Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Animal instincts and meta-programming

arroba Email

The best book I have read about ethology is “Nature’s I.Q. — Extraordinary animal behaviors that defy evolution”, by Balazs Hornyanszky and Istvan Tasi, Torchlight Publishing Inc. 2009. I suggest reading it. The authors provide a rich summary of almost all animal behaviors about predation, defense, construction of complex structures (webs, nets, traps…), disguise, deception, feeding, partnership, language and communication, navigation, coupling and mating, etc. The most animal skills are innate and hereditary.

They ask:

How do the animals know when and how they should do what they do? Where does nature’s I.Q. come from? […] Different animal species are also equipped with specific problem-solving abilities; however most of these work not in a conscious, but in an automatic hereditary way. Where does this encoded intelligence come from? (pag.8)

The book examines the evolutionist explanations about the origin of animal behaviors but the authors don’t believe in them:

A theory supposing a series of accidental changes in the genes by no means provides a satisfactory explanation for the biological forms with which these behaviors are associated. (pag.136)

I agree with the authors. I add only a note to their arguments. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the genome fully accounts for the creation of the body. Far now nobody has proved that, but concede that it is true. Let’s speak in informatics terms. The body is only the “hardware”, behaviors are instructions, i.e. “software”. We can consider this software as installed into the nervous system, the brain, of the animal. The genes should have to code the instructions to construct the body and the brain in the first place, then to create the instructions to be installed into the brain. In short, instructions to create instructions. In informatics this has a name: “meta-programming”. Meta-programming is an advanced computer-programming technique, which is used to develop very powerful and flexible software applications. It involves multiple hierarchical levels of abstraction. Only intelligence is capable to create such things.

So evolutionists are before another dilemma:

(1) The genome is the unique engine of creation. Then it has to account for the instructions to create the hardware-body, plus the meta-instructions to create the software-mind for behaviors and instincts. The genome is meta-programming! Since meta-programming is advanced feature of intelligence naturalistic evolutionism fails because is incapable to explain the origin of species in all their hardware/software, body/soul aspects.

(2) The genome is not the unique engine of creation. Something else accounts for the animal behaviors and instincts. Since evolutionism is a genome-based theory, it cannot explain in principle what is not based on genes. Evolutionism fails again.

Let’s add this dilemma about ethology to the list of reasons why evolutionism is bankrupt and intelligent design is the best explanation of life and species.

Hornyanszky and Tasi write in the conclusion of their beautiful (and superbly illustrated) book:

Contrary to the popular idea that the living forms in this world evolved spontaneously, without any higher control, abundant phenomena around us — like the behaviors of animals — strongly indicate that our world was designed and created by a supernatural, intelligent being of amazing knowledge and abilities. In reality, nature’s I.Q. is the creator’s I.Q.. (pag.147)

Obviously the last sentence has to be meant in the sense that the relative degrees of I.Q. we find in the living beings in a wide range, from the lowest of unicellulars to the highest of man, come as by-products from the infinite and absolute intelligence of the Creator.

Zachriel #14 I will reply in a new post. niwrad
The evolutionary, or survival, explanation for free will, it that choosing provides unpredictability in escape and attack, and therefore a survival advantage. Predators or prey that do the same thing in the same situation, the predictability of the behaviour makes them fail. Instincts are an already sophisticated form of free will as well. Sure the hare does not have the option not to try to escape the fox, but the instinct of flight is basically free, as is shown by the patternless pattern of hop, skip, attack, run, lay low, turn, that the hare engages in flight. And some of those decisions we might call courageous, or reckless. What we mean with that is that the hare had several options available, chose one, and then we choose that the agency of that decision, which made the decision turn out the way it did, is "courage". We could also have chosen that the agency of the decision was "recklessness", either answer would be valid. With subjectivity the validity of an opinion only depends on that the opinion is chosen, and that it refers to agency. Opinion does not reflect reality like facts do, it expresses emotion about the reality of agency of decisions. The spirit chooses, and the existence of the spirit is a matter of faith. Which means that we can only reach the conclusion about what the agency of a decision is, by choosing the conclusion. mohammadnursyamsu
niwrad: Example: flight capability involves the entire body/mind of a bird. Vertebrate flight appears to be a modification of preexisting behavior, first movement with limbs, then limbs and arms, then gliding, then flight. niwrad: You have to design a bird as a body/mind whole, in strict top-down manner. Yet there are extant intermediates. Zachriel
You still don’t get the “evolution-thingy”. Instinctual behaviors are posited to be modifications of more primitive behaviors.
A perfect example of an infinite regress that only pseudoscientists and charlatans can imagine. Mapou
In fact AI researches in half century haven’t yet resolved the problem of general learning.
This will happen very soon. But it will not come from the AI community. That crowd is still lost in the wilderness. It will come from a highly unexpected source. Just saying. Mapou
Zachriel #9 There are no such thing as pathways from primitive behaviors to more complex behaviors by means of random incremental modifications. Complex behaviors always imply huge amount of highly correlated "hardware" and "software" organization. Example: flight capability involves the entire body/mind of a bird. You cannot get a bird from a non bird by random variations. You have to design a bird as a body/mind whole, in strict top-down manner. Learned behaviors are based on learning. Learning is in itself an advanced "hardware" and "software" feature. It is so cybernetically complex that even intelligent designers work hard to develop it without complete success. In fact AI researches in half century haven't yet resolved the problem of general learning. And you pretend that mere randomness succeeds where scientists fail? niwrad
Sure, but knowing that more complex behaviors evolved by incremental modification from primitive behaviors simplifies the problem of how they came about
Modified by design. Virgil Cain
niwrad: “Primitive” behaviors are still behaviors. Sure, but knowing that more complex behaviors evolved by incremental modification from primitive behaviors simplifies the problem of how they came about. This is a common mode of evolution in insects, or even simpler organisms. Another way instincts evolve is through the Baldwin Effect. A learned behavior can become instinctual through selection. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldwin_effect Zachriel
Someone once quipped "instinct" is another way of saying we don't know how. To me its clear its in the memory. How these things get in the memory is not clear. Possib;y its not really that difficult if the creature is motivated fior important objectives and then the memory is there to be used to figure things out where its not already figured out. Maybe that simple. Animals are dumb because they have no soul to desire things. Yet not because they have no memory/mind. Motivation is everything. Robert Byers
Zachriel instinctively comes and checks this website multiple times per day. One might ask Zach what primitive behavior underlies this instinct. One might ask contributor what would happen if this instinctual behavior were successfully resisted, or even if it could be, or why it is so programmed from said primitive behavior. My guess: Zach doesn't know with scientific precision any answers to these. Also my guess is that Zach is male. True? groovamos
Zachriel #4 "Primitive" behaviors are still behaviors. Behavior, also when seems simple, always implies giant functional hierarchies from both the hardware and software points of view. Also the creation of a minimal hardware / software feature involves instructions to create instructions, i.e. meta-programming. I suggest to observe carefully the animals when they show their rich range of behaviors. Imagine to be a robotics engineer who must try to imitate such phenomena. You have to develop something, an X, able to create in toto such hardware / software wonders. Maybe you will realize some infinitesimal bits of the immense organizational task involved. niwrad
Calling it "instinct" adds so much to our knowledge. Mung
niwrad: Animal instincts and meta-programming You still don't get the "evolution-thingy". Instinctual behaviors are posited to be modifications of more primitive behaviors. Zachriel
Metaprogramming Ruby whee! Mung
Thanks gpuccio #1. I agree with your holistic vision of the cell, which works out information in a top-down way. Of course if just the single cell is a nano-cosmos illuminated from the Source of any intelligence mind you the micro-cosmos of the entire organism! Also animal mind, although humble and limited, can only be explained at the very end as a particle of the Logos. niwrad
niwrad: Thank you. Your posts are always very good. I own that precious book, and have read it with great pleasure and interest. I agree: the problem of "instinctive" behaviour in animals is fascinating, and absolutely unsolved. Add to that also the animal feature which, although not a "behaviour" in a strict sense, have strong semiotic and behavioural importance, and which are too beautifully documented in the book, like the astounding mimicry in some butterflies or caterpillars. Your comments on meta programming are very interesting. I think that all these problems are strictly connected to the vastly mysterious relationship between genome and epigenetics. The same principle that allow the genome to generate many different cellular programs during cell differentiation are probably responsible for the generation of forms, in the body and in organs, and that includes the central nervous system structure and its functions and built in information. Is the genome only the seat of instructions. Maybe, but I think that we should start considering the living cell as a whole, where genome, epigenome, and maybe something else make up a global system which records, transmits and retrieves information all the time. gpuccio

Leave a Reply