Corning, 2013: "Evolution �on purpose�: how beha viour has shaped the evolutionary process"

[From Matti Kolu (2014.01.15.1600 CET)]

Have you all seen this? Powers and Cziko are referenced.

PETER A. CORNING. Evolution ‘on purpose’: how behaviour has shaped the
evolutionary process. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2013, 1–19.

UR -
DO - 10.1111/bij.12061

Abstract: "The idea that behaviour has played an important role in
evolution has had its ups and downs over the past two
centuries. Now it appears to be up once again. Lamarck can claim
priority for this insight, along with Darwin’s
more guarded view. However, there followed a long ‘dark-age’, which
began with Weismann’s mutation theory and
spanned the gene-centred era that followed during most of the 20th
Century, although it was punctuated by various
contrarians, from Baldwin’s ‘Organic Selection theory’ to Simpson’s
‘Baldwin effect’, Mayr’s ‘Pacemaker’ model, and
Waddington’s ‘genetic assimilation’, amongst others. Nowadays, even as
we are reading genomes and using this
information to illuminate biological causation and decipher
evolutionary patterns, behavioural processes are more
fully appreciated, with ‘multilevel selection theory’ providing a more
ecumenical, multicausal model of evolutionary
change. This has been accompanied by a flood of research on how
behavioural influences contribute to the ongoing
evolutionary process, from research on phenotypic plasticity to niche
construction theory and gene–culture
co-evolution theory. However, the theoretical implications of this
paradigm shift still have not been fully integrated
into our current thinking about evolution. Behaviour has a purpose
(teleonomy); it is ends-directed. Living
organisms are not passive objects of ‘chance and necessity’ (as
Jacques Monod put it). Nor is the currently popular
concept of phenotypic plasticity sufficient. Organisms are active
participants in the evolutionary process (cybernetic
systems) and have played a major causal role in determining its
direction. It could be called ‘constrained
purposiveness’, and one of the important themes in evolution,
culminating in humankind, has been the ‘progres-
sive’ evolution of self-determination (intelligence) and its
ever-expanding potency. I call this agency ‘Teleonomic
Selection’. In a very real sense, our species invented itself. For
better and worse, the course of evolution is
increasingly being shaped by the ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’. Monod’s
mantra needs to be updated. Evolution is a
process that combines ‘chance, necessity, teleonomy and selection’."

Extract from pg 9:

"The systems theorist William T. Powers (1973), in an important book
and also in a paper published in Science the same year, showed that
the behaviour of a cybernetic control system can be described
mathematically in terms of its tendency to oppose an environmental
disturbance of an internally controlled quantity. That is to say, the
system will operate in such a way that some function of its output
quantities will be almost equal and opposite to some function of a
disturbance in some or all of those environmental variables that
affect the controlled quantity, with the result that the controlled
quantity will remain almost at its zero point. A familiar example is a
household thermostat. It operates to maintain a pre-set temperature.

Needless to say, the basic thermostat model portrays only the most
rudimentary example: a homeostatic system. More complex cybernetic
control systems are obviously not limited to maintaining any sort of
simple and eternally fixed steady state. In a complex system,
overarching goals may be main- tained (or attained) by means of an
array of hierarchically organized sub-goals that may be pursued
contemporaneously, cyclically, or seriatim. Further- more, homeostasis
shares the cybernetic stage with ‘homeorhesis’ (i.e. developmental
control processes) and even ‘teleogenesis’ (i.e. goal-creating

It is also important to note that cybernetic control processes are not
limited only to one level of biological organization. Over the past
two decades, we have come to appreciate the fact that they exist at
many levels in living systems. They can be observed in, amongst other
things, morphogenesis (Shapiro, 1991, 1992, 2012; Thaler, 1994),
cellular activity (Hess & Mikhailov, 1994; Shapiro, 2012), and
neuronal network operation (Crick, 1994), as well as in the
orchestration of animal behaviour. Indeed, the cybernetic model also
encompasses processes that conform to the paradigm of ‘distributed
control’ or ‘horizontal control’. Some examples include bacterial
colonies (Shapiro, 1988), Cnidaria (Mackie, 1990; Packard, 2006),
honeybees (Seeley, 1989, 1995), army ants (Franks, 1989; Hölldobler &
Wilson, 1990), slime moulds (Bonner, 1959), and, of course, humans.
Indeed, Powers and various colleagues have devoted many years to
developing what he calls ‘Perceptual Control Theory’, which melds
cybernetics and human psychology. Another way to put it is that many
levels of goal-oriented feedback processes exist in nature, and
complex organisms such as mammals (especially socially-organized
species such as humankind) are distinctive in their reliance on more
inclusive, emergent, ‘higher-level’ controls."


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