The Thoughtful Encephalon

Thoughts on Thoughts is hosting Encephalon #84, the mind/brain blog carnival that is now given once a month.

Janet Kwasniak compiled a great number of posts, from the Artful Brain to Scientopia. And even a nice post by herself, Analog Thinking.

We were misled by the seemingly digital nature of the firing spikes of some neurons, but now that we are aware of firing rates, synapses, electromagnetic fields and so on, it is plain that the brain is a physical organ using continuous not discrete quantities. It is quite literally a physical system that models the world and the self-organism in that world. I think the brain is not digital, does not use digital type commands, addresses, clock ticks and so on and therefore does not use what is ordinarily meant by software algorithms.

Another post I’d love to highlight is Babel Dawn’s Co-Evolution Is Real.

Beavers, apes, and other animals can change their environment. Over generations their genes will adapt to those changes. That’s the basis of niche construction. Gintis proposes something analogous in the co-evolution of genes and culture. Humans change their culture and over generations their genes adapt to those changes.

The surprising thing to me was that Gintis feels it necessary to insist that such a co-evolution is possible. It is such a standard part of language origin theory that I had forgotten the idea could be controversial. The objection is that genes and the environment are physical things, but culture is a bit amorphous. This kind of fundamentalist materialism is always a bit frustrating. Behavior is as real as a rock and should be able to have just as sharp an impact on natural selection, but my experience has been that every kind of fundamentalist—political, philosophical, religious, or constitutional—is hard to reason with.

There are many more great posts, so get on over to the carnival!

Link to Thoughts on Thoughts Encephalon #84

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