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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Founded in September 1901 as the first department of anthropology in the western United States, Berkeley developed a particular style characterized by innovation and diversity. This consistently top ranked Department is distinctive for the breadth and depth of its research interests and the collected record of its scholarly publications figure centrally in shaping American anthropology.

Cover page of A thermodynamic basis for teleological causality

A thermodynamic basis for teleological causality


We show how distinct terminally disposed self-organizing processes can be linked together so that they collectively suppress each other's self-undermining tendency despite also potentiating it to occur in a restricted way. In this way, each process produces the supportive and limiting boundary conditions for the other. The production of boundary conditions requires dynamical processes that decrease local entropy and increase local constraints. Only the far-from-equilibrium dissipative dynamics of self-organized processes produce these effects. When two such complementary self-organizing processes are linked by a shared substrate-the waste product of one that is the necessary ingredient for the other-the co-dependent structure that results develops toward a self-sustaining target state that avoids the termination of the whole, and any of its component processes. The result is a perfectly naturalized model of teleological causation that both escapes the threat of backward influences and does not reduce teleology to selection, chemistry or chance. This article is part of the theme issue 'Thermodynamics 2.0: Bridging the natural and social sciences (Part 1)'.

Cover page of Minimal Properties of a Natural Semiotic System: Response to Commentaries on “How Molecules Became Signs”

Minimal Properties of a Natural Semiotic System: Response to Commentaries on “How Molecules Became Signs”


In the target article “How molecules became signs” I offer a molecular “thought experiment” that provides a paradigm for resolving the major incompatibilities between biosemiotic and natural science accounts of living processes. To resolve these apparent incompatibilities I outline a plausible empirically testable model system that exemplifies the emergence of chemical processes exhibiting semiotic causal properties from basic nonliving chemical processes. This model system is described as an autogenic virus because of its virus-like form, but its nonparasitic self-repair and reproductive dynamics. The 16 commentaries responding to this proposal recognize its material plausibility but are divided on its value in resolving this basic biosemiotic challenge. In response, I have addressed some of the most serious criticisms raised and have attempted to diagnose the major sources of incompatible assumptions that distinguish the autogenic paradigm from other major paradigms. In particular, I focus on four main issues: the significance of the shift from a cellular to a viral perspective, the relevance of intrinsic versus extrinsic initiation and channeling of interpretive work, the insufficiency of molecular replication as a basis for grounding biological semiosis, and a (universal?) three step scaffolding logic that enables referential displacement of sign vehicle properties without loss of referential continuity (as exemplified by DNA-protein relations). Although I can’t conclude that this is the only way that biosemiotic properties can emerge from physical-chemical relations that otherwise lack these properties, I contend that this approach offers a biologically plausible demonstration that it is possible.

Advancing Indigenous futures with two-eyed seeing: Strategies for restoration and repair through collaborative research


This article builds on the Indigenous research concept of two-eyed seeing, that is, learning from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing. We do so by drawing on the authors’ multiple standpoints (Karuk Tribal Member, Karuk Enrolled Descendent, and non-Indigenous ally) and experiences building longstanding research collaborations that apply biophysical science, ethnographic methods, and Karuk oral traditions to tribal lands protection. Using Kovach’s conversational methodology, we discuss problems of health and well-being that arise from two-eyed seeing research collaborations affecting Indigenous lands, waters, and resources. We specifically examine interventions for advancing Indigenous leadership in research that intersect with the Karuk Tribe’s ecocultural revitalization initiatives through (1) stewardship of baskets alongside basket-weaving communities (human and nonhuman); (2) family based management of ceremonial trails, and (3) allyship for tribal–academic collaborations. Our analysis emphasizes how the aliveness of Karuk knowledge resists ahistorical essentialism, for example, by engaging with the joy of human/nonhuman relations, ceremonial scale, and solidarity practices. Responding to ongoing challenges with knowledge hierarchies, this work recognizes the importance of mutual acknowledgment of persons across systems for advancing Indigenous research as a multi-vocal initiative with the capacity for restoration and repair.

Cover page of Psychological legacies of intergenerational trauma under South African apartheid: Prenatal stress predicts greater vulnerability to the psychological impacts of future stress exposure during late adolescence and early adulthood in Soweto, South Africa.

Psychological legacies of intergenerational trauma under South African apartheid: Prenatal stress predicts greater vulnerability to the psychological impacts of future stress exposure during late adolescence and early adulthood in Soweto, South Africa.



South Africa's rates of psychiatric morbidity are among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa and are foregrounded by the country's long history of political violence during apartheid. Growing evidence suggests that in utero stress exposure is a potent developmental risk factor for future mental illness risk, yet the extent to which the psychiatric effects of prenatal stress impact the next generation are unknown. We evaluate the intergenerational effects of prenatal stress experienced during apartheid on psychiatric morbidity among children at ages 17-18 and also assess the moderating effects of maternal age, social support, and past household adversity.


Participants come from Birth-to-Twenty, a longitudinal birth cohort study in Soweto-Johannesburg, South Africa's largest peri-urban township which was the epicentre of violent repression and resistance during the final years of the apartheid regime. Pregnant women were prospectively enrolled in 1990 and completed questionnaires assessing social experiences, and their children's psychiatric morbidity were assessed at ages 17-18.


Full data were available from 304 mother-child pairs in 2007-8. Maternal prenatal stress in 1990 was not directly associated greater psychiatric morbidity during at ages 17-18. Maternal age and past household adversity moderated the intergenerational mental health effects of prenatal stress such that children born to younger mothers and late adolescent/young adult children experiencing greater household adversity exhibited worse psychiatric morbidity at ages 17-18. Social support did not buffer against the long-term psychiatric impacts of prenatal stress.


Greater prenatal stress from apartheid predicted adverse psychiatric outcomes among children born to younger mothers and adolescents/young adults who experienced greater concurrent stress. Our findings suggest that prenatal stress may affect adolescent mental health, have stress-sensitising effects, and represent possible intergenerational effects of trauma experienced under apartheid in this sample.

Cover page of Coping strategies employed by public psychiatric healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in southern Gauteng, South Africa.

Coping strategies employed by public psychiatric healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic in southern Gauteng, South Africa.


Within the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic and new challenges to a resource-constrained public healthcare system, many healthcare workers in South Africa have faced numerous stressors that have compromised their mental health. While the current literature on COVID-19 in South Africa highlights the widespread psychosocial stress experienced by healthcare workers during the pandemic, little is known about the coping strategies utilized to continue service delivery and maintain ones mental health and well-being during this ongoing public health emergency. In this study, we sought to explore the coping strategies used by healthcare workers employed in the public psychiatric care system in southern Gauteng, South Africa during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Psychiatric healthcare workers (n = 55) employed in three tertiary public hospitals and two specialized psychiatric facilities participated in in-depth interviews between July 2020 and March 2021. We found that coping strategies spanned multi-level and multi-systemic efforts. Intrapersonal, interpersonal, material, and structural coping were mapped across individual, family, and hospital systems. The most commonly utilized coping strategies included positive mindsets and reappraisal, social support systems, and COVID-19 specific protections. Findings also highlighted the contextual and interconnected nature of coping. Healthcare workers applied multiple coping strategies to combat the negative mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Better understanding these strategies, contexts in which they are employed, and how they interact can be used to develop evidence-based interventions to support healthcare workers experiencing healthcare-related stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cover page of Long-term trends in human body size track regional variation in subsistence transitions and growth acceleration linked to dairying.

Long-term trends in human body size track regional variation in subsistence transitions and growth acceleration linked to dairying.


Evidence for a reduction in stature between Mesolithic foragers and Neolithic farmers has been interpreted as reflective of declines in health, however, our current understanding of this trend fails to account for the complexity of cultural and dietary transitions or the possible causes of phenotypic change. The agricultural transition was extended in primary centers of domestication and abrupt in regions characterized by demic diffusion. In regions such as Northern Europe where foreign domesticates were difficult to establish, there is strong evidence for natural selection for lactase persistence in relation to dairying. We employ broad-scale analyses of diachronic variation in stature and body mass in the Levant, Europe, the Nile Valley, South Asia, and China, to test three hypotheses about the timing of subsistence shifts and human body size, that: 1) the adoption of agriculture led to a decrease in stature, 2) there were different trajectories in regions of in situ domestication or cultural diffusion of agriculture; and 3) increases in stature and body mass are observed in regions with evidence for selection for lactase persistence. Our results demonstrate that 1) decreases in stature preceded the origins of agriculture in some regions; 2) the Levant and China, regions of in situ domestication of species and an extended period of mixed foraging and agricultural subsistence, had stable stature and body mass over time; and 3) stature and body mass increases in Central and Northern Europe coincide with the timing of selective sweeps for lactase persistence, providing support for the "Lactase Growth Hypothesis."

Cover page of Cognition is entangled with metabolism: relevance for resting-state EEG-fMRI.

Cognition is entangled with metabolism: relevance for resting-state EEG-fMRI.


The brain is a living organ with distinct metabolic constraints. However, these constraints are typically considered as secondary or supportive of information processing which is primarily performed by neurons. The default operational definition of neural information processing is that (1) it is ultimately encoded as a change in individual neuronal firing rate as this correlates with the presentation of a peripheral stimulus, motor action or cognitive task. Two additional assumptions are associated with this default interpretation: (2) that the incessant background firing activity against which changes in activity are measured plays no role in assigning significance to the extrinsically evoked change in neural firing, and (3) that the metabolic energy that sustains this background activity and which correlates with differences in neuronal firing rate is merely a response to an evoked change in neuronal activity. These assumptions underlie the design, implementation, and interpretation of neuroimaging studies, particularly fMRI, which relies on changes in blood oxygen as an indirect measure of neural activity. In this article we reconsider all three of these assumptions in light of recent evidence. We suggest that by combining EEG with fMRI, new experimental work can reconcile emerging controversies in neurovascular coupling and the significance of ongoing, background activity during resting-state paradigms. A new conceptual framework for neuroimaging paradigms is developed to investigate how ongoing neural activity is "entangled" with metabolism. That is, in addition to being recruited to support locally evoked neuronal activity (the traditional hemodynamic response), changes in metabolic support may be independently "invoked" by non-local brain regions, yielding flexible neurovascular coupling dynamics that inform the cognitive context. This framework demonstrates how multimodal neuroimaging is necessary to probe the neurometabolic foundations of cognition, with implications for the study of neuropsychiatric disorders.

Cover page of A degenerative process underlying hierarchic transitions in evolution.

A degenerative process underlying hierarchic transitions in evolution.


This paper describes an evolutionary process likely involved in hierarchic transitions in biological evolution at many levels, from genetics to social organization. It is related to the evolutionary process described as contingent neutral evolution (CNE). It involves a sequence of stages initiated by the spontaneous appearance of functional redundancy. This redundancy can be the result of gene duplication, symbiosis, cell-cell interactions, environmental supports, etc. The availability of redundant sources of biological functionality relaxes purifying selection and allows degenerative changes to accumulate in one or more of the duplicates, potentially degrading or otherwise fractionating its function. This degeneration will be effectively neutral so long as another maintains functional integrity. Sexual recombination can potentially sample different combinations of these sub functional alternatives, with the result that favorable synergistic interactions between independently degenerate duplicates will have a non-negligible probability of being uncovered. The expression of such a synergistic combinatorial effect will result in the irreversible degradation of any remaining autonomous functionality, thereby initiating selection to prevent breakup of co-dependency. This becomes relevant to the evolution of hierarchic transitions when two or more organisms reciprocally duplicate functions that each other requires. If the resulting relaxation of selection reliably persists for an extended evolutionary period it will tend to produce complementary degenerative effects in each organism, leading to their irreversible codependency and purifying selection to avoid loss of integrity of their higher order functional unity. This provides a partial inversion of Darwinian logic that explains how the potential costs of the loss of organism autonomy can be mitigated, enabling the incremental transition to a synergistic higher order unit of evolution.