Human Evolution Research Scientific Article by Michael Lieber founder Genadyne Consulting

Lieber, M.M. (2008), Modern Man in Potential: Human Evolution as Viewed from a New Perspective. Frontier Perspectives Vol. 16, No. 2: 4-5.                        [Back]

    An article on human evolution was originally submitted as a Thesis in January, 1965, to the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, during the close of my senior year there. It was very well received by the physical anthropologist, W. Howells. The article was revised slightly ten years later with the intention of submitting it for publication.

    The main theme of the article (Lieber, 1965) was to demonstrate that modern man, Homo sapiens sapiens, would not have come to be under the harsh glacial conditions of Western Europe present thousands of years ago, or under any harsh environmental situation, for that matter. Such harsh, glacial conditions, it was also argued, resulted in the extinction of the Neanderthals, Homo sapiens neanderthaleasus, as they, under such conditions, could not evolve and maturate higher mental faculties fast enough to enable them to adapt effectively to such conditions through the creation of innovative technologies. In fact, Finlayson  proposed  in 2004 “that Neanderthals became extinct because their world changed faster than they could cope with…”

    For the evolution of modern man to come to pass, it was argued, a mild environment was required. Such an environment or niche, with its features of mild climate, abundant fresh water, plentiful food sources and generally, easy-to-obtain resources, enabled the evolution and establishment, upon maturity, of much higher, though longer developing mental faculties during maturation, and thereby, the existence of such highly adaptive faculties during subsequent human evolution.  Early man’s cultural interaction with a mild environment permitted the necessary survival time for such long-term maturation, in contrast to what would have occurred under harsh conditions, and thereby precluded the extinction of such through premature death. Once such faculties were established through a completed maturation, and thus available to and maintained by subsequent generations of progeny, the evolved Homo sapiens sapiens could readily create innovative cultural systems, involving innovative technologies, that would eventually enable modern man’s spread and effective accommodation to harsh, restrictive environmental conditions after having evolved in a mild environment.

     In the original thesis, it was proposed, based on fossil evidence, that modern man (or humans) first evolved in the Near East. At the time of this evolution, the Middle East  had a very temperate climate, ample rainfall, lush vegetation and plentiful game, enabling the creation of cultural systems in such a situation highly protective of long-term maturating, high-level mental faculties. By virtue of this protection or support, such mental faculties had ample time to be established or completely developed, to be adaptively effective, enabling the accelerated evolution and stabilization, through time, of modern man in the Middle East.

    Current views of human evolution, based on additional fossil evidence  and geological data, do not dispute this. In fact, evidence suggests that modern humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens independently in varied regions of mild environments, some warm and tropical, lasting thousands of years. (Finlayson, 2004;  Maslin et al., 2005;  Shang et al., 2007;  Barker et al. 2007; Guyot, 2007; and online article, 2006). These regions were in Africa, Southwest Asia, the Far East, in what is today, China, and likely in South East Asia.  Though there is significant support for this former view, there is also evidence to suggest that modern humans only evolved within south and east Africa, within such areas in which there were niches of mild, lush environments, some tropical, containing lakes and rivers, and areas along the sea coast, rich in shellfish, a plentiful and readily available source of protein, needed especially for complete brain development. (Op. cit.) From these niches, according to this Out of Africa Theory, modern man spread throughout the world, replacing other earlier hominid species, such as the Neanderthals. Whatever view becomes the final one through the discovery of additional fossil evidence, the evidence would, nevertheless, suggest that modern man first evolved  and stabilized within mild though varied, environments or niches of ample resources, and hence of mild stress. One could still argue that such environments, as opposed to harsh ones of extreme stress and limited resources, enabled or even induced such an evolution to take place.

    As one reads the article that I wrote more than 40 years ago, one will grasp more comprehensively the reason for accepting this or at least the plausibility of this hypothesis. One will see that modern humans are beings of infinite, potential capabilities, and, if humans allow themselves, they can evolve into beings far greater than the ones they are, further transcending, through the application of mind, and hence reason, any environmental restriction, the ultimate adaptation. They did not, and do not, require for this evolution, past and future, the “tooth and claw of existence”, as one reviewer put it in response to reading the unpublished article, but a situation that enables and promotes the further evolution and sustenance of higher and higher, though longer developing, mental processes within a mild environment of increasing resources, technologically determined or defined, where the so-called “selection process” becomes unnecessary or moot. And, with humanity’s further evolution, such resources would become unlimited, as the evolving mind would be able to overcome all limits through innovative, pragmatic imagination and reason.

    If I were to revise the article, I would emphasize epigenetic processes being involved in bringing about---from an infinite or prime-potential inherent in genomic-environmental interaction-- the secondary potential, the genetic information, of any genome. Furthermore, I would illustrate how these processes are also involved in the contingent development or unfolding of the phenotype from such a secondary potential of a genome. As one would point out, this would include the processes of genetic assimilation and canalization which involve environmental stresses, epigenetic, developmental processes thought to be involved in evolution and first described by C.H. Waddington (see Waddington, 1956; Stewart, 2000). Doing such would only serve to strengthen or give more credibility to the article’s main, underlying theme of the human species’ capacity---through the directed, accommodating, and developmental interplay of genomic-environmental stresses of low degree---to unfold  evolutionarily infinite avenues towards its infinite betterment.

                                                                                     Michael M. Lieber
                                                                                      December, 2007


Barker, G. et al.[2007], The ‘Human Revolution’ in Lowland Tropical Southeast Asia: The Antiquity and Behavior of Anatomically Modern Humans at Niah Cave.Journal of Human Evolution 52: 243-261.

Finlayson, C. [2004], Neanderthals and Modern Humans:  An Ecological and Evolutionary Perspective. Cambridge University Press.

Gilbert, S. [2000], Diachronic Biology Meets Evo-Devo: C. H. Waddinton’s Approach to Evolutionary Developmental Biology. American Zoologist 40: 729-737.

Guyot, J. [2007], ASU Team Detects Earliest Modern Humans. ASU News.

Lieber, M. M. [1965], Modern Man in Potential:  Human Evolution As Viewed from a New Perspective, [ ]

Maslin, M. et al. [2005], A Changing Climate for Human Evolution.  Geotimes.

Shang, H. et al. [2007], An Early Modern Human from Tianyuan Cave, Zhoukoudian, China.
PNAS 104: 6573-6578.

Waddington, C.H. [1956],  Principles of Embryology. Cambridge University Press.

Early Modern Homo sapiens, http: //  (2006)


                                              Michael M. Lieber

Originally submitted as a Senior Thesis to the Department of  Anthropology,      
                          University of California, Berkeley, January 1965

                                     Revised May, 1975 at the California Institute of
                                             Technology, Division of Biology
                                                  Pasadena, California 91125

    For a period, it has been well known that the genetic material of living organisms is composed of a complex molecular structure termed as deoxyribonucleic acid, or what is commonly referred to as DNA.  Such a molecule is made up of sugar and phosphate groups which alternate in spiral continuants or chains.  Furthermore,  each sugar group is attached to one of four organic bases.  These four bases alternate in a precise pattern.  Moreover, it is not too important to stress that the sequence-patterns of these four bases on the thread is the code or template for the pattern of chemical events within the cell and consequently within the entire organism.

        The ‘four letters’ of this genetic alphabet can specify
        a virtual infinity of different genes in a way analogous
        to the way the twenty-six letters of the Latin alphabet
        can make up any number of words, sentences, and ideas.
        [Dobzhansky, 1963]

Hence, the genetic alphabet by specifying an infinite number of codes or genes can specify or determine an infinite number of chemical events of an infinite variance of patterns, and it is these chemical events which give rise to or produce or form those features and behaviors which we term as a variant living organism, man included.

    Each organism is a closed, self-perpetuating system of a nexus or reticulum of complex chemical events or processes.  Each variant organism is by definition a variant pattern of such a reticulum or nexus of chemical events, the template or potential for such a pattern being that particular genetic code or genotype of that organism.  Therewith a change in the genetic code (a rearrangement of the sequence of molecules composing DNA) will mean that a potential for a new pattern for a chemical event will have been created, and, in this connection, the potential for a new organism will thus have made existent.  Note that I say possible or potential existence and not actual existence.  For whether or not the genetic code of an organism can be expressed in the actual chemical processes will be contingent upon whether or not environmental factors thwart or place no limitations upon the series of events (i.e., transfer of code to sites of protein synthesis) through which the genetic code comes to express itself in the nexus of chemical activities involved in the organism‘s development and its behaviors.   The DNA code could not express itself if the elements or raw materials needed by the code to effect its patterns were lacking, that is, if the external environment did not furnish the DNA of a zygote the needed simple chemical materials wherewith to create a given elaborate reticulum of chemical events for the organism’s development.

    At this point, it is important to distinguish between the external and internal environment of the genetic code, pointing out in so doing in what way the internal environment of the DNA code is really in effect a more inclusive extension of the aforesaid code.  The external environment of the code is the environment external to the organism itself.  It is environment from whence raw materials are absorbed. It is the environment which the organism is to exploit successfully if it is to survive and produce offspring.  The internal environment of a given gene is the environment of other genes, for a gene is just a section of a long chain of DNA or genes which comprises one of the chromosomes of many that are to be found in any given cell of an organism.  For all intents and purposes, a chromosome may be regarded as a super-gene of one super-code whose variant parts (genes) are composed of varying sequences of four different organic bases, forming the sub-codes of the more inclusive code of the chromosome.

    Other chromosomes within a cell also make up the internal environment of  each other. Each affects the expressivity of each other’s code, as the expression of the code of a gene, which composes part of a chromosome, affects the expressivity of the super-code of the entire chromosome. In this light, then, two or three or more chromosomes within a cell may be regarded as super-genes which interact with one another.  However, as the combination of genes which make up the super-gene of a chromosome effect into actual existence an even more complex syndrome of chemical events of even a more complex and variant pattern, so a combination of super-genes in an interacting combination may effect into actual existence an even more complex syndrome of chemical events of even a more complex and variant pattern. That is, the super-gene may in turn be regarded as itself a particular unit of a more inclusive code and that the order of juxtaposition of such potentially-interacting chromosomes, or their sections, with respect to one another, may determine what given inclusive code shall exist.  Each super-gene contributes to the potential of a complex pattern of chemical reactions, and that the effecting of such a complex pattern into reality could not take place if any super-gene did not contribute its potential code to the pattern of the more inclusive genetic code.  For example, a super-gene may have a potential for important chemical steps, necessary for development, in the inclusive process, but, without such steps being included, the total complex potential would not be able to be created, and hence the activity of effecting such potential into actual existence in terms of a chemically-based development would not come to pass.  For that matter, super-genes residing in other cells will contribute their potential for the construction of an even more inclusive genetic code which will involve the contribution of chromosomes (super-genes) from a whole array of various cells.

     M.  Sussman (1964) does in fact describe experiments where cells of organisms cooperate to do some things that individually each cell could not bring about alone.   He refers to such cooperation as synergistic inductions. This is to say, in this light, that the various super-genes will cooperatively provide different portions or aspects of the more general or inclusive potential pattern, and that the combination or synthesis of these specific portions is what gives form or existence to the more inclusive pattern, a pattern which varies from the pattern of any of its parts.  Hence, the organism has the potential for various patterns of chemically-involved development and behaviors on different levels of inclusiveness, the most specific being the potential embodied by a gene of a chromosome, the most inclusiveness being the interaction of a group chromosomes of different cells giving  rise to a great potential for a variety of chemical and developmental processes. (Such a gene can be regarded as an arbitrary portion of the inclusive genotype code.) The greater the number of super-genes with variant codes interacting, the greater will be the resultant potential for a more complex pattern of chemically-involved development and behaviors, or of life.

    Since the complex potential pattern would be a synthesis of many potential patterns, and if, moreover, there were a great number and variety of these potential patterns, there would be represented in the inclusive potential pattern a great number of continuous variations. Such a pattern would come to be expressed into existence by the potential, inclusive pattern realizing itself in terms of bringing about developmentally the characteristics of the organisms. The process whereby this potential is expressed into the characteristics of the organism can be regarded, from another perspective, as the unfolding of potential features and behaviors into actual or manifest features and behaviors.  A given genetic code is in effect a potential organism of specified features and behaviors.  The genetic code in its inclusive form sets the limits or defines what an organism can be in actuality.

    If the genetic material in a man will not permit to grow no taller than six feet, no combination of external, environmental circumstances can cause a greater height.  However, where the organism will fall within the limits specified by the genetic code depends upon the external environment.  If an organism does not realize such limits or the potential of what it can be, the external environment has thwarted or limited the complete expressivity of the inclusive genetic code. (However, the inclusive gene code when realizing its potential may hinder to some degree its own, complete realization.)

    A different, external environment may allow the expressivity of an aspect of the code which was not allowed before.  If an organism has a genetic code which is the potential of many variations, then that organism can be said to have a great range of potential variations.  The existence of this range enables some organisms of a species to have greater survival potential when and where the environment changes, inasmuch as a variety of environments would call for a variety of features and behavioral patterns if the organism is to overcome the variety of barriers to survival posed by different environments in time and place.  A genetic code of a given organism capable of furnishing that organism with a fair range of features and behaviors---when required by that organism for its meeting a whole array of conflict situations---can be referred to as a code which is not specialized to the patterning of a narrow range of variations, but a code which is of far greater potentiality when it comes to the patterning of a wide range of variations.

    Not only can a given genotype have a potential for a wide range of features, a given genotype has the potential to become any infinite variety of genotypes, insofar as the “genetic alphabet can specify a virtual infinity of different genes” and hence genotypes.  This means that a super-gene (a chromosome) has the potential to become any infinite variety of super-genes.  Furthermore, the super-genes---or the segments thereof---have the potential to form an infinite number of variant interacting associations, or juxtapositions with one another, and hence have the potential to produce any infinite variety of inclusive genetic codes, which can be referred to as the genotype-code of the organism as a whole. However, no organism can in its individual lifetime create this infinite range of genotype codes, super-gene-codes, and gene codes.  Each variant organism is born with a finite variant portion of the infinite continuum of possible genotype codes, super-gene-codes, and gene codes that can exist.

    A given genetic code from this standpoint is in fact representative of two types of potential.  First, it is representative of the potential to become another gene code (potential) i.e., genotype code, and hence another variant individual or infinite variety of individuals.  Second, it is representative of the potential of features and behaviors which go to make up a given individual.  The first can be referred to as the prime-potential to realize an infinite variety of potentials.  The second can be referred to as the secondary potential, which, when fully realized or effected, produces the features and behaviors of a given organism that was in a manner of speaking pre-existent in the genetic code.  From this point of view, a given organism has the prime-potential for an infinite variety of organisms.  Hence, a protozoan has the prime-potential for the secondary potential (genetic code) of a coelenterate, or for that matter a protozoan has the prime-potential for the given secondary potential of a primate.  In short, a bacterium or protozoan or primate or any organism for that matter is the prime-potential of Homo sapiens.  The prime-potential of the genetic code (DNA) to have realized a great variation of secondary potentials---the given genotypes of variant organisms that have existed throughout time-space---has required millions of years.

    Each variant organism that has existed in a given period of time and that has occupied some given place or places represents the step by step realization or effecting of the prime potentials of the genetic code towards an infinite variety of secondary potentials, these being the gene-code potentials of the various organisms.  From this standpoint, evolution can be seen from another perspective, and that is, evolution can be regarded as the continuous unfolding or realization of the infinite possibilities inherent in the genetic DNA-code.  In short, evolution appears to be first, the realization of the prime-potential of the DNA-code and second, the realization of the secondary DNA-code potentials.  The realization of the prime-potential is not orthogenetic whereas the realization of the secondary potential is, insofar as the genotype determines what that organism can be in the given now..  The only way in which an organism can realize the infinite potential of its genotype is by its transmitting a new genotype code to each succeeding generation.  Only through the means of reproduction and genetic mutation can new gene codes be produced or created in succeeding generations.  In the process of reproduction, the modifications of the inclusive code take place in the events known as crossing-over, segregation, independent assortment, and the coming together of new and variant genes and gene combinations by the fusion of gametes.

    Mutation, the alteration of the structure or code of a gene, can only display its effects in terms of the expressivity of a new gene or super-gene in succeeding generations. Mutations account for the variety of the genes composing the super-genes (chromosomes) and thereby contribute, as does crossing-over, to the variety of super-genes (chromosomes) and super-gene systems (genotype codes.  Radioactivity, a factor of the external environment, has long been known as one of the causes of mutations.  Other external environmental conditions, such as temperature changes, may cause mutations as well, while a number of other mutations are known to be determined or controlled by genetic factors. Genetic factors can themselves change the potentialities of other genes, and thus of the genome.  Relevantly, “after a gene has undergone mutation…the potentialities which it transmitted to the next generations will be new ones.  At least one and perhaps many of our ancestors possessed DNA which had mutated in such a way that their great toes grew in line with their other toes [Hulse, 1963].”

    The prime-potential for such and other features has always been existent.  Only such events as mutation and meiotic or bisexual reproduction have helped to realize the prime-potential into secondary potentials.  A given organism cannot realize its prime-potential during its lifetime, only its secondary potential. In order for it to partially realize its prime-potential will require millions upon millions of generations.  Each generation always represents a variant genotype as compared to the previous generation, and furthermore, each member of a succeeding generation has a variant genotype in comparison to any other member.  This points out the constant creation of new genotype codes as has been taking place throughout time.  In fact, this constant or continuous creation of new genotype codes in succeeding generations may be regarded as a fundamental law of life.  In this sense, it might be stipulated that the creation of new genotypes is predetermined by mutation and by the nature of meiotic reproduction or bisexual reproduction, whereas the specific genotype code so created is not predetermined.

    The continuum of evolution through millions of years represents the continuous, temporal variations so produced by the realization of the genetic code.  We might say that such temporal variation through a great range of time is predetermined only from the standpoint that the creation of new genotype codes is constant or continuous.  Looking at the totality of all living forms of such a continuum of temporal variations, we might say that evolution, as it manifested itself in its totality since the beginning of life, represents a great portion of the realized, infinite possibilities of the DNA code; whereas, one organism or a population of varied organisms, taken from some time portion of that evolution, would represent, in comparison to that evolution, a small realized portion of the infinite possibilities of the DNA code, that is, a highly incomplete realization of the prime-potential of the DNA code.

    The entire polymorphic population of a given species would represent in comparison to any one individual of the population of various genotypes a greater portion of the infinite possibilities of the genetic code.  For this reason, it can be adumbrated that such a population as a whole is less specialized to any one environmental situation, whereas an individual belonging to such a population would, in comparison, be so specialized, because it is capable of only a small range of variations.  The population is capable of or has the secondary potentials for a great range of variations, and hence we can speak of it as a whole being generally adapted to a great range of environmental variations in time and space.  We thence may speak of the genotype code of a population as a whole capable of a great range of variations.  A population that in comparison showed very little variety or polymorphism would be a population whose inclusive genotype code was capable of only a small or narrow or specialized range of variations.  The first population would be more flexible in its ability to adapt to varied situations, whereas the second population would demonstrate a high degree of rigidity in its ability to adapt or accommodate
    As such, a population as had realized its prime-potential to a great extent---through a great range of time---would have demonstrated in comparison to a population whose prime-potential was not greatly realized, more overall plasticity or generality its ability to survive or accommodate.  The more that a population realizes its prime-potential in succeeding generations, the more variations or polymorphism would it demonstrate through a great range of time, and hence, the more would it have realized its prime-potential.  The more polymorphic a given generation, the more would it be able to realize its prime-potential in the succeeding generation. Or, in other words, the more varied are the generations of a population, the more would it realize its prime-potential over a shorter range of time.  This is assuming that the external environment does not interfere with such a process of realization.

    The unfolding of prime-potential is a population’s or organism’s means to provide for any change in the external environment. It is life’s means of providing itself with a great range of features and behaviors wherewith to experiment in the population’s process for maintaining itself through time. This is not to say that all the variant genotypes of a population are going to maintain themselves through time, but only those genotypes of a population, which when realized, provide the organisms with those features and behaviors that enable the organism to survive and reproduce.  If the environment through time is conducive for the survival of a great range of genotypes from generation to generation, then the more that population would have been able to unfold its prime-potential.  However, if the environment through time changes in such a way so as to be conducive only to the survival of a portion of the great range of genotypes of a population through time, then the less per a given period of time would the population be realizing its prime-potential, since a great portion of the range of variant genotypes in each succeeding generation would not survive until it was able to contribute its genetic potential to succeeding populations.  Therefore, with each generation would come a loss of a portion of a population’s range of variant, secondary potentials.  Each succeeding generation would become more and more specialized until the population would reach a point where it would not be able to further change in the environmental situation.  Being so rigid, this terminal portion of the spatial-temporal population would become extinct.

    However, let us say that this population, once have reached this point of rigidity, entered into another environmental situation which was conducive to a great range of genotypes.  This would mean, provided that such an environment never changed in this locality, that the population can through the process of mutation and meiosis eventually achieve after an exceedingly great range of time a highly polymorphic state once again, though highly unlikely to be similar to that range of variations as was once attributed to its ancestors, but nevertheless polymorphic, and hence generalized in its range of characteristics and behaviors.

    Not thwarted by environmental circumstances, the prime-potential of a population will tend constantly to its full realization, that is, to the creation of an infinite number of varied genotypes or secondary potentials.  The rate of such realization would be conditioned by the rate of mutation, itself greatly conditioned by genetics factors, and by the nature of the inclusive genotype (gene pool) of each succeeding generation.  The genotypes of each generation condition the range of genotypes of each subsequent generation in that the “natural selection” of certain range of genotypes for survival-reproduction “is a regulatory mechanism, which makes the preceding genetic changes condition the succeeding ones” (Dobzhansky, 1963).

    In short, the environment and genetic factors regulate indirectly the rate through which the prime-potential of the DNA code realizes itself. Moreover, such determine or condition the specific ranges or paths that life can take through the infinite, possible variations that the DNA code can bring about. The various directions that living organisms have taken in the course of life’s evolution represent an infinitesimal portion of a spectrum of infinite possibilities for life to take.  Each variant direction that a variant population takes means that such a population has come to specialize in a finite range of  features and behavioral systems.  (Two populations are variant if they differ in the frequency of given types of genotypes that make up the inclusive genotype of a gene pool.) The consolidation of two populations, if they had not become species, would mean that the resultant synthesis would be a population less specialized in comparison to any of the two components that existed before the synthesis.  Such a synthesis of two or more variant populations creates a new, inclusive gene pool code for the product of such synthesis.  Such a code would be different from that of any of the populations that had existed before; and, moreover, the subsequent generations of such a population would have new combinations of genes and new gene frequencies which were not previously present in the respective populations before they anatomized with one another.  Such populations, after having anatomized in a given time and space, may, after producing the product of the synthesis, maintain their separated existences into future periods of time.  Though, each would have been altered in terms of inclusive gene codes as a result of the foregoing co-mingling at the temporal point.  In future periods, they may co-mingle again or with the progeny of its past products of synthesis.

Hence, another means by which the prime-potential of the DNA code can further realize itself is through the synthesis of variant populations.  The synthesis of variant populations during a given spatial-temporal-level of the spatial-temporal continuum represents in effect the further realization of the prime-potential of DNA only along the spatial dimension and not along the temporal-spatial dimension.  However, the synthesis of variant populations into a mesh-like pattern can take place often through time. This further facilitates the realization of the prime-potential of this temporal-spatial super-population. Such can be referred to as a highly polymorphic species having variant populations and/or races that synthesize with one another during various points along the spatial-temporal continuum, producing as a result still other variant populations. These at various points along the temporal-spatial continuum in turn anatomize, producing still other variant populations which, at other spatial-temporal levels, synthesize, producing still further, variant populations…and so on.  In this light, according to E. Breitinger, “Dobzhansky speaks of the races of a given species as a genetically open system because they may flow together through renewed hybridizing and contrariwise, may once more diverge into local populations and races” (Breitinger, 1962a), only to re-synthesize again in some future point of time.

    Such a polymorphic species extended through time and space can in totality be described as a super-population system capable of a great range of variations, and therewith, plastic in its ability to meet or cope with various environmental pressures  through time.  Such a spatial-temporal species can hence be described as one which is generally adapted or specialized in any one feature or behavior system relative to a species as is not first of all composed of a great variety of populations, and second, having populations that seldom interact or synthesize with one another, precluding the production of still other variant populations.  The latter species would be a species highly specialized in comparison to the former.  It would be a species whose prime-potential had not per a given range of time realized itself into a great variety of secondary potentials. And, for not having realized its prime-potential to a great extent, it would be less in a position to maintain itself through future periods of time---a great sequence of environmental changes---than would a species as had per the same range of time realized a great portion or spectrum of its prime-potential.

    Of course, factors in such a high rate of realization are a high rate of reproduction and mutation. That “…populations are able to respond by adaptive genetic changes to temporary, and even to seasonal, shifts in their environments…is of course a kind of evolutionary  luxury which only a rapidly breeding [and mutating] animal…is able to afford” (Dobzhansky, 1962). Moreover, “…rapidly evolving groups …would be represented in the fossil record not by a uniform long-persistent type but by a variable group of related forms [Bartholomew, 1962]”.  This means that a group which is evolving rapidly is either effecting into existence a great range of secondary potentials per a very small range of time under its response to meet varying environmental pressures, as well as to prepare for future ones. Or, it is sacrificing at a high rate a great range of secondary potentials as are not conducive to its survival in some non-varying environment(s) having a narrow range of characteristics or stressors. 

    In this situation, a specialized species would hence come to be more specialized at a high rate, in that it would come to accentuate at a high rate features and behavioral patterns at the expense of others, as would not be so conducive to its survival in an environment having a narrow range of intense pressures. Or, on other words, a highly specialized species through a given period of time would manifest or exaggerate to greater and greater degree per a given unit of time given features and behaviors at the expense of others, as were not conducive to maintaining the species through time in an environment of narrow, though intense stressors.  In short, a species as is specialized to a given narrow range of environmental variation (or environments) will tend to a greater and greater degree towards accentuation of such specializations at the expense of not realizing at a great rate its prime-potential.  “Adaptations have…for the most part led not only to greater efficiency but also to more and more specialization with a consequent reduction in potentiality. [This would be the range of secondary potentials as is existent.]…Thus adaptations toward increased efficiency in food getting, or towards avoidance of become food, are largely restrictive from the standpoint of future evolutionary changes” (Bartholomew, 1962).
     Moreover, Le Gros Clark makes reference…to an argument followed by Ford (1939), who points out that, as any “evolving group becomes more and more specialized in adaptations to one particular mode of life, the possible variations [secondary potentials] which could be of use to it become progressively restricted. “Finally”, he goes on to say, it attains a state of ‘orthogenesis’ in which the only changes open to the species are those which push it along the path it has already pursued.”  In other words, it becomes more and more difficult on the bases of natural selection of heritable variations, for an evolving line to retrace its steps and thus reverse its evolutionary trends…Le Gros Clark, 1962].”
    Only if the environment allowed or stimulated a specialized species to realize its prime-potential would this trend to greater and great specialization be reversed.  As it is, a species must become more and more efficient in dealing with a given range of environments or situations not so conducive, and hence, the more specialized it will become.  Again, if the environment did not in a sense “demand” that a species be so specialized, it would tend through time to become less accented or exaggerated in any of its features and create features and behaviors which are more general, plastic, and less pronounced in any one direction.  A species so pronounced along a given path is one which represents an extremely narrow sectioned of a realized prime-potential.  A species not pronounced along any given path or direction is a species which has realized a greater portion of the aforesaid potential, though the degree of realization is conditioned by the environment and mutagenic processes.    

    It is such a polytypic species which by persisting over a long period eventually brings out a definite “…trend in the transformation of the trait complex of the species in question.  Accumulated changes in such an evolving species may be of such an extent that the descendants differ from the ancestral populations in the same degree as that usually encountered between two related species living at the same time.  In this case one species has appeared from another through phyletic evolution and the two taxonomic units following one another in time are known as phyletic species.  To distinguish these from contemporaneous species which have come about by splitting [referred to as speciation] and which are genetically isolated from one  another, phyletic species constitute segments from [a polymorphic] breeding population spread out in a continuum over time [Breitinger, 1962b].”

    “[According to] E. Mayr…geographical and individual variability was greater in early hominids than we can tell from H. sapiens in the historical present.  The high intra-specific variability of recent pongids demonstrated by A. H. Schultz…points in the same direction.  Remane…on the bases of the fossil finds stipulates as well, that the pongidae have possessed “at least since the lower Miocene…an unusual range of individual polymorphism.”  Since in the splitting of a species it is always entire populations or subspecies which depart from the earlier species group, the earliest hominid specie must already have been endowed with the high variability of whatever hominoid species as its ancestor.  “In the origin of the hominids we must assume a high individual variability in almost all characters from the time of their first separation” (Remane).  For the time period of the Pleistocene, moreover, the known hominid finds exhibit a considerable geographic variation, such as would threaten to break up the unity of the species.  This centrifugal force appears, nevertheless not to have resulted in a completed speciation at no time and in no region…. Mayr sees in the ecological versatility of the hominids…a concrete indication that in the course of hominid evolution no case of complete speciation took place…and this in turn might have made possible that expanding geographic races coming in contact with one another should combine evolution advantages [beneficial secondary potentials] which could come into being in different regions [Breitinger, 1962a],”  of various mild  pressures.  During long periods, the hominids generally existed in varied but mild environments, environments of mild pressures, and this would seem to have allowed or induced hominids to achieve a high degree of polymorphism and/or variation through time.

    Through the passage of time, the hominids were effecting or creating from their prime-potential secondary potentials for higher and higher mental processes or functions or capabilities, and such creations would have been enhanced to higher and higher degrees by the constant maintenance of a reticulum of impinging populations.  The prime-potential of the hominids would hence have been effecting the beneficial, secondary potentials for higher and higher mental processes at a high rate, especially as the environment would be favorable to the maintenance of such secondary potentials.
    A potential for a high mental process means a secondary potential for learning a great variety of responses as opposed to a secondary potential for a high degree of reflex actions, complex though they be.  More important, it also means a potential for a mental process by which an organism can imagine (and hence will) or foresee or conceptualize of a great range of actions or possibilities or new relationships, as opposed to being able to conceive of a narrow range of actions or new relationships in response to the satisfaction of given needs, i.e., the need to contend or cope with an extremely harsh physical environment. 

The more narrow is the range of variant possibilities and actions that an organism can foresee or imagine in response to some given need or needs, the more would that organism have to depend for survival on its secondary potential to effect reflex actions, and, for this reason, that organism would have a secondary potential for an extremely low, if at all existent, capability to learn new responses and to imagine new relationships.  The effecting of the (secondary) potential as it exists in modern man according to the developmental psychologists H. Werner (1948), J. Piaget (see Elkind and Flavil, 1969) and Gesell (1949) to learn a great range of new relationships is a long, developmental process taking a number of years inasmuch as the nervous system develops slowly and hence, according to these psychologists, the given possibilities or actions can only be learned in given stages of such development.  Moreover, according to these psychologists, the ability to carry on a high degree of imaginative or abstract operations does not occur right away but takes place as well in a longer series of stages, taking a number of years.

    On the other hand, the secondary potential for the carrying out of a set of fixed reactions or behaviors or reflex actions takes, in comparison, a far shorter time to effect or realize itself into complete actuality.  Furthermore, the secondary potential for the low ability to learn and imagine new actions or patterns of survival would take a short time to realize or unfold itself in comparison, as fewer stages would be required for the process.
The evolution of the hominids reflects the realization of the prime-potentials into the secondary potentials for higher and higher mental capabilities, with modern man representing of such capabilities, Homo pithecanthropus or erectus, and Homo transvaalensis   (“African man-apes”, also referred to as Homo Africans) each respectively representing successive steps down in such capabilities as well as in time.  In this light it is important to note that

“Mayr classified recent and fossil hominids as a single genus homo with three phyletic species:  H. Transvaalenis [a fourth phyletic species, Homo ramapithecus, preceding H. transvaalensis, can also be included] H. erectus (Java man and Peking man) H. sapiens, (pre-Neanderthal group, Modern Man Group). With Dobzhansky, he based this extension…of the phyletic species H. sapiens on the ground that recent finds belonging to the Neanderthal group no longer permit a specific speciation of the Neanderthals from the Upper Paleolithic races of Modern Man…E. Breitinger, 1962].”

    The pre-Neanderthal  group and the Neanderthal group were highly polytypic or polymorphic.  Many of the Neanderthals, especially those found in the Near East and South East Europe had low values in their basion-bregma-asterion indexes (Breitinger, 1962a,b; Vallois, 1962.  This index is in effect the ratio of the occipital volume of the skull to the frontal volume of the skull.)  This means that the frontal volume of the skull was quite expansive, relative to the occipital volume, giving the skull an extremely vertical forehead as opposed to a sloping one.  The frontal-region volumes of the pre-Neanderthals were more expansive than those of Homo erectus, and those of Homo erectus were more expansive than those of Homo africanus.  The portion of the brain, the frontal lobes, as is contained in this frontal-volume is that part of the brain “…which has long been known as an area [or volume] concerned with higher intellectual and psychic functions.  Classically, destructive lesions of this area may produce…intellectual deterioration” (Chusid, 1960).  From the aforementioned, it would seem that Homo sapiens, by having a more expansive frontal lobe than Home erectus, has been more capable of higher mental functions than Homo erectus.  Also, it would seem that the polytypic Neanderthal of South East Europe and the Near East were the precursors of modern man.  (General values for the basion-bregma-asterion index do not differ amongst the modern day races.)

    Le Gros Clark points out that from these polytypic pre-Neanderthals and Neanderthals there arose “an actual evolutionary series, an aberrant (and in some respects a retrogressive) collateral line, the extremely specialized Neanderthal of the cold Mousterian of Western Europe” (Breitinger, 1962a).  In fact, Le Gros Clark actually gives this group species status, calling them Homo neanderthaleasus, though they appear to have been a sub-species on the verge of becoming a species.  In this regard, F.C. Howell conjectures, according to Breitinger, that their special morphological differentiation came about in Western Europe at the beginning of the last glacial phase which in Western Europe was the most extreme, producing in that region an extremely harsh situation as far as survival was concerned.  This suggests, according to F.  C.  Howell ( see Breitinger, 1962b) a climatically caused isolation, and hence, a process of intense speciation which, however, came to a premature end with the extinction of this sub-species.  Weckler, according to Vallois, “…declares that life in regions subjected to glacial action had a conservative effect and prevented the diversification of Neanderthal man.”  (Vallois, 1962).

    Even though the polytypic pre-Neanderthal existed in Western Europe, this group existed during an interglacial period when the environment was considerably mild, hence allowing for a great variation of populations to be effected and in turn maintained.  The Neanderthals also lived in considerably milder climates.  Even though they existed into glacial periods, the environment became progressively milder to the south east and east of
Western Europe for the reason that glaciers were far removed from these regions.  Hence, by living in an environment of mild pressures, a great amount of polymorphism or variation or polytypism was permitted through time. Such survival pressures did not remove any given secondary-potential, inasmuch as an environment of such a mild or non-harsh nature would allow these Neanderthals to effect their prime-potential into a greater and greater variety of secondary potentials, thereby allowing them to be more general in their characteristics through time.  F.  C.  Howell, according to Vallois, “points to the existence of a morphological gradient which was consistently more accentuated  from east to west in the progressive Neanderthals, attaining its maximum in the classic [extreme] Neanderthals…” of Western Europe (Vallois, 1962).

    The extreme Neanderthals of Western Europe allowed to be maintained only that narrow or somewhat narrow range of secondary potentials as enabled them to survive in an extremely demanding environment.  In such an environment, it would seem that the quicker and more the Neanderthal responded to constantly demanding conditions, the more its chance for survival would have been enhanced.  The premium on survival would be set on these Neanderthals that could meet immediate demands in a short period of time. Those Neanderthals that only took a small range of time to learn a narrow number of cultural patterns, as were extremely crucial for the successful meeting of immediate pressures, would be those Neanderthals as were allowed to survive and hence reproduce.  If those Neanderthals could meet successfully immediate pressures, as well through a given set of fixed actions or reflex actions, would be those Neanderthals as were allowed to survive and hence reproduce.  If those Neanderthals could, as well through a given set of fixed actions, meet successfully immediate pressures, the secondary potentials for such given reflex actions would be maintained, while others would not.

    We have noted earlier that the effecting of the secondary potential to learn a great variety of responses as well as being able to imagine a great range of responses and/or new relationships is a long, developmental process taking a great period of years.  However, immediate pressures are not “kind” situations which hold back their presence until an organism has unfolded or developed its complete secondary potential to learn and imagine response as could enable it to successfully meet or cope with such immediate pressures.  For this reason, such secondary potentials would tend to be eliminated before they had a sufficient amount of time to realize themselves, and hence, such Neanderthals would tend not to be able to achieve a point of development where they would be in a position to reproduce and hence transmit their secondary potential of high but slowly developing mental powers to subsequent generations.  The faster the prime-potential would be effecting itself into secondary potentials for higher and higher mental powers, the faster such secondary potentials would be eliminated, inasmuch as they would require longer and longer periods for realization or maturation.  However, since the potential for complex reflex actions takes a relatively short period to realize or effect itself, the selective value for such a secondary potential would be extremely enhanced where immediate responses were required for survival.  Since the secondary potential to learn and conceive of a limited range of cultural patterns takes as well a relatively short period of time to realize or unfold itself, the selective value for such a secondary potential would be as well extremely enhanced where immediate responses were required for survival.

    The culture of these extreme Neanderthals would not have provided much of a buffer for the slower maturing members of the population against such an extremely harsh environment, whereas a similar culture in a mild environment would so prove to be an effective buffer.  Because a reasonably developed culture would prove an effective buffer against a mild environment, the combination of such a culture and mild environment---of the Near Eastern and South Eastern European, polytypic Neanderthals--- would allow sufficient time for the secondary potentials for high mental processes to be realized or unfolded, and hence to allow such potentials to be transmitted to subsequent generations.  Once completely realized or effected in each subsequent generation, such secondary potentials would have enabled those organisms through time to create, learn, and elaborate certain cultural patterns that would prove extremely effective in enabling the population the population to survive extremely better.

    In such populations, the prime-potential in turn would have come to realize a great range of secondary potentials for various degrees of high mental processes.  The trend as due to mild cultural pressures would gradually turn toward the selection of secondary potentials for still higher and higher degrees of mental capabilities as would come into existence by the ever unfolding of the prime-potential over a period of generations.  Then, at some indiscernible point, modern man would have come to be.  Modern man, humanity, now in possession of a highly effective cultural system would now be in a position to contend with a great variety of environments and provide an effective buffer against even the harshest. However, it took a mild environment to allow man through the generations to create such an effective cultural system as would enable him to contend with the most extreme environments, whilst being still enabled to unfold through time his prime-potential for higher and higher mental powers.

    The extreme Neanderthals had not the luxury of such an effective cultural system, for the environment wherein they existed would not give them a chance to create it through time.  They had to “just get by” since they could not realize or unfold the secondary potentials as would enable them to do far more than just get by.  They could not, as the populations much further to the south-east, afford the time to wait for the potentials of the capacity to create and learn more effective cultural systems to realize themselves, because the secondary potential, as we have once noted, to learn only a narrow range of vital actions would take a relatively short period of time to unfold itself, and hence the potential would have a high selective value in an environment calling for immediate actions.  Hence, the more prevalent did the potential become for the capacity to learn only a limited range of vital behaviors, and the more prevalent did become the potential for a high degree of reflex-actions, the less prevalent became the potentials for high degrees of mental functions.  As the environment became even harsher, and because the existent potentials for imaginative behavior were not capable to cope, when effected, with such a continuously worsening of an already harsh environment, the Neanderthals of Western Europe could not re-pattern their culture in such a way as to enable themselves to deal with these further changes.  The result was their extinction.

    The fact that the extreme Neanderthal had a very high basion-bregma-astrion index value seems to be the physical evidence of a major reduction in mental capability relative to that of the main line of Neanderthals in the Near East and South-Eastern Europe.  It is hence very likely that had the entire earth experienced a harsh glacial climate, as did Western Europe during the Upper Pleistocene, modern man would never have come to be.

    It would seem that man in his evolution was allowed (or even induced) by the environment to unfold his prime-potential to such a point so as to enable the human being to contend with any environment with a high degree of effectiveness. Where with lower organisms it takes an extremely polymorphic population of such to make plastic adjustments through time to varying environmental changes, each individual of modern humans contains polymorphic advantage in the individual person to an extremely high degree, insofar as the human being is capable of willfully creating a great range of possible adaptations through the human being’s tremendous secondary potential for imagination, abstract operations, and learning. (This would be in a sense saying that any human being has the secondary-potential for enabling the individual to effect in one’s lifetime a great range of variant secondary potentials.)  Moreover, this is enhanced because modern man is a polytypic population and hence represents a great range of effected prime-potential, which in conjunction with genetically conditioned mutagenesis, further (and to a great extent) steps up per a unit time the unfolding of modern man’s prime-potential for infinite possibilities.  If humanity allows itself, humanity can become something greater than what it is.  The choice of possibilities is humanity’s.


Bartholomew, R.  “Protohominid Evolution,” in Ideas on Human Evolution,
    Selected Essays.  Edited by W. Howells.  (1962).

Breitinger, E. “Evolution of Homo Sapiens” in Ideas on Human Evolution,
    Selected Essays. Edited by W. Howells.  (1962-a).

Breitinger, E. “The Earliest Hominids”  in Ideas on Human Evolution,
    Selected Essays.  Edited by W. Howells. (1962-b).

Chusid, G.  Correlative Neuroanatomy and Functional Neurology, Ninth
    Edition.  (1960).

Dobzhansky, T. D.  “Evolutionary and Population Genetics”. Science 142
    No. 3596, 1131.  (1963).

Elkind, D., and Flavell, J.  Studies in Cognitive Development.  Essays in
    Honor of Jean Piaget.  Oxford University Press, New York. (1969).

Gesell, A.  L., and Elg, F.  L.  Child Development:  An Introduction to The
    Study of Human Growth.  Harper, New York.  (1948).

Hulse, F.  The Human Species.  Random House, New York.  (1963).

Le Gros Clark  “Problems of Taxonomy” in Ideas on Human Evolution,
    Selected Essays.  Edited by W. Howells. (1962).

Sussman, M. Growth and Development. (1964).

Vallois, L. “L’Origine de L’Homo Sapiens” in Ideas on Human Evolution,
    Selected Essays.  Edited by W. Howells.  (1962).

Werner, H. Comparative Psychology of Mental Development.  Revised Edition.
           International Universities Press, New York. (1948).

Michael M. Lieber
Genadyne Consulting
Berkeley, California 94707 

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