The concept of innateness is a part of folk wisdom but is also used by biologists and cognitive scientists. This concept has a legitimate role to play in science only if the colloquial usage relates to a coherent body of evidence. We examine many diﬀerent candidates for the post of scientiﬁc successor of the folk concept of innateness. We argue that none of these candidates is entirely satisfactory. Some of the candidates are more interesting and useful than others, but the (...) interesting candidates are not equivalent to each other and the empirical and evidential relations between them are far from clear. Researchers have treated the various scientiﬁc notions that capture some aspect of the folk concept of innateness as equivalent to each other or at least as tracking properties that are strongly correlated with each other. But whether these correlations exist is an empirical issue. This empirical issue has not been thoroughly investigated because in the attempt to create a bridge between the folk view and their theories, researchers have often assumed that the properties must somehow cluster. Rather than making further attempts to import the folk concept of innateness into the sciences, eﬀorts should now be made to focus on the empirical questions raised by the debates and pave the way to a better way of studying the development of living organisms. Such empirical questions must be answered before it can be decided whether a good scientiﬁc successor – in the form of a concept that refers to a collection of biologically signiﬁcant properties that tend to co-occur – can be identiﬁed or whether the concept of innateness deserves no place in science. (shrink)
Human propensities that are the products of Darwinian evolution may combine to generate a form of social behavior that is not itself a direct result of such pressure. This possibility may provide a satisfying explanation for the origin of socially transmitted rules such as the incest taboo. Similarly, the regulatory processes of development that generated adaptations to the environment in the circumstances in which they evolved can produce surprising and sometimes maladaptive consequences for the individual in modern conditions. These combinatorial (...) aspects of social and developmental dynamics leave a subtle but not wholly uninteresting role for evolutionary biology in explaining the origins of human morality. (shrink)
If temperature does not vary from one generation from to the next but its value is crucial for the development of particular phenotypic characteristics, a long-term change in its value may trigger major evolutionary changes of the organism. If a bird's nest maintains the critical temperature, then a statement that the bird is the nest's way of making another nest is as helpful as accounts couched in terms of genes' intentions. However, the language of intentions rests on different evidence and (...) assumptions from causal language and the languages are not interchangeable. Understanding ontogeny in causal terms requires explanations that are made as simple as possible but not so simple that they become completely unrealistic. (shrink)
An attractive feature of Neuroconstructivism, Vol. I: How the Brain Constructs Cognition is its emphasis on the active role of the individual in neural and behavioural development and the importance of the interplay with the environment. Certain aspects of development are omitted, however, such as specializations for the distinctive ecologies of infancy and childhood and the scaffolding-like features of behaviour seen during development. It was also a pity that so little credit was given to many scientists who have contributed to (...) just those aspects of development on which the authors focus. (shrink)
Evolutionary ideas and modern biological knowledge have important roles to play in the understanding of human behaviour. Nevertheless, it is deeply misleading to regard humans as robots in the grip of their genes. A well designed brain should respond to the consequences of behaviour; if an understanding of the likely consequences can be achieved without actually performing the act, then a person who knows that they will be rewarded or punished for certain acts is bound to be influenced by that (...) knowledge. A brain designed in that way facilitates the evolution of societies with explicit social approval of certain activities and explicit disapproval of others. The evolutionary approach to psychology does not imply that individuals do not make free choices. Individuals clearly do make a big difference to what happens in their lives through their decisions. They may be surprised by the consequences of their own actions. A well designed brain should be able to anticipate the consequences of various courses of action and choose between them on the basis of their likely costs and benefits. Planning before doing is clearly of great advantage. People do make well considered decisions and they benefit from doing so. (shrink)
My thinking in this essay, written in 1977, reflects the 1968 Wenner-Gren Conference on Conscious Purpose and Human Adaptation, organized by Gregory, about which I wrote Our Own Metaphor, as well as later conversations, but I had not yet worked with Gregory on Mind and Nature. Here, I explore Gregory’s idiosyncratic definitions of evocative terms like “love”, “mind”, and “wisdom” in terms of a cybernetically-based epistemology. The style and context are reflective of his Father-Daughter “metalogues”, composed to explore concepts he (...) was not yet ready to define fully, one of which is quoted as an introduction. Most of the sub-headings have been added. (shrink)
Open peer commentary on the article “Second-Order Science: Logic, Strategies, Methods” by Stuart A. Umpleby. Upshot: The evaluation of what we knew is an urgent and evolving issue. The issues discussed by Umpleby have been raised earlier, particularly in the social sciences. Arguably, in some quarters they are exaggerated. But an awareness of observer effects is of great importance and is greatly enhanced by second-order cybernetics applied more widely as second-order science.
There is an increasing recognition internationally of the critical impact of communication within healthcare. The link between ineffective communication, patient dissatisfaction and critical incidents is well established. Family Planning New South Wales has sought to address patient-centred care and communication in its policy platform. This article reports on research conducted within FPNSW, which analysed the discourse features that constituted effective doctor–patient1 communication in sexual and reproductive health consultations. The principal aim of the research was to understand how effectively messages were (...) conveyed and received and to what degree patients were active participants in their own sexual healthcare. Analysed consultations were characterised by extremely high levels of communicative competence on the part of the doctors who integrated medical expertise with the development of interpersonal relationships with patients, thus positioning patients as active contributors to the consultations and to decisions about their ongoing treatment. The detailed linguistic analysis identified characteristic features of patient-centred communication that are essential to patient-centred care. These interactions demonstrate that communicating care is just as important as delivering care and involves a drawing together of the medical and the interpersonal in consultations. The article details strategies for interweaving medical knowledge and establishing rapport that can inform practitioner communication practices across different healthcare contexts. (shrink)