself, even among hundreds of other zebras, by means of vocalizations. In order for this to work, members of the family must recognize sounds made by some other members of the family. This requires prior practice. Perhaps, one evolutionary reason for zebras making sounds, in times of rest, is for training in recognition that might be vital later.
Individual dolphins identify themselves by "signature whistles." Denise Herzing interprets some observations to indicate that one dolphin can call a second dolphin by imitating the second's signature whistle.
In the case of humans, what would be a Stink of the Tribe that binds members of a group together away from other groups? Rather than just non-verbal utterances or symbolic motions, humans create tribal markers in language.
Differences among co-ancestral groups develop over time and distance. One study is reported to have found that two languages are more or less similar as their native speakers share, on average, more or less similar genetic material.
A persisting social group that has its own synglot is called a "synclade." Perhaps usually, in times before cities, each synclade was largely co-extensive with some kinclade? But, in urban societies, synglots are not limited to kinclades; though, on average, people may be more closely related the more similar are their synglots.
A Beliefplex Is a Stink of the Tribe.
Religions provide some examples of "Beliefplexes." Politics does too. My father warned me more than once, "Never get into conversations about religion or politics." And, one can get oneself into interesting trouble, with nearly anyone, by announcing that "Religion is the stink of the tribe -- and, to some people Atheism or Science is their religion."
A Beliefplex has component "beliefs" and some of them may be factual. But, so many Beliefplexes have nonsensical parts that we hypothesize as follows below this supposition:
Suppose that we have an operationally defined measure of "success" of a Beliefplex. This measure might relate, for examples, to numbers of members of, or to the duration of, the movement.
The most successful Beliefplexes have at least one core utterance that MUST be believed, or pretended to be believed, and that seems absurd or repellent to most people who are not co-believers.
Of course, being human and subject to all the human instincts, most of which operate un-consciously, you and I might each indicate our own Belief as a counter-example -- its absurdities seeming reasonable to us. That "every line extends indefinitely (into infinity)" seems hocus pocus to some and, before Einstein, seemed an obvious fact of Nature to others.
Not all repellent axioms are absurd. But, Beliefplexes based on absurd beliefs give us the most immediately interesting question:
How can usually rational individuals adopt absurd beliefs?
Through Dilbert, Scott Adams has explained what might be a relevant concept, "cognitive dissonance"
"When people are in an absurd situation, their minds rationalize it by inventing a comfortable illusion."Adams, being "a trained hypnotist," knows that such rationalizing behavior can be "artificially" elicited, in temporary form, on stage before an audience. In the real, social, world, once one has come to BELIEVE a core absurdity of a Beliefplex, one (under instinctive compulsion?) rationalizes the rest.
But surely, believing and rationalizing random absurdities does not make evolutionary sense as a behavior of isolated individuals? To understand this hypothesized phenomenon of required absurdity, we think in terms of existence and evolution of social groups. Shared beliefs need not make sense in order to have communal survival value - it can be sufficient that they differentiate members of the group from non-members. Barking like baboons could do almost as well? The humans species, of course, has language. The barking of our ancestors has become our shouting of slogans of Beliefplexes?
In humans, the Synglot of a group contains the verbal tools for expressing the Beliefplex of that group.
It seems that harmless, absurd beliefs arise, spread, and either slowly fade away or, through its slight cleavage,
provide a plane of fracture of one group into two, possibly hostile to each other.
You may doubt the "apart from" part of apo-syndesis. Some Beliefplexes are evangelical or otherwise uniting. They don't want to separate other people away, but to bring them into the loving fold of a forgiving God, or to unite all the workers of the world, for examples. They desire peace and joy for everyone and they can even seem tolerant of other Beliefplexes. But, somehow, much of the rest of the world remains aloof. Even hostile, in some cases. As if the believers stink.
Every religion is aposyndetic, binding Believers together apart from non-Believers. Every political party is aposyndetic. More generally, every Beliefplex is aposyndetic.
A Beliefplex is like the stink of an ant hive. Ants that have the right stink are accepted by other members of the hive. Ants that do not exude the proper stink might be shunned or attacked.
Perhaps you have observed a long discussion within a Beliefplex, in which not one utterance could, in any conceivable way, be checked against facts in the Real World - apart from utterances like "John said that he felt the power of the devil." (which one could check by asking John if he said that). Such discussions are not about the boiling point of water.
Obama or Trump might have had, in reality, an IQ of 135 or 150, but "He is a moron" was proper in some Beliefplex or other in 2016.
We do not suspect that those zebras, or similarly behaving dolphins, are consciously thinking about their making of noises as training for a future emergency. Nor ought we to assume conscious awareness by all humans, or even by one human, of possible evolutionary purposes of their "natural" behaviors.
Do you expect that humans are aware of the future benefits of their instinctive social behaviors? A human, typically, is not aware of a friend's eyebrow flashes, to which some part of his brain has been reacting, most every day of their life, increasing the friendly component of his mood, changing Motivation(B) of some social act B.
Our instincts are largely hidden from us, from our empathetic methods of observation and reasoning, and must be found by creative construction and testing, using observational and modeling methods of science.
Aposyndetic behavior is not all about acts of reproduction of the group.
Some classes of evolution-impacting emergencies are huge and obvious -- external invasions for example. Consider the instinctive behaviors in the swarming of locust-grasshoppers. The swarming occurs after a period of abundance of food. The size of a swarm is an indication of how widespread was the abundance. One can reason that grasshoppers that do not join in the swarm, when it comes, do not get to reproduce. Some starve because the food around them quickly disappears, eaten by swarmers. Some die of wounds inflicted by the swarmers, which, it is said, take bites out of grasshoppers who sit too still. Swarms of grasshoppers can travel hundreds of miles. Those that swarm, some small fraction of them, get to survive and pass on their genes. And, those who do not join a swarm that engulfs them are less likely to live and reproduce than those that do.
The Great Mongol Hord, organized by Genghis Khan, recruited young men from lands conquered along the way through Kiev and through Bagdad.
Now, think of human wars over the eons. If you do not have some ardent group to cling to when a really bad war sweeps across your part of the world, you are, it seems, less likely to survive that war or its resulting famine, banditry, and disease.
War has been an episodic constant among humans for all of recorded history. Anyone who is not convinced of that either has not read enough relevant history yet, or is blided by a some Belief?
Warring is NOT limited to humans. A pride of lions will defeat and assume the territory of another pride. So also will a pack of wolves. If this appears untrue of some species, then perhaps that species has not been observed long and carefully enough. Or, perhaps it has been seen, but not perceived, by people blinded by pre-conceptions? Though some wild chimpanzees had been studied continuously since the 1960s, it was only in 2014 that, for the first time, a conquest of territory by chimpanzees was reported. And, these are our closest, and closely studied, relatives. What is unknown about more distant relatives?
Animals who survive wars, get to pass on their genes.
Genes that cause animals to reproduce their group and to conquer territory have survived.
Instinctive elements of warfare existed more than six million years ago in animals that were ancestral both to humans and to chimpanzees.
Beliefplexes are among the roots of war. Beliefplexes impact the competition for existence. War spreads some genes at the expense of other genes.
Psychology of Syndetic Bonding
As time passes, a believer glues himself increasingly to his Beliefplex via “confirmational bias” wherein he creates or learns utterances in the Synglot that relate to facts in the Real World.
People bond, in part, via aposymphonic chorusing.
There is a degree, possibly measurable, to which a person is inclined to feel a rewarding internal drug-hit by participating in or observing an aposymphonic chorus of his Beliefplex. We are not bound equally to every one of our various Beliefplexes. So, there seems to be a measure here waiting to be operationally defined. What are some other possible measures of aposyndetic quantities?
A group’s Beliefplex or its Synglot can change. Conservative over time, the singing of aposymphonic choruses by members of the Beliefplex can change abruptly. What catalyzes change in a Beliefplex? Does change involve the influence of a Leader of some sort? What, from an evolutionary view, and in an operationally definable sense, is a “leader” of a Beliefplex?
There is in every Beliefplex-based social group a hierarchy of respect, of imitation. So, perhaps ordinarily person A can teach person B new elements of the Beliefplex, but B seldom teaches such a thing to A. If this is so, then every Beliefplex has at least one human that is a source of new parts?
Seeming Multiplicity of Beliefplexes and Synglots
If some of the behaviors associated with (nearly) every Beliefplex are instinctive then it seems likely (but is not necessary) that everyone has at least one Beliefplex.
Ardently Held "Beliefs" and the Reproduction of Groups
There are terms to be further sharpened. "Instinct" is a main example.
This seems to be not taught in schools, but it is a fact that many words in science are not given, except by epistemological amateurs, precise definitions. This is well known in mathematics, which does crisply define most of its terms, but where every sub-field has "primitive" terms and expressions, that are not defined. Examples: "number" in the algebra that develops into Calculus and "point" in most of the Geometries. Other terms are unambiguously defined via the primitive terms. Maybe you think that in the empirical sciences, all words relating to real objects have been given crisp and correct definitions known and adhered to by users of those words. This is the opposite of my own impression.
A swarm of honey bees does not land near to its parent hive (still populated) when it is about to send out scouts to find a new hive-site. One can imagine there might be evolutionary pressure to separate related bee-hives in order to increase the chances of there existing, for each hive, enough food within flying distance.
Relating to the power of selection upon groups: how rapidly can groups reproduce? I provisionally reckon this:
There seems to be a complex of instincts related to splitting away a group of adolescents from a village -- in a social mitosis. But, survival of such a group, long enough to spin-off another group, is seldom likely. Imagine a group containing 50 fiery adolescent males leaving their homes and, in a confident band (or "gang") traveling over a mountain and descending into a lush valley - that is already territory of a kinclade of villages having 500 hearty men, ready to fight. Most acorns die.
Entraining for War
There is an instinctive mechanism for entraining groups that are, each, splitting away a home village - such that a natural army forms.Entraining mostly draws together groups of similar language.
Men of a village are more likely to be recruited into an army as the language of that village is similar to perceived languages of that army. With increasing similarity of languages, the degree of kinship between village and army increases. This impacts evolution.
On average, the more similar the language of two groups, the closer is their kinship.
Men form a vanguard and "camp-followers" follow. (consider the Helvetians in Caesar's "Commentarii de Bello Gallico") The "army" flows, from the region of kinship-related villages, to descend upon and replace some strangers whose utterances sound like gibberish of animals or like some evil heresy.
It seems instinctive for a human to belong to some stinky Beliefplex and be blind to its absurdity or obnoxiousness that are obvious to people not in that Beliefplex. But, I am a human and my brain must be "wired" with that same instinct. I surely have some beliefs that seem stinkily absurd to others. Not just to others who are made crazy by their own beliefs but to nearly all others not in my Beliefplex. I wonder how I can detect which of my cherished beliefs are "objectively" absurd? Will my instincts prevent me from ever finding them out, short of a kind of "conversion" to a some other beliefplex?
to be continued ... This page was modified on
JBP, Steven Pinker, Saad Gad, David Sloan Wilson, Hipper Haight, Weinsteins, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins