Re: Two draft papers: AI and existential risk; heuristics and biases.

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Thu Jun 08 2006 - 09:40:19 MDT


About Lamarckian evolution...

In fact there is a lot of recent evidence that the "central dogma" of
molecular biology (as Francis Crick called it) [the lack of
significant information transfer from the environment back into the
genetic material during the lifespan of an organism] is worked around
in interesting ways, in real biological systems.

Back in the 80s, Cairns et al argued based on some experiments with
bacteria that there is significant transfer of information back into
the genetic material based on the environmental experience of the
organism. They talked about "directed mutation."

However, it seems that this phenomenon could possibly be explained by
judicious environmental effects on mutation rate, thus remaining
basically consistent with the central dogma

There is a bunch of more recent work following up this theme, though I
don't have the references handy....

So, yeah, Lamarck's simple ideas were wrong, but the underlying
concept does appear to have some truth to it, in subtle ways.
Something which is being discovered via EXPERIMENT, obviously, not by
armchair theorizing....

Armchair theorizing should be able to tell you that both Darwinian and
Lamarckian evolution are possible, as well as various complex
combinations thereof.... But exploring which combinations are used in
nature is obviously a matter of experiment...

-- Ben G

On 6/7/06, Michael Vassar <> wrote:
> Lamarckian evolution is, as a general principle, trivially refuted by all
> manner of day-to-day experiences such as the need for children to learn
> skills their parents have already acquired. Lamarkian ideas would predict
> far far more change between generations than is actually observed.
> >heavy objects do seem to fall faster than light ones
> No. People assumed that they did but the evidence never supported that
> supposition. Denser objects do seem to fall faster than less dense ones,
> but two bricks don't seem to fall faster when together than when apart and
> the observation of drag is a commonplace one.

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