Friday, February 28, 2014



You haven't heard of Quantum Evolution before?  Neither have I.  But a cover article in Time this month is about Quantum Computers and their remarkable ability to solve complex problems.  The speed is advanced over digital computers with their 1 or 0 bits because the quantum ones use 1 or 0 for 1 as well as 1 or 0 for 0 which complicates the whole matter beyond my simple level of number understanding.

But it makes some kind of intuitive sense as applied to the linear versus global thinking of the other post on this site I just posted today, 2/28/2014.  My global right brain thinking has been able to grasp some of the complexity and simplicity of evolution my peers are missing.  Maybe the Quantum Computer will have the capacity to do the same.

Why the complexity?  We have several million different animal species living on our planet, each tracing ancestry back to the first animal species that graded imperceptibly from a population of protozoans a couple of billion years ago.  As the first one diverged, as well as successive later ones, the original species often became extinct, but along the variously branched ancestry some survived relatively unchanged for long times, some even to the present.  So as soon as the first branch developed, evolution was no longer linear, and at the next level it was no longer two dimensional.  After a few more levels of branches (although branching of one line could be much earlier or later in time than another branch, the number of possible dimensions becomes astronomical.

Features can be lost, gained, or changed at different rates and types in each line.  Features adaptive to survival are present if the line does not become extinct and may be known only from fossils if the type can fossilize.  Extinct species may or may not leave fossils.  Can a Quantum Computer make sense of evolution.  I doubt it will happen soon because they probably have to be programmed by linear thinking whizzes.  Can they get past the garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) that plagued early computing efforts?

Once biologists get past the problem of differentiating between analogous and homologous features they can make jumps rivaling what a good computer can do to solve evolutionary questions.  Analogous features are like a bat's wing and an insect's wing not sharing a common structure in previous ancestors.  Homologous wings are like a bat's, bird's, and (perhaps) flying reptile sharing wings developed from a vertebrate ancestor's forelimb.

Earlier posts might help my peers understand the importance of the pogonophorans in their central role in evolution of the vertebrate line and the early branching of major lines of the animal kingdom.  If they can't do that they will be mired in past errors making the task impossible.

Joseph G. Engemann     February 28, 2014



                             [based on journal entry of 12/20/2006]

Linear versus global thinking was a problem in writing my evolution book.  Related problems are evident in the science and religion hierarchy; perhaps in other human organizations as well.

Global, or right brain, thinking is difficult to present to others because of the linear nature of speech, writing, and other left brain processes.  Not all are comfortable with the side tracks or tangents, as I mistakenly labeled my insights in classes, insights that are essential to see the big picture of complex subjects such as evolution.  Many want just the facts or essentials and deprive themselves of the chance to get true understanding of a subject.

In ecology, evolution, physiology, and perhaps many other areas, multiple causes are part of the explanation of how a result comes about.  Unfortunately, many scientists have made the mistake of finding evidence for something contributing to an effect and take it as disproof of other factors contributing to the same effect.  Even worse, they find an incorrect conclusion of proof from their experiments and dismiss alternate explanations.

In evolution, I first realized some of the problem when evolutionary connections indicated by morphological gradients leading from one group to another were given a directional understanding that was 180 degrees from an equally plausible explanation.  Perhaps skimpy fossil evidence of age of groups was used or other presumed evidence from anatomy; whereas simple to complex is no more reasonable than complex to simple as evidence of direction of evolution, depending on selective pressures.

In science and religion, orthodoxy is championed by the hierarchy.  They choose the operative principles and enforce them.  When most of it is good, the process is good.  But the process of change becomes geological in speed and minute in immediate quantitative aspects.  The peer review process may lead to an inbreeding that prevents advances based on things reviewers do not fully appreciate.  This is hinted at by the fact that many papers that represent important advances opening new areas of science have had many rejections before finally being accepted for publication.  Eugene Garfield provided many such cases in the “Citation Classics” items profiled in Current Contents, Life Sciences during the last half of the twentieth century.

and on 12/29/2006

Regarding the entry above about errors of science and religion, I was thinking a few days ago that a larger number of things apply that include government and organizations of all types and society as a whole in many cases.  Authority, imposed, elected, or acknowledged, may be given greater credence than deserved.  Tradition or the status quo is hard to overcome.  Majority view is given more respect than it deserves in many cases. 

Was it Abraham Lincoln or Will Rogers who said “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”?

Joseph G. Engemann     2/28/2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014



Susan Cain, in her book, Quiet (see 02/02/2014, post 34), lists the four rules applied to group brainstorming sessions.  She then presents evidence that collective work of individuals done independently provides more creative solutions than come from similar numbers working in a group brainstorming session.  Since the individuals use quiet reflection by themselves it hardly merits a term, individual brainstorming.  But I have used the term individual brainstorming or solitary brainstorming in my past thinking about the topic.

Nine months ago (05/02/2013) my third post listed mental manipulations that might help one do solitary brainstorming.  Creative solutions may come best in quiet situations because the left brain and right brain can work more effectively.  Before you can optimize a thought in a group situation another's contribution may derail the thought.  We can't truly work at a high level on all things when we are multi-tasking.  One line of evidence is the rise in automobile accidents when the drivers talk, text, eat, read or listen.  Beginning teen-age drivers have progressively higher accident rates as more peers ride with them.

One of the biggest reason's noted by Cain for group brainstorming not being as effective as expected is the conscious or subconscious fear of criticism of one's contribution, even though criticism is against the brain-storming rules.

As noted above, coordination of left and right brain hemispheres may be made more difficult in a group setting.  But quiet brainstorming doesn't work in a vacuum, or more accurately, with a paucity of knowledge, experience, and ideas.  Some of the best stimulation of that type can come from interaction with peers, either at meetings of those with like interests, or reading what they have to say.  Meetings may have a benefit not found in brainstorming, of questions, comments, and clarification if needed.


Try to be creative, but be relaxed about it.

Question things, but don't be disagreeable.

Broaden your perspective or widen your interests, solutions are often by analogy to a principle of some other topic.

Humor in your life may make it easier for you to make unlikely mental connections.

If you prime your mind to think about something when you sleep, keep a notepad and pencil handy to make a note if it wakes you up; it will make it easier to get back to sleep.

Believe in causality, expect answers or causes for everything of concern.

Don't forget adequate quality rest, nutrition, exercise, and contact with others.


Yesterday I was reading comments readers of Cain's book left online at the Barnes and Noble Nook Store.  The comments were very positive in general from both introverts and extroverts.  One very critical one seemed to be a result of professional jealousy.  But the sense of relief many expressed at finding a positive view of their introversion seemed counterbalanced by a view that they were trapped, but now comfortably, in their introversion.  I do not think they are trapped, as you can see from the conclusion of my blog posted on 2/2/2014.

Joseph G. Engemann         February 18, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Creativity: Art


My 1974 unpublished manuscript on creativity, "The Two-Way Street", had chapter 11, pp 65-69 titled ART start with the following extract below.

     Art is often linked closely in our thinking with creativity.  Evidence of this is the difference in price of a masterpiece and its copy done with equal technical skill.

     Creativity is developing the new and creative artists have more than technical skill, in that there is something new about their work - a new insight in an old medium or an old or new insight in a new medium or modification of a medium.

     The new or novel may entertain, but it is not truly great art, unless there is a message of importance and permanence (except in the performing arts), with perhaps the evocation of emotion, giving an insight into reality.  I think social values are important in judging art.  Thus the nude can be beautiful but the lewd cannot.  Beauty and perhaps art are still, as the old axiom says, in the eye of the beholder.  And, as most artists know, the setting has a profound effect on what the eye sees.  Thus concerts are rarely given in boiler factories.  I find more beauty in the simple, and the ornate or detailed must have an aspect of simplicity to be beautiful.  But putting my personal tastes and judgments aside, may I give a couple of examples of some simple approaches to the new.


     I sometimes make visual displays I call anemographs.  I was present when the first one I know of was made in Tasmania.  Several of us took our lunch breaks together at the University of Tasmania in 1956, and we entertained ourselves at the suggestion of Dr. Harold Reynolds with some doodling, and also cooperative or progressive doodles.  Leon Hughes was making some rather graceful ones (see Fig. 11-1) when the ink on his pen blotted and he instinctively tried to blow the drop off his doodle.  It streaked out in an interesting pattern.  This serendipitous discovery was quickly converted into several intentional variations.

     After returning to this country, I experimented further with the technique and found it produced rather uncertain results with a characteristic nature.  The art consultant on a TV program where I displayed them thought they resembled Japanese calligraphy.  Figure 11-2 shows an example of this technique of dropping ink and blowing it around without the use of pen or brushes.  It's fun and maybe entertaining, but it is not art.

-end of extract-

My incompetence with the internet made me take this way to thank the authors of first two comments, Patrick and kylie, in about ten months of blogging.  I picked the topic above because it included Tasmania, recently visited by one of you.  When I started this blog it was primarily to get my novel ideas about evolution into some form for posterity.  I didn't care too much about getting them into print before I died, I just wanted to make sure they were available for posterity.  I was concerned that they would go out with the trash after I died so I thought if they were on the internet they might be there (figuratively) forever.

Joseph G. Engemann    February 8, 2014      Figures added with minor editing, June 27, 2014

Sunday, February 2, 2014


QUIET - the book

Cain, Susan.  2012, 2013.  Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  Broadway Books.  New York.  352 pp.  Just read this book at the end of January 2014.  Very worth reading.  Today (February 2, 2014) I was reviewing in my mind some of the things from it I wanted to blog about ( and, as I was thinking about how creativity is enhanced by left-brain/right-brain cooperation and how creativity seems to be associated with introversion and right brain activity, the following seemed evident.


Cain discusses probable causes of introvert/extrovert personality types and sees both hereditary and environmental factors as causes, including one known gene, as having some influence.  I see that a simple explanation of chance expression of left brain versus right brain dominance could be a major factor.  Once both hemispheres are more equally integrated into brain activity, one might be more of an ambivert.  Until that point is reached the ratio early in life would be close to 1:1.  


I agree with her arguments that introversion is associated with the careful thought leading to creative results.  But I have personally made the transition from right brain dominance and introversion to either extroversion or, more likely, ambivert status.  I still find quiet time pleasant and useful for thinking.  My discovery of my transition was a few dozen years ago as I was reflecting about left-brain/right brain matters and the need for me to use more graphic material in lectures to accommodate those students who were right-brain dominant.  I became aware that I was thinking in words that I was hearing in my mind.  At that time I could not visualize a picture of anything in my mind, the same mind that in the mid 1960's I could visualize strategy for a three dimensional tick-tac-toe game that some faculty were playing on Western Michigan University's new IBM 1620 computer.  I had lost my first game with it, but, after a night's interrupted sleep pondering it, I won the next game.  I had changed.


I spent some time considering a research project enlisting honors college students in a longitudinal study of hemispheric dominance.  A math professor friend noted the mathematicians had been discussing left-brain dominance as characteristic of their profession.  But he was right-brained and taught an area of math more visually oriented, I think geometry.  I wanted to have students check the ratio in various academic disciplines, both in faculty and undergraduate majors.  In particular, follow-up on students from their freshman year to later years would show whether they should be counseled out of a field or left to make the transition to suitable hemispheric activity.

I did not pursue the project, perhaps because I was an INTP personality type, and/or I didn't have the disposition to deal with the ambiguities involved in getting approval from the university's human subjects review board as needed for projects when people are the subject.  But from personal experience, I knew that I changed.

My understanding of the evolutionary origin of hemispheric dominance in humans came with my being called upon to teach introductory zoology about the end of the 1970's.  After 20 years teaching invertebrate type classes I wanted to know the reason the left brain controls the right side of the body and the right brain controls the left side of the body.  To shorten the story, it wasn't in the books, but it became apparent that it was the most economical way to integrate vision into a unitary binocular vision for us.  The role of association neurons connecting left and right neurons controlling structures of invertebrates contributed to the answer.  I gave a presentation at the state academy on the topic but did not publish the story.  The enormous demands of brain space for good vision selected for a large visual cortex.  But the area for nervous control of the physical body do not demand much space for transmission of motor impulses.  So rather than having massive crossing over from both visual hemispheres, the partial crossing over of visual and complete crossing over for motor nerve enervation was achieved through natural selection.  As other portions of the brain enlarged along with the visual cortex, the portions allocated to thought did not have right and left functions so opposite sides of those regions could specialize as we see in humans.


Both personality types may have creativity in their future as they optimize hemispheric use with a balance appropriate to the business at hand.  I might never have reached this understanding if my nine-year old verbal brother had not belabored his tongue-tied little five-year old brother with the maxim that if you couldn't express your idea you didn't know it.  I was not literally tongue-tied, but I clearly understood concepts I could not find words to express.  My transition from introversion to what I am today is a long story, I will spare you the details.

My understanding of hemispheric dominance and creativity long ago was why I argued study of biology was exceptionally important in a liberal arts education.  Laboratory and field study of organisms exercised the right brain and explaining and describing exercised the left brain; cooperatively using both sides enhanced the result.  Actually, any subject that has physical aspects and written and verbal aspects should have similar value.  

Perhaps the link between left-brain with math, music, and speech skills, versus the right-brain with visual, graphic, and mechanical skills starts early in life.  It may never be known if more right-brained children developed after television began to replace radio.  But there are good reasons to think both physical and mental health are enhanced by adequate diverse physical exercise.  Where do smell and aromatherapy fit in?  We are complex creatures in a complex world; I will leave it at that.

Joseph G. Engemann      February 2, 2014