Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Erasing the Boundaries

Vincent`s upbringing on the viewing of rationalism and empiricism and talks of genetic code, which intrigue me, have led me to look into erasing the boundaries. So I begin by putting forth the question of empiricism again: What evidence is there that cognitive processing is not wholly dependent on information from senses? If it is not from the sense, where is it from?
Through the proposal of evolutionary psychology, there is no sharp line that can be drawn between information that originates in the environment—including that acquired from the senses—and information that is conveyed through genes.

In the genetic model, the environment is paradoxically all-important. The information in the genes cannot express itself in bodily structures unless they are in a complexly specified suitable environment–so much so that 99% of the information for building an organism may be thought of as located in the environment and only 1% in the genes themselves (the proportion is not strictly quantifiable). The environment acts as a trigger for selective gene transcription, which in turn has an effect upon the immediate environment. As the information in the gene expresses itself in response to the structure of the environment, and the environment in turn responds to the action of the genes, the organism slowly begins to materialize. It is as if matter itself contains most of the information for life.

In terms of cognitive development, this means that genetic and environmental information act concurrently to construct cognitive structures. Some of the environmental information that activates certain genes may come through the senses; for instance, cats are unable to perceive vertical lines if they are not exposed to them before a certain age, and children who have not heard a language before the age of ten will no longer retain the capacity to acquire one. More complex scenarios with intermediate control structures are also possible, as an alternative to a continued role for the genes.

While the rationalist argument agrees with the genetic model in that both affirm that cognition is dependent on structures that do not derive from experience, the genetic model has historicized rationalism, playing the part of empiricism in undermining its claims to transcendental universals. Thus, the distinction between empiricism and rationalism has become largely meaningless, like two aspects of the same coin that have fused into a sphere.

Through my research of the subject I continue to stumble upon questions that are questions due to language playing as a wall between the answer.  Language is a tool used to communicate between beings, and taking from my post, genetics communicates with the environment, which in other words is everything.  Using logic and reasoning I come to the conclusion that genetic code is the wrecking ball to smash the wall.  We just have to get to how?  I don`t see the human brain itself having the capacity to utilize genetic code, but Vincent`s topic of computers might play a role.


One Response to Erasing the Boundaries

  1. Vincent says:

    Interesting, today the genetic code has become more of a computing language than anything else. For example Genome Compiler (http://www.genomecompiler.com), uses computer code to convert any available code into editable computer code. This has already led to several inventions, including these: the glowing plant, a bacterium that produces a malaria drug and finally, yeast that makes caffeine for naturally caffeinated beer. If you’re interested in more about these inventions, Omri provides a very interesting explanation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIzI7HgkWbw
    At this time, we are discovering the functions of many of the genes we have been unable to decipher. Synthetic Biology is a new and emerging science that could easily start an entirely new technological revolution. Anyway, I hope that this is helpful in your inquiry into empiricism and rationalism and their close connections.

    Good Luck – Vincent Badenhorst


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