Friday, 16 March 2012

Think !

From Wikipedia

Natural selection is an important evolutionary process where environments select the behaviour of organisms within that environment and in the longer term their genetic endowment.

Suppose for a moment that we humans are sufficiently complex in our behaviour that for some purposes we are best be viewed as a micro environment. In other words we select some of our own behaviour. We do it by responding to our own feedback.

Usually an organism responds to stimuli from the environment and other organisms, which we may lump together as responding to the outside environment, physical and social.

But we humans also respond to ourselves. In Skinner’s terms, we act as our own audience. We are still responding to a stimulus, but we provided that stimulus. This as Skinner has suggested, is the unique feature of human language. We are not different because of our intelligence, whatever that may be, but because we have language.

But that isn’t quite it either.

We are unique because we listen to ourselves and respond to what we say, whether speaking out loud or performing that covert form of speech we call thinking. So we teach ourselves to modify our response to a future stimulus. We do it by thinking things through – sometimes with no further input than a reworking of our own thoughts.

To my mind, this is what is spooky about being human. To a certain degree we select our own behaviour. Just like an environment – we select the behaviour that works - or seems to work.


Sam Vega said...

It is a beautiful thing to "select our own behaviour"; this is what turns the behaviour into action, and gives it an ethical dimension through the exercise of responsibility.

Our problem, however, is that the part of us which does the selecting is itself the product of selection. Unless this factor (it can be called intelligence, morality, conscience, discernment, etc.) is itself highly developed, we may as well not bother.

Who selects the selector?

I propose that one model of a good life is when we only select our best behaviours, and (unlike, say, absolutists and religious zealots, etc.) we are constantly attempting to refine our selection mechanisms.

James Higham said...

Natural selection is an important evolutionary process

On the Darwinian model?

A K Haart said...

Sam - it is beautiful and somewhat mysterious too. Not easy to probe without feeling you are saying too much about something so subtle.

JH - yes, very much his observational take on it.