Adapting to a changing Umwelt

On 27 oktober 2018

The Sexual and Social Intelligence Hypothesis accepts the biosemiotical concept of ‘habit taking’. Habits are repeated behaviour. Sometimes despite diversified circumstances in the present.

In current evolutionary theory two axioms are important. One is called Natural Selection. Natural Selection presumes that the environment is continuously changing. To survive, organisms have to adapt to new circumstances. The underlying idea is that organisms that don’t adapt die, and can no longer produce offspring. Ergo; the genes of survivors are forwarded by vertical evolution.

The dualistic concept of Natural Selection -put as ‘death or the gladiolus’- tells us little about HOW to avoid death, or HOW to survive. According to biosemiotici like Hoffmeyer the concept of Natural selection is about passively perishing the circumstances and not about proactively trying to influence the circumstances by inventing and taking new habits.

Hoffmeyer and others suppose that all organisms have a natural surviving mode based on perception and meaning.  Changing circumstances are sensually perceived. As a consequence of which an emotional warning signal brings body and brain in a state of concentration. Via internal biomolecular processes the changing Umwelt is transformed into assiduousness and focus of attention to the present situation (Umwelt). The most observative and perceptive individuals have better chances to anticipate and solve problems in dubious circumstances.

On this point biosemiotici disagree with evolutionary biologists. Biosemiotici put individual choice and behaviour -as a consequence of focus and attention and creating a new habit- before ill fate and coincidence. Their assumption is that organisms give meaning and create new habits because of changing circumstances.

If for example the circumstances generate FEAR every organism has an emotional choice between fighting, fleeing or freezing. The perceived change, together with individual features, sensory faculties and emotional patterns of selection and interpretation, determines if an individual chooses fighting, fleeing or freezing. The future will tell which behaviour, new habit, was the best action in the actual changing circumstances.

Biosemiotici presume that there are patterns of selection and interpretation underneath every behaviour. Every individual within a species is equiped with patterns of selection (perceived by the senses) and interpretation (reference to both inborn emotional patterns and life experience). Individual patterns determine which solution a typical individual creates as a new habit.

The biosemiotical line of thinking indicates that it is not Nature that selects, but that individual organisms select themselves (out) by creating new habits, solving occuring problems and inventing solutions.

‘What survives in changing circumstances is the new habit’, as Hoffmeyer puts it, ‘And what is being transferred to offspring are new habits together with underlaying genetical and neurobiological susceptibilities to adequately cope with changing circumstances.’

Surviving in biosemiotic terms is rooted in neurobiological and neurophysiological characteristics and features that  benefit the individual organisms in overcoming changing circumstances by inventing new habits.

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