[percy-l] Polygenesis vs Monogenesis and the Triadic Threshold

Robert Eckert rgeckert at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 15 11:30:01 EST 2005

          Walker Percy theorized that at some point in our evolution, perhaps 100,000 years ago, the uniquely human ability to symbolize evolved. 
  I can not recall Percy ever saying whether he believed there was a single origin, or multiple origins, for this change. 
  If single origin, then the various races [there's more than three--Itzkoff adds boskopoids and capoids] evolved from a single race. This thought horrifies racists.
  If multiple origin, then how? Did that chance mutation which results in symbolization ability appear separately around the world? Simultaneously? If the ability is the result of a series of chance mutations, then could this same series have possibly occurred at different locations? Could even a single mutation occur simultaneously at different locations? 
  If there was no triadic threshold, then the question of monogenesis vs polygenesis is not so problematic. 
  If there was a triadic threshold, and it was the result of a chance mutation [a "hopeful monster" in a punctuated equilibrium approach], then it seems it must have been a single origin from which the various races resulted.
  This question of monogenesis vs polygenesis is HUGE. Ones understanding of human beings is critically different depending on ones answer. 
  This is the sort of philosophical debate that inspired Socrates to teach wresting as well as rhetoric. Recently I was discussing this subject with co-workers, house framers from rural upstate New York, and it nearly came to blows.     
  Robert Eckert
  Rochester, New York

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