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The nature/nurture question is an age-old problem. Beyond Evolutionary Psychology deals with the relation between culture, evolution, psychology and emotion, based both in the underlying biology, determined by our evolutionary heritage, and in the interaction of our brain with the physical, ecological and social environment, based in the key property of brain plasticity. Ellis and Solms show how the brain structures that underlie cognition and behaviour relate to each other through developmental processes guided by primary emotional systems. This makes very clear which brain modules are innate or 'hard-wired', and which are 'soft-wired' or determined through environmental interactions. The key finding is that there can be no innate cognitive modules in the neocortex, as this is not possible on both developmental and genetic grounds; in particular there can be no innate language acquisition device. This is essential reading for students and scholars of evolutionary psychology and evolutionary biology.
This chapter is about foundational themes underlying the scientific study of cosmology:
• What issues will a theory of cosmology deal with?
• What kinds of causation will be taken into account as we consider the relation between chance and necessity in cosmology?
• What kinds of data and arguments will we use to test theories, when they stretch beyond the bounds of observational probing?
• Should we weaken the need for testing and move to a post-empirical phase, as some have suggested?
These are philosophical issues at the foundation of the cosmological enterprise. The answer may be obvious or taken for granted by scientists in many cases, and so seem hardly worth mentioning; but that has demonstrably led to some questionable statements about what is reliably known about cosmology, particularly in popular books and public statements. The premise of this chapter is that it is better to carefully think these issues through and make them explicit, rather than having unexamined assumed views about them shaping cosmological theories and their public presentation. Thus, as in other subjects, being philosophical about what is being undertaken will help clarify practice in the area.
The basic enterprise of cosmology is to use tested physical theories to understand major aspects of the universe in which we live, as observed by telescopes of all kinds. The foundational issue arising is the uniqueness of the universe [66, 27, 28]. Standard methods of scientific theory testing rely on comparing similar objects to determine regularities, so they cannot easily be applied in the cosmological context, where there is no other similar object to use in any comparison. We have to extrapolate from aspects of the universe to hypotheses about the seen and unseen universe as a whole. Furthermore, physical explanations of developments in the very early universe depend on extrapolating physical theories beyond the bounds where they can be tested in a laboratory or particle collider. Hence philosophical issues of necessity arise as we push the theory beyond its testable limits. Making them explicit clarifies what is being done and illuminates issues that need careful attention.
Downward causation (first defined by Campbell, 1974) is both a philosophical concept and an apparent phenomenon of nature attracting great controversy. Most scientists usually assume that all observable phenomena derive from elemental fundamental physics, so that even human behaviours ultimately result from interactions of subatomic particles, via a unidirectional chain of causes and effects. On closer inspection, the act of living seems able to spontaneously generate events, breaking this chain; it is as though life possessed ‘free will’ by acting without a prior physical cause. In this chapter, we analyse this puzzling behaviour using information and control theory as a general framework, applying it to a range of scales of organisation in biological systems: from the molecular to the ecological. An essential element (and possibly a defining feature) of life emerges from this analysis. It is the presence of downward causation by information selection and control. Through a series of examples, we show how this phenomenon works to produce the appearance of autonomous action from information constructed and maintained by the process of living. After a brief introduction to the concept of downward causation, we set it more firmly within the concepts of biological information processing used within this volume. From this we attempt to derive a general classification of causation across scales of biological organisation. We show how selection from random processes and information embodiment in molecules, organism systems, and ecological systems combine to emerge with the properties of downward causation and the appearance of autonomy. These phenomena seem to be exclusive to life.
What exactly do we mean when we say A causes B? Causal power is attributed to an agency that can influence a system to change outcomes, but does not necessarily itself bring about a physical change by direct interaction with it. In an easily grasped analogy, the Mafia boss says his rival must be permanently dealt with (the boss has causal power), but his henchman does the dirty deed. The action of the henchman is physical and dynamic, and the henchman is logically described at the same ontological level as his victim (it is not the cartel that kills the rival, not the rotten society, not the atoms in the henchman's body, but the henchman himself).