Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Evolution of Presbyterian Conflict: An Abstract

In order to understand the conflict dynamics of the Presbyterian system of church polity and governance, it is first necessary to examine the way in which the constituent members of this socio-ecclesial unit developed.   Specifically, we must explore the adaptive and evolutionary pressures that shaped the genetic precursor of all modern Presbyterians:  The Scotsman.

Presbyterianism has shown considerable cross-cultural memetic robustness in the globalized faith milieu, establishing itself successfully in both sub-Saharan Africa and throughout East Asia.  However, in order to develop a robust and testable paradigm for understanding Presbyterian polity cross-culturally, an ecclesio-genetic assessment of the Scotsman's dialectic of difference becomes necessary.

In a recent journal article (Williams et al., "Dontcha Be Lookin' Under Thair, Laddie: The Archetypal Kilt in Contemporary Presbyterian Socio-Sexual Conflict Dynamics," Journal of Evolutionary Ecclesiology 59, 2010), I argued that the dialectics of difference that manifest themselves in Presbyterian parliamentary decisionmaking are radically formed by the neurocranial evolution of the Scotsman.

The primal Scot approached issues of disagreement and social krisis in a unique ethno-martial way.  Confronted with economic ("Ye pae me wha ya owe meh, ya hamshanker!") or interpersonal ("Tha's ma waif yar humphin', yah feckin' baz!") disagreement, the primal Scot did not rely on traditional manual or pedal technique for resolving conflict.

Instead, the reflexive instinctually-mediated reaction of the Scot facing a territorial challenge is to rapidly accelerate their neurocranial os frontale (forehead) into the considerably less-structurally sound nasal, sinus, or maxilla region of their conflict partner.

This "headbutt" or "MacDougall Reflex" (MacDougall et al, "Ooo I'ma Breaik Yer Faice: The Neurocranium and the Church of Scotland, 1873-1952,"  Congregational PseudoScience Quarterly, 7, 1996) meant that individuals with larger and more prominent os frontale features were more likely to be favored in socioeconomic, interpersonal, or territorial conflict.  This conveyed a statistically significant reproductive advantage.

exhibit a
Over tens of thousands of years of Scots evolution, the net effect was to produce individuals with significant and prominent os frontale (see exhibit a).  To support this large bone mass, the frontal lobe of the Scot expanded accordingly, producing an incidental and entirely accidental increase in cognitive ability.

The combination of the "MacDougall Reflex" with the collateral expansion of cognitive function provides us with a clear causal ecclesio-evolutionary link to current Presbyterian polity.   Robert's Rules of Order, for instance, at its essence provides a socio-linguistic proxy for reproducing the classic Scots dialectic of difference within a parliamentary system.  Within the framework of parliamentary procedure, the essential principle remains the same.

It's still just banging our heads together.

This understanding of the socio-genetic precursors of the Presbyterian system of governance represents a significant advance in our understanding of the underlying character of our polity, and presents many opportunities for further research.