Watching how animals learn

My essay this year in Cosmos & History’s collection of papers on “What Is Life” is importantly about noticing that animals are not primarily involved in conflict, as the Darwinian theory and the equations of ecology are described to mean.   Life’s Hidden Resources for Learning

When watching animals behave, fish in a stream or mice in the shadows, or even ants, they’re primarily involved in exploring.    That learning behavior, poking around their local environments, seems focused on finding things that are free to use, and, won’t get them in danger.

Punishment is not what guides that, but discovery.
Punishment is what signals that a learning process has failed!

It’s the learning animals are observably doing on their own, actively and individually, about their own particular environment, that most determines their individual successes or failures.

The following is from a 12/25 response to an email conversation, with Mary & Stan.   We were talking about

how the depression and apathy of caged animals is evidence of how their natural learning in interrupted by being caged… Continue reading Watching how animals learn

Mutation, answers for fruitful questions

my comments with Stan Salthe’s


S: Overall, my point is that nature’s workings are mysterious, and we (think we) understand (just a small portion of) them by way of our discourses.

[ph] Yes, and the portion we can codify in language and write in terms that are culturally meaningful to us and relevant to scientific methods is the useful knowledge available it seems to me. The other half is the pointers and hooks that our rule making gives us to be better explorers of the not well described behaviors of complex physical things themselves. Continue reading Mutation, answers for fruitful questions

Signal from nature of strain

Mary’s response (to my note below)


Phil – You are so nice to set your ideas forth. This one really resonates with me:

It’s that signal from nature of strain on the resource that we need to read differently. We’ve been reading it backwards, essentially. We’ve been seeing it as a signal of where to do things so our systems can continue multiplying.

We need change that to reading it as a signal of “enough”

…..and point to how to set holistic targets for where everything connected should stabilize.

Of course, to do that you need to break the growth imperative, which would mean going through the struggle of figuring out how to talk about it. It’s all about continually multiplying opportunity inevitably leasing to trouble too, after all. Continue reading Signal from nature of strain

What I can’t explain about (__) is …

Responding to a Teacher with a website of teaching tools (appended below).


I appreciate your noticing the key phrase “ask the dumb questions” in my comment. It’s fishing for better questions generally that I was writing about.

I’m sort of a specialist in the “unasked but obviously unexplained” stuff. Usually we only “see” our own meanings for things, steered by only by our own present questions. So we miss a whole world streaming bye with questions no one knows the answer to never being asked.

I think the main job of a kid is to ask the unasked questions, not to repeat back stock answers. For example we all operate within natural systems that are not organized like our cultural values and stereotypes for them at all. Continue reading What I can’t explain about (__) is …