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PSYCHOMETABOLISM: GENERAL AND LORENZIAN SIR JULIAN HUXLEY* I. General Ifwe look at the process ofbiological evolution as a whole, we will see that it tends toward the production oftypes which can utilize more ofthe world's space and material resources more efficiently. To achieve this, new types of metabolic utilization appear. The most fundamental metabolic divergence was that between green plants and animals. Later there developed many new types of metabolic systems capable of utilizing new materials. Termites, with the aid of their intestinal protozoa, can utilize wood; ruminants can utilize cellulose with the aid of their bacterial flora and protozoan fauna. Sometimes greater efficiency of exploitation is attained by symbiosis. The most famous case of such symbiosis between complementary systems is that ofthe lichens, which are mixed organisms, part algae and part fungi. It is important to note that these metabolic novelties may produce results which affect the further course of evolution, by altering or even increasing the material resources available for future generations. Thus during much more than halfthe period oflife's evolution on earth, there was no wood. When abundant wood was eventually produced by large green terrestrial plants, it provided the material for a new type ofmetabolic exploitation by termites. Again, once terrestrial vertebrates had produced keratin in bulk, the opportunity arose for the evolution ofclothes-moths. This type of cybernetic feedback is a regular feature of the evolutionary process. The other major tendency in biological evolution is manifested in the evolution of mind, a trend toward a higher degree of awareness. This is especially marked in the later stages ofthe process in the dominant types ofanimals, notably insects, spiders, and vertebrates, and is of course me- * 31 Pond Street, Hampstead, London N.W. 3, England. 399 diated by their brains. Brains can be regarded as psychometabolic organs. Just as the physiological metabolic systems oforganisms utilize the raw material provided by the physico-chemical resources ofthe environment and metabolize them into special material substances, so brains, when highly developed, utilize the raw materials of simple experience and transform them into special systems of organized awareness. This at once brings up the perennial problem of the relation between mind and body. We must first remember that the only primary reality we know is our own subjective experience. We can only deduce that other human beings have similar subjective experiences. This is perfectly legitimate, both logically and scientifically. It is also necessary pragmatically; life could not go on otherwise. We are sometimes able to detect and prove differences in other people's possibilities of subjective awareness, as for example, with color-blindness or "taste-blindness." But in general we quite legitimately deduce that other human beings are conscious and have similar minds to ours, because they are made in the same sort ofway and behave in the same sort ofway, and because that is the only basis for understanding them and co-existing with them. The only satisfactory approach to the general problem is an evolutionary one. We begin with man as an organization of Weltstoff—the stuffof which the universe is made. The human organization has two aspects: first, a material one when seen from the outside, and, secondly, a mental or subjective one when experienced from the inside. We are simultaneously and indissolubly both matter and mind. Extending our survey to higher animals, it is not only scientifically legitimate but obvious that we must ascribe subjective awareness to them, as Darwin did in his great book The Expression ofEmotions in Man and Animals. It is all too obvious for the higher apes. It is equally legitimate to say that mammals such as dogs must possess a marked degree ofsubjective awareness; otherwise, indeed, we should not be able to interpret their behavior at all. We can extend the principle to lower vertebrates with a high though lesser degree ofcertainty. Indeed, I do not see how you can refuse some sort ofsubjective awareness to higher invertebrates such as bees and ants. This, however, poses an extremely interesting neurological problem —how are bees and ants capable of their extremely complex behavioral activities? For instance, bees have a symbolic language, yet their brain is 400 SirJulian Huxley · Psychometabolism Perspectives in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 399-432
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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