Created by yuyiya

The facts of life

This collection contains influential and provocative - but not totally irrational! ;-) - readings in psychology, neurology, ethology, sociology, ecology and biology. The main aim of this collection is a better understanding of WHY all living creatures (including "homo sapiens insapiens") do what they do. It's also fun to figure out HOW they do it. And in the first place, we need to know accurately, rather than just guessing, WHAT they really do. Lots of scientists of the last 100 years are really good at finding these things - 'The facts of life' - out. There are plenty of surprises! Considerations of philosophy, especially teleology, are also appropriate, such as: Do we have free will? Is a moth a biological robot, following only the behaviour programmed by its genes; or, when it chooses a site for pupation, does it really have a choice? What is a caterpillar's purpose - if any? Classification is also problematic - what is the boundary between plants and animals, or do the classes break down? In what sense is "pupal soup" an animal? Is classification desirable? Useful? Necessary? Even possible? A misleading holdover from our medieval, scholastic past? What is a good basis for a classification - apparent form, function, genetics, interactive roles? And the same questions apply, not just to the classification of lifeforms, but equally to the classification of their behaviours. One of those is intelligence, used in the wider sense. Not just the hypothesized "general intelligence" of humans, but also the hive intelligence of bees, ants and other insects; the appearance of intelligence and communication in flocking behaviour of birds and fishes; abstract intelligence embodied in silicon and other circuits, even in cyborgs. How may the capacity for intelligence evolve in the next century? Or millennium? Can we hasten evolution? Mention of flocking behaviour naturally evokes complexity theory - is it all "just" emergent behaviour? And, as some would have us believe, is human consciousness jsut an epiphenomenon of no directive force or value? Do animals think? If so, in what sense or senses do they think? Is "thinking" another misleading concept or classification? These, and more, are the questions we explore.