David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Acta Biotheoretica 43 (1-2) (1995)
The recent discovery of a phenomenon of craniofacial growth, called craniofacial contraction, throws a new <span class='Hi'>light</span> on the process of hominization. The main interest of this discovery lies in a growth principle combining the different craniofacial units, that is to say, the neurocranium (neural skull), the chondrocranium (basal skull) and the splanchnocranium (visceral archs including the mandible). Until recent years, these different parts were considered as neighbouring element without any morphogenic or morphodynamic connection. But now, we know that the morphogenesis of the base of the skull governs that of the face. This basicranial morphogenesis is the occipital flexion. It generates morphogenic correlations with the face since embryogenesis. The ontogenic pathway of this phenomenon is the craniofacial contraction. It concerns embryonic dynamics connected with the spatial development of the embryonic neural system, the neural tube. These morphodynamics are common to each primate species, but they are differenciated by the amplitude of the embryonic contraction. We ask ourself the question: is hominization of the neurocephalic embryogenesis, that is the craniofacial contraction, plausible over a very long period, with gradual and chaotic evolutionary pathways, or, on the contrary, is the complexity of such an embryonic phenomenon, a limiting factor generating determined and predictible ontogenic thresholds? The study of extant and fossil primate skulls demonstrates that species are organized around 6 levels of embryonic contraction, which, starting from 60 millions years, evolve from the less to the most contracted skull. Among each ontogenic level, living and fossil species develop from the same embryonic system but between both levels, the embryos suddenly are reorganized. Therefore, I have defined an evolutive ontogenic unity, that is the fundamental ontogenesia. The cephalic pole has a fundamental ontogenesis, meaning that, beyond the diversities, we can see the same contraction in many living and extinct species. The ontogenic diversities are the result of the microevolution and are not predictible. In such a perspective, the ontogenic morphodynamics evolve with chaotic trajectories. But, between two embryonic levels, or two fundamental ontogeneses, evolutionary modalities are different. Eventually, from 60 millions years to XXth century, we observe the same phenomenon than during human ontogenesis; hominization of the cephalic pole is a craniofacial contraction. The evolutive pathway is stable, whatever the number of thresholds, the cranial shape changes but the ontogenic trajectory is preserved. This is a macroevolution because the embryonic system is reorganized. The logics of the phenomenon are an increasing dynamization, the human ontogenesis is the more unstable and the longer morphodynamics to stabilize the craniofacial contraction. To conclude, hominization is an iteration of an ontogenic process when embryos reach successive dynamic thresholds. The attractors are neither static, periodic, nor chaotic because the successive ontogenic trajectories are themselves in a stable evolutive trajectory, and the results with increasing contraction, complexified neocortical tissues and cephalocaudal reorganization are predictible. During hominization, irreversibility and innovations do not emerge with chaotic determinism, but with harmonic determinism in association with the correlations established between the embryonic tissues. When the system is destabilized, the embryonic systems do not forget the previous ontogenic pattern, on the contrary, they develop the pattern with new dynamical conditions. This sort of phenomenon is not described in the sciences of complexity. In the present case, we are in front of many millions years and the necessity to propose new concepts such as a new familly of attractors, namely the harmonic attractors.
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