Teleology, teleonomy and the Buddha

I like Marcello Barbieri. Few are the men of knowledge, who by the soundness of their noesis, can express simply and clearly, difficult matters.

Barbieri has finally made it lately to the Royal Society, with the refashioning of a paper that he had already published in 2012: “what is Information?”.

Another great step to prove that teleonomy is neither teleology, nor a mere computational expression of purpose.

Theories on Mind:
It is widely accepted, today, that the mind is produced by the brain, and our problem is to understand how that happens. At the moment, the scientific models that have been proposed on this issue can be divided into three major groups.
(1) The computational theory is the idea that lower-level brain processes, such as neuron firings and synaptic connections, are transformed into feelings by neural processes that are equivalent to computations. Brain and mind are compared to the hardware and software of a computer, and mental activity is regarded as a sort of data processing which is implemented by the brain but is in principle distinct from it, rather like a software is distinct from its hardware.
(2) The connectionist theory states that lower-level brain processes are transformed into higher-level brain events by neural networks, i.e., by webs of synaptic connections that are not the result of computations but of explorative processes. The reference model, here, is the computer-generated neural networks that simulate the growth of the synaptic web in a developing brain.
(3) The emergence theory states that higher-level brain properties emerge from lower-level neurological phenomena, and mind is distinct from brain because any emergence is accompanied by the appearance of new properties.

The theory described in this paper is that the brain produces the mind by assembling neural components together with the rules of a neural code, very much like the cell produces proteins with the rules of the genetic code. This implies that feelings are no longer brain objects but brain artifacts. It implies that feelings are not side-effects of neural networks (as in connectionism), that they do not come into existence spontaneously by emergence, and that they are not the result of computations, but of real manufacturing processes.
Origin and evolution of the brain - 2011

“A real manufacturing process”.
A process as a nominable entity (information and coding rules;) not as a label but as an observable, and more precisely a non-computable observable. Nominable entities that can exist only in living systems.

Barbieri is unveiling the worldly process of the vedanā nidāna, through information and the neural code.

Remains the problem of a _pre-existing "telos" VS. an organism's genome with an inherent built-in purpose_.

Buddhism does not seem to presuppose the former; but more likely to reject the nature of the latter. In other words, Buddha's Buddhism does not see a divine plan, or something of the sort, in the purpose of a seed for instance (seed becoming a tree, that in turns produces a seed - the life and death process); but instead, Buddha's Buddhism ascertains a rejection of the genome's inherent built-in purpose, in the Buddhist's world. How this entelechy has come to be in the worldly realm, seems the real concern of Buddhism.

Genes and proteins are molecular artifacts because they are manufactured by molecular machines that physically stick their subunits together in the order provided by external templates. This implies that all biological objects are artifacts, and therefore that “life is artifact-making”.
Barbieri (2006).

Life is artifact-making

The idea that life is artifact-making, i.e., that the fundamental properties of life did not arise spontaneously from inanimate matter but were brought into existence by molecular machines.

Earth was a lifeless planet.
Spontaneous genes and spontaneous proteins did appear on the primitive Earth but they did not evolve into the first cells, because spontaneous processes do not have biological specificity. They gave origin to molecular machines and it was these machines and their products that evolved into the first cells. The simplest molecular machines that could appear spontaneously on the primitive Earth were molecules that could stick monomers together at random (bondmakers) or in the order provided by a template (copymakers).

These molecules started manufacturing polymers such as polypeptides, polynucleotides and polysaccharides, and had the potential to produce them indefinitely, thus increasing dramatically their presence on the primitive Earth.

The unlimited repetition of copying, furthermore, is inevitably accompanied by errors, and in a world of limited resources a selection is bound to take place. That is how natural selection came into being, and that is why there is no natural selection in the spontaneous reactions of chemistry. It must be underlined that the origin of molecular copying does require extremely improbable events. In a primitive environment where chemical evolution had already accumulated many varieties of organic molecules, the appearance of bondmakers and copymakers was as likely as that of any other average-size structure.

The origin of proteins, on the other hand, was a much more complex affair, because proteins cannot be copied and their reproduction required the evolution of supramolecular systems that developed a code and which can therefore be referred to as codemakers. The evolution of the molecular machines, in short, started with bondmakers, went on to copymakers and finally gave rise to codemakers.

The paradigms of biology (2013)

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