Development and evolution
Is the subtitle of Evan Thompson’s Chapter 7 in his book Life in Mind (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), the main title of which is “Laying down a path in walking.” Therein he details the received view of biological evolution and compares it with the enactive, dynamic systems view. It is highly technical and beyond my current knowledge of the topic, but nonetheless instructive in my burgeoning education down this path in walking. A copy of the chapter can be found here.
I will look at the chapter. However, the “received view” of biological evolution, underwent an important improvement (much to the delight of developmental biologists) around 20 years ago. This “revolution” went conceptually further than what biologists already understood, that every trait is, more or less, a product of gene X environment interactions, which i learned about in high school. This new appreciation of the complexity of the natural selection and adaption process was tied to the surge of interest and knowledge about “epigenetics.” Basically, this important new view entailed an increased appreciation that you don’t necessarily have to wait around… Read more »
It seems Thompson did indeed discuss that in the section “Robustness and flexibility in developmental systems,” pp. 194 – 201. The following section on enactive evolution discusses how he sees the latter as different. I am unable at this point to present that view or elucidate the differences. Still too much homework to do.
I think “Enactivism” sensu Thompson implies some kind of “Meaningful” interaction between organisms being responsible for something over and above what could reasonably be expected in the normal exquisitely complex Darwinian interactions between organisms through ecological and evolutionary time. All such Darwinian interactions are ultimately competitive in nature, although many sophisticated competitive strategies have evolved that involve deeply strategic, magnificently cooperative and even compassionate behavior and underlying neurological mechanisms. So I have never been able to figure out what is added by sticking in the “enactive” thingy. Nothing that organisms do requires that extra piece, as far as people who… Read more »
The article I posted on evolutionary systems theory finds ample reason to include dynamic systems theory, akin to what Thompson is talking about. And Badcock is an expert in “both developmental and evolutionary psychology.”
Dennett’s review of Mind in Life, entitled “Shall we tango? No, but thanks for asking.” Journal of Consciousness Studies, 18, No. 5–6, 2011, pp. 23–34. From the Introduction: “I have learned a lot from Evan Thompson’s book—his scholarship is formidable, and his taste for relatively overlooked thinkers is admirable — but I keep stumbling over the strain induced by his selfassigned task of demonstrating that his heroes — Varela and Maturana, Merleau-Ponty and (now) Husserl, Oyama and Moss and others — have shattered the comfortable assumptions of orthodoxy, and outlined radical new approaches to the puzzles of life and mind.… Read more »
Dennett thinks Thompson’s autopoiesis (from Maturana and Varela) is an accurate depiction of biological cell theory, even it it isn’t perhaps something new but just couched in new terms.
Ed and All,
I am preparing for a rare back-country road trip to the SW part of the state. I hope to re-enter discussion on Monday or Tuesday. — Paul
PS: No modern Darwinism that studies whole organisms is capable of looking at them as anything other than dynamic systems. There are layers of mechanisms in any organism to enable complex contingent responsiveness to both varying inner conditions and the outer environment, which includes other individuals and culture. — paul
No modern DARWINIAN…
A couple more reviews of the book:
[…] the “development and evolution” thread on Thompson, Paul compared him with “people who actually study […]
I agree with this quote below, although nobody ever argued for anything like “isolation” of modules. The whole “computational doctrine” of EP rightly assumes that there are “functional groups” of neurons throughout the brain which are, more or less, specifically designed to perform certain kinds of computations based on certain kinds of inputs. But the paradigm assumes dynamically regulated yet generally massive connectivity amongst these functionally specialized groups, most especially in the neocortex. From Sulikowski: “… nor informed by assumptions of massive modularity or domain specific mechanisms (Burke). With these considerations in mind, Klasios and Bryant both argue that computation… Read more »
I don’t have the knowledge to determine whether the computational or e-cognition models are better than one another, or some combination thereof. Sulikowski concludes that article by noting that the argument will be decided by empirical evidence, to date undecided. My point is simply that she uses references to validate both schools, and that there is indeed a debate about which is better. She does not however dismiss either, which seems to be going on in both sides of the debate, and sometimes rancorously with ample confirmation bias.