We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Neoteny refers to the persistence of juvenile traits, or the retardation of development. For example, it has been speculated that the domestic dog was bred (genetically engineered, as it were) as a neotenous wolf - one whose brain never matures and retains a puppy-like, submissive and thus a trainable, pliable, and friendly mentality. (All domesticated dogs were bred from the wolf, from the Chihuahua to the Huskie.)
Similarly, Stephen Jay Gould speculated that humans may be neotenous chimpanzees. On a bad day, I am quite certain that I am one. Desmond Morris wrote about it.
In fact, the human brain, face, and body demonstrate numerous neotenous traits, the lack of heavy body hair being the most obvious.
The grey matter of the human brain, in particular, shows retarded development even when compared with other apes and primates. Gene Expressions shows the data. (The transcriptome which is referred to is the messenger RNA (mRNA) which, in a timed manner, transcribes the messages from the DNA to make things happen. It's a miracle that it works.)
It is fun to speculate about what the neoteny of the human brain might imply for human development, socialization, learning, and psychology - but it's all speculation. As I have said, the human brain is an ongoing experiment.
For those who are not familiar with Godwin's work I will attempt a paraphrase.
Neoteny in spades! If humans were like other animals then gestation would be much longer. Humans are born premature. The result is that a baby enters the world while its brain is still maturing. This allows the mother and others to imprint - educate - the baby.
All other animals are born with essentially fully mature brains, thus have a limited ability to learn.
I can believe it's possible that humans did self-select those members of their groups that could bond socially and use their intelligence to work together in an organized manner. Those two traits would quickly become widespread in a population and have long ranging implications.
I've lately had a thought experiment where human researchers select chimps for tameness, or lack of aggression, and see if there arent' physical traits that accompany that aspect of neoteny which would create a population of chimps which more closely resemble bonobos, much as the Siberian fox breeders selected foxes for tameness (delayed expression of adult characteristic aggressive/dominance behaviors) which resulted in a breed of fox that had physical characteristics that resemble what we see in domesticated dogs (barking, patchy color, floppy ears, curled tails).
The Naked Ape was an interesting read. I enjoyed people watching as well. (The original, illustrated edition).
Do you suppose neoteny in any way explains the cementing of early childhood learning in the psyche of adults? In the case of wild animals, is it true to say counter-instinctual training will be lost or does it remain intact? When the brain matures beyond the juvenile stages of development do learned behaviors revert to instinctual patterns?
Re: On a bad day...
I'm an ape-man and I'm just trying not to drag my knuckles in front of my Savior.