Bright Air, Brilliant Fire: On the Matter of the Mind

By Gerald M. Edelman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Neural Darwinism

If a term has to be used for the whole set of ideas I would suggest Neural Edelmanism.

-- Francis H.C. Crick

If we consider recognition to be a kind of adaptive matching, then it is obvious why it applies to evolution and immunity. In both instances, population thinking provides a means for understanding. What is the justification for applying population thinking to the workings of the brain, for neural Darwinism? This is not the place to go into all the intricacies of such a position, but I believe it will clarify much of what I have to say in the rest of this book if I give some of the reasons for considering brain science a science of recognition.

The first reason is almost too obvious: Brain science and the study of behavior are concerned with the adaptive matching of animals to their environments. In considering brain science as a science of recognition I am implying that recognition is not an instructive process. No direct information transfer occurs, just as none occurs in evolutionary or immune processes. Instead, recognition is selective.

Some justifications for this position may be found in my previous criticisms (chapter 3) of various category mistakes in thinking about the brain; an extended argument supporting these criticisms may be found in the Postscript. I have already argued that the world is not a piece of tape and that the brain is not a computer. If we take such a position, we have

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