Episode 38: Animal Learning and Popper’s Epistemology (part 2)

In episode 38, Karl Popper has a radical theory of ‘dualistic evolution’ where behavior had to evolve first before physical evolutionary changes could be taken advantage of. As part of his theory, Popper pointed out that an animal’s ability to learn would be paramount to making evolution work at all — similar to the Baldwin effect discussed in the last episode, but now for physical adaptions. This means evolution would have had intense pressure to evolve learning algorithms early in the evolutionary tree.¬†

As it turns out, Richard Byrne’s work largely corroborates Popper’s theory of dualistic evolution. Nearly all animals show an ability to do trial-and-error learning and this is the main source of ‘animal intelligence’ in the animal world. Byrne even argues that this ability to do trial-and-error learning is a form of evolution where animals let their behaviors ‘die in their place’ rather than having to wait for the slow biological evolutionary learning processes of the genes.

We also discuss what split-brain patients might teach us about human explanations and go over examples of animal-like gene channeled learning in humans. 

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One Reply to “Episode 38: Animal Learning and Popper’s Epistemology (part 2)”

  1. Around 44 mins – is there a reason why the process for generating explanations of our own actions/motivations would fundamentally be any different to that generating explanations of the external world? Both being acts of creativity which we use until we can come up with better hard-to-vary explanations etc. (I don’t see how creating explanations through “introspection” is more privileged than through “extrospection”). Is what is stopping us giving better explanations of our own actions/motivations a lack of better corresponding scientific explanations for us to adopt ourselves?

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