If you have an appetite for evolutionary theory, and enjoy bearing witness to the shift of a long standing paradigm, the three links below make for a hearty feast indeed.


There is a lot to ingest in all this, but this passage leaps out from the article on the selfish gene:

“This gene-centric view, as it is known, is the one you learnt in high school. It’s the one you hear or read of in almost every popular account of how genes create traits and drive evolution. It comes from Gregor Mendel and the work he did with peas in the 1860s. Since then, and especially over the past 50 years, this notion has assumed the weight, solidity, and rootedness of an immovable object.”

“But a number of biologists argue that we need to replace this gene-centric view with one that more heavily emphasizes the role of more fluid, environmentally dependent factors such as gene expression and intra-genome complexity — that we need to see the gene less as an architect and more as a member of a collaborative remodelling and maintenance crew.”


And from Gregory Wray, biologist, Duke University

‘We’re stuck in an outmoded way of thinking that should have fallen long ago.’

I’m happy to report Natural Dog Training isn’t stuck in that way of thinking. When I googled “gene-centric” and “dogs,” at least on my browser, only one dog site comes up, Natural Dog Training. So why is only NDT theory consistent with these new aspects of evolutionary theory, as well as the recent inroads physics is making into the nature of cognition and collectivized group behavior? Because all other theories of behavior are gene-centric which means behavior is interpreted in terms of intention. They believe that genes equal information, not that they lock in information. An immediate moment analysis of behavior (emotion as a state of attraction) revealed three decades ago that on the deepest architectural level there is a universal operating system to the animal mind, no matter the species. Therefore, the gene is not the fundamental unit of information, rather, the fundamental unit is the principle of emotional conductivity. This flow principle is the only behavioral theory which is in agreement with the Constructal Law, a new principle of thermodynamics discovered by Adrian Bejan.

Animals are emotional and emotion moves according to the laws of motion and the principles of thermodynamics, what I refer to as the principle of emotional conductivity. And if there is one universal operating system to animal consciousness, what I term “emotosynthesis,” then nature evolves as a whole, not as individual organisms locked in a competitive struggle that is refereed by one set of genes proving more or less adaptive than another set of genes. Again this is consistent with the Constructal law. Emotosynthesis, turning energy into information, is as conservative a notion as photosynthesis which turns energy into matter.

Why is gene-centricity important to dog training? Because otherwise one believes in learning by reinforcement as the key to social flexibility, or the equal/opposite notion that instinct is the source of canine sociability. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to train your dog, but it means you won’t be able to understand why what works works, and why things might unravel over time because the organizing principle, flow, wasn’t properly identified and worked with. A dog doesn’t work to replicate his genes, he works to overcome resistance and improve his flow.

<<<      Yet another take on evolution, that while still gene-centric, challenges the notion of natural selection as the driving force. Author argues for sheer randomness. May we live in interesting times.      >>>

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Published May 8, 2015 by Kevin Behan
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7 responses to “Gene-Centricity”

  1. Jamey says:

    Wow! Just a little bit to ingest here. I’ve just read your summary and this is rich.


  2. Rip says:

    Strictly in terms of dog training, would it be fair to say emotosynthesis offers a model for how to escape or transcend what might be called one’s (a dog’s) genetic fate?

  3. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes I believe so, any dog can be socially adaptable if they can feel in-formed, in-formation, i.e. part of the configuration. This feeling of integration and integrity is a function of flow and this is the dynamic by which energy gets turned into information, specifically, how to align and synchronize with others to arrive at a form wherein all feel good. Basically this is what we train dogs to do, synchronize and align around common objects. It’s the basic code of life.

  4. Rip says:

    Kevin: Thanks. This interests me as it relates to dog behavior and the meat-and-potatoes reality of understanding it and modifying it. I have conversations with trainers about genetics/breeding vs. possibility of change in a dog. Many trainers feel that a dog’s genetics present the dispositive, the final, word on what a dog will be capable of achieving or tolerating — that some things you cannot change. I suppose I fall in the middle of this argument. I worked with a trainer whom I respect who said it was 30% genetics and 70% lifestyle — he was quite convinced it was more about how we raise and live with and work with a dog than it was genetics. Another trainer I respect would say this was nonsense. So I seek practical insights on how this science would help me work with a dog with problematic genetic predispositions or limits.
    I greatly appreciated your books and always look forward to your posts.

  5. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes the nature-nurture debate is certainly at the heart of many a training debate. However I believe the argument is being incorrectly framed, even by the epigenetics’ crowd. There is a social code that is universal to all intelligent life, emotosynthesis, which is a networking faculty that integrates even solitary individuals into their environmental niche. And therefore, what we require of dogs to be able to adapt to our world and lifestyles, the basic parameters of social living, is available to all dogs no matter their genetics. In my view this code was amplified in the wolf’s evolution as a group hunter, and then was exponentially amplified in the domestication of the dog. So while I would certainly discriminate between breeds and turn to a good breeding program for particular and specialized working applications, as well as for a built in margin for error, this is where I see genetic endowment as being essential, nevertheless I see these specialized and stylized versions of behavior as being derivative of the underlying master code which is social, and therefore available to all breeds of dogs, just as photosynthesis is available to all plants. So the way I re-frame the nature vs. nurture question is to say that the nature-of-Nature-IS-to-nurture. So as long as we work on the base level of a dog’s nature, there’s no reason we can’t get the basics down of a dog living peacefully and happily with humans.

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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