Models and Analogues in Biology

By Society for Experimental Biology | Go to book overview
manner as, inanimate systems. This is clearly one way in which the rigour of mathematics might be brought to bear on the whole of biology.A further objection that might be made against cybernetic models is that, in the instances we have mentioned in connexion with vision, quite apart from their relative superficiality, there is nothing we have said that could not have been said without the aid of cybernetics. Certainly, if all we have said in this paper was all there was to say, then the objection would be sustained; but the importance of cybernetics is still primarily methodological. I believe that in cybernetics we can build up integrated and effective models of biological systems in a language that is rigorous and universal. Perhaps above all it is a method whereby appropriate comparisons and tests can be made with other hypotheses, and while this is to some extent true of any ad hoc model, it is to some extent true that those ad hoc models are cybernetic.It should be mentioned that cyberneticians have started to develop models of almost all aspects of biology, and what the biologist is now being asked to do is to take his methods of theory and model construction seriously and explicitly; no harm can possibly be done, and there is already a mass of evidence which suggests that the analogy with computers, suitably modified and adapted, is a good one, and one that is essentially testable. This will lead us into a consideration of chemical models; they have already been built for storage purposes, and are obviously applicable to the chemistry of the retina, and of all aspects of biology, although how often we shall need actually to build such models is, at the moment, a matter for some debate.From one point of view biology is being offered a rigorous and universal language, and a language that carries all the power of mathematics. From the biologists' point of view the results have not yet been far reaching, and this is partly due to the tremendous complexity of biological systems. But it is also partly because biologists themselves have not always seen the possibilities inherent in cybernetics. When they do so, it is my own conviction that biology will progress with something like the same speed as Physics did in the nineteenth century.It is realized that there are difficulties with the Osgood-Heyer model which it is believed are largely overcome ( George, 1960) and that there are also difficulties with the concept of scanning as being necessary to the process of recognition, and although this is not necessarily the method used by the human being, it is of methodological interest and not biologically implausible.
REFERENCES
ASHBY W. R. ( 1952). Design for a Brain. London. Chapman and Hall.
ASHBY W. R. ( 1956). An Introduction to Cybernetics. London. Chapman and Hall.
CHAPMAN B. L. M. ( - ). A Self-organizing Classification System. Unpublished.
CULBERTSON J. T. ( 1950). Consciousness and Behaviour. Dubuque, Iowa : Brown.
CULBERTSON J. T. ( 1956). "Some uneconomical robots". In C. E. Shannon and J. McCarthy (Eds.) Automata Studies. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
GEORGE F. H. ( 1956). "Logical networks in behaviour". Bull. Math. Blophys. 18, 337-348.

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