Ackerman, Robert J.

An analogy between scientific progress and biological speciation has been introduced that will be of value in considering the vexed notion of scientific progress. (Ackerman, 1985, p. 71)


Alexander, Christoper

Even the most aimless changes will eventually lead to well-fitting forms, because of the tendency to equilibrium inherent in the organization of the process. All the agent need do is recognize failures when they occur, and to react to them. And this even the simplest man can do. For although only few men have sufficient integrative ability to invent form of any clarity, we are all able to criticize existing forms. It is especially important to understand that the agent in such a process needs no creative strength. He does not need to be able to improve the form, only to make some sort of change when he notices a failure. The changes may not always be for the better; but it is not necessary that they should be, since the operation of the process allows only the improvements to persist. (Alexander, 1964, p. 30)


Amundson, Ronald

It is commonly held that scientists do not generate hypotheses randomly, but rather with the goal in mind of solving some scientific problem. Now, if a purposively generated hypothesis has a greater chance of scientific success than a randomly generated one (a supposition we must fervently hope is true) the Condition 2 fails fully to be met. There are degrees here, of course. Perhaps "insightful" hypotheses are only slightly more likely than random ones to be successful, and only a tiny bit of the success of science is to be explained by the insights of scientists. Selection would in this case retain much of its force. But if "insightful" hypotheses are much more likely to be successful, selection is much eroded. (Amundson, 1989, p. 427)


Ashby, W. Ross

Adaptation by trial and error is sometimes treated in psychological writings as if it were merely one way of adaptation, and an inferior way at that. The argument given above shows that the method of trial and error holds a much more fundamental place in the methods of adaptation. The argument how, in fact, that when the organism has to adapt (to get its essential variables within physiological limits) by working through an environment that is of the nature of a Black Box, then the process of trial and error is necessary, for only such a process can elicit the required information. (Ashby, 1960, pp. 82-83)


Bain, Alexander

The number of trials necessary to arrive at a new construction, is commonly so great, that, without something of an affection, or fascination, for the subject, one grows weary of the task. The patient thought of the naturalist desirous of rising to new classifications, grows out of his liking for the subject, which makes it to him a sweet morsel rolled under the tongue, and gives an enjoyment even to fruitless endeavours. (Bain, 1868, p. 593)

The invention of Daguerre [of the first photographic process] illustrates--by a modern instance--the probable method whereby some of the most ancient inventions were arrived at. The inventions of the scarlet dye, of glass, of soap, or gunpowder, could have come only by accident; but the accident, in most of them, would probably fall into the hands of men engaged in numerous trials upon the materials involved. Intense application--"days of watching, nights of waking,"--went with ancient discoveries as well as with modern. In the historical instances, we know as much. The mental absorption of Archimedes is a proverb. (Bain, 1868, p. 596)


Baldwin, J. Mark

We do not scatter our thoughts as widely as possible in order to increase the chances of getting a true one; on the contrary, we call the man who produces the most thought-variations a 'scatter-brain,' and expect nothing inventive from him . . . we succeed in thinking well by thinking hard; we get the valuable thought-variations by concentrating attention upon the body of related which we already have; we discover new relations among the data of experience by running over and over the links and couplings of the apperceptive systems with which our minds are already filled. (Baldwin, 1889, p. 4)

And how far the method of law called by Darwin "natural selection" goes, what its range really is, we are now beginning to see in its varied applications in the sciences of life and mind. It seems to be--unless future investigations set positive limits to its application--a universal principle; for the intelligence itself, in its procedure of tentative experimentation, or "trial and error," appears to operate in accordance with it. (Baldwin, 1889, p. 83)

Darwin gave the death-blow to uncritical vitalism in biology, to occultism in psychology, and to mysticism and formalism in philosophy. Each of these, alike progeny of the obscuratism of dogmatic thought, has in turn yielded before the conception of natural law and order embodied by Darwin in the theory of natural selection. This in turn requires the radical acceptance of a genetic or dynamic view of the world. (Baldwin, 1909, p. 88)


Bartley, W. W., III

Popper shows that induction does not exist. Rejecting the empiricist theory of learning as primitive and in conflict with biological knowledge, Popper sees the mind as no passive "bucket" into which experience simply rains and which can, at most, recombine that experience in various ways. On the contrary, the mind actively anticipates the future with hypotheses that, of necessity, go far beyond experience: hypotheses precede observations psychologically, logically, even genetically: all experience is theory impregnated. Every animal is born with expectations--that is with something closely parallel to hypotheses, which, if verbalized, express hypotheses or theories. The role of experience is to break expectations: to criticize and to challenge hypotheses. The ability of an animal to learn will depend on the extent to which it can modify expectations contradicted by experience, on the extent to which it is able to invent new expectations or theories to deal with unanticipated situations. (Bartley, 1982, p. 264)


Basalla, George

From the vast pool of human-designed variant artifacts, a few are selected to become part of the material life of society. In nature it is the ability of the species to survive that counts--the fact that the organism, and especially its kind, can thrive and reproduce in the world in which it finds itself. The artifact may also be said to survive and pass on its form to subsequent generations of made things. This process requires the intervention of human intermediaries who select the artifact for replication in workshop or factory. (Basalla, 1988, p. 137)


Bateson, Gregory

. . .creative thought must always contain a random component. The exploratory processes--the endless trial and errror of mental progress--can achieve the new only by embarking upon pathways randomly presented, some of which when tried are somehow selected for something like survival. (Bateson, 1979, p. 182)

. . . the intracranial stochastic system of thought or learning closely resembles that component of evolution in which random genetic changes are selected by epigenesis. Finally, the cultural historian is provided with a world in which formal resemblances persist through many generations of cultural history, so that he can seek out such patterns just as a zoologist searches for homologies. (Bateson, 1979 pp. 183-184)


Bickhard, Mark H.

If representations cannot emerge, however, then they cannot come into being at all. A narrow focus on this point yields Fodor's innatism: neither learning nor development, as currently understood, can construct emergent representation; therefore the basic representational atoms must be already present genetically. Unfortunately, this conclusion does not follow. If representation cannot emerge, then it cannot emerge in evolution any more than it can in development. The problem is logical in nature, and is not specific to the individual. Conversely, if some way were posited in which evolution could yield emergent representation, then there is no a priori reason why that emergence would not be just as available in the development of the individual. Fodor's innatism, then, simply misses the basic issue. If representation cannot emerge, then it is impossible for it to exist, and evolution is in no better position in this respect than is individual development; on the other hand, if representation can emerge, then there is something wrong with the models of learning and development that cannot account for that emergence. When those models are corrected, that emergence should be as available to the individual as to evolution. In either case, Fodor's strong innatism does not follow. (Bickhard, 1991, pp. 16-17)

The sense in which utterances are understood not by a process of decoding, but by an instrinsically variation and selection process of interactions and apperceptions, just as for other "perceptual" processes, is often not directly evident. Much adult language understanding is of the well practiced and habituated variety that needs only an initial satisfactory interactive trial to be able to complete the interaction--it appears algorithmic. But the underlying variation and selection realities show up whenever language understanding is difficult. Such difficulty can be manifested, for example, in attempting a garden path or ambiguous sentence, or a difficult text, understanding a person in psychotherapy, or learning a language as a child. In all such cases, understanding proceeds, not algorithmically, but with trials and errors, and shifts of considerations among various aspects of the text, attempting to find an interpretation, and understanding, that satisfies the selection pressures of the words, the sentences, the text, the persons, and the context. This process has come to be called the hermeneutic circle (Heidegger, 1962; Gadamer, 1975). (Bickhard, 1992, p. 24)


Boakes, Robert

Thorndike's theories very strongly suggest a view of the brain as an exchange in which lines are connected and disconnected, not by some internal humunculus, but by some process analogous to Darwin's theory of natural selection. Thorndike wrote of 'the struggle for existence among neurone connections' and, following the recent discoveries in neurology of the synaptic junctions between nerve cells, speculated that the physiological basis of S-R connections might be changes in conductivity of individual synapses. (Boakes, 1984, p. 75)


Boden, Margaret A.

In short, human creativity often benefits from 'mental mutations'. R-random {R for "relative"} phenomena such as serendipity, coincidence and unconstrained conceptual association (what advertisers and management-consultants call 'brainstorming') are useful, because they provide unexpected ideas that can be fed into a structurcan {?} creative process. (Boden, 1990, p. 225)


Boyd, Robert. & Richerson, Peter. J.

It is often argued that Darwinian theories of evolution must result in adaptive or functional hypotheses about human behavior (Sahlins 1976a, 1967b). The results of this chapter demonstrate that this argument is incorrect. Nonadaptive, or even frankly maladaptive, cultural variants can spread in a population under the influence of indirect bias, even in the face of selection and direct bias favoring more adaptive variants. Furthermore, the runaway or drift-away situation arises naturally from the genetically adaptive uses of indirect bias. (Boyd & Richerson, 1985, p. 279)


Bradie, Michael

Almost all critics and defenders alike agree that in one important respect conceptual evolution differs from biological evolution. In science, it is claimed, there is progress toward a goal; in biology, there is none. (Bradie, 1986, p. 426)

The feature of Campbell's model which has come under most attack is his insistence that the variation in conceptual evolution is blind or unjustified. That it is unjustified, i.e., that there is no before the fact guarantee that any of our conjectures will in fact do the job they are expected to do, is palatable. That the variation is blind, i.e., that our conjectures are not made in response to some pressure from the problem environment, is less palatable. (Bradie, 1986, p. 422)


Calvin, William H.

And, for at least a century11, it has been recognized that even the highest-known biological function, human thought, involves random generation of many alternatives and is only shaped up into something of quality by a series of selections. Like the elegant eyes and ears produced by biological randomness, the Darwin Machine's final product (whether sentence or scenario, algorithm or allegory) no longer appears random because of many millisecond-long generations of selection shaping up alternative sequences off-line. (Calvin, 1987, p. 34).


Campbell, Donald T.

The early comparative biologists and evolutionists assembled impressive evidence of the adaptive fit between organismic structure and environmental possibilities. To explain such fit, three principal alternatives were available. The first involved the detailed a priori planning of a prescient deity. The second involved appropriate or corrective structural modifications based on experience with the environment in question. But this model also involves prescience, however modest and distributed, in that the organism somehow foresees which modifications will fit better. Where the Lamarckian notion of inheritable habituation could be applied, some plausibility might be gained. But most instances of adaptive fit could not thus be explained. The third model was the Darwinian theory of natural selection. For this model, unlike the second, the modifications or variations are blind, are random, are individually nonappropriate, are not of the order of corrections. But by chance there do occur those which provide better fit, and these survive and are duplicated. While Darwinian theory of evolution has undergone considerable elaboration and modification, and while there has been disagreement as to the mechanism and magnitude of the variations involved, his basic model of natural selection is uniformly accepted today, and stands as one of the great conceptual achievements of the 19th century. In its abstract or formal aspects, it is a model which may be applied to other adaptive processes, or other apparently teleological series of events in which modifications seem guided by outcome. (Campbell, 1956, p. 330)

In the course of evolution, there have been tremendous gains in adaptive adequacy, in stored templates modeling the useful stabilities of the environment, in memory and innate wisdom. Still more dramatic have been the great gains in mechanisms for knowing, in visual perception, learning, imitation, language and science. At no stage has there been any transfusion of knowledge from the outside, nor of mechanisms of knowing, nor of fundamental certainties. (Campbell, 1974b, p. 413)

A blind-variation-and-selective-retention process is fundamental to all inductive achievements, to all genuine increases in knowledge, to all increases in the fit of system to environment. (Campbell, 1974b, p. 421)

In going beyond what is already known, one cannot but go blindly. If one can go wisely, this indicates already achieved wisdom of some general sort. (Campbell, 1974b, p. 422)

. . . increasing knowledge or adaptation of necessity involves exploring the unknown, going beyond existing knowledge and adaptive recipes. This of necessity involves unknowing, non-preadapted fumbling in the dark. (Campbell, 1974c, p. 147)

Rather than foresighted variation, hindsighted selection is the secret of rational innovation. (Campbell, 1977, p. 506)

It turns out that all of the organismic processes we would call learning involve vicarious selectors rather than a direct encounter with reality itself. (Campbell, 1987b, p. 186)

For some scholars, the success of science is both obvious and not at all puzzling. They have no need for naturalistic-epistemological theories as to how this success might be possible. For other scholars (especially the social constructivist, ontologically relativist, strong programme sociologists and historians of science, plus some philosophers) the fact that there is no apodictic proof of improved competence of reference in temporal sequences of conceptual change in science also removes any puzzle. Since there is no completely demonstrable fit between scientific beliefs and any supposed independent referents of these beliefs, there is no puzzle needing explanation. These two groups do not need selection theory. (Campbell, 1988b, p. 172)

Being a purposeful problem solver, or a sub-cultural tradition of purposeful problem solvers, does not make one clairvoyant or prescient. Therefore, a specific application of general selection theory is needed by those puzzled by success of intentional problem solving, individual or group, synchroncally or with historical continuity as in science. (Campbell, 1988b, p. 173)

Intelligent variations require an explanation for how these variations or hypotheses came to be wise-in-advance. That most hypotheses are wise, I have no doubt. As such, they reflect already achieved knowledge or, at very least, wise restrictions on the search space. Such wisdom does not, however, explain further advances in knowledge. That hypotheses, even if not wise, are far from random, I agree. But wise or stupid, restraints on the search space do not explain novel solutions. (Campbell, 1990b, p. 9)

Let us today limit our use of selection-theory to what we contingently judge to be impressive examples of fit. For these instances, let us use selection theory rather than Paley's or Descartes' God as an explanation. (It is important to note that these puzzles of fit will be based, at best, on contemporary scientific consensus, not ontologically entailing proof. The puzzles, as well as the selection-theory explanations being offered for them, will be "incomplete inductions.") (Campbell, 1990b, p. 12)


Caudill, M., & Butler, C.

. . . the basic mode of operation is one of hypothesis testing. The input pattern is passed to the upper layer, which attempts to recognize it. The upper layer makes a guess about the category this bottom-up pattern belongs in and sends it, in the guise of the top-down pattern, to the lower layer. The result is then compared to the original pattern; if the guess is correct . . . the bottom-up trial pattern and the top-down guess mutually reinforce each other and all is well. If the guess is incorrect . . . the upper layer will make another guess. . . . thus, the upper layer forms a "hypothesis" of the correct category for each input pattern; this hypothesis is then tested by sending it back down to the lower layer to see if a correct match has been made. A good match results in a validated hypothesis; a poor match results in a new hypothesis. (Caudill, & Butler 1990, p. 208)


Changeux, Jean-Pierre

The 10,000 or so synapses per cortical neuron are not established immediately. On the contrary, they proliferate in successive waves from birth to puberty in man. . . . One has the impression that the system becomes more and more ordered as it receives "instructions" from the environment. If the theory proposed here is correct, spontaneous or evoked activity is effective only if neurons and their connections already exist before interaction with the outside world takes place. Epigenetic selection acts on preformed synaptic substrates. To learn is to stabilize preestablished synaptic combinations, and to eliminate the surplus. (Changeux, 1985, p. 248)

According to this scheme, culture makes its impression progressively. The 10,000 or so synapses per cortical neuron are not established immediately. On the contrary, they proliferate in successive waves from birth to puberty in man. With each wave, there is transient redundancy and selective stabilization. This causes a series of critical periods when activity exercises its regulatory effect. (Changeux, 1985, p. 248)

It is nevertheless worth noting that in the history of ideas "instructive" hypotheses have most often preceded selective hypotheses. When Jean-Baptiste Lamarck tried to found his theory of "descendence" on a plausible biological mechanism, he proposed the "heredity of acquired characteristics," a tenet that advances in genetics would eventually destroy. One had to wait almost half a century before the idea of selection was proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace and validated the principle, if not all the details of its application. In the same way the first theories about the production of antibodies were originally based on instructive models before selective mechanisms replaced them. It could conceivably be the same for theories of learning. To understand the reasons for this temporal succession, we must obviously examine the functioning of the scientist's brain. An instructive concept consists of only one step. It is the simplest possible approach. Moreover, whether we like it or not, it contains an "egocentric" component. "Nature directs forms" much as the sculptor models clay into a statue. . . . The concept of selection, on the other hand, implies further reflection. It involves two steps, and it satisfies the quest for a material mechanism totally devoid of "intentional" aspects. It is natural that this more complicated procedure, more difficult to execute, should have systematically appeared in second place throughout the history of scientific thought. (Changeux, 1985, pp. 279-81)


Chomsky, Noam

There is a place for functional explanation, but it is on the level of evolution. It is possible that a heart develops in the course of evolution in order to satisfy a certain function. . . . But this is a point that is useful to keep in mind: functional explanation does not relate to the way organs develop in the individual. (Chomsky, 1977, p. 86)

I don't think that the notion of selection from preexisting materials is rich enough to provide an analysis for the large-scale interactions that are loosely called "learning," but it may be a step along the way. (Chomsky, 1980, p. 137)


Churchland, Paul M., & Churchland, Patricia S.

In particular, neuroscience holds out the best hope for understanding the individual evolutionary process we call learnin, since the elements of variation, and the mechanisms of selection, whatever they are, are there under the skull, awaiting our exploration. A truly informed story of how the human cognitive system hooks up to the world must await their discovery and examination. (Churchland & Churchland, 1990, p. 310)


Crick, Francis

When times get tough, true novelty is needed--novelty whose important features cannot be preplanned--and for this we must rely on chance. Chance is the only source of true novelty. (Crick, 1981, p. 58)


Cziko, Gary

Where previous providential and instructionist theories of adaptive change and knowledge growth have been found to be inadequate, selection theory provides a truly naturalistic and nonmiraculous account of puzzles of fit, whether this fit occurred with or without the assistance of humankind. The evolution of theories in many different disciplines from providential through instructionist to selectionist is a provocative suggestion of the superiority of selectionism. And this recent movement in so many different fields of inquiry constitutes what may be considered a second Darwinian revolution. (Cziko, 1995, p. 58)

. . . a strong case can be made that universal selection theory provides the best explanation for both naturally and artificially produced puzzles of fit. It relies on patient, iterative cycles of blind variation and selection that over the course of time can result in biological adaptations and new species, functional human cultures, technological breakthroughs, and scientific revolutions. And what is perhaps most appealing from the naturalist perspective of modern science, it provides this explanation without miracles--except for the illusory miracle of how such an inherently blind, stupid, wasteful, and sluggish process can be found at the very foundation of life, its marvelous design, and all the subsequent knowledge that life in its human form has generated.(Cziko, 1995, p. 326)


Darwin, Charles

The formation of different language and of distinct species, and the proofs that both have been developed through a gradual process, are curiously parallel.^67 But we can trace the formation of many words further back than that of species, for we can perceive how they actually arose from the imitation of various sounds. We find in distinct languages striking homologies due to community of descent, and analogies due to a similar process of formation. The manner in which certain letters or sounds change when others change is very like correlated growth. We have in both cases the reduplication of parts, the effects of long-continued use, and so forth. The frequent presence of rudiments, both in languages and in species, is still more remarkable. The letter m in the word am , means I ; so that in the expression I am , a superfluous and useless rudiment hasbeen retained. In the spelling also of words, letters often remain as the rudiments of ancient forms of pronunciation. Languages, like organic beings, can be classed in groups under groups; and they can be classed either naturally according to descent, or artificially by other characters. Dominant languages and dialects spread widely, and lead to the gradual extinction of other tongues. A language, like a species, when once extinct, never, as Sir C. Lyell remarks, reappears. The same language never has two birth-places. Distinct languages may be crossed or blended together.68. We see variability in every tongue, and new words are continually cropping up; but as there is a limit to the powers of the memory, single words, like whole languages, gradually become extinct. As Max Mueller69 has well remarked:--"A struggle for life is constantly gong on amongst the words and gramatical forms in each language. The better, the shorter, the easier forms are constantly gaining the upper hand, and they owe their success to their own inherent virtue." To these more important causes of the survival of certain words, mere novelty and fashion may be added; for there is in the mind of man a strong love for slight changes in all things. The survival or preservation of certain favoured words in the struggle for existence is natural selection. (Darwin, 1871/1952, p. 300)

Slow though the process of selection may be, if feeble man can do much by his powers of artificial selection, I can see no limit to the amount of change, to the beauty and infinite complexity of the coadaptations between all organic beings, one with another and with their physical conditions of life, which may be effected in the long course of time by nature's power of selection. (Darwin, 1859, p. 109)

To my imagination it is far more satisfactory to look at such instincts as the young cuckoo ejecting its foster-brothers,--ants making slaves,--the larvae of echneumonidae [wasps] feeding within the live bodies of caterpillars,--not as specially endowed or created instincts, but as small consequences of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die. (Darwin, 1859, pp. 242-244)

It is wonderful what the principle of selection by man, that is the picking out of individuals with any desired quality, and breeding from them, and again picking out, can do. Even breeders have been astounded at their own results. . . . Man, by his power of accumulating variations, adapts living beings to his wants--may be said to make the wool of one sheep good for carpets, of another for cloth, &c. (reprinted in Bajema, 1983, pp. 191-192)


Dawkins, Richard

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain. (Dawkins, 1989, p. 192)

One of the most interesting methods of predicting the future is simulation. You imagine what would happen if you did each of the alternatives open to you. You set up a model in your head, not of everything in the world, but of the restricted set of entities which you think may be relevant. Survival machines which can simulate the future are one jump ahead of survival machines who can only learn on the basis of overt trial and error. (Dawkins, 1991, p. 217)

A human child is shaped by evolution to soak up the culture of her people. Most obviously, she learns the essentials of their language in a matter of months. A large dictionary of words to speak, an encyclopedia of information to speak about, complicated syntactic and semantic rules to order the speaking, are all transferred from older brains into hers well before she reaches half her adult size. When you are pre-programmed to absorb useful information at a high rate, it is hard to shut out pernicious or damaging information at the same time. With so many mindbytes to be downloaded, so many mental codons to be replicated, it is no wonder that child brains are gullible, open to almost any suggestion, vulnerable to subversion, easy prey to Moonies, Scientologists and nuns. Like immune-deficient patients, children are wide open to mental infections that adults might brush off without effort. (Dawkins, 1993, pp. >>>->>>)


Dennett, Daniel C.

The poet Paul Valéry said: 'It takes two to invent anything.' He was not referring to collaborative partnerships between people but to a bifurcation in the individual inventor. 'The one', he says, 'makes up combinations; the other one chooses, recognizes what he wishes and what is important to him in the mass of the things which the former has imparted to him. What we call genius is much less the work of the first one than the readiness of the second one to grasp the value of what has been laid before him and to choose.'1 (Dennett, 1979, pp. 169)

One does not want to be the generator, then. As Mozart says of his musical ideas: "Whence and how do they come? I do not know and I have nothing to do with it.' Nor does one want to be just the tester, for then one's chances of being creative depend on the luck one has with one's collaborator, the generator. The fundamental passivity of the testing role leaves no room for the 'creative self'.2 But we couldn't have hoped for any other outome. If we are to have an adequate analysis of creativity, invention, intelligence, it must be one in which intelligence is analysed into something none of whose parts is intelligence, and at that level of analysis, of course, no 'self' worth identifying with can survive. (Dennett, 1979, pp. 187)

Finally, I cannot resist passing on a wonderful bit of incidental intelligence reported by Hadamard: the Latin verb cogito is derived, as St. Augustine tells us, from Latin words meaning to shake together, while the verb intelligo means to select among. The Romans, it seems, knew what they were talking about. (Dennett, 1979, pp. 187)

How could such a process of postnatal design-fixing be accomplished? In only one (nonmiraculous) way: by a process strongly analogous to the process that fixes prenatal design, or inother words, a process of evolution by natural selection occurring within the individual (within the phenotype). . . . The candidates for selection are various brain structures that control or influence behaviors, and the selection is accomplished by one or another mechanical weeding-out process that is itself genetically installed in the nervous system. (Dennett, 1991, pp. 183-4)

Memes now spread around the world at the speed of light, and replicate at rates that make even fruit flies and yeast cells look glacial in comparison. They leap promiscuously from vehicle to vehicle, and from medium to medium, and are proving to be virtually unquarantinable. (Dennett, 1991, pp. 205)

Connectionist models are ultimately evolutionary. They involve the evolution of connection strengths over time. You get lots of things happening in parallel, and what's important about them is that, from a Calvinist perspective, they look wasteful. They look like a crazy way to build anything, because there are all these different demons working on their own little projects; they start building things and then they tear them apart. It seems to be very wasteful. It's also a great way of getting something really good--to have lots of building going on in a semicontrolled way, and then have a competition to see which one makes it through to the finals. (Dennett, 1995, p. 183)


Du Preez, Peter

The reason for the rapid advance of the problem-solving capacity of natural sciences is that scientists are trained to introduce theoretical variations, to test them empiricially, and to preserve and propagate those innovations which survive whatever tests have been proposed. (Du Preez, 1991, p. 123)

We are still trying to absorb the consequences of this view, which amounts to recognizing that knowledge is based on 'groping' (Piaget)--on variation and selection. . . . Knowledge, since it is based on groping, or on making and matching, is both 'unjustified and unjustifiable' (Bartley, 1987); it canot be shown to be final or derivable from first principles. (Du Preez, 1991, p. 210)


Edelman, Gerald M.

Darwin (1859) stated that the origin of taxa was natural selection acting upon variants within a population to yield differential reproduction of the most adapted (Mayr, 1982). As briefly described in the preceding chapter, the theoretical principle I shall elaborate here is that the origin of categories in higher brain function is somatic selection among huge numbers of variants of neural circuits contained in networks created epigenetically in each individual during its development; this selection results in differential amplification of populations of synapses in the selected variants. In other words, I shall take the view that the brain is a selective system more akin in its workings to evolution than to computation or information processing. The elaboration of this view will be an exercise in population thinking (Mayr, 1982), which considers that variance in a population is real and that individuality provides the basis for selection. This exercise in neural Darwinism (Edelman, 1985a) must nevertheless be grounded in quite specific mechanisms that requie explicit description in terms of our knowledge of the nervous system. (Edelman, 1987, p. 25)

Just as Darwin's view eliminated the need for creation by design, showing how taxa can be evolved (bottom-up) from populations through natural selection, so this selectionist view of the brain eliminates the need to create perceptual categories from the top down. Synaptic changes in linked neural maps leading to such categories are perhaps the most exquisite result of epigenetic processes creating form from place Topobiology at a minute scale reaches its highest point of evolutionary sophistication in complex brains containing many such maps, and its principles provide a central basis for the workings of such brains. (Edelman, 1988, p. 207)



Fodor, Jerry

We may end this chapter by exposing a paradox. What has been argued is, in effect, this: If the mechanism of concept learning is the projection and confirmation of hypotheses (and what else could it be), then there is a sense in which there can be no such thing as learning a new concept. (Fodor, 1979, p. 25)


Fogel, L. J., Owens, A. J. & Walsh, M. J.

Computer technology is now entering a new phase, one in which it will no longer be necessary to specify exactly how the problem is to be solved. Instead, it will only be necessary to provide an exact statement of the problem in terms of a "goal" and the "allowable expenditure," in order to allow the evolution of a best program by the available computation facility. . . . The old saw "the computer never knows more than the programmer" is simply no longer true. (Fogel, Owens, & Walsh 1966, p. 113)


Freeman, Walter J.

One profound advantage chaos may confer on the brain is that chaotic systems continually produce novel activity patterns. We propose that such patterns are crucial to the development of nerve cell assemblies that differ from established assemblies. More generally the ability to crate activity patterns may underlie the brain's ability to generate insight and the "trials" of trial-and-error problem solving. (Freeman, 1991, p. 85)


Gamble, T. J.

None of Campbell's critics have proposed rival models of how knowledge could have arisen out of ignorance, or how stupid processes could lead to intelligent adaptation. In rejecting Campbell's Dictum the critics have all noted that advances in knowledge are all based upon prior knowledge, but . . . this is largely an irrelevant criticism. In any situation in which the advances in knowledge are not wholly explicable in terms of previously attained knowledge, a BVSR [blind variation and selective retention] process must be at work. Unless of course, we really do live in a world in which prayer or meditation or passive induction can lead directly to new knowledge without any need for blind trials.1 (Gamble, 1983, pp. 359-360)


Gibson, Eleanor J.

Evolution requires variation and selection. So does ontogenetic development. Both are essential for learning to occur. (Gibson, 1994, p. 75)


Giere, Ronald N.

The analogy [of science] with evolutionary processes is striking. It looks to the uneducated eye that species are designed to fit their environment, or that particular species as a whole are "trying" to adapt. The truth, of course, is very much otherwise. Individual organisms are simply pursuing their own procreative interests as best they can. As result, the species evolves to be better adapted. The appearance of higher level design or intentionality is an artifact. So also, it seems, with science. (Giere, 1988, p. 222)


Goldberg, David

When man wanted to fly, he first turned to a natural example--the bird--to develop his early notions of how to accomplish this difficult task. Notable failures by Daedalus and numerous bird-like contraptions (ornithopters) at first pointed in the wrong direction, but eventually, persistence and the abstraction of the appropriate knowledge (lift over an airfoil) resulted in successful glider and powered flight. In contrast to this example, isn't it peculiar that when man has tried to build machines to think, learn, and adapt he has ignored and largely continues to ignore one of nature's most powerful examples of adaptation, genetics and natural selection? (quoted in Levy, 1992, p. 153)


Gruber, Howard E.

Darwin was not especially interested in drawing a direct analogy between the evolution of species and individual psychological development. Variation and selection were essential in Darwin's theory of evolutionary change, but he did not conceive of individual behavior as arising mainly out of random variation or groping trial-and-error. In his view, the basic pattern of individual development is an orderly growth process, the product of aeons of evolutionary trials; only heritable deviations from this pattern would arise out of variation and selection. Moreover, as we have seen, even in his discussion of the lowly worm Darwin seems to have believed that most individual variations in behavior are intelligently adaptive. Only their incorporation in the web of evolutionary change was dependent on random events. (Gruber, 1974, pp. 226-7)


Hull, David

Conceptual evolution, especially in science, is both locally and globally progressive, not because scientists are conscious agents, not because they are striving to reach both local and global goals, but because these goals do exist. Eternal and immutable regularities exist out there in nature. If scientists did not strive to formulate laws of nature, they would discover them only by happy accident, but if these eternal, immutable regularities did not exist, any belief that a scientist might have that he or she had discovered one would be illusory.2 (Hull, 1988d, p. 476)



James, William

A remarkable parallel, which to my knowledge has never been noticed, obtains between the facts of social evolution and the mental growth of the race, on the one hand, and of zoîlogical evolution, as expounded by Mr. Darwin, on the other. (James, 1880, p. 441)

. . . new conceptions, emotions, and active tendencies which evolve are originally produced in the shape of random images, fancies, accidental outbirths of spontaneous variation in the functional activity of the excessively unstable human brain, which the outer environment simply confirms or refutes, preserves or destroys--selects, in short, just as it selects morphological and social variations due to molecular accidents of an analogous sort. . . .

The conception of the [newly discovered scientific] law is a spontaneous variation in the strictest sense of the term. It flashes out of one brain, and no other, because the instability of that brain is such as to tip and upset itself in just that particular direction. But the important thing to notice is that the good flashes and the bad flashes, the triumphant hypotheses and the absurd conceits, are on an exact equality in respect of their origin. (James, 1880, pp. 456-457)

? I do not see how any one with a sense for the facts can possibly call our systems immediate results of 'experience' in the ordinary sense. Every scientific conception is in the first instance a 'spontaneous variation' in one's brain. For one that proves useful and applicable there are a thousand that perish through their worthlessness. Their genesis is strictly akin to that of the flashes of poetry and sallies of with to which the instable brain paths equally give rise. But whereas the poetry and wit (like the science of the ancients) are their 'own excuse for being' and have to run the gauntlet of no further test, the 'scientific' conceptions must prove their worth by being 'verified'. This test, however, is the cause of their preservation, not that of their production. (James, 1890, p. 665)


Jerne, Niels K.

It follows that an animal cannot be stimulated to make specific antibodies, unless it has already made antibodies of this specificity before the antigen arrives. It can thus be concluded that antibody formation is a selective process and that instructive theories of antibody formation are wrong. (Jerne, 1967, p. 201)

Looking back into the history of biology, it appears that wherever a phenomenon resembles learning, an instructive theory was first proposed to account for the underlying mechanisms. In every case, this was later replaced by a selective theory. Thus the species were thought to have developed by learning or by adaptation of individuals to the environment, until Darwin showed this to have been a selective process. Resistance of bacteria to antibacterial agents was thought to be acquired by adaptation, until Luria and Delbrück showed the mechanism to be a selective one. Adaptive enzymes were shown by Monod and his school to be inducible enzymes arising through the selection of preexisting genes. Finally, antibody formation that was thought to be based on instruction by the antigen is now found to result from the selection of already existing patterns. It thus remains to be asked if learning by the central nervous system might not also be a selective process; i.e., perhaps learning is not learning either. (Jerne, 1967, p. 204)

Pursuing these analogies even further, we might now ask whether one can distinguish between instructive and selective theories of learning in the central nervous system. Looking back into the history of biology, it appears that wherever a phenomenon resembles learning, an instructive theory was first proposed to account for the underlying mechanisms. In every case, this was later replaced by a selective theory. Thus the species were thought to have developed by learning or by adaptation of individuals to the environment, until Darwin showed this to have been a selective process. Resistance of bacteria to antibacterial agents was thought to be acquired by adaptation, until Luria and DelbrÅck showed the mechanism to be a selective one.31 Adaptive enzymes were shown by Monod and his school to be inducible enzymes arising through the selection of pre-existing genes.32 Finally, antibody formation that was thought to be based on instruction by the antigen is now found to result from the selection of already existing patterns.

It thus remains to be asked if learning by the central nervous system might not also be a selective process; i.e., perhaps learning is not learning either.

Several philosophers, of course, have already addressed themselves to this point. John Locke held that the brain was to be likened to white paper, void of all characters, on which experience paints with almost endless variety.33 This represents an instructive theory of learning, equivalent to considering the cells of the immune system void of all characters, upon which antigens paint with almost endless variety.

Contrary to this, the Greek Sophists, including Socrates, held a selective theory of learning. Learning, they said, is clearly impossible. For either a certain idea is already present in the brain, and then we have no need of learning it, or the idea is not already present in the brain, and then we cannot learn it either, for even if it should happen to enter from outside, we could not recognize it. This argument is clearly analogous to the argument for a selective mechanism for antibody formation, in that the immune system could not recognize the antigen if the antibody were not already present. Socrates concluded that all learning consists of being reminded of what is pre-existing in the brain.34 (Jerne, 1967, pp. 204-5)


Jevons, W. Stanley

I hold that in all cases of inductive inference we must invent hypotheses until we fall upon some hypothesis which yields deductive results in accordance with experience.

It would be an error to suppose that the great discoverer seizes at once upon the truth or has any unerring method of divining it. In all probability the errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one. Fertility of imagination and abundance of guesses at truth are among the first requisites of discovery; but the erroneous guesses must be many times as numerous as those which prove well founded. The weakest analogies, the most whimsical notions, the most apparently absurd theories, may pass through the teeming brain, and no record remain of more than the hundredth part. There is nothing really absurd except that which proves contrary to logic and experience. The truest theories involve suppositions which are inconceivable, and no limit can really be placed to the freedom of hypothesis.(quoted in Campbell, 1974b, p. 428)


Joyce, Gerald F.

Inspired by the accomplishments of Darwinian evolution in nature, scientists are now beginning to take evolution into their own hands. Evolution is being carried out in the laboratory, not at the level of the organisms or even at the level of cells but at the level of individual macromolecules. The products of these experiments in evolution are molecules exhibiting properties that conform to the demands of the experimenter. (Joyce, 1992, p.190)


Kuhn, Thomas T.

The developmental process described in this essay has been a process of evolution from primitive beginings--a process whose successive stages are characterized by an increasingly detailed and refined understanding of nature. But nothing that has been or will be said makes it a process of evolution toward anything. Inevitably that lacuna will have disturbed many readers. We are all deeply accustomed to seeing science as the one enterprise that draws constantly nearer to some goal set by nature in advance. (Kuhn, 1970c, pp. 170-1)

The analogy that relates the evolution of organisms to the evolution of scientific ideas can easily be pushed too far. But with respect to the issues of this closing section it is very nearly perfect. . . . Successive stages in that developmental process are marked by an increase in articulation and specialization. And the entire process may have occurred, as we now suppose biological evolution did, without benefit of a set goal, a permanent fixed scientific truth, of which each stage in the development of scientific knowledge is a better exemplar. (Kuhn, 1970c, pp. 172-3)



To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day. (Lao-Tsu)


Lewontin, Richard C.

The fundamental error of evolutionary epistemologies as they now exist is their failure to understand how much of what is 'out there' is the product of what is 'in there'. Organism and environment are co-determined. (Lewontin, 1983, p. 169)


Lorenz, Konrad

The transmission of acquired characteristics brings about that acceleration of development, found in all spheres of human life, which may well be one of the causes of the decline of individual human civilizations after a certain period of time. (Lorenz, 1973, p. 173)

Our categories and forms of perception, fixed prior to individual experience, are adapted to the external world for exactly the same reasons as the hoof of the horse is already adapted to the ground of the steppe before the horse is born and the fin of the fish is adapted to the water before the fish hatches. ( Lorenz, 1941/1982, pp. 124-5)

Most certainly, Hume was wrong when he wanted to derive all that is a priori from that which the senses supply to experience, just as wrong as Wundt or Helmholtz who simply explain it as an abstraction from preceding experience. Adaptation of the a priori to the real world has no more originated from 'experience' than has adaptation of the fin of the fish to the properties of water. (Lorenz, 1941/1982, p.125)


Mach, Ernst

The disclosure of new provinces of facts before unknown can only be brought about by accidental circumstances. . . .

After the repeated survey of a field has afforded opportunity for the interposition of advantageous accidents, has rendered all the traits that suit with the word or the dominant thought more vivid, and has gradually relegated to the background all things that are inappropriate, making their future appearance impossible; then, from the teeming, swelling host of fancies which a free and highflown imagination calls forth, suddenly that particular form arises to the light which harmonizes perfectly with the ruling idea, mood, or design. Then it is that which has resulted slowly as the result of a gradual selection, appears as if it were the outcome of a deliberate act of creation. Thus are to be explained the statements of Newton, Mozart, Richard Wagner, and others, when they say that thoughts, melodies, and harmonies had poured in upon them, and that they had simply retained the right ones. (Campbell, 1974b, p.427)


Mokyr, Joel

The approach I adopt here is that techniques--in the narrow sense of the word, namely, the knowledge of how to produce a good or service in a specific way--are analogues of species, and that changes in them have an evolutionary character. The idea or conceptualization of how to produce a commodity may be thought of as the genotype, whereas the actual technique utilized by the firm in producing the commodity may be thought of as the phenotype of the member of a species. The phenotype of every organism is determined in part by its genotype, but environment plays a role as well. Similarly, the idea constrains the forms a technique can take, but adaptability and adjustment to circumstances help determine its exact shape. Invention, the emergence of a new technique, is thus equivalent to speciation, the emergence of a new species. (Mokyr, 1990, p.275)

My basic premise is that technology is epistemological in nature. It is not something that somehow "exists" outside of people's brains. Like science, culture, and art, technology is something we know, and technological change should be regarded properly as a set of changes in our knowledge. In recent years, a new school of evolutionary epistemology has gained considerable influence in which knowledge and culture are regarded as propelled by mechanisms similar to those that cause changes in species.5. How does the theory of evolution apply to systems of knowledge? The fundamental idea is simple. Like mutations, new ideas, it is argued, occur blindly (Campbell, [1960] 1987). Some cultural, scientific, or technological ideas catch on because in some way they suit the needs of society, in much the same way as some mutations are retained by natural selection for perpetuation. In its simplest form, the selection process works because the best adapted phenotypes are also the ones that multiply the fastest. (Mokyr, 1990, p.276)


Monod, Jacques

. . . chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact. . . . There is no scientific concept, in any of the sciences, more destructive of anthropocentrism than this one, and no other so arouses an instinctive protest from the intensely teleonomic creatures that we are. (Monod, 1971, pp. 112-3)


Montessori, Maria

Supposing we study the phenomenon of error in itself; it becomes apparent that everyone makes mistakes. This is one of life's realities, and to admit it is already to have taken a great step forward. If we are to tread the narrow path of truth and keep our hold on reality, we have to agree that all of us can err; otherwise, we should all be perfect. So, it is well to cultivate a friendly feeling toward error, to treat it as a companion inseparable from our lives, as something having a purpose, which it truly has. . . . Whichever way we look, a certain "Mr. Error" is always present! If we seek perfection, we must pay attention to our own defects, for it is only by correcting these that we can improve ourselves. (Montessori, 1967, pp. 246-247)



Childern overgeneralize word meanings, using words they acquire early in place of words they have not yet acquired . . . when a world first appears in a child's lexicon, it refers to a specific object but the child quickly extends the semantic domain of the word, using it to refer to many other things. Eventually the meaning of the word is narrowed down until it coincides with adult usage . . . children most frequently base the semantic extension of a word on the shape of its first referent. (Moskowitz, 1978, p. 92)


Munz, Peter

The Central Dogma about the asymmetry of DNA and proteins has its parallel in the conclusion that no knowledge can be justified by observations, by sense experience or sense-data. Organisms do not evolve by picking up instruction from the outside world; and human beings do not gain knowledge by picking up and accumulating instructions from the outside world, either. Darwin's theory of natural selection as the motor of evolution finds its complement in Popper's theory that we do not gain knowledge by induction but propose theories to the environment and make the environment falsify most of these theories by our own critical selection for retention of those theories which the environment fails to falsify. Popper's immense contribution to our knowledge of knowledge lies in his extension of Darwinian evolution to knowledge in general. We know, or we are here, because of the relentless elimination of those pieces of knowledge or organisms which are not fit to the environment. Popperian acquisition of knowledge, like Darwinian evolution, is a negative process of elimination. (Munz, 1985, p. 15)

We said that knowledge must be tolerated by the environment. Toleration is indeed all that is possible and necessary. Neither organisms nor conscious knowledge are determined by the environment. Both organisms and conscious knowledge are, in fact, underdetermined by the environment. An adapted organism is simply an organism which survives and is not eliminated by the environment. It is not an organism which fits the environment like a hand in a glove. The organism will survive as long as it is compatible with the environment. The same applies to knowledge. Conscious knowledge always says more than the environment warrants. It is therefore underdetermined. In saying more, it can still be considered a 'fit'--or an adaequatio rei et intellectus, to use a medieval, scholastic term--as long as what it asserts is compatible with the environment. (Munz, 1985, p. 214)




Pagels, Heinz

Perhaps our thinking exemplifies a selective system. First lots of random scattered ideas compete for survival. Then comes the selection for what works best--one idea dominates, and this is followed by its amplification. Perhaps the moral . . . is that you never learn anything unless you are willing to take a risk and tolerate a little randomness in your life. (Pagels, 1988, p. ?)


Perkinson, Henry J.

Let me first briefly summarize the critical approach [to education]. It is based on evolutionary epistemology, which claims that we never receive knowledge, but rather create it; we create it by modifying the knowledge we already have; and we modify our existing knowledge only when we uncover inadequacies in it that we had not recognized heretofore. Accepting this as an explanation of how knowledge grows, I have suggested that teachers construe their roles as facilitators of the growth of their students' knowledge. (Perkinson, 1993, p. 34)



Either chance and selection can explain everything or else behavior is the motor of evolution. The choice is between an alarming waste in the shape of multitudinous and fruitless trials preceding any success no matter how modest, and a dynamics with an internal logic deriving from those general characteristics of organization and self-regulation peculiar to all living beings. (quoted in Vidal et al., 1983, p. 87)


Pinker, Steven

Despite all its complex guises, learning can always be analyzed as a set of "hypotheses" the organism is capable of entertaining and of a "confirmation function" by which the environmental input tells the organism which one to keep (Fodor, 1975; Osherson, Stob, and Weinstein, 1985; Wexler and Culicover, 1980). Characterizing the learner's possible hypotheses is the first step to characterizing its learning mechanisms . . . and the more constrained the set of hypotheses, the better the explanation of how the learning succeeds. (Pinker, 1989, pp. 166-7)

This process, though it is capable, given the right assumptions, of accounting for the acquisition of verb meaning in a brute-force way, is plausible only to the extent that the child can converge on the correct configuration of semantic structures reasonably quickly. The child must not spend decades refuting silly hypotheses about a verb meaning (such as that see selects a semisolid object, or that splash selects a goal thing that is meant to be taken away) while waiting for his mental dice to fall in such a way as to cause him to posit the correct structures. There are several sources of "practical constraints" on the child's hypotheses. I call them "practical" constraints since they act to reduce the size of configurations of semantic structure and to increase the likelihood of their being correct, as opposed to the "representational" constraints discussed in chapter 5, which dictate the form and content of possible semantic structures. (Pinker, 1989, p. 256)

Why is babbling so important? The infant is like a person who has been given a complicated piece of audio equipment bristling with unlabeled knobs and switches but missing the instruction manual. In such situations people resort to what hackers call frobbing--fiddling aimlessly with the controls to see what happens. The infant has been given a set of neural commands that can move the articulators every which way, with widly varying effects on the sound. This is a prerequisite to duplicating the speech of their parents. Some computer scientists, inspired by the infant, believe that a good robot should learn an internal software model of its articulators by observing the consequences of its own babbling and flailing. (Pinker, 1994, p.266)

One other area in which I disagree with Dan [Dennett] is the explanation of human intelligence in an evolutionary context. Dan makes heavy use of Richard Dawkins' concept of the meme--an idea that replicates, mutates, and differentially spreads in the medium of brains in the same way that a gene replicates, mutates, and differentially spreads in the medium of bodies. This is Dan's main way of placing cognition in the context of evolution, rather than having it appear by magic; thoughts are created by a process analogous to the process of natural selection. But there are many other ways of explaining the emergence of human intelligence in a nonmiraculous way. I think it's more plausible that evolution designed a brain that's a kind of computer that can generate complex ideas, in ways that need not be analogous to the operation of natural selection itself. (Pinker, 1995, p. 196)


Pinker, Steven, & Bloom, Paul

There must have been genetic variation among individuals in their grammatical competence. There must have been a series of steps leading from no language at all to language as we now find it, each step small enough to have been produced by a random mutation or recombination, and each intermediate grammar useful to its possessor. Every detail of grammatical competence that we wish to ascribe to selection must have conferred a reproductive advantage on its speakers, and this advantage must be large enough to have become fixed in the ancestral population. And there must be enough evolutionary time and genomic space separating our species from nonlinguistic primate ancestors. (Pinker, & Bloom 1990a, p. 721)


Plotkin, Henry C.

The essential difference between instructionist and selectionist processes is that in the case of the latter an entity exists prior to its being "required" whereas in the case of the former it is created after the "need" for it arises (Plotkin 1987). Selectionist theory usually involves overproliferation of diverse forms (variation), whereas instructionist theory requires a malleable substrate which is moulded into an adaptive form by that which is being adapted to, usually some external event. The distinction goes back to the differences between Lamarckianism and Darwinism, and it is fundamental to all of biology concerned with explaining the adaptive fit between organisms and their environment. (Plotkin, 1991a, p. 488)

In other words, the process by which adaptive traits are produced is initially independent of these potential adaptive usefulness. And it is in this sense that Darwinian evolution is often referred to as blind or undirected. . . . Compare this with Lamarck, for whome adaptive traits are produced after and in response to the environment changes for which they are required. For this reason Lamarkian evolution is thought of as directed, with the production of adaptive traits being instructed by environemntal events. (Plotkin, 1994a, pp. 32-33)

If the primary heuristic {biological evolution} works by selectional processes, which is most certainly does; if, as will be argued in the next chapter, culture works by selectional processes, which is fairly widely agreed to be the case; and if that other embodiment of the secondary heuristic that deals with our uncertain chemical futures, namely the immune system, works by selectional processes, which is now universally agreed: then why should one be so persverse as to back a different horse when it comes to intelligence? (Plotkin, 1994a, p. 172)


Poincaré, Henri

One evening, contrary to my custom, I drank black coffee and could not sleep. Ideas rose in crowds; I felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination. . . .

What happens then? Among the great numbers of combinations blindly formed by the subliminal self, almost all are without interest and without utility; but just for that reason they are also without effect upon the esthetic sensibility. Consciousness will never know them; only certain ones are harmonious, and, consequently, at once useful and beautiful. . . .

Perhaps we ought to seek explanations in that preliminary period of conscious work which always precedes all fruitful unconscious labor. Permit me a rough comparison. Figure the future elements of our combinations as something like the hooked atoms of Epicurus. During the complete repose of the mind, these atoms are motionless, they are, so to speak, hooked to the wall; so this complete rest may be indefinitely prolonged without the atoms meeting, and consequently without any combination between them.

On the other hand, during a period of apparent rest and unconscious work, certain of them are detached from the wall and put in motion. They flash in every direction through the space . . . where they are enclosed, as would, for example, a swarm of gnats. . . . Then their mutual impacts may produce new combinations. . . .

In the subliminal self . . . reigns what I should call liberty, if we might give this name to the simple absence of discipline and to the disorder born of chance. Only this disorder itself permits unexpected combination. (Campbell, 1974b, pp. 427-428)


Popper, Sir Karl

The way in which knowledge progresses, and especially our scientific knowledge, is by unjustified (and unjustifiable) anticipations, by guesses, by tentative solutions to our problems, by conjectures. These conjectures are controlled by criticism; that is, by attempted refutations, which include severely critical tests. They may survive these tests; but they can never be positively justified: they can neither be established as certainly true nor as 'probable' (in the sense of probability calculus). Criticism of our conjectures is of decisive importance: by bringing out our mistakes it makes us understand the difficulties of the problem which we are trying to solve. This is how we become better acquainted with our problems, and able to propose more mature solutions: the very refutation of a theory--that is, of any serious tentative solution to our problem--is always a step forward that takes us nearer to the truth. And this is how we can learn from our mistakes. (Popper, 1974, p. vi)

If an experiment or observation seems to support a theory, remember that what it really does is to weaken some alternative theory--perhaps one which you have not thought of before. And let it be your ambition to refute and replace your own theories: this is better than defending them, and leaving it to others to refute them. But remember also that a good defence of a theory against criticism is a necessary part of any fruitful discussion since only by defending it can we find out its strength, and the strength of the criticism directed against it. There is no point in discussing or criticizing a theory unless we try all the time to put it in its strongest form, and to argue against it only in that form." (Popper, 1979, p. 256)

The theory of knowledge which I wish to propose is a largely Darwinian theory of the growth of knowledge. From the amoeba to Einstein, the growth of knowledge is always the same: we try to solve our problems, and to obtain, by a process of elimination, something approaching adequacy in our tentative solutions. (Popper, 1979, p. 261)

. . . the growth of our knowledge is the result of a process closely resembling what Darwin called 'natural selection'; that is, the natural selection of hypotheses . . .(Popper, 1979, p. 261)

I thus submit a variation of Darwinism in which behavioural monsters play a decisive part. (Popper, 1979, p. 283)

My conjecture concerning the origin of mind and the relation of the mind to the body, that is the relation of consiousness to the preceding level of unconsious behavior, is that its usefulness--its survival value--is similar to that of the preceding levels. On every level, making comes before matching; that is, before selecting. The creation of an expectation, of an anticipation, of a perception (which is a hypothesis) precede its being put to the test. (Popper, 1987c, p. 152)


Quinton, A. M.

The conjectures of the scientific intelligence are genuine creative novelties, inherently unpredictable and not determined by the character of the scientist's physical environment. The thinking mind is not a causal mechanism. (Quinton, 1964, p. 551)


Reader, John

The farmers who founded and refined the wet-rice system and maintained its high levels of production for centuries knew nothing of nitrogen cycles and oxygen transportation in plants. They worked purely by trial and error. In the process, however, they acquired a sound appreciation of just what made the system work, and of how to keep it working. (Reader, 1988, p. 68)


Richards, Robert J.

This epistemological hypothesis is grounded in a compelling hypothesis adumbrated by {William} James: if novel ideas are not innate, and are not simply logically induced from observation, then only a kind of blind or unjustified variation could first introduce them; and they will be retained only if they are adapted to the intellectual problem conditions to which they are applied. There are now several epistemologists for whom this evolutionary theory of knowledge has struck home. (Richards, 1987, p. 449)


Riedl, Rupert

Our account of how organisms have evolved phylogenetically presupposes that every successful adaptive step marks a gain of information about what furthers them in their environment. To evolve is to gain knowledge, where "knowledge" is not the technical term of the philosophers but the ordinary world, as when living systems, by gradually adapting, have come to bring out the laws of optics. This biological approach frees the study of cognition from the shackles of philosophical enquiry: the phenomenon is no longer confined to reason but becomes itself an evolving object. (Riedl, 1984a, p. vii)


Sagan, Carl

Spin more than one hypothesis. If there's something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among "multipleworking hypotheses," has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy. (Sagan, 1996, p. 210)


Simon, Herbert A.

The more difficult and novel the problem, the greater is likely to be the amount of trial and error required to find a solution. At the same time, the trial and error is not completely random or blind; it is, in fact, rather highly selective. The new expressions that are obtained by transforming given ones are examined to see whether they represent progress toward the goal. Indications of progress spur further search in the same direction; lack of progress signals the abandonment of a line of search. Problem solving requires selective trial and error. (Simon, 1969, pp. 95-6)

. . . human problem solving, from the most blundering to the most insightful, involves nothing more than varying mixtures of trial and error and selectivity. (Simon, 1969, p. 97)

A considerable amount has been learned in the past five years about the nature of the mazes that represent common human problem-solving tasks--proving theorems, solving puzzles, playing chess, making investments, balancing assembly lines, to mention a few. All that we have learned about these mazes points to the same conclusion: that human problem solving, from the most blundering to the most insightful, involves nothing more than varying mixtures of trial and error and selectivity. The selectivity derives from various rules of thumb, or heuristics, that suggest which paths should be tried first and which leads are promising. We do not need to postulate processes more sophisticated than those involved in organic evolution to explain how enormous problem mazes are cut down to quite reasonable size. (Simon, 1969, p. 97)


Skinner, B. F.

We have seen that . . .In certain respects operant reinforcement resembles the natural selection of evolutionary theory. Just as genetic characteristics which arise as mutations are selected or discarded by their consequences, so novel forms of behavior are selected or discarded through reinforcement. (Skinner, 1953, p. 430)

The parallel between biological and cultural evolution breaks down at the point of transmission. There is nothing like the chromosone-gene mechanism in the transmission of a cultural practice. Cultural evolution is Lamarckian in the sense that acquired practices are transmitted. To use a well-worn example, the giraffe does not stretch its neck to reach food which is otherwise out of reach and then pass on a longer neck to its offspring; instead, those giraffes in whom mutation has produced longer necks are more likely to reach available food and transmit the mutation. But a change of culture which develops a practice permitting it to use otherwise inaccessible sources of food can transmit that practice not only to new members but to contemporaries or surviving members of an earlier generation. More important, a practice can be transmitted through "diffusion" to other cultures--as if antelopes observing the usefulness of the long neck in giraffes, were to grow long necks. Species are isolated from each other by the nontransmissibility of genetic traits, but there is no comparable isolation of cultures. A culture is a set of practices, but it is not a set which cannot be mixed with other sets. (Skinner, 1971, pp. 130-131)

The environment made its first great contribution during the evolution of the species, but it exerts a different kind of effect during the lifetime of the individual, and the combination of the two effects is the behavior we observe at any given time. Any available information about either contribution helps in the prediction and control of human behavior and in its interpretation in daily life. To the extent that either can be changed, behavior can be changed. (Skinner, 1974, p. 17)

Compared with the experimental analysis of behavior, developmental psychology stands in the position of evolutionary theory before Darwin. By the early nineteenth century it was well known that species had undergone progressive changes toward more adaptive forms. They were developing or maturing, and improved adaptation to the environment suggested a kind of purpose. The question was not whether evolutionary changes occurred but why. Both Lamarck and Buffon appealed to the purpose supposedly shown by the individual in adapting to his environment--a purpose somehow transmitted to the species. It remained for Darwin to discover the selective action of the environment, as it remains for us to supplement developmentalism in behavioral science with an analysis of the selective action of the environment.

The important thing about a culture so defined is that it evolves. A practice arises as a mutation, it affects the chances that the group will solve its problems, and if the group survives, the practice survives with it. It has been selected by its contribution to the effectiveness of those who practice it. Here is another example of that subtle process called selection, and it has the same familiar features. Mutations may be random. A culture need not have been designed, and its evolution does not show a purpose. (Skinner, 1974, p. 203)

In summary, then, human behavior is the joint product of (i) the contingencies of survival responsible for the natural selection of the species and (ii) the contingencies of reinforcement responsible for the repertoires acquired by its members, including (iii) the special contingencies maintained by an evolved social environment. (Ultimately, of course, it is all a matter of natural selection, since operant conditioning is an evolved process, of which cultural practices are special applications.) (Skinner, 1981, p. 502)

Each of the three levels of variation and selection has its own discipline--the first, biology; the second, psychology; and the third, anthropology. Only the second, operant conditioning, occurs at a speed a which it can be observed from momeoment to moment. Biologists and anthropologists study the processes through which variations arise and are selected, but they merely reconstruct the evolution of a species or culture. Operant conditioning is selection in progress. It resembles a hundred million years of natural selection or a thousand years of the evolution of a culture compressed into a very short time. (Skinner, 1981, p. 502)


Souriau, Paul

A problem is posed for which we must invent a solution. We know the conditions to be met by the sought idea; but we do not know what series of ideas will lead us there. In other words, we know how the series of our thoughts must end, but not how it should begin. In this case it is evident that there is no way to begin except at random. Our mind takes up the first path that it finds open before it, perceives that it is a false route, retraces its steps and takes another direction. Perhaps it will arrive immediately at the sought idea, perhaps it will arrive very belatedly; it is entirely impossible to know in advance. In these conditions we are reduced to dependence on chance. By a kind of artificial selection, we can in addition substantially perfect our thought and make it more and more logical. Of all the ideas which present themselves to our mind, we note only those which have some value and can be utilized in reasoning. For every single idea of a judicious and reasonable nature which offers itself to us, what hosts of frivolous, bizarre, and absurd ideas cross our mind. Those persons who, upon considering the marvelous results at which knowledge has arrived, cannot imagine that the human mind could achieve this by a simple fumbling, do not bear in mind the great number of scholars working at the same time on the same problem, and how much time even the smallest discovery costs them. Even genius has need of patience. It is after hours and years of meditation that the sought-after idea presents itself to the inventor. He does not succeed without going astray many times; and if he thinks himself to have succeeded without effort, it is only because the joy of having succeeded has made him forget all the fatigues, all of the false leads, all of the agonies, with which he has paid for his success. . . . If his memory is strong enough to retain all of the amassed details, he evokes them in turn with such rapidity that they seem to appear simultaneously; he groups them by chance in all the possible ways; his ideas, thus shaken up and agitated in his mind, form numerous unstable aggregates which destroy themselves, and finish up by stopping on the most simple and solid combination. (quoted in Campbell, 1974b, p. 429)


Stein, Edward., & Lipton, Peter

Darwin's theory explains the surprising fit between organisms and environment in terms of hidden randomness and selective retention; evolutionary epistemology uses the same sort of mechanism to explain the surprising fit between beliefs and the world. In both cases, we must also face the anomaly of apparently guided variation--the problem of complex organs in biology and of intelligent conjectures in epistemology. What we have argued in this essay is that both anomalies can be solved by an appeal to preadaptation, the application of previous adaptations, themselves the result of chance and inheritance. The model of random variation and selective retention is saved by showing that what appears to be non-random variation is in fact the result of selective retention. Some conjectures really are guided, but the guides are simply parts of the inheritance that is an essential feature of the evolutionary model. We have thus tried to save the central claim of evolutionary epistemology while at the same time preserving the strong intuition that the process by which scientists generate their hypotheses is not usually a random walk. We also hope to have provided some indication of the fruitfulness of fleshing out the analogy between epistemic and biological evolution. (Stein & Lipton, 1989, p. 53)


Thagard, Paul

Whereas genetic variation in organisms is not induced by the environmental conditions in which the individual is struggling to survive, scientific innovations are designed by their creators to solve recognized problems; they therefore are correlated with solutions to problems . . . Scientists also commonly seek new hypotheses that will correct error in their previous trials . . . (Thagard, 1988, p.103)

The differences between epistemological and biological selection arise from the fact that theory selection is performed by intentional agents working with a set of criteria, whereas natural selection is the result of different survival rates of the organism bearing adaptive genes. (Thagard, 1988, p.107)

Because the variation, selection, and transmission of scientific ideas differ in such fundamental ways from their biological analogs, Darwinian natural selection provides a poor model for understanding the growth of science. It misleadingly suggests that variation in scientific ideas is blind, that their selection is by local criteria, and that their transmission is genetic. It ignores the pragmatic, problem-solving context of induction. Thus employment of the evolutionary analogy leads away from solutions to important problems about the growth of knowledge, not toward them. Hence, evolutionary epistemology, conceived as the application of the Darwinian model to scientific development should be abandoned. (Thagard, 1988, pp. 110-111)


Thelen, Esther, & Smith, Linda B.

. . . we propose a developmental process that is like evolutionary process . . . . evolution is to biology what development is to psychology (Thelen & Smith, 1994, p. 34)


Toulmin, Stephen

While conceptual variation and intellectual selection are coupled, for instance, genetic mutation and ecological selection are decoupled; and this difference has struck many biologists as so supremely important that they reject any argument based on other broader similarities between the two processes. (Toulmin, 1972, p. 338)

. . . when Jean Piaget says that intelligence is "a biological adaptation," he challenges us all--himself included--to explain what sort of thing such an adaptation can be. (Toulmin, 1981, p. 26)

The novelties that survive here and now (whether novel organic forms or linguistic usages, social institutions or scientific concepts)--the variants that become established as an outcome of what Campbell calls "editing" (that is, generalized "selection")--are those that make a specific contribution toward meeting demands that actually arise here and now (Campbell, 1974). (Toulmin, 1981, p. 26)



Vincenti, Walter G.

The notion of "blindness" reflected in the name of Campbell's model (which has been the focus of much of the criticism with regard to scientific advance) enters via the mechanisms of variation. For Campbell, any variation that leads to truly new knowledge--knowledge that has not been attained before--must be blind in the sense of going "beyond the limits of foresight or prescience." It is important to be clear here, since the point tends to be misunderstood, that "blind" (in this sense) does not mean "random" or "unpremeditated" or "unconstrained." It simply denotes, in accord with Campbell's characterization, that the outcome of the variation cannot be foreseen or predicted insofar as the matter in question in concerned--if it could, the knowledge obtained would not be new. . . . Consistent with Campbell's characterization, knowledge grows (that is, blindness is reduced) through extension of the limits of what can be foreseen or predicted. Whatever the disagreement in other fields, such a statement seems to me valid in engineering design." (Vincenti, 1990, pp. 242-243)

From outside or in retrospect, the entire process tends to seem more ordered and intentional--less blind--than it usually is. It is difficult to learn what goes on in even the conscious minds of others, and we all prefer to remember our rational achievements and forget the fumblings and ideas that didn't work out. Luck can also play a role. (Vincenti, 1990, p. 246)

In the end, decreasing uncertainty in the growth of knowledge in a technology comes, I suggest, mainly from the increase in scope and precision (that is, the decrease in unsureness) in the vicarious means of selection. Just as expanding scope tends, as we saw, to widen the field that can be overtly searched, so also the increase in both scope and precision sharpens the ability to weed out variations that won't work in the real environment. Blindness in the variations may by the same token even increase--engineers have freedom to be increasingly blind in their trial variations as their means of vicarious selection become more reliable. One sees engineers today, for example, using computer models to explore a much wider field of possibilities than they were able to select from just a decade ago. (Vincenti, 1990, p. 250)


Weimer, Walter

If thinking is modeling, then 'the organism is a theory of its environment' follows automatically. If the organism carries around in its CNS {central nervous system} an internal model of external reality (and, of course, a model of itself and its capabilities) then it will be able to adapt to, to survive within, that environment. It will be able to try out and assess various alternative actions, react to future situations before they arise, and in general anticipate the environment in which it finds itself. (Our nervous systems are instruments of adaptation to our environment because they permit trial of alternatives for future conduct in an economical manner: thought models potential realities.) Modeling has survival value--it enables an organism to anticipate the future course of events and to act in accordance with the information. As shoud [sic] be obvious by now, the function of thought, as modeling, is identical to that which is attributed to induction or nondemonstrative inference: thought-as-modeling is the vehicle by which we gain our contingent knowledge of reality. (Weimer, 1971, p. 458)


Wells, Gordon

... one never knows what other people mean by what they say or write. One can only make an informed guess, taking into account all the cues that are available: from the communication context, from one's own relevant experience, and from the actual linguistic signal. To put it differently, I cannot know what idea is in your mind as you speak or write. I can only know what ideas I would have had in mind if I had produced the same lexico-grammatical sequence as I believe you to have produced in the context that I think you think we currently share.(Wells, 1986, pp. 216, 217)


Wright, Chauncey

In further illustration of the range of the explanation afforded by the principle of Natural Selection. . . we may instance an application of it to the more special psychological problem of the development of the individual mind by its own experiences. . . . Here, then, is a close analogy, at least, to those fundamental facts of the organic world on which the law of Natural Selection is based; the facts, namely, of the "rapid increase of organisms," limited only by "the conditions of existence," and by competition in that "struggle for existence" which results in the "survival of the fittest." As the tendency to an unlimited increase in existing organisms is held in check only by those conditions of their existence which are chiefly comprised in the like tendencies of other organisms to unlimited increase, and is thus maintained (so long as external conditions remain unchanged) in an unvarying balance of life; and as this balance adjusts itself to slowly changing external conditions, so, in the history of the individual mind, beliefs which sprang spontaneously from simple and single experiences, and from a naturally unlimited tendency to generalization, are held mutually in check, and in their harmony represent the properly balanced experiences and knowledges of the mind, and by adaptive changes are kept in accordance with changing external conditions, or with the varying total results in the memory of special experiences. (Wright, 1971, pp. 115-116)


Wuketits, Franz M.

Since the human mind is a product of evolution--any any opposite view such as that o fclassical dualism means a kind of 'obscurantism'31--the evolutionary appraoch can be extended to the products of mind, that is to say to epistemic activities such as science. (Wuketits, 1984c, p. 8)



Young, J. Z.

That learning occurs by elimination of the unsed pathways is a hypothesis that has many attractions. It becomes clear that learning is of the nature of a reduction of the initial redundancy of connexions, comparable to that by which the contour of individual features is emphasized by a receptor. The outlines of a general theory of the encoding and storing process can thus be seen. (Young, 1964, p. 285)