Summary

In this essay the author uses a deductive approach. Starting from premises of conventional physiology and evolutionary theory and applying to these the arguments of cybernetics, he shows that there must be an economics of somatic flexibility and that this economics must, in the long run, be coercive upon the evolutionary process. External adaptation by mutation or genotypic reshuffling, as ordinarily thought of, will inevitably use up the available somatic flexibility. It follows—if evolution is to be continuous—that there must also be a class of genotypic changes which will confer a bonus of somatic flexibility.

In general, the somatic achievement of change is uneconomical because the process depends upon homeostasis, i.e., upon whole circuits of interdependent variables. It follows that inheritance of acquired characteristics would be lethal to the evolutionary system because it would fix the values of these variables all around the circuits. The organism or species would, however, benefit (in survival terms) by genotypic change which would simulate Lamarckian inheritance, i.e., would bring about the adaptive component of somatic homeostasis without involving the whole homeostatic circuit. Such a genotypic change (erroneously called the "Bald-win effect") would confer a bonus of somatic flexibility and would therefore have marked survival value.

Finally, it is suggested that a contrary argument can be applied in those cases where a population must acclimate to variable stress. Here natural selection should favor an anti-Baldwin effect.

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