Consequences and evolutionary direction
A writer reviews her own book, but it does sound interesting: Susan Schneider in The Scientist:
Nature versus nurture died a long time ago, for those who were paying attention. In its place has risen an enormous hodgepodge of nature-and-nurture variables at all levels, from subcellular to societal, interacting in nonlinear, go-figure-this-one-out fashion. Especially exciting is the discovery of the degree of plasticity that this nature-nurture interplay involves and enables. The role played by consequences is a big part of that story.
Consequences result from behaviors—and in turn drive those behaviors. Long ago, primitive invertebrates developed the capacity to learn from their successes and failures. It’s been suggested that this game-changing ability may have helped bring about the rapid expansion in the biodiversity of multicellular organisms known as the Cambrian explosion. If that indeed happened, what a dramatic illustration of the power of learning from consequences to reshape biology. As it is, the evolved ability to learn from consequences routinely initiates evolutionary change. Picture Darwin’s finches foraging in different niches (with rewarding consequences), beaks gradually changing accordingly. In addition, learning from consequences activates and deactivates genes and modifies brains. I elucidate these phenomena and more in my new book, The Science of Consequences.
Consequences abound in our own industrialized lives as well as in the lives of wild birds and bears. Whenever we weigh a decision, we’re vetting different consequences. Small-scale or large, immediate or delayed, positive or negative, it’s hard to overestimate their influence.
Some of the science that makes sense of the workings of consequences has been hidden in plain sight for generations. Different “schedules of consequences” turn out to produce orderly behavioral patterns across many different species and behaviors, for example. . .