C-42. Collisions: a reprise

The evidence for the behavioral problem as a fundamental force has been here all along: In the fact of collisions per se – though concealed in plain sight, so to speak, midst the many particular collisions daily visited upon and by us, or witnessed by us. And concealed also by our misdirected focus of attention.

We have viewed these collisions through a clouded lens (BPO bias: C-38, C-39), focusing on the relationships of bodies, and on “their” attributes, as particulars, to the neglect of generalities inherent in the Nature of Things but not seen completely in the order — or ordering — of particulars. Most pointedly, we have focused on agents and their products to the neglect of process in matters of consequentiality. Most drastically, some observers have conceived the Nature of Things in terms of a creator and a designed product.

Process, however, may be responsible for an appearance of design, attributable to the nature of that process (C-38). And that same process may extend all the way back to “Big Bang” – and perhaps before that observational point, making moot any claim to authorship of the process or the product.

The process involved is that of collision after collision, subsequent to Big Bang, in consequence of the general persisting conditions (GPC) of partial order, consequentiality and discontinuity (III). These are not all “chance” collisions. Collisions, like behavioral entities now, are not equally behavioral. Later collisions are more behavioral (i.e., in terms of avoiding and arranging) than earlier collisions. Collisions now are strikingly more behavioral. Chance plays a part, but it was never a matter purely of chance (a convenient foil to those presuming an order of things type of explanation).

Communication offers an illustration of this history. Primitive animal communication, across species, was and is first of all a matter of avoiding and arranging collisions, of responding to the behavioral problem. Perhaps in the first instance asserting boundaries or remaining silent, in the second instance inviting company or pursuing coordination. Later development and evolution then have given shape to some of these expressions, especially those of sound. A first cut in classifying the variation in particulars among any species’ behaviors (e.g., whales’ sounds) would be whether they serve the functions of avoiding or arranging collisions.

(We tend to see such things today in terms of situational particulars, searching for the contact and content implications of communication. Attention to the force of the behavioral problem – i.e., the salience of collisions – shows that there is more to the “social” functions of communication. And then, of course, there is the cognitive function of communication [App. III]. In all, communication is much more behavioral than social.)

Historically, collisions have become more behavioral in another way. Early on collisions were in consequence of behavior outside the nascent behavioral entity (BE), due to the movements of ambient media like air and water. Over time, behavior that has engendered collisions has moved increasingly to the inside of the BE.

(A topical progression among sciences sometimes cited — of physics, then chemistry, and then biology – is suggestive of this developmental-plus-evolutionary change in what the BPO bias interprets as brain and/or mind. That same bias serves now to direct a physiological investigation of the BE, on the presumption that function follows structure but structure does not follow function. Though both apply. This kind of progression could well continue through cognition and communication [first symmetric cognition, such as in association and connection, then asymmetric, such as in pointing]. The historical and accelerating course of behavior from the outside to the inside of BE dramatically makes the case against our merely establishing a “Behavioral Science.” All the territorially-apportioned sciences are behavioral – as their observed collisions demonstrate. They too, like BE’s embodiment, could and should be more behavioral.)

The enduring behavioral problem which follows for BE from the Nature of Things’ GPC provides the initiative for the increasingly behavioral collisions (C-41) which, in turn, give shape to the BE conceived as product.

The possibility, even threat, of collisions has had something to do with this incomplete and inaccurate view. It tends to focus our attention on bodies. But professional observers have another reason. The message product they have been paid to deliver, from the earliest augurist until today’s, has typically been information as to the order of things – with the interpretive emphasis on simple causation. tradition attains its greatest bias when the power of math and logic are considered the prime key to understanding the (underlying) order of things. Which is to say that we should employ order in looking for order, ala Boltzmann and Heisenberg. The order of things and reliability then trump the Nature of Things and validity (XI).

This obfuscation, it seems, deserves the rebuke to be found in Simpson’s (Science, 1963) admonitions that: 1/ we should attend to all phenomena to which principles apply and not just to principles that apply to all phenomena; and, 2/ biology is as much a concern to scientists for their own observing as in the behavior of the observed. (Emphasis added re “1″ and we would amend “2″ to add cognition and communication to biology.) Simpson was himself rebuked for making a political plea for biology’s centrality among the sciences (which he did). But in so far as his concern for the prior neglect of biology (this was before DNA bloomed) implied a concern for behavior – and cognition and communication – he had a point with respect to a potential “center of gravity” among the sciences.

(c) 2012 R. F. Carter