Creating Global Consciousness

Since last Tuesday I’ve been entertaining the notion that we, individually and collectively, can contribute to global consciousness though our writing created in a blog. It’s not a secret that I believe we can collectively create a good future and each of us individually have the ability to do so. Very truly, our experiences, creations, relationships, attitudes, and more are the things that create our ever-changing global consciousness, or better known as, our culture.

I think it is in that prospective where I discover my problem with (or at least my little preference for) the scientific biological genetic study of domestic animals. Evolution is simple, I previously nievely thought. I want to talk about individuals from the standpoint of conscious decisions. Like I explained in class last Tuesday, we can choose to achieve our ends though love or though pain (and arguably everywhere in between), we choose what we do, we chose how we do it, we chose our feelings, and we choose what qualities and values make up our character. Therefore, we collectively determine our culture, otherwise known as global consciousness, because we have complete control over what we do and who we are (or do we??).

I’ll admit there are other factors that influence our personal and global characters. What class hierarchy or geographic location one is born into will determine their probability of achieving a higher level of society mitigated by the amount of hard work and determination of the individual. But are these inequalities enough to say you don’t have enough time to create the right future? Do you not have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein?

As it may be, life might be just what this picture below explains.  It’s from a family general store blog about smart and conscious purchasing of canning jars and explained that, “to have a can of peaches was to preserve in a glass jar the memory of a summer day to be remembered in savory-peach-ripeness in the cold days of winter.”

Is life 10% genetics/biology and 90% personal influence/human control? More seriously, I was intrigued to learn how much understanding of the domestication of animals can shed light on the relationship between biology and culture.

Genetic evolution of a species and their respective characteristics, as a basic idea, is simple enough. The psychological character of an individual in a species is not strongly inherited – this is the difficulty of the selection process.

Variability, something humans can’t check or control, is the key to this understanding of human-animal domestic relationships created by biological and cultural pressures.

Domestic animals are integrated into the social life of humans. Pets, entertainment, food, clothes and various other commodities make domestic animals a product of both culture and evolution. Humans have influenced the evolution of animals but genetic variability prevents a perfect expected result. Humans can influence culture but their influence on civilization is dependent on factors like space, land and its contours, climate, vegetation, etc.

It is variability, then, I need to more fully consider when studying the historical relationship developments between humans and animals. After the readings this week, I see a web of moving, interconnected, influenced, influencing and variable parts that make up the history of global consciousness.

I better go ahead and accept that we may not have control over all things but we have  control over somethings. What we can influence with our mindful actions [such as writing a blog to discover thought to contribute to global consciousness, raising chickens in your backyard, or becoming a vegetarian] might be the most important understanding to consider when we’re living our lives. If you’re still convinced genetics and biology dictate the total system your question is, “What is our capacity to influence the future of genetics and biology?”

Or as explained by this pintrest pin quote:

& this is not referring to working your donkey…


“What a long, strange trip it’s been.” Wolf to Dogwolf to Dog

I appreciate the arguments and assumptions presented by Derr as logical with some genetic and scientific knowledge. The Russell article calling for an integration of science and history as the study of “evolutionary history” was right; they allow for a more informed understanding.

History is about studying relationships and their influence in why things are, but understanding how and why domesticated animals emerged in evolutionary history is not so simple. We do not know what or how varied the relationship characteristics were like between humans and dogs or dogwolves. Genetics could aid our understanding of relationships since the study of relationships and genetics are measured on the same time scale of years and decades, as long as the proper geological time – measured in tens of thousands to billions of years – can be determined.

I have embraced genetics to help understand how the dog became the dog.

To learn the origins of the dog one must, “consider the animals involved – human and wolf – highly social, tactically minded, pack-hunting global wanderers.”

Wolf and human were drawn to each other by their great sociability and curiosity, and they stayed together because of their mutual utility.

The origin of the dog has been complicated to pinpoint through the mixing of dogwolves and the relationship of wolves and early humans.

Dogwolves: n. the off-spring of socialized wolves; “wolves that genetically and behaviorally are dogs; genetic profile more closely aligns with dog than wolf and because they live and reproduce in human society.” They do not have the physical characteristics of the modern dog breeds.

The area of focus shifts from understanding how wolf became dog W2D to how the dog became the dog D2D to determine what genetic mutations caused physical changes to arise in particular dogwolf lines, how did they become highly desired and how they helped determine dogs of today.

Genetic mutations of distinct physical effects can be linked with physiological characteristics and, arguably perhaps behavioral variations. One interesting physiological difference between wolf and dog is the delayed fear-response in dog puppies that allows them to be social and curious for 6 weeks longer before entering the “fear-period” of development.

Humans use selective breeding to make dogs more obedient and give them a more human or “civilized” appearance to match a more “civilized” behavior. How much do the physical genetic variations of selective breeding determine behavior? Could civilized behavior exist in previous generations prior to physical mutations? How much would these answers allow us to understand differences between early human relationships with wolves, dogwolves, and dogs?

There are many variations of human, social, and cultural relationships associated with D2D across the globe and to know how behavioral and physical traits and genetics influenced each other in D2D is quite the complex task.

The domestic evolution of any animal must be considered with their relationships with humans. The process of D2D (and all domesticated animals) is influenced by human society. Derr explains our social influence as a tendency to strip all wild from the dog. This extension from individual human-dog relationships to human society-dog relationships is evidence that our culture is not one that deals well with ambiguity, ambivalence, paradox, and border zones. Domesticating removes the contradiction.

Domestication is a continuing process aimed at bringing up an animal or plant to the point where humans control all important aspects of its life, including reproduction and freedom of movement from birth to death.

Yet, we value dogs because they connect us to a simpler world outside ourselves and our categories.

As Derr wrote in the beginning, “our obligation today, when we and our dogs grow increasingly distant from the world of our forebears…is to think about whether on this journey, we are doing right by our companion every step of the way.” What are our moral duties to our best evolutionary friend? Dogs and Humans have each benefitted in their long relationship in many ways. So far, the logical conclusion I have reached for determining our obligations to our dog companions begins by somehow balancing our social civilized needs and our personal needs for a wild connection.

Is it possible to violate our moral duties by domesticating too much wild out of the dog for society? Does human value for that wild connection to a previous world make any difference to our responsibility?  This question of too much domestication, of course, does not take into account the paradoxical nature of the animal – “people succeeded to a remarkable degree in creating the dog of their desire, even if it is not the one they want.”

Perhaps the details of our relationships just “are” and irrelevant since the future may be predetermined anyway, deliberates this blog post from last week.

Or as Derr so eloquently put all that has happened since W2D and D2D (or W2D2D for short), “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Inequality, Domestication, Evolution, and Studying Outside of Your Discipline

Following is a discussion of some main themes from our readings, for discussion. Erica discussed some others in her post.


Scientists are usually just scientists and historians are usually just historians. Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel is an interesting exception. His training was as a physiologist (my own area of interest), but he embarked on an intellectual journey to find the roots of inequality in deep human history, with the idea that once there was no inequality–once we were all in small hunter-gatherer tribes. Where did inequality come from? Why do some people “have so much cargo while others have so little”?

Diamond argues that it mainly stems from geographic luck. Those who ended up in regions with climates conducive to agriculture, and domesticate-able plants and animals ended up with the more advantages. They had a constant source of protein, energy, and fiber. In addition, eventually, they had animal to use for draft purposes. What makes a plant or an animal domesticate-able?

Diamond notes that medium-sized or large, herbivorous animals generally make better domesticates. Further, out of about 150 potential domesticates from this category, only 14 have been domesticated, with the big four being cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs. Why these?

In their article Energy and Ecosystems, Mary C. Stiner and Gillian Feeley-Harnik have an interesting answer. They argue that it was inevitable, based upon all other circumstances. As a result of our traits and the traits of those species that we have domesticated, our association with them was as inevitable as the association of algae and fungus in lichen. It wasn’t a result of our intelligence or of some great mastery we have had over other species, but rather a result of our characteristics and those of the animals we domesticated. As far as I could tell, reading their article, they define domestication as a close mutualism between two species. They don’t even limit the definition to a mutualism between humans and another species, citing the relationship between ants and aphids. What, then, is domestication? This seems to indicate that it is a close mutualism in which one species protects and exploits the other, but ultimately both benefit.

Edmund Russell, in his article Evolutionary History: Prospectus for a New Field, tackles similar issues and questions in a very different way. His article focuses on the idea that we need to study evolutionary history, a field between history and biology. The field of evolutionary history looks at evolution, but takes into account the effect of human history on that evolution. It would also look at how evolution may have shaped human history.

To me, the main theme of Russell’s article was the great importance of interdisciplinarity when studying domestication, evolution, and history. This brings us back to Jared Diamond, who, as a physiologist, he attacked one of the largest questions of our time with great success.

Domestication, energy, geography, intention, evolution and how things came to be…

This is a discussion of primary and interesting concepts and thought from the first readings required in Deep History and Domestication. The readings explain and raise interesting questions about the history of animal domestication.

The YouTube video, Guns, Germs, and Steel inspired by Diamond’s book of the same title, explores the question of where the roots of global inequality began. The central inequality is why visitors from the northern hemisphere have so much “cargo” or things while those people in New Guinea have so little.  To answer this question it is necessary to have an understanding of how energy is used by humans and flows through ecosystems. In short, as people changed from hunter-gatherer civilizations, more energy was used as fuel for heat and other processes and stored to be eaten later. As people began to farm crops like wheat and barley the nature of the crops around them were selectively changed. During the time in which crops were being unconsciously selectively farmed there were too significant increases in energy available. This allowed societies to simply do more. It was not just farming that contributed to the inequalities of world. It was the type of crop or animal farmed that made more productive societies. For example, the domestication of large animals for plowing had the capacity to greatly transform civilization productivity whereas the pig, more largely distributed around the globe could not. Thus, the geographic spread of civilization, farming and domestication were argued to be the contributors to the global distribution of wealth and power. It is true all human civilizations have ingenuity to make progress. However, they are limited fundamentally by the geography of their location and the raw materials at their disposal. This geography of luck is exactly where global inequalities may have begun.

The Energy and Ecosystem chapter excerpt explains that all organisms have a constant and never-ending impact on their ecosystems. The chapter distinguishes two phases of human history. First, Prehistory is noted for humans reacting passively to their environment. History is when humans first began to transcend environmental carrying capacity by utilizing more energy for processes. Diamond speaks little of human intent to alter the environment and organism relationships; this chapter in contrast considers whether the many human environmental impacts are intentional choices or unintentional byproducts of evolution. When comparing human environmental interactions to those of other organisms their effects are not out of the ordinary. The environmental effects of humans in this sense are a product of genetic scale, not of human species exception. Animal domestication can also be understood as a strategy of human survival and risk management. The chapter explains, “The domestication of plants and animals is the result of many isolated experiments that ultimately reordered human participation in ecosystems and the mode and scale of our energy consumption relative to that of other species.” This is due to a mutual dependence of humans and their domesticated partners and this evolutionary relationship continues to change both species. It was also made clear that plants and animals like ants can be domesticated in the absence of human influence.

Although there is a strong argument for unintentionally, how humans capture and transform energy (enabling remarkable raises in global carrying capacity) and the coevolutionary bonds formed between humans and other species illustrate the degree of perceived and real human intent to change nature and influence the environment. Farmers are deliberate in their plant and animal modification to ensure energy for survival but these create a mixture of desired and unanticipated results. If the results are unpredictable but the decision to create those results are intentional can those results be considered a product of intention? Intentionally, the chapter asserts, may be what differentiates human forms of domestication from those of other organisms. “It may be this element of human intent – or agency- that forms the interface between the overarching forces of domestication…” However, intentionality inherent to animal and plant management today may not be representative of the initial conditions of domestication thousands of years ago. The question then is if it necessary to determine when human thought advanced to comprise intentional choices for survival that alter the environment.

Today, the globalization of agriculture has had great ecological costs coupled with a greater ignorance of biological relations between animals and land in particular. These long-term ecosystem costs are passed down to the poorest countries and especially to the poorest women and children, impoverishing them further and perhaps perpetuating this unequal social structure. Food production demands have fostered a massive redistribution of resources within nation-states and internationally, benefiting corporate wealth at the expense of the commonwealth. It is rational to conclude that geographical location and the type of raw materials at a civilizations disposal create and reinforce inequalities today; even if those effects are a product of meek individual, social, or civilization survival.

The question of which human environmental effects are results of intentionality or unconscious outcomes may be less important to a more rounded view of animal domestication history. The Evolutionary History article by Russell asserts that the time has come to understand histories in a coherent way. Not only do humans shape other species (which is important for those species) the evolution of these species in turn has a significant impact on humans. “To biology, history offers an understanding of the social forces that create selective pressures.  To history, biology offers understanding of the ways organisms respond to such pressure. Together, as evolutionary history, they offer an understanding of the ever changing dance between humans and nature.” The articles calls for a holistic understanding of human evolutionary history to best understand how the human relationship with the environment contributed to how things came to be this way.

The importance of a whole evolutionary perspective could increase as climate change progresses and biotechnology expands the severity of human environmental impacts.

It is difficult to determine intention. Yet It is undeniable that human coevolution with plants and animals since the beginning of history enabled progress, perpetuated by geographical luck, that created and reinforces serious global inequalities today. If historical intention cannot be starkly identified, is it possible to allocate whose responsibility it might be to positively shape the future of the globe and lessen social inequalities? Despite these and many other vital considerations it is clear that human, plant and animal evolutionary history will prove valuable in understanding ourselves as humans and how to best shape the future.    

Eat your cereal!

Or wheat, not meat, offers new clues on the evolution of the dog… An article in the Washington Post yesterday suggests that developing the ability to digest grains played a key role in the evolution of the dog. This morning, NPR also reported on the Swedish study., confirming the carb-canine connection. Since dogs will bark throughout the semester, I’ve added a page for us to discuss them here.