The Six Essentials? Minimal Requirements for the Darwinian Bootstrapping of Quality

Calvin, William H (1997) The Six Essentials? Minimal Requirements for the Darwinian Bootstrapping of Quality. [Journal (On-line/Unpaginated)]

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Selectionism emphasizes carving patterns, memes remind us of minimal replicable patterns, but a full-fledged Darwinian process needs six essential ingredients to keep going, to recursively bootstrap quality from rude beginnings. While there may be situations ("sparse Darwinism") in which a reduced number suffice, another five ingredients, while not essential, greatly enhance the speed and stability of a Darwinian process. While our best examples are drawn from species evolution, the immune response, and evolutionary epistemology, the Darwinian process may well be a major law of the universe, right up there with chemical bonds as a prime generator of interesting combinations that discover stratified stabilities.

Item Type:Journal (On-line/Unpaginated)
Subjects:Biology > Evolution
ID Code:3217
Deposited By: Calvin, Prof. William H.
Deposited On:14 Oct 2003
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:55

References in Article

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Jacob Bronowski, The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination (Yale University Press 1978, transcribed from 1967 lectures), p. 105.

Jacob Browonski, The Ascent of Man (Little, Brown 1973), pp. 348-349. In introducing stratified stability, Bronowski says: "Nature works by steps. The atoms form molecules, the molecules form bases, the bases direct the formation of amino acids, the amino acids form proteins, and proteins work in cells. The cells make up first of all the simple animals, and then the sophisticated ones, climbing step by step. The stable units that compose one level or stratum are the raw material for random encounters which produce higher configurations, some of which will chance to be stable.... Evolution is the climbing of a ladder from simple to complex by steps, each of which is stable in itself."

William H. Calvin, How Brains Think: Evolving Intelligence, Then and Now (BasicBooks 1996).

William H. Calvin, The Cerebral Code: Thinking a Thought in the Mosaics of the Mind (MIT Press 1996). In searching for Hebb's cell assembly (a committee of neurons whose firing represents a color, word, thought, etc.), I looked for neural circuitry in the brain that was capable of copying spatiotemporal firing patterns. The top layers of the newer parts of cerebral cortex indeed have recurrent excitatory circuitry that should produce synchronized triangular arrays of neurons which extend themselves over a few centimeters, or recruit distant populations via corticocortical pathways. Collections of such arrays constitute a spatiotemporal pattern with great redundancy. The smallest "tile" in this mosaic, which has no redundancy within it, is hexagonal in shape and about 0.5 mm across; it probably has a few hundred independent elements. This is a minimal replicable unit (and a candidate for a cerebral code for, say, a word or concept); a hexagonal mosaic of it can compete with another pattern's hexagonal mosaic for territory in association cortex.

Richard Dawkins, "Selective neurone death as a possible memory mechanism," Nature 229:118-119 (1971).

Richard Dawkins, The Extended Phenotype (Oxford University Press 1982).

Gerald M. Edelman, Neural Darwinism (BasicBooks 1987), and Bright Air, Brilliant Fire (BasicBooks 1992, especially chapter 9 where he addresses his critics). The book review is: William H. Calvin, "A global brain theory," Science 240:1802-1803 (24 June 1988).

Robert Frost, in Selected Prose of Robert Frost, edited by H. Cox and E. C. Lathem (Collier 1986), pp. 33-46.

Douglas R. Hofstadter, Metamagical Themas (BasicBooks 1985).

John Holland, Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems, revised edition (MIT Press 1992)

Niels K. Jerne, "Antibodies and learning: Selection versus instruction," in The Neurosciences: A Study Program, edited by G. C. Quarton, T. Melnechuk, & F. O. Schmitt (Rockefeller University Press 1967), pp. 200-205 at p. 204.

Misia Landau, "Human evolution as narrative," American Scientist 72:262-268 (May/June, 1984).

Ernst Mayr, This is Biology (Harvard University Press, 1997), p.99.

Alfred Russel Wallace, "The limits of natural selection as applied to man," chapter 10 of Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection (Macmillan 1875).

John Z. Young, A Model of the Brain (Claredon Press 1964). His "The organization of a memory system," Proceedings of the Royal Society (London) 163B:285-320 (1965) introduces the mnemon concept in which weakened synapses serve to tune up a function. A later version is his "Learning as a process of selection," Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 72:801-804 (1979). The modern chapter of mental darwinism starts in 1965 with Daniel C. Dennett's D. Phil. thesis, published as Content and Consciousness (Routledge and Kegan Paul 1969) but it all began more than a century ago with William James, "Great men, great thoughts, and the environment," The Atlantic Monthly 46(276):441-459 (October 1880).


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