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Improving Biological Evolution


Biological evolution creates capabilities that, in turn, add dimensions to the universe in which life blossoms. That makes life more mathematically complex than (known) High Energy Physics (which does not evolve in higher dimensions as time flows).

No, I am not trying to contradict Darwin’s natural selection, nor Lamarck’s various selective evolutionary mechanisms. I suggest to complement them with new evolutionary mechanisms: ecological and social evolution, and FUNCTIONAL evolution. No, I am not day dreaming: I have explicit examples: flight, brain, consciousness.

I have thought of this for years, but the discussion with Brian Key, a neurobiologist, brought it to the fore.

Professor Key argued fishes could not experience pain (or suffering), because they were not conscious. Brian ascertained the latter point from his inability to distinguish structures in fish brains similar to those found associated to consciousness and pain in human.

Similarly, the drunk searching for his keys, below the closest lamp post.

Einstein used a higher level reasoning. I used a higher level reasoning.

What is the brain for? Figuring things out. How does that work? Well, in humans, consciousness helps. Ergo, consciousness appeared at some point in animal evolution.

At which point?

That’s an ethological question. A question of behavior.

In the past, I used to think fishes were dumb machines of the sea. Then, as a fisher, I discovered older trouts to be really smart. Recent studies have shown (some) fishes to be incredibly smart. On some tests, some fishes are found to be chimpanzee smart.

Brian Key: “Patrice raises the idea that “common sense” tells us that animal brains have the same general purpose as humans. I challenge readers to go beyond their everyday experiences because sometimes “common sense” can be misleading.”

If animal brains don’t have the same general purpose as ours, what could their purpose be? And how come we developed a different purpose?

What is the purpose of a human brain? Surviving. If animal brains are not for surviving, what are they for?

All and any animal brain is there to do exactly what the human brain is doing.

A case of the function defining the tool.

Conventional evolution theory looks at the evolution of organisms.

But there is a higher level of evolution than the one of organisms: ecological evolution. And an even higher one: the evolution of functions. For example, the function of flying was evolved by insects, pterosaurs, birds and bats.

Once flying had been invented by insects, it created its own ecological niche, its own universe in which at least birds and bats could evolve. Because at least birds and bats could eat insects, if they learned to fly.

The apparition of brain created its own ecological niche, its own evolutionary force.

This is why the brain capabilities of the brainiest species have been on an ascending trajectory.

The octopus’ eyes do what ours do. And they look very similar. Even though they evolved in completely separate fashion, and are inverted.

Vision defines the eye. Specifics follow.

Same for brains: one needs a reward and punishment (pain) system, and consciousness is useful. A question arises naturally, which philosophers have not answered: what is consciousness for?

The case of birds is clear: although their brains are completely different, they fulfill all functions found in humans.

Homo Floresiensis is perhaps even more telling: these 1.1 meter tall hobbits had completely different, much simpler brains. However, they developed sophisticated weapons.

There too the basic functions were satisfied from completely different neuroanatomy.

I am not claiming neuroanatomy plays no role, and that all animal brains can have as many functions as human ones: supposedly cockroaches keep on drinking, even when their throats are cut. Some insects seem perfectly dumb. However, wasps are smart. And they seem to experience pain. (I have experimented with wasps; my anti-wasp method is to hit them. Once hit, or even after a near-miss, they deduct that they better get somewhere else; conversely, wasp will makes it dangerous to approach a wasp nest!)

Socratic Gadfly claimed that wolves do not discuss hunting. Pendantry rightly asked him how he knew. We know little about animal languages.

It was just discovered that “. chimpanzee referential food calls are not fixed in their structure and that, when exposed to a new social group, chimpanzees can change their calls to sound more like their group mates.”


Drawing massive conclusions, when one knows so little? Is that “scientific”? Is that prudent? Is that wise? Should it be called that intellectual fascism?

Science is not getting animal brains yet.

If it were, it would get ours.

However, from this we got a conclusion: biology does not just evolve, it evolves its environment. The invention of flight by insects incited other species to “invent” flight. The invention of brains made the evolution of consciousness in (some) other species more likely.

Biology is an engineer, a scientist, a thinker.

Systems of thought, and systems of moods, have lives of their own. So does life itself. Life has a life of its own (to speak like Lacan). Life, as it evolves, adds not just complexity, but, outright, new dimensions. The Multiverse may not happen in physics, but, with life, it does, with a vengeance.

A very speculative question in physics (raised by no less than Paul Dirac) has been the permanence of physical laws. Tests have actually been made to test whether physical laws changed (they have been found not too, so far).

However, with life, the laws do change. Biological evolution evolves its own universe (and do not forget that the devil in the details is Quantum mechanical).

Patrice Ayme


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