[Comp-neuro] Re: (3) A Matter of Religion

james bower bower at uthscsa.edu
Sat Aug 23 01:31:26 CEST 2008

sorry, this requires a response

selection is the engine of evolution --

and, I have stated previously, biology specifically organizes across  
levels -- in my view, that is how it attains its efficiency and its  

As mentioned several times here - the question of how evolution of  
genomes is related to the evolution of phenomes is an open and very  
complicated story - especially so for the brain -- which is the organ  
females decide who to reproduce with.

Finally, evolutionary theory has nothing to do with religion, although  
it is unfortunately often taught that way to our children.

To confound evolution with religion is to fail to understand either,  
but usually indicates another purpose altogether.

Jim Bower

ps. as should be obvious when I use "quotes' I am indicating short  
hand for something much more complicated.

On Aug 22, 2008, at 5:53 PM, Malcolm Dean wrote:

> On Thu, Aug 21, 2008 at 3:06 PM, james bower <bower at uthscsa.edu>  
> wrote:
> I would like to venture that evolution and selection makes the issue  
> a bit different for biology and neuroscience than for the physical  
> world as a whole.  In other words, unlike (we assume) the physical  
> world of particles and forces (on which, of course, biology is  
> based), selection of traits adds an additional twist to the usual  
> reductionist arguments.  In other words, selection has "worked" to  
> organize brain's to perform a particular function - as  
> neurobiologists, I would suggest that our ultimate objective is to  
> understand the function in the structure that selection "put  
> there"  (thus my own focus on that structure first). This also means  
> that arguments in other fields related to reductionist to abserdum  
> may not apply to biology -  as selection, in some sense "brackets"  
> our inquiry.  Thus, 'what level is too fine' comes down in my view  
> to the question 'what is the lowest level that the process of  
> natural selection "sculpts" component parts.  Molecules for sure --  
> submolecular, it can't.  At the other end, how can selection  
> possibly work on ideas of  'mind' explicitly assumed to have no  
> physical manifestation?  So, unlike physical science - we have no  
> mandate to link across all levels of scale from the infinite in one  
> direction, to the infinite in the other direction. For that reason,   
> Godel's proof, which had a profound effect on Hilbertian axiomatic  
> "link it all together consistently' descriptions  may not apply  
> given the proofs explicit dependence on infinites.
> With great respect, I will venture a risky response -- risking that  
> readers are as capable of considering alternatives as they seem to  
> be -- and point to some of the received views in this post.
> First, there is the conflation of Evolution and Selection. Second,  
> there is the suggestion that Selection (which many now attempt to  
> raise to the status of Natural Law) works differently at different  
> levels. Third, there is the idea that Selection is an active force  
> or principle that can "put things there." Finally, there is the  
> suggestion that there is no mandate to link across all levels.
> Selectionism certainly marches forth with the claim that it is the  
> unique explanation of Evolution, and that it is the standard-bearer  
> against infidels proposing alternatives -- in this way, it certainly  
> functions in the culture of modern science exactly as do the  
> religions which Selectionists decry. But even within the broad  
> mainstream of science, there are alternative theories of Evolution,  
> and the idea of Evolution should be clearly distinguished from its  
> theories, no matter how dominant and pervasive.
> The idea that science has no mandate to link across levels is either  
> enlightened postmodernism or a clear admission of multiple failures,  
> your choice.
> Malcolm Dean
> Research Affiliate, Human Complex Systems, UCLA


Dr. James M. Bower Ph.D.

Professor of Computational Neuroscience

Research Imaging Center
University of Texas Health Science Center -
-  San Antonio
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