Topic: Cognition & Epistemology
Inateness and Brain-Wring Optimization:
by Chistopher Cherniak
The study of minimization of neural connections reveals interrelations between the Innateness Hypothesis and theses associated with the Central Dogma of genetics. The discussion of innateness here shifts from the usual focus upon abstract cognitive structure instead to underlying brain hardware structure, to hardwired neuroanatomy.
Experimental work in computational neuroanatomy has uncovered distinctively efficient layout of wiring in nervous systems. When mechanisms are investigated by which such "best of all possible brains" design is attained, significant instances turn out to emerge "for free, directly from physics": Such generation of optimal brain structure appears to arise simply by exploiting basic physical processes, without need for intervention of genes. An idea that physics suffices here--of complex biological structure as self-organizing, generated without genomic activity--turns attention to the role of the genome in morphogenesis. The familiar "nature / nurture" alternatives for origins of basic internal mental structure are that it arises either from the genome or from invariants of the external environment. A third alternative is explored for the cases here, a non-genomic nativism.
See also the Baldwin Effect.
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