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We - and cuckoos - manifest behaviours because our brains and body take in information from the environment, react to it and output results that change the environment. Quite complex behaviours can result from that process. Brains, even new-born, aren't helpless boxes of goo, especially in the creatures with less complicated ones than humans. Their structure is determined during development by an interplay of the decoding and transcription process of DNA with the foetal environment. You're talking about a very very complicated program that self-modifies and where different bits mean different things at different times and in different contexts. It seems that for a newly hatched cuckoo, the resulting brain contains structures that react to the input pattern "small and fuzzy" with the output "push out of nest". There is a continuum of instinct and reliance on instinct: insects are pretty much entirely instinct driven while humans are only mostly instinct driven and have much greater variation in their instinctive wiring.

It probably isn't correct to think of DNA as containing instructions - you have to see the DNA in the context of the environment it finds itself in and in the context of the development process. Cuckoo DNA, when it is decoded by the egg cell in the context of a cuckoo egg and an acceptable environment, produces over time a small bird that pushes other small birds out of nests.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 18th, 2006 at 08:30:25 AM EST
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