Systems Science Friday Noon Seminar Series

Natural Selection, Mental Action, and the Sciences



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Although overlooked by contemporary evolutionary biology, mental action -- recognized through learning and decision-making -- is present in every living organism. In this presentation I explain how, starting from shortly after natural selection begins, bodies and mental action co-evolve. Mental action provides direction and coordination – the decision-making services bodies would otherwise lack. Evolution develops over the ages forming a timeline through a series of discoveries and new behaviors, each of which redefines competitiveness. Using the timeline, I am able to show (1) where gaps are found in scientific and philosophical understandings by overlooking the evolutionary role of mental action, and (2) where some areas of study, akthough not usually associated with evolution, have evolutionary roots.

Biographical Information

Steve Staloff received his PhD from the University of Oregon in Economics. He taught at the University of Maine and Portland State University, and did theoretical and statistical research at Resources for the Future and Pacific Northwest Laboratories in resource, solar and conservation issues. A research question aimed elsewhere led to his current line of research when his model exposed a possible connection between a modern act of human thinking and a simple molecular invention of a sort likely to occur early in an evolutionary sequence. The effect on Staloff upon recognizing the potential connection was like a gateway drug grabbing a soul. Never before had he given thought to the source of mental action. Staloff became a generalist as he examined the nooks and crannies where this research led, in the process discovering where and how this research relates to existing studies.


Natural selection, Coevolution, Evolution (Biology), Mind and body


Evolution | Philosophy of Mind

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Natural Selection, Mental Action, and the Sciences