Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ernst Haekel

I never knew Haeckel was an artist. I heard about him in 1st year med school embryology. His dictum "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" has been generally discredited but there is obviously more than a grain of truth in it. Natural Selection never goes "back to the drawing board". Mutations accumulate, leading to modification and extensions of existing embryonal pathways. This is why a human embryo and a mouse embryo look pretty similar at an early stage.

Ontogeny seems to be forgotten in talk of "artificial intelligence". According to Kevin Kelly and Ray Kurzweil, when the complexity of the web matches the complextity of the human brain in 2040, AI will automatically ensue- but I think this "brain" will remsemble an embryonic one prior to any darwinian pruning. (see Neural Darwinism). An 8 month old baby has twice the number of synapses as an adolescent. We are born with brains - not minds.

Image:Haeckel Chaetopoda.jpg

German gallery of Haekel's creepy crawlies.

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