In this public debate with Philippe Deterre (research director in immunology at the CNRS) – held at l'Enclos Rey in Paris' 15th district during the biennial Conference of the Réseau Blaise Pascal in March 2017 –, I defended the usefulness of natural theology. I first clarify theology's nature and understanding, then I speak about a tradition that upheld the public and exterior knowledge of God, and make an effort to show the presence of a theme reminiscent of natural theology (...) behind attempts at the good life. I then ask whether natural theology would only exist for the Christian. In the reply to my opponent's own reaction, I insist on the incongruity of separating our knowledge of God from our knowledge of science's wonderful discoveries, I ask whether nature could be said to be crafty and "ingenious," and I conclude by building a case for the return of God in public conversation, as part of an effort that our world needs in terms of finding back its compass, and restoring an ideal of living rationally. (shrink)
Richard Dawkins has popularized an argument that he thinks sound for showing that there is almost certainly no God. It rests on the assumptions (1) that complex and statistically improbable things are more difficult to explain than those that are not and (2) that an explanatory mechanism must show how this complexity can be built up from simpler means. But what justifies claims about the designer’s own complexity? One comes to a different understanding of order and of simplicity when one (...) considers the psychological counterpart of information. In assessing his treatment of biological organisms as either self-programmed machines or algorithms, I show how self-generated organized complexity does not fit well with our knowledge of abduction and of information theory as applied to genetics. I also review some philosophical proposals for explaining how the complexity of the world could be externally controlled if one wanted to uphold a traditional understanding of divine simplicity. (shrink)
This is the outline: Introduction : le praticien d’une science-philosophie; Épiphénoménisme retourné et subjectivité délocalisée; Dieu est-il jamais inféré par la science ?; La question du panthéisme; Le pilotage axiologique et la parabole mécaniste; L'unité domaniale comme ce qui reste en dehors de la science.
Transhumanism is a means of advocating a re-engineering of conditions that surround human existence at both ends. The problem set before us in this chapter is to inquire into what determined its appearance, in particular in the humanism it seeks to overcome. We look at the spirit of overcoming itself, and the impatience with the Self, in order to try to understand why it seeks a saving power in technology. We then consider how the evolutionary account of the production of (...) organisms does not set them against a perfect standard, but rather injects in them a contingency that seems to be near to the heart of the problem. We then try to assess the objective basis for improvements and manipulation of nature, and although we do not find it forbidden on all occasions, it seems that the criteria for such alterations are impossible to detach from a form of eugenics. We finally open a window toward a theological account of the problem, and find that the desire of autonomy and independence is inevitably going to be challenged by the Christian dogma of creation. (shrink)
A summary is provided of Ruyer's important contribution, also a reversal from some conclusions held in his secondary doctoral dissertation, about the limits inherent in technological progress, and an attempt is made to show the coherence of this position to Ruyer's metaphysics. Simondon's response is also presented, and subsequently analyzed especially as it culminates in a concept of concretizations. As Simondon indicated, and with a displacement in Ruyer's limitating framework on unconditional growth, we end up searching for what represents the (...) category of the ultimate for those two philosophers of the cyberworld. (shrink)
Outline: The reality of Catholicism; The question of the development of science; Historical outlook at some transitional moments; When dogma meets science; Contemporary physics and the worldview of Catholicism; Awaiting a 'Grand Narrative' and the final vision of harmony.
Teilhard has never given up on permanence behind change, whereas Blondel, although interested by permanence, presents a very keen consciousness of irreversibility. Blondel attempts to construct an ontology that integrates this fact of change or becoming. Would this have satisfied Teilhard? Blondel develops a "logic of moral life" insisting on the initial option right to the end of our destiny. Teilhard develops a consciousness of time with a direct hold on a world apprehended first by the senses, whereas Blondel is (...) suspicious of the sometimes misleading testimony of the senses. We thus see a Blondelian attempt to see where the will reach its limits from this only standpoint, while Teilhard admits the influence of a mystical vision. We thus find in both thinkers a primacy of eternal light and truths, strongly affirmed by Blondel, although present in Teilhard; a specificity of evolution, and the necessity of a complement to prevent thought to close itself off. Both thinkers agree on the idea that "Everything holds from above." They recognize that our humanity represents only a sketch, that it is infra-substantial. (shrink)
This is a critical notice/review essay on *L'embryogenèse du monde et le Dieu silencieux*, a manuscript completed by Raymond Ruyer in the early 1980s. It came out as a monograph in November 2013, with the Éditions Klincksieck in Paris. It offers a presentation in an organized fashion of many aspects of his thought. Ruyer considered that a book about God could only be churned into a series of chapters on the unachievable character of our knowledge in different domains of human (...) inquiry. The nature of this final solution on God's relationship to the world and to natural forms is here assessed critically. (shrink)
I present first the challenge for epistemology when it faces the dilemma between rationalism and empiricism, followed by a presentation of the ideas introduced by Ruyer in order to ask if they can be articulated to the "third way" in epistemology. I explore the consequences of Ruyer's inversion of our understanding of space which can be looked upon as psychic. I consider Ruyer's refusal to locate in pure immanence the scheme of eupraxic resolution of successful aggregates–as living forms–in our experience. (...) I then highlight the major principles of Gaston Bachelard's and Michel Serres's respective epistemologies, and in a lesser measure those of Bergon and Deleuze as well, in order to underscore Ruyer's refusal to limit philosophy to what science allows one to say, but also in order to finally situate the verticalism of his position. (shrink)
This is the outline: Introduction — La question de la cybernétique et de l'information — Une « pensée du milieu » — Cybernétique et homologie — Une théorie de l'apprentissage — L'information vue de l'autre côté — Champ et domaine unitaire — La thèse des « autres-je » — Le passage par l'axiologie — La rétroaction vraie — L'ontologie de Ruyer — Le bruissement de l'être même.
This text reconsiders the philosophizing into the future of mankind and futurology done by molecular biologist Gunther Stent in *The Coming of the Golden Age* in the light of Raymond Ruyer's critical notice published in the aftermath of the publication of Stent's book in French translation. For Ruyer, it is an occasion to revisit his own take on what he called in his last work a "theology of the opposition between the organic and the rational," and to restate in a (...) new light his conclusions concerning Cournot's suggestion as to the becoming of social relationships in a context of management of complexity of association. It is argued here that both Stent and Ruyer share a common thermodynamic, informational, and also surprisingly Nietzschean ascendency in judging of the possible outcomes for the human race. (shrink)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra expresses a revolt against the quest for “afterworlds.” Nietzsche is seen transferring rationality to the body, welcoming the many in a kingdom of the un-unified multiple, with a burst of enthusiasm at the figure of recurrence. At first, he values an acceptation of suffering through reconciliation with time, and puts the onus on the divine to refute the dismembering of the oneness of meaning and unity of the soul’s quest for joy in eternity. Then confronting Christianity, he (...) sees its refusal to sacrifice anyone, at the cost of making all sick with a unique healer, and rejects it as incompatible with his ideal of plenitude. In the absence of an ontology of the person, the affirmation of the individual and his value, opposed to the antagonistic affirmation of the many put in front of the one God and destroyed by him, ends up dislocating the reality of the self. The Nietzschean option resisted any leveling down—this is its merit—yet the mystery of the Trinity needs to be brought into the reflection to respect Nietzsche’s own terms in defining the final problem which is also the one option: Dionysus or the Crucified? (shrink)
Critical notice assessing the use of information theory in the attempt to build a design inference, and to re-establish some aspects of the program of natural theology, as carried out in this third major monograph devoted to the subject of intelligent design theory by mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski, after The Design Inference (1998) and No Free Lunch (2002).
The development of ecological thinking in North America has been conditioned by the imperative aiming at a valuation of the biotic community. Since the end of WWII, the US population was warned against the dangerous and violent alterations of nature. Many then found in theology an unforeseen ally. I review the roots of the tension which led to debates involving radical ecologism or its denial, and I aim at analyzing it philosophically.
In his oft-cited book Descartes' Error, Antonio Damasio claims that Descartes is responsible for having stifled the development of modern neurobiological science, in particular as regards the objective study of the physical and physiological bases for emotive and socially-conditioned cognition. Most of Damasio’s book would stand without reference to Descartes, so it is intriguing to ask why he launched this attack. What seems to fuel such claims is a desire for a more holistic understanding of the mind, the brain and (...) the self. For Descartes however, here allowed to answer back, the question of accounting for the whole diversity of human potential experiences was what could not be left out of sight. Concerning the question of his neglect of the mind said to be "abysmally" detached from the body, it is claimed here that, in the light of Descartes' move which was to break with the scholastic practice of putting more and more things under the control of the soul, the program of using the reality of embodiment to understand the mind was one he actually started. An answer is also suggested to counter the charge that Descartes failed to account for the interaction of the two substances, the mind and the material body, by showing why and how Descartes actually believed in the substantial union of mind and body. Yet, he kept in the picture an ingenium, a faculty of pure understanding overarching a cybernetic model of the body-mind, of which we also here seek to appreciate the significance. This project of accounting for the mind-body interaction ended-up in a study the "passions," as emotions were then called. (shrink)
This is the outline: 1. Introduction 2. La compréhension théorique – 2.1 Le dynamisme conceptuel et l'a priori 2.2 L'horizon conceptuel – 3. Compréhension et singularité 4. La production de signifiance 5. La présence du mystère 6. Le problème de la substantialité : l'un et le multiple – 6.1 La notion d'un ordre implicite.
This paper evaluates the claim that it is possible to use nature’s variation in conjunction with retention and selection on the one hand, and the absence of ultimate groundedness of hypotheses generated by the human mind as it knows on the other hand, to discard the ascription of ultimate certainty to the rationality of human conjectures in the cognitive realm. This leads to an evaluation of the further assumption that successful hypotheses with specific applications, in other words heuristics, seem to (...) have a firm footing because they were useful in another context. I argue that usefulness evaluated through adaptation misconstrues the search for truth, and that it is possible to generate talk of randomness by neglecting aspects of a system’s insertion into a larger situation. The framing of the problem in terms of the elimination of unfit hypotheses is found to be unsatisfying. It is suggested that theories exist in a dimension where they can be kept alive rather than dying as phenotypes do. The proposal that the subconscious could suggest random variations is found to be a category mistake. A final appeal to phenomenology shows that this proposal is orphan in the history of epistemology, not in virtue of its being a remarkable find, but rather because it is ill-conceived. (shrink)
Knowledge is still an enigma, with its ability to inductively bring out a pattern without restricting itself to an empirical count of situations experienced. Instead of seeing the concept as a weakened object representing an external reality, it is suggested to view knowledge as the bridging of a distance with an ability for the knower to stay connected with outward reality. Attempts at defining an external and quantitative criterion of truth are questioned, as many human performances are not likely to (...) be solved or even properly grasped by the project of artificial intelligence. The positive side of the cognitive constructivist project is finally assessed and it is argued that one of its unexpected results could be to reinsert the human knowing power in the sub-human realm. (shrink)
Review of the book by mathematician and science writer Amir Aczel, Why Science does not Disprove God, recently reissued in paperback, with a focus on the chapters on mathematics and God, and criticisms from the standpoint of the epistemology of the science and religion dialogue.
This paper aims at introducing a French audience to the Intelligent Design debate. It starts by reviewing recent attacks on any possibility of a rational account of theism in light of the contemporary theory of evolution. A section is devoted to outlining the genesis of the "wedge" strategy, to distinguish it from young earth creationism, and to highlight the questioning of evolution as our meta-narrative bearing on overall conceptions of the scientific endeavor. The arguments propounded by Behe are reviewed in (...) detail, as the example of blood coagulation as a purported irreducibly complex mechanism is contrasted to the question of system boundaries. Counter-arguments by Miller are reviewed, and a few bottom-line questions are directed to invite a further consideration of the type of engineering this could testify to. The concept of complex specified information is then presented, and contrasted to traditional and lingering axiomatic problems in the theory of probabilities. The problem of the recognition of an intrinsic pattern is also brought together with some work in recent philosophy of causation and explanation. The two opposing strategies, naturalistic evolutionism and intelligent design, are seen as caught in each other's rhetoric, and some probing is offered in the direction of a theory that could surpass those stalling factors. (shrink)
This is the outline: 6. L'absence du concept de l'individualité 7. L'existence illimitée (boundless) Métaphore et analogie 8. L'évolution et l'existence comme durée individuelle dans le temps cosmique 9. L'option de la nécessité naturelle 10. L'inconnaissabilité ultime.
The problem of knowledge has been centred around the study of the content of our consciousness, seeing the world through internal representation, without any satisfactory account of the operations of nature that would be a pre-condition for our own performances in terms of concept efficiency in organizing action externally. If we want to better understand where and how meaning fits in nature, we have to find the proper way to decipher its organization, and account for the fact that we have (...) found codes and replicators operating at a deep levels of analysis. Informational analysis deals with units of organizational stability but it takes them for granted and leaves open the question of their origin. Patterns are used when we recognize the same configurations at different places and try to explain through their recurrence, yet to make sense of the presence of signals and counter-balancing mechanisms disseminated in nature, a hypothesis is offered to the effect that feedback signals would have a role to play in the coming about of a world that is open to new configurations and submitted to a form of stability that is more attuned to system laws than overarching unrevisable ones. (shrink)
Close attention to levels of organization leads one to doubt the random character of the regulations of the cosmos as a whole. Scientific knowledge seems able, after all, to bring into focus the enigma of the individual histories that have shaped the world. Religious consciousness of a personal destiny should be analogically linked to the destiny of the universe in which it is rooted.
This paper first outlines the main ideas of British natural theology, and shows the perennial value some of them have kept. It then outlines ways of searching for connections between God and nature, seeking traces of intelligence, first in the context of the setting of the modern ontology of the laws of nature, and then in the context of the design argument. It contrasts the positions of Hume and Paley. A presentation of recent "intelligent design" proposals is then offered, from (...) the perspective of their continuing that tradition of argumentation. They are contrasted with a Millian acount of their leaving the problem of evil unanswered. Behe's concept of irreducible complexity is presented in greater details, followed by Dembski's attempt to turn it into a logically valid mode of inference. Objections stemming from philosophers of science are lastly considered. The nature of life's strategies is in the end found to escape both attempts to have it on one's side. (shrink)
This critical notice was occasioned by the reading of a recent monograph, published at the end of 2009, which features a dialogue and a mutual critical assessment of the work of a microbiologist, also a priest from the Mission de France, and an astrophysicist who was agnostic. The book inquires into the motivations of scientific research, looks at the quest for a Creator behind the said work when done by a believer, and tries to retrieve the spiritual presuppositions that would (...) be present at the heart of the same type of work when carried over without a religious affiliation or confession. (shrink)
In this shorter piece, at the instigation of a former philosophy student, I accepted to contribute alongside two other writers to the "Expert Help" rubric, and attempted to explain the genesis in Nietzsche's mind of the conception of the eternal recurrence. I lay stress on both the internal contradiction that the solitary of Sils-Maria was trying to resolve and the secret desire that this cherished and embraced rather than demonstrated theory be true in the face of conflicting evidence, and I (...) furthermore challenge the received view that makes this vision incompatible with a Christian ontology. (shrink)
This study is devoted to the problem of the place and significance of the scientific quest and worldview, and to their articulation with metaphysics as they serve to bring the mind to the consideration of the problem and mystery of the existence of God in the thought of the contemporary French philosopher and theologian Claude Tresmontant (1925-97).
Freedom is first apprehended as the pursuit of an activity which implies the choice to defend a thesis among other possible ones. This translation of the problem of freedom in an articulate language presupposes a complex nervous system and sensory apparatuses which we take for granted. In this study, I try to explore the undergrounds of the problem of freedom along with the suggestion that the notion of coding could enable one to bridge nature and the mind. When organisms invent, (...) are they doing it in a spontaneous manner, inscribing in their hereditary and mnemonic instructions a stochastic contrivance of random accidents, or are they attempting to select among a limited number of schemes endowed with some optimality of functioning? If we consider them as submitted to physical forces, it is to the extent that we make them part of a strategy to extend the "laws" of a nature understood to respond passively. I suggest in this study that the epistemological understanding must regionalize itself and admit a hierarchy of dispositions in relation to the phenomenon of selection. I end by suggesting the pursuit of affirmation instead of negation, as this alone contains the requirement of integration to the knowing subject as well as the form in its act of understanding, without giving it a spontaneist position. (shrink)
In a first part I present the results of the philosophy of scientific explanation with an attempt to apply them to the case of the theory of evolution. Then I observe that the requirements of modelization of phenomena with the help of inductive logic do not capture efficiently the pertinent factors and fail just as much to exclude those which end up being neutral as explanatory premises. I then query in the direction of confirmation theory, and show that probabilistic reasoning (...) does not possess the syntactic means of testing evolutionary hypotheses in a way that would rely on a valid mode of inference. In a second part, I try to show how biology has oscillated between two privileged modes of explanation, the first one being through form of which I suggest here that it has never been replaced and that it has known a forgotten vitality in the middle and latter part of the 19th Century, and the second one being through function here evaluated critically alongside that of tinkering. Finally, some limits are seen to hold against the pretence to epistemological exclusivism of those two outlooks on the biological object. (shrink)
This critical notice was occasioned by reading M. Espinoza, "Freedom in a Causally Determined World," Actas de las XIII Jornadas sobre Filosofía y Metodología Actual de la Ciencia, Jornadas sobre Libertad y Determinismo: Ciencias Sociales y Ciencias de la Naturaleza, Universidad de A Coruña, March 2008.
Taking as a starting point for his quest the teaching received from the Hebrew prophets and transmitted by the people of Israel, Claude Tresmontant identifies in it the specific moment where an entirely new and creative thought is introduced in the history of mankind. Trained in philosophy of science and conscious of the discipline involved in a rigorous experimental method as a key to valid and true knowledge, Claude Tresmontant boldly recreated bridges, long destroyed, between science and philosophy of nature, (...) as well as metaphysics and theology. Following an immense effort, he has found back, stringently and often on his own, a unifying concept capable of integrating the experience and the questions of today's man: "...the central question is that of integrating the teaching of creation and that of revelation in the unity of an intelligible vision of the world, desirable, and verifiable..." as he said himself in the preface to L'histoire de l'univers et le sens de la Création. This immense, powerful and thought-provoking work is here presented by a young philosopher, long time correspondent of Claude Tresmontant, who benefited from decisive moments of encounter with him. (shrink)
Teilhard de Chardin is a fascinating character! Born in 1881 and deceased in 1955, he remains strikingly contemporary. In response to a world shattered by the atrocities of World War I, he progressively elaborates the vision of a world entirely unified through a Center beyond itself. This perception is inserted at the heart of an intellectual endeavor wherein faith and scientific pursuit call onto each other, intertwined in a dialogue of a rare fruitfulness. Books such as The Phenomenon of Man, (...) The Divine Milieu, the Writings in time of War, or The Heart of the Matter witness to his underlying insight: "true" mysticism and the thrust of science which spiritualizes the earth coincide and are in fact one. Besides introducing to the life and thought of Teilhard de Chardin, this book is an anthology of his greatest texts where he discloses for us his mystical insights. (shrink)
Description courte (Électre, 2019) : Une étude d'un des principaux axes de réflexion du philosophe des sciences et de la nature Raymond Ruyer (1902-1987). À la lumière des découvertes de l'embryogenèse et en s'appuyant par ailleurs sur la théorie de l'information, il proposa une interprétation des concepts unificateurs de la cybernétique mécaniste. -/- Short Descriptor (Electre 2019): A study of one of the main axes of reflection of the French philosopher of science and of nature Raymond Ruyer (1902-1987). Relying on (...) the discoveries about embryogenesis, and also with the use of information theory, Ruyer proposed an interpretation of the main unifying concepts of mechanistic cybernetics. -/- Cet ouvrage propose une étude fouillée d'un des principaux axes de réflexion du philosophe des sciences et de la nature français Raymond Ruyer (1902–1987) : la cybernétique. Après avoir proposé une philosophie structuraliste, Ruyer la modifia à la lumière des découvertes de l'embryogenèse, puis il proposa une interprétation des concepts unificateurs de la cybernétique mécaniste. Réfléchissant sur cette dernière et sur la théorie de l'information, en particulier sur l'origine de l'information, il défendit que cette cybernétique n'était qu'une lecture inversée de la vraie cybernétique, qui nous donnerait de lire dans l'expérience même les traces du pouvoir morphogénétique, appréhendé comme un champ axiologique. Dans un texte résumant son propre parcours, Ruyer affirma finalement que la critique de la théorie de l'information « peut donner […] l'espoir d'aboutir à quelque chose comme une nouvelle théologie. » Les idées directrices de Ruyer sont tout particulièrement contextualisées ici à partir de la question du développement des formes en biologie, et de celles de la génétique, de la genèse stochastique de l'ordre, et de l'identification mentale ou physique de l'information. Il se termine en départageant ce qui est théologique et axiologique dans ce projet de métaphysique qui, bien que resté inachevé, n'en représente pas moins le plus impressionnant conçu en France au siècle dernier. – This book offers an in-depth study of one of the main axes in the reflection of French philosopher of science and nature Raymond Ruyer. In a text summarising his own development, Ruyer stated about the philosophical critique of information theory that it "is what can give the most long-lasting hope of getting to something like a new theology." After propounding a structuralist philosophy, and distinguishing between form and structure, to then modify it in the light of discoveries in embryogenesis, Ruyer offered a re-evaluation of the unifying concepts of mechanistic cybernetics. Thinking about it and about information theory, he defended the idea that this cybernetics was in reality an inverted reading of the real one, which would allow us to read in experience itself traces of the morphogenetic power, apprehended as the axiological field. On some transversal points, the development of forms in biology and genetics, the stochastic genesis of order, the identification of information with either psychological and mental, or physical reality, behaviour, and the access to meaning, this work exposes the main ideas of Ruyer while situating them in the context of the breadth of others' contributions. It ends by determining what is theological and axiological in this project for a metaphysics which, although unfinished, is nevertheless the most impressive effort done in France in the last century. – Available on i6doc dot com (ISBN 978-2-930517-56-8 ; pdf 978-2-930517-57-5). (shrink)
The history of the relationship between Christian theology and the natural sciences has been conditioned by the initial decision of the masters of the "first scientific revolution" to disregard any necessary explanatory premiss to account for the constituting organization and the framing of naturally occurring entities. Not paying any attention to hierarchical control, they ended-up disseminating a vision and understanding in which it was no longer possible for a theology of nature to send questions in the direction of the experimental (...) sciences, as was done in the past between theology and many philosophically-based thought-systems. Presenting the history of some hinge-periods in the development of the Western-world sciences, this book first sets out to consider the conceptual revolution which has, in the 20th Century, related consciousness, physical laws and levels of organization, in order to show that a new chance existed then for theology. This discourse was invited to revise its language to open it up to the quest for meaning which we find on the periphery of the project of the experimental sciences. The Century-old reflection on the foundations of probability had prepared the ground for the introduction of the concept of information, at first linked to an effort aimed at maximizing the efficiency of electromagnetic communications. Taking the full measure of the questions that information theory poses to the biological sciences, this work attempts to identify the areas of convergence setting the stage for general systems theory, while it also tries to identify the insufficiencies of this recent vision and to highlight the questions left unanswered. Re-reading some of the traditional proofs of God's existence from the order of the world, relying on some pioneering insights of Ludwig von Bertalanffy and Norbert Wiener, the author brings those proofs and insights in contact with the fascinating initial project of cybernetics and the elements of a "mythical" nature which, from its inception, it could never entirely eliminate. This book ends with the confrontation between the conceptually most extended regulation factors in the history of Western thought. It articulates the poetic utopia concerned with an immediate grasp of the world in its "deictic" character with the concurrent one aimed at the domination over matter and energy expressed by technology's driving rational utopia. (shrink)
This book proposes to set out conquering the unknown lands of the spiritual life by revisiting some of the great insights of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). We are lead to consider these problems by taking distance from the pitfalls usually associated with the interpretation of the engaging work of the French paleontologist and priest. In the panoply of Christian spiritualities, that of Teilhard occupies a place of its own. In it, the greatest prayer becomes abandonment in the palms of (...) the "great hands that form and create." Animated by a passion without limits for the world and the extraordinary deployment of all the riches it contains, without falling into some simplistic optimism, Teilhard de Chardin offers us one of the most beautiful expressions of Christian hope ever. (shrink)
Learning a novel environment involves integrating first-person perceptual and motoric experiences with developing knowledge about the overall structure of the surroundings. The present experiments provide insights into the parallel development of these egocentric and allocentric memories by intentionally conflicting body- and world-centered frames of reference during learning, and measuring outcomes via online and offline measures. Results of two experiments demonstrate faster learning and increased memory flexibility following route perspective reading (Experiment 1) and virtual navigation (Experiment 2) when participants begin exploring (...) the environment on a northward (vs. any other direction) allocentric heading. We suggest that learning advantages due to aligning body-centered (left/right/forward/back) with world-centered (NSEW) reference frames are indicative of three features of spatial memory development and representation. First, memories for egocentric and allocentric information develop in parallel during novel environment learning. Second, cognitive maps have a preferred orientation relative to world-centered coordinates. Finally, this preferred orientation corresponds to traditional orientation of physical maps (i.e., north is upward), suggesting strong associations between daily perceptual and motor experiences and the manner in which we preferentially represent spatial knowledge. (shrink)