How much are we genetically pre-programmed

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  • #26
Simon Bridge
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Complex behavior does not imply a program, or even a computer.
People used to build very sophisticated mechanical automata before computers were invented... if we can do it, why not Nature?

In Conway's Game of Life there is any amount of complex behavior, including self-replicating Turing-complete computers. Nowhere in the glider will you find instructions to tell it to go diagonally across the board - or how to react when it encounters other "life". It is following it's construction and the rules of the game.

In that game, the bahavior of something like a glider is entirely and directly due to the laws of physics of the automata ... IRL we prefer to distinguish "environment" from "self" for organisms. Nobody is saying that bahvior and construction are entirely and solely environmental ... just that the role of DNA is more mindless and subtle than suggested by the idea that it is a blueprint of a program.

In the end, though, you just have to see it happen in Nature lots of times to get it.
 
  • #27
Ygggdrasil
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Interesting. Post 14 sounds like pure chemical reaction but is still talking about physical processes which is not what I talking about.
A computer without a programme is an ornament.
A zebra without a programme is dead, it would just sit on the ground after birth without attempting to walk untill a hungry lion passed by.
I keep coming back to birds but it is the most obvious example, use of particular materials is not taught if its not taught then there must be a reason why a particular species builds a nest in a particular way to the extent where you do not have to see the bird to know what species built the nest. Every nest is the same this suggests pre-programming, all birds working to the same set of instructions and those instructions are about how to build a nest in a certain way, no variation whatsoever. How can this be due to environmental factors.
You keep asserting that nest building by birds is an instinctual skill, but this may not be true:

"Individual birds varied their technique from one nest to the next and there were instances of birds building nests from left to right as well as from right to left.

As birds gained more experience, they dropped blades of grass less often.

"If birds built their nests according to a genetic template, you would expect all birds to build their nests the same way each time. However, this was not the case," added Dr Walsh."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-15053754
cited study: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2011.06.011 [Broken]

Indeed, evidence that birds instinctually know how to build nests is not so strong and seems to suggest an important role for experience-dependent learning:
"The classic method of demonstrating that there is a learned component to a behaviour has been the ‘deprivation experiment’: does an animal deprived of an experience while growing up nevertheless perform the behaviour perfectly the first time it has the opportunity? Amazingly, such an experiment was apparently carried out by the English naturalist John Ray in the 17th century, since he writes of birds building their nests: “and this they do though they never saw nor could see any nest made, that is though taken from the nest and brought up by hand”. The next such study did not take place until the 1960s when deprivation experiments carried out on village weavers (Ploceus cucullatus) showed that effective weaving of the grass strands that make up the nest depended substantially upon building experience. In the subsequent years, virtually no further work has been done to establish the extent and nature of the learning processes involved in the nest building of this or any other species.

In spite of the number and ubiquity of birds' nests, we know little of the cognitive processes that might be involved in their construction (Figure 2). Although there is enough similarity in nest design for a nest collector to recognise which species built a nest, we do not know how a bird knows what nest shape/size to build."
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2008.01.020 [Broken]

As others in the thread have suggested, nest building might emerge from a simple set repetitive behaviors:
"The simplest possibility is that the bird has no concept of what it is aiming to produce but has a set of rules for its behaviour, which if followed in appropriate order lead to the emergence of a nest."
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2008.01.020 [Broken]
 
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  • #28
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I am a complete layman in this but have been wondering about what makes us us.

I ask this from observations about birds which seem at least to me about halfway between higher and lower animals.

The thing with birds is that you can tell the species, generally, just from looking at the nest. Nestbuilding as far as I can see is not taught yet is extremely complicated in some species.

The higher up the scale you go the less seems to be pre-programmed and the more taught. I wonder though how much of our makeup is genetic and how much learnt.


"How much are we genetically pre-programmed?" Simply asked like that I'd say at least 100% "pre-programmed". :smile:

Don't forget what is involved with learned behavior.

A mocking bird is genetically "pre-programmed" to mimic bird calls. It's learning isn't? I guess "pre-programed" to learn (mimic, what's the diff) in other words.

Emotive responses are "pre-programed" and imo govern [STRIKE]external[/STRIKE] behaviors. Such as ants that are "born to" defend, build, scavenge ect.

Or a bird that favors a particular style of nest.

There is no genetic coding that implants the concept of a nest, raw materials ect.

So imo this scale you are vague about is related to social/communication abilities, and that's genetic as well. This is why I answered we are 100% pre-programed.

So I guess I am asking what do you mean by learned & genetically "pre-programmed"? I don't see a definitive dichotomy there.
 
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"The simplest possibility is that the bird has no concept of what it is aiming to produce but has a set of rules for its behaviour, which if followed in appropriate order lead to the emergence of a nest."
It is where that set of rules comes from that I am talking about and I can see no source other than its DNA constructing a part of the brain with a built in set of instructions that cannot be changed, the same way we build pre-programmed micro-chips. Those rules must include instructions about the environment.

A bird does not favour a particular style of nest.
From what I have seen a bird has no choice in the size/style or materials used in building its nest. These things are not learnt so where do the instructions come from. I suspect a bird will learn to hide the nest better, may learn to build it better and faster, learn that certain types of vegetation offer better protection but these are learnt environmental factors and just improving pre-set behaviour.
 
  • #30
Simon Bridge
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"The simplest possibility is that the bird has no concept of what it is aiming to produce but has a set of rules for its behaviour, which if followed in appropriate order lead to the emergence of a nest."
It is where that set of rules comes from that I am talking about and I can see no source other than its DNA constructing a part of the brain with a built in set of instructions that cannot be changed, the same way we build pre-programmed micro-chips. Those rules must include instructions about the environment.
You cannot think of some other way to do it, therefore that must be how it is done?

If the rules came from the DNA as a computer program, then then the program has to be executed via a set of rules: where did those rules come from? The DNA must encode the program according to a set of rules. Where did the DNA get it's rules from? This path leads to an infinite regression.

I'm saying that the "rules for building a nest" are emergent from a much simpler set governing the entire behavior of the organism. Did you look at cellular automata yet?

Biology has to obey simpler rules than computers do.
 
  • #31
Ryan_m_b
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It is where that set of rules comes from that I am talking about and I can see no source other than its DNA constructing a part of the brain with a built in set of instructions that cannot be changed, the same way we build pre-programmed micro-chips. Those rules must include instructions about the environment.
You really need to get these computer analogies out of your head, they are very detrimental to your understanding. DNA does not contain rules for how to build a brain. You can go and look this up and you will not find a set of genes that say "put this neuron here [here's how to build it] then this one here and wire them like so". It's all emergent as Simon has been trying to say. A good example of this is the establishment of the posterior/anterior and dorsal/ventral axes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GntFBUa6nvs

I suggest you look into purchasing an introductory book on developmental biology, perhaps Principles of Developmental Biology or just the latest issue of Developmental Biology (I have an older issue around here somewhere but can't find it atm). Alternatively this one is written by a very eminent scientist within the field and is meant to be concise and accessible to the layman.
 
  • #32
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Don't overlook the grandest pre-program of all. The program that can program.
 
  • #33
Drakkith
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Don't overlook the grandest pre-program of all. The program that can program.
What?
 
  • #34
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marty1, "Program" as its used in cellular biology processes should really not be confused with human programming. It's really not comparable.
 
  • #35
Simon Bridge
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All analogies are flawed in some way - the computer-program analogy for how DNA works breaks somewhat faster than most and is not very helpful to start with. We are used to computers these days so everything tends to get compared to them. In Newton's day everybody was into clockwork so that was the most common analogy. It is important not to get carried away.

OP has displayed a marked unwillingness to learn, look at references etc, and a tendancy to diverge substantially and fruitlessly from the topic of his own thread before. Just look where this one started out.

I think that the needed explanations have been presented - certainly for the original topic - if OP does not want to believe them there is no helping that. One of the advantages of science is that belief is not needed. Not being prepared to learn on the other hand...

Do we see signs of willingness to learn?
 
  • #36
Drakkith
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Do we see signs of willingness to learn?
Perhaps a grudging willingness at best. Adrian, I want you to realize that there are thousands of people out there with FAR better understanding of evolution than anyone in this thread has, and they are the ones that are getting things done and getting that information back to us. You can disagree, but you really have no good reason to. If it doesn't make sense to you, that's ok! It's a difficult concept, especially when you know little about evolution and how everything works regarding DNA and biology. I myself barely understand what they are getting at and I've been here on PF for 2 years now listening to these guys prattle on about quarktronics and flux capacitors and such!
 
  • #37
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I can see what you are all saying and its most frustrating. I am using computers as example for want of a better description.
I accept that things react to environmental factors, in fact its as obvious as the nose on your face, a cat for example chases something that moves, an animal living in a cold climate grows thicker fur, these are reactions to its environment the cat does not care whats moving, learnt behaviour obviously builds onto these reactions. This I think is what you are all telling me, this however is not what I am talking about.
Certain things appear from birth to follow particular behaviour, they know instinctivly about thier environment and how to exist within that environment without any form of teaching/learning, who tells a bee what nectar is and where to find it, I personally have yet to see young bees on a field trip learnig how to collect nectar, pollen on the other hand is different it is collected in baskets, I believe, on the legs so this is again reaction to the environment I am talking about instinctive use of the environment and where those instincts come from as they are obviously built into the organism and where all members of that particular species do exactly the same things without exception and in whatever environment they exist in, bees will always look for nectar.
Many species have died out because they have been unable to react to environmental changes which means they were built to live in a particular environment. A woodpecker will always build in a hole in a tree if there are no trees there are no woodpeckers, they do not look for alternative nesting sites or alternative foood sources because they are unable to, trees are built into a woodpeckers instinct, if they could learn differently they could move into areas with no trees but it is impossible for this to happen the same way its impossible to change the function of a pre-programmed micro-chip.
We are so succsessful because we are able to learn and so override any pre-set instructions, we are not restricted to set behaviour patterns, these set patterns must be built in, if they are not encoded within the DNA genes or whatever where do they come from and it is obviously not from reacting to the environment.
 
  • #38
Ryan_m_b
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I can see what you are all saying and its most frustrating. I am using computers as example for want of a better description.
I accept that things react to environmental factors, in fact its as obvious as the nose on your face, a cat for example chases something that moves, an animal living in a cold climate grows thicker fur, these are reactions to its environment the cat does not care whats moving, learnt behaviour obviously builds onto these reactions. This I think is what you are all telling me, this however is not what I am talking about...if they are not encoded within the DNA genes or whatever where do they come from and it is obviously not from reacting to the environment.
You have misunderstand: it is the interaction between genes and their environment (which includes the intracellular environment upwards) that creates structure as an emergent function.

Have you looked into cellular automata as suggested? Or the video and book links posted on the previous page?

Perhaps if we try one more time from a different direction. Remember that pretty much every cell in an organism contains the same DNA. Essentially DNA (along with the rest of intracellular biochemistry) decides how a cell will react to certain stimuli, look back to the hypoxia response for one example. Put those two together and imagine a cluster of cells. Different environmental conditions (e.g. those on the outside having more oxygen than those on the inside) are going to mean that different genes are expressed in each one, some of these will lead to factors being released that will go on to effect other cells in different ways. Eventually this can lead to a host of different structures forming at the tissue level but at no point was there a gene that said "build this". Is that making a bit more sense? Honestly you are asking about a huge field of biology in one go, I really suggest buying an introduction to developmental biology as this isn't a simple concept and you're going to need to be well versed in a variety of examples to get it properly.
Certain things appear from birth to follow particular behaviour, they know instinctivly about thier environment and how to exist within that environment without any form of teaching/learning, who tells a bee what nectar is and where to find it, I personally have yet to see young bees on a field trip learnig how to collect nectar, pollen on the other hand is different it is collected in baskets, I believe, on the legs so this is again reaction to the environment I am talking about instinctive use of the environment and where those instincts come from as they are obviously built into the organism and where all members of that particular species do exactly the same things without exception and in whatever environment they exist in, bees will always look for nectar.
Your rhetoric here is problematic and could be another source of confusion. Bees aren't born with the instinctual knowledge of what nectar is and where to find it. They're born with an instinct to fly and are attracted to certain colours. To use a mechanical example: imagine a solar powered RC car, the solar panel is connected to the brake and when there is light the car is still. When there is no light it can do nothing else but drive. Add to this some motion sensors on the side that are linked to steering and you can end up with a device that drives around avoiding obstacles and stops when it finds light to charge itself with. All of that is just reactionary "behaviour" and asking what in the car allows it to know when to drive and how to find sunlight is nonsensical. It's broadly the same in instinct in animals.
Many species have died out because they have been unable to react to environmental changes which means they were built to live in a particular environment. A woodpecker will always build in a hole in a tree if there are no trees there are no woodpeckers, they do not look for alternative nesting sites or alternative foood sources because they are unable to, trees are built into a woodpeckers instinct, if they could learn differently they could move into areas with no trees but it is impossible for this to happen the same way its impossible to change the function of a pre-programmed micro-chip.
We are so succsessful because we are able to learn and so override any pre-set instructions, we are not restricted to set behaviour patterns, these set patterns must be built in
Human beings do have instincts and reflexes and animals can survive by adapting through evolution.
 
  • #39
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A bird does not favour a particular style of nest.
From what I have seen a bird has no choice in the size/style or materials used in building its nest. These things are not learnt so where do the instructions come from. I suspect a bird will learn to hide the nest better, may learn to build it better and faster, learn that certain types of vegetation offer better protection but these are learnt environmental factors and just improving pre-set behaviour.
Birds do have preferences for their nests.

A bird won't build a nest next to say my dogs house, probably because of an emotive response, such as "I don't feel safe here".

A bird won't build a nest out of my dogs poop. Probably because of an emotive response, such as "this isn't as "good" as cotton ball & twigs".

I guess we could call this the birds "intuition".
 
  • #40
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Ryan, many thanks for patience and trying.
You are still trying to explain instinctive reaction to environment, I am asking about instinctive use of environment. Please try to understand what I am asking.
A creature that lives off a specific food source will die out if that food source dissappears even if there are other suitable foods it can eat. Therefore it must instinctivly see its food source as edible and is incapable of seeing anything else as food.
Animals survive by adapting through evolution, exactly, pre-programmed instincts need time to change, if environment changes to quickly anomal dies out because it is unable to react due to pre-programmed instincts.
I will look at cellular automata but looking at the name I suspect info will not be what I am looking for.
Your RC car is obviously reacting to the environment, building a garage for itself out of certain sized and coloured pebbles is what I am talking about and your car explaination does not cover that.
 
  • #41
Ryan_m_b
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Adrian the point is you asked about how much we are genetically pre programmed and proceeded to talk about DNA if it is code. To get a proper answer to your question you're going to have to learn about the processes of development I.e. how cells coordinate into larger tissues so that you can eventually look into how the formation of certain tissues/organs gives rise to certain behaviours e.g what developmental processes give rise to the formation of reflexes.
 
  • #42
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Maybe the origional heading was not specific enough but taken with the first post the general line of disscussion should have been obvious.
Everybody has consistantly told me how we react and are built to react with our environment you have been answering a question I did not raise.
How is learning about what delopemental processes give rise to the formation of reflexes going to tell me why a blackbird sees straw as a nesting material rather than sticks and a pidgeon sees the opposite and a swallow does not see straw or sticks as a nesting material. Reacting to the environment which is what you are telling me would mean build in the first convenient place using whatever materials are available in the vicinity, can you not see that this is not what happens.

I have been talking about instinctive use of the environment. I notice you ignored the point about how your RC car could build a garage by reacting to its environment.
 
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  • #43
Ryan_m_b
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Maybe the origional heading was not specific enough but taken with the first post the general line of disscussion should have been obvious.
Everybody has consistantly told me how we react and are built to react with our environment you have been answering a question I did not raise.
How is learning about what delopemental processes give rise to the formation of reflexes going to tell me why a blackbird sees straw as a nesting material rather than sticks and a pidgeon sees the opposite and a swallow does not see straw or sticks as a nesting material. Reacting to the environment which is what you are telling me would mean build in the first convenient place using whatever materials are available in the vicinity, can you not see that this is not what happens.
Again you misunderstand. It is not an organism reacting to the environment we have been discussing but how individual cells react to their environment and how, through the action of many cells, this leads to emergent behaviour. To learn the answer to your question you need to step back and learn the basics of developmental biology, you don't seem to have shown any willingness to do that though and clearly are here with an axe to grind so I see no reason for this thread to continue.
 

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