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The Brain Is A Web, Thus So Is Reason


When one looks at linguistics, biological evolution (in the most general sense, including eco-systems), neurology, civilization, one does not see trees, inasmuch as we see webs with reactive (not to say intelligent) strands.

The latest news, in neurology is, indeed, that the white matter, made of glial cells, axons, oligodendrocytes, etc. itself reacts (not to say “think”).

Why should not reason itself be the same?

Should the brain be according to reason, or reason, according to the brain?

Once reason has become a web, it has a non-trivial topology (in particular with a genus).

The genius of genus.

The next natural question is whether reason has a metric, a geometry, a notion of proximity. Indeed look at the brain, namely, the mind. Some nerve impulses go as far as possible, all along a motor neuron, or along a long axon. However, others go short, and are manipulated, not just at the first synapse they meet, but even before this, along the axons themselves.

Some will fear for reason, as they read these lines.

But a model exists, in physics. Renormalization.

As a field strength augments, approaching its putative source, the field itself modifies the effect it is supposed to describe. There is no general theory of how this works (although some field theories are known as “renormalizable”).

To put it in terms non-specialists may understand, the force varies with, and because of, the force itself. In any case, electromagnetism starts with 1/d^2, and ends up very different.

Actually, any physical explanation adorned with a non-linear feedback resists to linear logic (hence the problems modelling a lot of natural phenomena, from thermonuclear fusion to hypersonic flow).

Look at the mood of submission to Islam: ever since the Charlie Hebdo attack, a general bending of reason to savagery, a vile submission to unreason, with the pretext of tranquility, has imposed itself. Representing something resembling what some imagined a so-called “Messenger” would look like is frowned upon. Outright censorship is applied in the Anglosphere.

(It is not just ironical, but an example of thoroughly dysfunctional, discontinuous, self-contradictory reason: as depicting human beings and gods is forbidden in Islam, so how would true Islamists know what their god, dog, messenger, or whatever would look like?)

Another meta-example is graciously offered by mathematics itself. Mathematics is the field depicting reason itself. However, it does not have safe foundations.

Category Theory was actually strong, because of the mood that underlays it. Namely that foundations, globally, should not be worried about, while, locally, much progress can done by making them richer (that’s what Grothendieck did).

So, once again, we see that reason is rich, and can get richer, but it is local, not global.

Evolution, as understood for most of the Twentieth Century, was driven by chance or weird considerations about reproduction (animals were supposed to prefer so and so because it allowed them to reproduce better. as if they cared!) For example, we were told the Peacock’s tail was there to show to females the beholder was healthy, hence would bear them more children.

(More refined recent studies show the obvious, just as with eyes on butterfly wings, Peacock tails may rather be scary devices, as anybody who has deployed an umbrella for a lions would know.)

Chance is here to say, but the big Damocles sword over facile explanations is Quantum Physics itself: the Quantum is teleological, and no doubt impact both genetics and epigenetics.

This means that the most inner machinery is not just potentially teleological, but really teleological.

That Biological Evolution did not exploit what is, after all, the most fundamental law of the physical world, the Quantum Process, as it progressed according to physics for 4 billion years, is, frankly, impossible.

Patrice Ayme


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