Mark Mason PhD
(510) 367-8836
emailaddress
Instructor in Biological Anthropology, Human Ecology and Climate Change, and Cultural Anthropology

I earned a doctorate in paleontology from the University of California, Berkeley. Based on my research interests, I published peer-reviewed papers on the paleontology and geology of the early Tertiary of California, USA. As a mammalian paleontologist and stratigrapher, I described a new genus of late Eocene primate,
Yaquius, and collaborated with the Berkeley Geochronology Center on radiometric age determinations for some Oligocene and Miocene rocks. Prior academic work included undergraduate and graduate studies in human anatomy (UCLA med school), physical anthropology (primate evolution), and geology at L.A. Valley College, Cal State Northridge, and UCLA.

Without mentor, my nascent, ill-formed goal as a young student was of the polymath of the Enlightenment era. All knowledge and all of science is one endeavor. Anthropology is the synthetic science of consilience, though it holds on to tribal fragmentation. I am proud to be a paleontologist. Paleontology is the study of the material evidence for biological evolution. Paleontology provides the most direct evidence for the fact of evolution. I am a "paleoanthropologist" because i need a label that fits the tribal organization of academia.

My research interests ranged from paleontological field work on the evolutionary origin of anthropoids, through the history of science and Darwinism, thus inescapably landing me square on the five-hundred-year-old conflict between science and religion. The distribution of cultural power in the context of natural selection as explored at hierarchical levels: individual, state, and international relationships captures my recent thinking. The former, paleontology, forms the material basis for primate (and human) evolution in the context of deep time, whereas the latter drapes conceptual meaning within the context of modern life. Biology (including genetics), paleontology, history, sociology, psychology, and anthropology are artificially separate disciplines. As long as they remain so, the fragmentation attests to the youthfulness of science. The paradox of science is that the more we humans know about human behavior, the more conscious, rational cognition (the foundation of science) recedes as a factor influencing human behavior. Whether one trumps deterministic physical DNA genes, or pleads the case for metaphorical subconscious memes we call culture, human behavior is the product of natural selection.

The study of human history, politics, social institutions, theological myths, and psychology, is a subdiscipline of biology. The role of cognition, and "intelligence" in human evolution is delusional and reified . Paradoxically, humans are minimally sufficient in consciousness to understand the illusory nature of consciousness itself. Religion, and all that constitutes culture, is an arbitrary delusional system, a metaphor, in service to the unconscious machinery of adaptation. The very core of human adaptive strategy is cooperation. All of culture is the clutter of cooperation. Religious beliefs are the core of human group identity. To call attention to the illusory nature of religion is to threaten the core of human adaptation. No wonder Darwin waited twenty years to publish.


All roads biological lead to the home of genes. Anatomy and behavior are transitory manifestations of the dynamo of natural selection.

Understanding power relations within the context of our highly social species and the conceptual framework of natural selection beckons us toward insight. Science, as demonstrably powerful as it is, though posited as metacultural inquiry, remains inextricably bound to culture, and ironically therefore to the subconscious. Notwithstanding, the scientific method is the very best we humans can muster, and for that matter, relinquishing curiosity is not an option. The demonstrable proof of the practical (if not the conceptual) framework of science, frighteningly, is inherent in our ability now to send our own species, and many others, into the history books of extinction with technology. The very meaning, or lack thereof, of the term "human intelligence" bears examination.

Only four fundamental questions remain of interest to me: What is the nature of causality? What, if anything, is free will? What is the nature of hierarchical complexity? Why is there anything? --Other questions of a substantive, scientific nature have been, or will be, answered by the laws of physics and Darwin's Law (evolution by means of natural selection). It's time to discard the term "Darwinism." We don't refer to the work of Newton or Einstein as "Newtonism" or "Einsteinism."

The details of how the universe works is being revealed by the sweat of science.
Homo sapiens is part and parcel of the rest of the universe. If science can figure out how the planets orbit the Sun, science can figure out the dynamics of human existence. The pons asinorum of the social sciences is accepting that humans are members of the larger community of living organisms. Darwin decreed the death of dualism. Belonging to the animal kingdom isn't so bad if we don't denigrate other animals. I have been to the Eocene in my imagination and returned to tell about it. "Species-ism" is the cognitive expression of adaptive fitness.

I do confess to an interest in the nature of social power. The concentration, the use, what constitutes abuse of power begs for deeper understanding, and also the "science of science" which directs our attention on the very nature of attention (consciousness) itself. The survival of our own species may balance on such understanding, for we now have the technical power to blast our own species into formal biological extinction.
Homo sapiens should be placed on the official list of endangered species. Will it be by fire or ice? Extinction by nuclear war or overpopulation is all the same to me. It could ruin my whole day. Humanity must come to terms with the finite possibilities that we abhor to entertain. Homo sapiens comes with no factory warranty. Extinction is a very real possible outcome of our own mythical social interaction. Culture may be a necessary illusion, but some cultural constructs may not stand the test of natural selection. The belief that the universe was constructed for our convenience was once a quaint and tolerable myth, but now ranks as the most dangerous of ideas. If we have any hope of survival as a species, the most important task before us is not more science but more science education. The conundrum of the "haves" and the "have nots" will be answered either by extinction or transcendence. The question is no less profound.

Paleontological questions:the origin of anthropoids, and
Homo sapiens. Did they first appeared in Africa or Asia are of great importance to chasing grant money and fame. Such undertakings are the very stuff of science. Students of human history seek the particularities of natural history--geology, paleontology, biology--which forms a foundation for more comprehensive understanding. Anthropology sets higher ground in that no other science aspires to answer, by way of synthesis, the three great questions about humanity: Where did we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?


With a doctorate from UC Berkeley, I have over 15 years of academic research and publishing in paleoanthropology and earth sciences. While at UC Berkeley, I conducted paleontologic and geologic field studies in California, USA. As a post-doc researcher, I managed complex, collaborative geologic research projects that resulted in refereed online scientific journal publications. The focus of my paleontological work was on Eocene primates. I studied at UC Berkeley while work on the three major revolutions in the fields of paleontology and earth sciences developed --- 1) extra-terrestrial impacts and its affects on the history of life, 2) the corollary resurgence of catastrophism, and 3) plate tectonics. I am currently involved in paleoanthropological research in Southeast Asia.

For eight years, I worked in the Museum of Paleontology at UC Berkeley as a graduate student assistant curator. As a museum curator, I assisted collection, accession, preparation, storage, display, and loan of fossil specimens held in the largest collection in the western United States.

Teaching is important. I want to give back to both the community college system, and the state universities, what I was privileged to enjoy as a student.


International Media Analyst:
2011 - Present. Policy analyst for the international news media for Climate Change and US Foreign Policy. I have appeared on news media TV, radio, and print providing commentary on Global Warming.

Lecture Tour:
The Philippines, September 2009. An Anthropologist Looks at Economic Development: Power and Population. Presented at the University of the Philippines, Los Banos Campus

Teaching:
* 2008-2009 Lecturer, College of Marin, Department of Behavioral Sciences, Kentfield, California

Formerly:
* 2006-2007? Adjunct Professor, Sacramento City College, Department of Anthropology, Sacramento, California
* 2006 - 2009? Lecturer, California State University, Sacramento, Department of Anthropology, Sacramento, California

Education:
Los Angeles Valley College General Ed AA 1975
California State University, Northridge Anthropology BA 1978
University of California, Los Angeles Anthro/Geology 1978-1980
University of California, Berkeley Paleontology PhD 1988
University of California, Berkeley Paleontology Post-doc 1988-1990

Dissertation, Department of Paleontology, UC Berkeley: 1988. Mammalian Paleontology and Stratigraphy of the Early to Middle Tertiary Sespe and Titus Canyon Formations, Southern California.

Publications:
Mason, M.A., 1990, New Fossil Primates from the Uintan (Eocene) of Southern California. Paleobios, v. 13, no. 49, p. 1-7.

Mason, M.A., 1989, Mammalian biostratigraphy of the Sespe Formation, north of Simi Valley, Ventura County, California and Revision of the Duchesnean North American Land Mammal Age. Geological Society of America, Cordilleran Section, Abstracts with Programs, v. 21, no. 5, p. 112.

Mason, M.A., and Swisher, C.C., 1989, New Evidence for the Age of the South Mountain Local Fauna, Ventura County, California. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Contributions in Science 410, p. 1-9.

Stanley, R.G., Johnson, S.Y., Swisher, C.C., III, Mason, M.A., Obradovich, J.D., Cotton, M.L., Filewicz, M.V., and Vork, D.R., 1996, Age of the Lospe Formation (early Miocene) and origin of the Santa Maria basin, California: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 1995-M, p. M1-M37.

Stanley, R.G., Johnson, S.Y., Cole, R.B. Mason, M.A., Swisher, C.C., III, Cotton Thornton, M.L., Filewicz, M.V., Vork, D.R., Tuttle, M.L., and Obradovich, J.D., 1992, Origin of the Santa Maria basin, central California [abs.], in Carter, L.M.H., ed., USGS Research on Energy Resources, 1992 Program and Abstracts, Eighth V.E. McKelvey Forum on Mineral and Energy Resources, Houston, Texas: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1074, p. 73.

Stanley, R.G., Johnson, S.Y., Tuttle, M.L., Mason, M.A., Swisher, C.C., III, Cotton Thornton, M.L., Vork, D.R., Filewicz, M.V., Cole, R.B., and Obradovich, J.D., 1991, Age, correlation, and origin of the type Lospe Formation (lower Miocene), Santa Maria basin, central California [abs.]: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, v. 75, no. 2, p. 382.

Stanley, R.G., Vedder, J.G., McLean, Hugh, Wiley, T.J., Cotton Thornton, M.L., Vork, D.R., Filewicz, M.V., Johnson, S.Y., Tuttle, M.L., Mason, M.A., Swisher, C.C., III, and Cole, R.B., 1991, Three stratigraphic revelations in the Santa Maria province, California, and their paleogeographic and paleotectonic significance [abs.]: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 23, no. 5, p. A476-A477.

Stanley, R.G., Johnson, S.Y., Obradovich, J.D., Tuttle, M.L., Cotton Thornton, M.L., Vork, D.R., Filewicz, M.V., Mason, M.A., and Swisher, C.C., III, 1990, Age and depositional setting of the type Lospe Formation (lower Miocene), Santa Maria basin, central California [abs.]: American Association of Petroleum Geologists Bulletin, v. 74, no. 5, p. 770-771.

Stanley, R.G., Johnson, S.Y., Obradovich, J.D., Tuttle, M.L., Cotton Thornton, M.L., Vork, D.R., Filewicz, M.V., Mason, M.A., and Swisher, C.C., III, 1990, Age, facies, and depositional environments of the lower Miocene Lospe Formation, Santa Maria basin, central California [abs.], in Carter, L.M.H., ed., USGS Research on Energy Resources-1990 Program and Abstracts, Sixth V.E. McKelvey Forum on Mineral and Energy Resources, Houston, Texas: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1060, p. 78-79.

Early Tertiary rocks of the United States of America. Virtual reality panorama of my research area, Titus Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California/Nevada, United States of America.