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Play, Imagination & Language
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Semantic language distinguishes us from any other life form. Language lifts us up into a higher order of functioning. Language development begins in utero. By the seventy month in utero the developing human begins to form unique but precise physical movements to the phonemes of the mother’s speech. This physical patterning to phonetic sounds continues at a micro level throughout one’s life. Language is grounded in the body. Early language helps the young child make since of his or her body movements. Ask the two year old to say sit, and they sit while repeating the word. Infants and young children therefore pay rapt attention to adult speech and respond at every level: physical, emotional, psychological. They are associating word-symbols to the images they see.

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Parenting: Meeting the Child’s Changing Needs
Joseph Chilton Pearce

If the parent is attuned to what the actual child needs, not what the adult project as a cultural expectation, conflict virtually disappears. The child will clearly express what they need, are interested in, learning about and not. True learning is completely intrinsic. Only 5% of what a child actually learns come from what the adult thinks of as verbal instruction. And of that 5% the child retains only 3% for any length of time. 95% of all true learning occurs simply by interact with the model environment and this is done in the state of authentic play. Few parents are up the challenge. Actually meeting the child where they are requires that the parent stay one step ahead. This is a significant challenge. The child’s brain is the most dynamic learning system in the known universe. The benefits of trying however reap unimagined benefits for both adult and child.

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Betrayal of Age & Stage Development
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Each stage of the development process is designed to open us to a vastly larger universe. Perception, what is experience, images of self and reality expands with each stage of development if nature’s plan is met and we remain open. By age fifteen the three primary brain centers should be developed leading to a brain growth spurt and the opening of a fourth brain center, the prefrontal regions which level off around age twenty-one. At twenty-one even far greater unfolding is ready to open if the system is open and the earlier stages are full. The same is true of age thirty. Stage after stage.

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Stage Specific Brain Development
Joseph Chilton Pearce

If Nature’s agenda is met fully at each stage we insure the best foundation for what comes later. Nature’s intent always precedes the ability to do. If a critical developmental need is not met, for example in the second year it won’t be noticed in the third. There are too many other things going on. What was missed however may be the necessary foundation for another capacity age fifteen. Early deficiencies often don’t show up until the teens or early adulthood. Raising a child for the adult is an opportunity to stand outside of the developmental frame and re-experience the childhood again which dramatically expands the adult’s embodiment of wisdom.

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Stage Specific Brain Development
Joseph Chilton Pearce

If Nature’s agenda is met fully at each stage we insure the best foundation for what comes later. Nature’s intent always precedes the ability to do. If a critical developmental need is not met, for example in the second year it won’t be noticed in the third. There are too many other things going on. What was missed however may be the necessary foundation for another capacity age fifteen. Early deficiencies often don’t show up until the teens or early adulthood. Raising a child for the adult is an opportunity to stand outside of the developmental frame and re-experience the childhood again which dramatically expands the adult’s embodiment of wisdom.

We might not notice in a toddler that various developmental processes are not taking place because we’re so caught up in the whole turmoil of the toddler period generally or in the first three years of life.  Jerome Brunner at Harvard years ago said, if some critical need of development is not met, let’s say in the third year, it won’t be noticeable in the third year because there are too many other needs that are being met for instance, but that that might be the critical foundation for something to unfold at age fifteen as a teenager.  So if we’re not aware of that hole in our boat until we get to fifteen and all of the sudden we’re dealing with a developmental failure twelve years before at which point it’s a little bit past the point of repair.  We have to compensate.  And we find that on every case.  He used a great statement “nature’s intent is always preceding the ability to do.” She’s always preparing.  So a lot of the actions of the toddler, the two or three year old that might be incomprehensible to us are literally laying down the foundations for something critical to unfold many years later. 

And that’s why if nature’s agenda is always met with the appropriate nurturing and modeling at each stage then there’s clear passage on into the ever higher stages of intelligence and creativity.  
If the reciprocal action between parent and child is set up from the beginning, if the bonding is there and not broken, you’re not dealing with any kind of a challenge to the parent.  You’re dealing with simply a constant, continual opening within their own life.  Bringing a child into the world really is a recapitulation for the parent.  It’s a chance for them to, from a very objective and material standpoint to stand outside the developmental system itself and in effect go through it again.  So bringing of a child into the world is the opening to a seriously new form of learning on the part of the parent.  They literally, their brain structure is going to be expanded.  Their emotional structures are going to be expanded, their intellect, their creativity, and all that will undergo an enrichment and a further mature stage which is in effect a replica, kind of a reflection of the child’s stage itself in its adult mature form.  

So, a lot of parents who say oh I wish I could be a child again, they have the opportunity.  Or, oh I wish I had known then what I know now.  They have the opportunity for this. It is really a kind of a rebirth of their own life, a transformation of their own life and an opening up to a greater life through becoming the appropriate reciprocal parent with the child.  The child will again awaken in the parent a continual ongoing new form of intelligence just as we spoke of the bonding between mother and infant awakening in both a reciprocal intelligence in the beginning. That should continue right on through.

One of the things that has bothered me about my own actions and my own lecturing, my own workshops and books and so on, is the idea that we must educate parents about raising children.  Now when we start working along those lines, the eventual parent is going to end up with a whole raft of images, preset expectancies in their own mind of what should happen with that child and that poor child is going to be faced with overwhelming obstacles trying to live out those expectations.

The real education of the parent would be to ensure the education of the heart, that the reciprocal bonding, the opening up to the child, to take their cues from the child, in touch with their own heart.  You can’t leave the heart out of it because that’s the final intelligence of the whole system, rather than an accumulation or aggregate of adult intellectual ideas of what should happen. That’s not educating a parent for true parenthood.  To educate the parent to be a parent would be to get them to open up to their heart, to their deepest intuitive levels, to the knowing that’s really within them and then to carry through the bonding with the child on every level and that kind of response.  It really should be the opening up of the parent’s greatest education.  The child should be the parent’s teacher as much as the parent is the child’s teacher.  There again that reciprocation.  This sounds la-de-dah but let me tell you it’s a very powerful thing.  We can’t know ahead of time what our response to that child should be because that child has never been here before.  This is a new experience.  And if that child is to fulfill their own needs, these expectancies are unaccountably dropped.  They get in the way of everything.  So since we can’t predict, it boils down to the parent’s attempt to predict and control the growth of the child and who has the intelligence to do that?

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Stage Specific Brain Development
Joseph Chilton Pearce

The brain opens and unfolds its inherent agenda in stages. These stages unfold the way the brain developed in its evolutionary history; sensory motor, emotional, imaginative, each building on the foundation of the previous.In preparation for each new opening the brain grows new structure anticipating what is just about to happen. These growth spurts express as dramatic changes in the child’s interest and behavior. Optimum development is achieved by parents understanding each stage, what is appropriate for that stage and providing the nurturing stimulus right for that stage. Too much too soon prevents the full development of the early foundation weakening the ability for more advanced development that comes later.

The developmental psychologists starting with Rudolph Steiner and Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, just a whole long line of them, they are in pretty much agreement that the brain activates and unfolds its inherent agenda in stages.  These stages, not to any surprise, unfold the way the brain developed in its evolutionary history.  The first stage of development that must unfold is essential motor brain, obviously.  The child must be able to bring in signals from its environment and make in it an intelligent muscular motor-body response to those signals.  That’s number one.   And the whole first year is devoted almost exclusively to that development of the sensory motor system, then all of the sudden the little infant crawling around on its belly is up on its hind legs and it’s in a mammalian stage now and charging around, the delivery changes over night.  

They used to have this old wife’s saying of the changeling, but here this sweet docile little infant disappears overnight and has got this wild, ecstatic charging little your infant, running all around. And they used to say some old witch came in the night and took away the sweet little docile infant and gave this rip roaring little lion in the household.  Now, this is a very dramatic change.  There are many of these changes as neural structures themselves, each built on the foundation of the other.  The emotional brain is built on the foundation of the sensory motor.  

Once the sensory motor is at least partially established the emotional brain then is going to come into the picture and when it does the behavioral change in the child is dramatic.  And then if the emotional structure begins to develop then some of the higher cortical structures, they come into the scene.  Now they’ve got enough foundations that they can come into the scene.  At each of these periods there is a dramatic change in behavior.  

There are also very profound brain growth spurts.  The brain grows tremendous amounts of new neural material to do what? To accommodate these ancient encoded agendas that nature has and each one unfolds on the foundation of the previous.  So this is the very careful unfolding of the whole evolutionary scenario of life up to our point. And at each one of these stages of development the child’s moods change dramatically.  The fundamental needs of nurturing never change.  The fundamental needs of sensory motor interaction never change.  The fundamental needs of emotion and emotional nurturing and relationship never change.  But new ones are added, each one carrying within its unique requirements for the development of that particular kind of intelligence on the basis of all the others that have been established.

So the unfolding of this what we call the stage specific, at each specific stage different parts of the brain are going to unfold, different types of intelligences unfold, different models are needed or different responses from the model are needed at each of those stages.  Different types of nourishment are going to be needed, nurturing are going to be needed.  If we always say they food for the growing adolescent isn’t appropriate to the infant in arms, nor would we put the ravenous teenager to the mother’s breast again, you know.  Each stage has its corresponding physical nurturing, emotional nurturing, and so on and models to follow.  
We speak of each of these stages of development being the foundation for the following stage.  The sensory motor brain is certainly the foundation for the emotional cognitive.  Now in the very same way, if a stage is not met with the appropriate nurturing, the appropriate modeling and so forth, that neural development cannot take place fully.  Some part of it will but it will be incomplete.  Then that means that the next stage which opens up and they all open up just like baby teeth, six year molars, twelve year molars, around eighteen wisdom teeth, that six year cycle of opening of physical process, the same thing happens in its own way with the development of the intelligence and the creative processes themselves.  

Now if an early stage is missed not only are all subsequent stages compromised but the individual’s identity of self tends to remain locked into their incomplete stage.  That is, we tend to remain there with a large part of our energy and attention, trying to patch up what was missing.  We’re spending in fact the rest of our lives searching for that which will fill the holes in our boat formed in that first year of life or the second year or the third year.  Meanwhile the other stages go on unfolding and we do develop them but the will be incomplete at some final point because the foundations on which they’re based are incomplete and we, as a person, we remain largely identified with the stage of development that is incomplete within us.  That’s why a lot of us as adults are still essentially toddlers.  Work on the terrible two’s for the rest of our life. Why, we’re trying to complete that stage so we can rise and go beyond into the next stage.

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Bonding or Violence
Joseph Chilton Pearce

The nurturing of children during the first three years of life determines the peaceful or violent nature of any given culture.The United States has the largest prison system in the world which is directly related to the failure of nurturing in early childhood. Sweden listened to the child development research and reaped the most peaceful most egalitarian population and culture saving billions in crime, addiction police and prison. The way we treat babies and infants is the way those children grow up and treat the world.

We have an example of a nation of people that listened to what the science of human development was telling them about early nurturing and that was Sweden.  The Swedish Pediatrics Group reported to their government many years ago that the nurturing of an infant from birth on, the first three years particularly, was the most crucial point of life. And that if the mother would stay home and nurture their child during that time it would save the state a great deal of money, because their whole penal system, their law enforcement process, their legalistic systems and so forth could be all but abolished.

The same thing Jim Prescott was telling our government, in effect a number of years ago.  Sweden employed this and began to pay mothers to stay home for the first year of a child’s life.  Within a generation it had saved them such a huge amount of money in crime and violence that they extended to either mother or father for the first year of life and have now extended it for three years. Why? Simply because it was economically the only feasible thing to do.  It saved the government such a huge amount of money that they could pay every mother payment to stay home with their infants in that first critical period.  

Now in our country we have at least two million of our fellow citizens in prison, it caused an average of $30,000 a year to keep one in prison.  It cost upwards of $100,000 in hidden costs just to put them in prison and yet here’s one of the largest single outlays of money we have which is not recognized because it’s broken down over many different levels; city wide taxes, county taxes, state taxes and finally government taxes are all involved in the penal system in this country.  Where it all lumped together you would have a sum which would dwarf defense, medicine, education and so on and so forth, a really huge outlay of money.  

Whereas it cost $30,000, and far more in certain situations, to keep a prisoner in prison for one year, the same amount of money can support a mother to stay home with her infant for that critical first year and could even pay for a little bit of education to tell her what she might do to help the situation along.  We would be in line to save ourselves huge, huge sums of money by the simple preventative act of literally hiring women to stay home.

As it is we’re threatening them with jail if they don’t go out and get a job and put their infant in daycare and so forth and so on.  So it’s a completely irrational procedure that we followed.  Burton White, Harvard University, a very famous developmental scientist, turned out a book in 1974-75 called “The First Three Years of Lie” and he stated categorically, “the first three years of life determine everything that’s going to happen from that point on.”  It was considered so terribly important that he was asked to address the United States Senate on the issue and he did.  And of course we all thought oh boy, now our government will wake up and do what is necessary and of course it never even heard him at all.  He was not heard on any level.

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Male Vulnerability
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Early trauma to young males can be reversed by nurturing and by supplying the missed developmental experiences.
Nature opens and develops capacities on schedule regardless of the current stage is complete or not. Males being more vulnerable means that gaps in development occur more often resulting in mal adapted behavior. Experience shows that going back and providing the missed nurturing and missed developmental stimulus will fill in the gaps resulting in a fully developed psyche. Remediation however is never as good or complete as providing the nurturing-experience in its age and stage appropriate sequence.

The procedures that have been used with adolescent males that seem to work pretty well, these procedures follow pretty well more or less the format of Waldorf education for children in which these tough young males are read to, they’re told stories, they’re caught up in the stories and encouraged to act the stories out, the end up by in large literate from this one activity of being read stories and acting stories out.  They begin to really learn to play for the first time in their life.  They’ve never been played with or learned to play and play is largely metaphoric symbolic in its structure.  When you’re acting out a story on stage you’re taking on a role and acting out a story, you’re really dealing with high level symbolism and metaphor and things like that which are the creative parts of the brain and they’re being acted out with the body and the whole emotional system involved in it.  So all three brains are intimately connected in that,

And we find that taking them simply back through these stages of childhood. It’s not all the way back to infancy. That’s pretty hard to do but at least going back into that earlier period of childhood when the child loves storytelling, play acting and just play in general so very deeply because it fills developmental needs and taking these young people and putting them into that situation has had marvelous results, therapeutic results, transformative results, patching them back up.

Marian Diamond, PhD, one of our great Neural Scientists, points out the brain’s highly flexible, plastic. It can be changed, transformed and can actually grow new material right up until the last moment of life provided it’s challenged. But you have to know how to challenge the brain in that respect but any brain is transformative or it can be repaired.  Now to what extent, you don’t know, but at least probably to the extent that an individual can function socially very well and be far, far happier as a person.

Now, to bring that about probably requires nurturing and nurturing is the last thing they get in prison. They can’t nurture each other any more than two infants can model for each other or nurture for each other.  It doesn’t work that way.  So prisons are diametrically opposed to the very thing they’re supposed to be doing which is rehabilitation.  They can’t rehabilitate.  The whole idea is profoundly wrong to begin with and based only on retribution, revenge, taking the societies revenge out against their scape goats. The whole idea is so terribly flawed. There is no solution within a prison situation.  That’s one of the reasons we used to have, and I don’t know the current statistics, about a 94% recidivism rate, that is those prisons paroled, pardoned, finally let out will have about a 94%-96% return to prison.  Why, because nothing has changed and so we would rather spend all those huge sums of money in revenge, our revenge against them than we would in really trying to rehabilitate them which would take a different form, a different attitude and a completely different approach than prison itself.

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Male Vulnerability
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Nature invests more strength and stability in the source of reproduction which is female leaving the male species more vulnerable in every respect, except muscle mass. The un-nurtured male therefore is more easily damaged emotionally, psychologically which expresses as depression, addiction, rage and violence. Biologically males require greater nurturing, and are more vulnerable than females.

This research began to appear back in the 60’s and 70’s.  It was called the best kept secret in biological history; the fact that the life process itself, just biology itself, is what would be called essentially feminine to begin with, that it’s a reproductive process, a self-reproductive process.  Nature’s invention of the male was kind of a deviancy from this baseline and was a difficult feat to bring about, introducing the whole idea of sexual reproduction and so forth, introduced a variable in an otherwise very stable reproductive system and that variable we would call the male and the stable system is generated towards the female.

Now in-utero, from the moment of conception on, there are a number of basic abortion periods, natural abortion periods.  One is within the first 8-10 days after birth in which if the heart cells don’t form, don’t start beginning to reproduce and so on nature will spontaneously abort.  The next one is somewhere around the 8th to 10th week when the brain really begins its growth and formation. If the heart structure and everything isn’t just right nature will spontaneously abort.  And the next one is around the 5th month when real brain activity is beginning.  Language begins at six months in-utero and so on.  And then the 7th month is another very critical period of development and you have a high percentage of abortions in the seventh month.  And then finally at birth you have a certain number of aborted births; still births or highly dysfunctional children who are born missing all sorts of parts and so on.

Looking at that whole thing and taking what you’ve discovered from the eighth week on, looking at the very beginning, the first critical abortion period; eighty percent of all natural spontaneous abortions are of male fetuses, infants or children at birth, eighty percent.  Eighty percent of all dysfunctional children at birth are males.  Eighty percent of all your autistic children, your schizophrenic children, your children missing various eccentric parts and so on will be males which means essentially it’s much harder for nature to produce a male than it is a female.

In preliterate societies before modern processes move in women always nursed, breastfed, their male infants a full year longer than their female infants.  Why, because the male infants were more fragile and were less able to cope with the world out there as soon as their female infants.

Looking quickly at the suicide rate in American children at present, male suicides far outweigh female suicides.  Females attempts at suicide might outnumber males but the males have succeeded in suicide far outweigh females.  One final thing on that is more males are born into the world than females by a surprising percentage and yet far more females achieve maturity than males do.  That is the males simply don’t survive the maturity as well as females.  This gives rise to Ashley Montague’s, one of the things giving rise to his great book “The Natural Superiority of Women,” which means simply that the female process, the self-reproduction system is the baseline of life and easier for nature to establish and the male is more difficult.

Bearing that in mind we realize the male has to have more nurturing than the female.  Whereas our cultural attitude is exactly the opposite.  We feel the male has got to be toughened up, he’s got to get out there and slug it out in the jungle and you can’t nurture the male like you do a female or he’ll be a softy and we won’t survive.  Now what we’re not surviving is the production of males who are brought up just that way.  They’re not nurtured and so they grow up angry, feeling betrayed, hostile and angry particularly towards women themselves because they were not nurtured earlier.  So that’s absolutely counter-productive.  It works completely against us.

We find this exemplified in two ancient fairy tales. What happens to the male if he isn’t nurtured> He reverts back to his animal status.  He goes back into that reflexive hind brain defending itself.  And this is represented by the King who just pulled some wrong things and he ends up in a beast’s body.  He can’t extricate himself from the body of the beast.  The only thing that will do that is the nurturing kiss of the beauty.  So we have the great tale The Beauty and the Beast.  She’s the only one who can bail the King out of his sentence, his terrifying sentence, back into his animal nature.

And the other aspect of this is the Frog Prince who has the same thing happen.  He finds himself in a reptilian amphibian body, a frog’s body, and he can’t extricate himself from that.  Only the beautiful princess can extricate him. Both the princess and the beauty extricate the King or the Prince by their nurturing kiss, not just sexual kiss, their nurturing kiss is what lifts them out of their sentence into their animal nature.  And we’d better think about that real clearly when we’re looking at what’s happening in our world today.  The male can’t extricate himself out of the mess he’s in right now, the violence, the anger, the massagenism, the terrorism that he’s creating, only she can do that.

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Bonding and the Prefrontal Cortices
Joseph Chilton Pearce

Our prefrontal cortices are where the higher human values of love, compassion and empathy are created and held. This newer brain, only 40,000 years old, has been designed by Nature to regulate and modify the older, ancient structures of the animal brain, some of which are millions of years old. However, without the full development of the prefrontal cortices through a nurturing and safe environment for the mother and child, the prefrontal cortices cannot fully develop. This lack of development of the newer brain is how violence is passed down from generation to generation. The newer brain has yet to be stabilized through evolution and Nature as yet.

The prefrontals were considered just the silent areas of brain and they didn’t know if anything was really happening until the late 80’s actually, and they paid attention to the prefrontal lobes.  And that’s larger because their development is experience dependent so many people don’t have much going on in the prefrontal cortices.  But all the recent research, I think of Patricia Goldman-Rakic, and Antonio Di Marzio and Elkhonon Goldberg and you could just keep naming these astonishing new Neural Scientists, all of whom attribute all the higher human virtues of what it means to be civilized and human to the prefrontal cortices.  Now you’ve got intellect, the verbal capacities and intellect and even creativity in the general forebrain area itself in what we call the left and right vertical areas of the hemispheres of the brain, but the higher human virtues of compassion, love, understanding, empathy, as well as the really highly forms of creativity like you would find in your highest scientific or philosophical and religious and so on, those all seem to generate through or dependent on the prefrontal cortices and so the discovery that our capacity to modify and moderate the behavior of the lower brain structures; our survival brain, the brain dealing with sexuality, appetites, physical survival itself, our emotional brain, our relationship with others, and even the intellectual verbal brain, all of those procedures are under the jurisdiction you might say of these prefrontal cortices.  They can modify and moderate modulate, the behaviors of all of the lower brain systems if they’re developed.  If they’re not developed then the individual themselves have no control over their lower impulses.

That is, when they itch, they scratch.  When their lower survival brain feels threatened they defend themselves at all costs and they can get to be very dangerous in effect.  So the job of the prefrontal cortices is to modulate and moderate the impulse behaviors of the lower animal brains.  So the civilized mind, as Patricia Goldman-Rakic, calls it, the higher human virtues, the civilized mind is one that can modify the animal brain structures in this and lift them up to a higher level of functioning.  They referred to the ancient animal brain structures in us that we inherited from all the rest of the mammals as reflexive, they’re instinctual.  If you throw something toward my eyes I’m automatically going to blink my eyes and try to defend my eyes.  If a dog leaps toward my leg with its barred fangs I’m automatically going to go into a fight/flight kind of a scenario. That’s built into the animal brain systems.  Now the higher systems are reflective.  The prefrontal cortexes give the chance to reflect and pause before we react.  And so if you come up and threaten me and I have no prefrontal cortexes I’m going to respond exactly with that threat.  This is where you get your eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  You step on me and I’m going to bite you.  That’s a part of our natural animal heritage.  But the prefrontal cortexes are given to do what, to lift that up to a much higher order.

So the lower reflexive structures are designed by nature to come under the jurisdiction or the governorship you could say, come under the dominion of a higher civilized mind.  But that higher mind is dependent on being nurtured by a corresponding type of mind.  That’s one of the great tragedies.  If the mother was not in a nurturing environment, it’s very difficult for her to provide the same nurturing or an appropriate nurturing environment for her infant.  So if she feels threatened, she’s not going to provide the kinds of nurturing that the infant must have or the infant feels threatened and reflects that.  It’s just the whole business of the tree growing according to the way it’s bent in the very beginning.  So this is handed down from generation to generation, a series of violence and more violence year after year simply because of the system responding the way it has to, to that environment.  The prefrontal cortexes, nature’s newest edition, brought about to try to moderate the behaviors of those animal brain systems.  They’re brand new in evolutionary history.  That is to say probably not much more than 40,000 years old in their present state.  Whereas the old what we call the animal brain structures in us that move truly for survival, reflexive, some of those structures, the oldest are hundreds of millions of years old and they’re very firm, they’re very strong, they’re powerfully built up over vast millennia.  Whereas the prefrontal cortexes are so new in evolutionary history they are as yet unstable.  And so what nature has been trying to do is to stabilize this because in the prefrontals is where our true survival lies.  Our true survival as human beings lies in the prefrontal cortexes.  Our apparent survival as animals lie in the very ancient cortical structures and between the two there’s a real tussle been going on in evolutionary history.  Evolution’s been trying to establish this new type of intelligence and just hasn’t been able to do it yet.