Chapter 1 of The Stable Society: its structure and control: Towards a Social Cybernetics, Wadebridge Ecological Centre, UK, 1978
Governments throughout the World are failing dismally to solve the problems that confront them, and to control the societies that have elected them to office. There are many reasons: one, however, is that we have overestimated the powers of legislation to solve biological, social and ecological problems. Over a thousand years ago, King Canute demonstrated to his courtiers just what were the limits to legislation. He pointed out that the waves, like the other forces of nature, were indifferent to his exhortations, and that their movement could not be controlled by government edicts.
The organisation of human and non-human societies is determined by natural forces, which, like those that determine the structure of all other natural systems, obey a very precise set of laws. Although governments may try to command these forces, they will succeed only to the extent that they observe Hobbes’s dictum: “We cannot command nature, except by obeying her.”
The very secondary role which institutions play in determining the course of history has been pointed out by the few really profound political thinkers of the nineteenth century, who, in the age of superficiality in which we live, are scarcely remembered, and still more rarely studied.
Edward Hartpole Lecky wrote:1
“It is a great error, both in history and in practical politics, to attach too much value to a political machine. The essential consideration is by what men and in what spirit that machine is likely to be worked. Few Constitutions contain more theoretical anomalies, and even absurdities, than that under which England has attained to such an unexampled height of political prosperity; while a servile imitation of some of the most skilfully-devised Constitutions in Europe has not saved some of the South American States from long courses of anarchy, bankruptcy and revolution.”
This is also Buckle’s view of institutional controls.2 “It is not by the wax and parchment of lawyers,” he wrote,
“that the independence of men can be preserved. Such things are the mere externals; they set off liberty to advantage; they are as its dress and paraphernalia, its holiday-suit in times of peace and quiet. But, when the evil days set in, when the invasions of despotism have begun, liberty will be retained, not by those who can show the oldest deed and the largest charters, but by those who have been most inured to habits of independence, most accustomed to think and act for themselves, and most regardless of that insidious protection which the upper classes have always been so ready to bestow, that, in many countries, they have now left nothing worth the trouble to protect.”
What then is the role of institutions? Their only useful role, according to Gustave le Bon,3 is to provide a legal sanction for changes which customs and public opinion have come to accept. They follow such changes but do not precede them.
“It is not by means of institutions that one can modify the character and the thought of men. Nor is it by means of institutions that a people can be rendered religious or sceptical, or taught to govern itself instead of calling without cease upon the State to enslave it.”
Unfortunately, with us, the study of societies is very much that of their institutions. If one society is more successful than another, we attribute its success to the specific institutions by which it is governed. If it fails, then the failure is automatically regarded as an institutional one. It does not occur to us that the society itself might be at fault—that certain societies in fact, such as the industrial nation-states of today, have become quite uncontrollable, regardless of the subtlety of their institutions or of the genius of those who manipulate them.
Our ignorance of social realities is also largely attributable to our tendency to concentrate on modern societies. The notion that the social experience of Palaeolithic man, for instance, may be relevant to our own is rarely considered, in spite of the fact that probably more than 90 per cent of all the men who have ever lived did so during the Palaeolithic period. To suppose that we are exempted from the laws which governed their behaviour by virtue of our familiarity with science and technology is but an act of faith—one which serves to rationalise the systematic and ever more radical violation of these laws by the industrial activities to which our society is committed.
If we overcome our presumption and examine the social life of Palaeolithic, indeed of tribal man in general, we discover that, underlying the impressive variety of cultural forms which still monopolises the attention of anthropologists, there are fundamental similarities. (See Note #1)
One common denominator of tribal societies is the relative absence among them of governmental institutions. “It should be noted,” Lowie writes on this subject,4
“that the legislative function in most primitive countries seems strangely curtailed when compared with that exercised in the more complex civilizations. All the exigencies of normal social intercourse are covered by customary law, and the business of such governmental machinery as exists is rather to exact obedience to traditional usage than to create new precedents.”
Indeed, in pre-agricultural societies, nothing can be found to correspond to our notion of government. There are rarely kings, or even chiefs, no presidents or courts of law, no prisons or police force. The closest approximation to a political institution is the council of elders which occasionally gathers to discuss important issues. Such a society has often been referred to as a ‘gerontocracy’, or a government by the old men—a term that can be applied to most stable societies. It might be more apt, however, to speak of a ‘necrocracy’, or government by the dead, since, as Lowie points out, the role of the elders is simply to interpret the traditions and customary laws of the tribe, which embody the experience and practices of previous generations.
A society of this sort usually displays a very high degree of order. The absence of formal institutions, rather than giving rise to the permissiveness that we would expect, is in fact associated with firm discipline and the strictest possible adherence to the tribal code of ethics. Behaviour which, in a disordered society, could only be exacted at the cost of brutal coercion, is, in a tribal society, assured via the agency of public opinion, the sanction of the elders, and the fear of incurring the displeasure of the ancestral spirits.5 The great discipline displayed by traditional societies in general is the main theme of Fustel de Coulanges in his famous book, La Cité Antique.6
Where public opinion is effective, there is correspondingly little need for governmental institutions for maintaining order. Conversely societies in which public opinion is weak require the most authoritarian government linked to an all-pervasive and coercive bureaucracy to maintain a semblance of public order, in the absence of which there can be but lawlessness and mob-rule.
The notion that effective democracy could be introduced into a society by the simple expedient of adopting the correct institutions is a sad illusion, and one, unfortunately, that we seem very reluctant to shed.
Societies and Organisms
If modern man is convinced that he has nothing to learn from the study of tribal societies, he is even more convinced of the irrelevance to his problems of the social experience of non-human animals. To justify this particular act of faith, appeal is made to a host of undefined faculties whose possession is supposed to differentiate man as radically as possible from all other forms of life (see Appendix I).
The truth is that the difference between non-human animal societies and human animal societies is one of degree rather than of kind; in the former culturally determined behaviour plays a much bigger role than in the latter, and in reality the behaviour of both societies can be understood in terms of the same model using the same set of variables.
It has also been observed by biologists, ecologists and sociologists that there are marked functional similarities between a society (whether human or non-human) and an organism.
Maeterlinck7 described the extraordinary similarity between a termite colony and an organism. “There is perhaps no other solution,” he writes, “than to consider a termite colony as an individual.”
Tinbergen8 regards a society as a sort of super-organism. “The main difference,” he writes, “between individual and community is one of level of integration; in a community integration has been carried one step beyond the individual.” (See Note #2.)
With the growing realisation that the functional similarities between societies and organisms extend also to many other forms of natural and social organisation, there have developed the associated fields of cybernetics and general systems. In terms of these essential, unifying theories, the society and the organism are not only related to each other, but are seen as specialised instances of something much more general—of what has come to be called a system (or, to distinguish it from the system referred to by engineers, a natural system).Back to top
Society as a System
A system is considered to be made up of differentiated parts in dynamic interrelationship with each other.
I prefer to regard a system however, as a unit of behaviour, for if this behaviour is to be self-regulating and adaptive, the entity that is behaving must be so constituted. (See Note #3.) Needless to say, it has not occurred to most sociologists today that a society can be considered in this light. The main reason is that their attention has been monopolised by modern societies which are no longer capable of self-regulation nor of adaptation to their environment and which have long ago lost their basic structure.
Modern societies are in fact disintegrated systems. Primitive tribal societies however can be shown to observe the basic laws that govern the behaviour of all other natural systems, i.e. their behaviour is explicable in terms of basic cybernetic and general systems theory. It is not surprising that we have failed to understand that a society is a natural system since we have not yet understood that a family is one either. Indeed, many people still insist on regarding the family as an out-dated relic of our barbaric past that should be replaced by some more up-to-date grouping to be designed by modern social scientists. It is also worth noting that the notion of an ‘ecosystem’ is of very recent origin and that but a few decades ago we had not yet noticed that the discreet units into which nature could be divided (forests, lakes, marshes etc.) also constituted natural systems.
It is difficult to overemphasise the implications of our refusal to accept that man is a part of larger systems such as a society, an ecosystem, and a family. It is very much like cells failing to ‘realise’ that they are part of a biological organism. In both cases, it would be assumed that behaviour tended only to satisfy individual ends and was not subject to the constraints that would enable it to satisfy the requirements of the larger system which, being dependent for its very existence on the cooperation of its parts, would then be condemned to inevitable disintegration. In a biological organism, this development is referred to as cancer. The cells proliferate in a purely random manner, precisely as do the members of a modern urban society and the parts of an ecosystem that its industrial activities have devastated.Back to top
Let us now consider the main features of systems, and, more precisely, those which we must take into account if we are to understand the nature and function of the family in the context of a general model of behaviour.
The first and most important principle is that they are goal-directed or directive10 (see Appendix II). This follows from basic theoretical principles, and is the only hypothesis reconcilable with the available empirical data. What is more, it can be shown that cultural behaviour, i.e. the behaviour of social systems, is as directive as that of biological organisms (see Appendix III).
The extraordinary similarity of cultural forms throughout the world tends to confirm the directive character of cultural behaviour. Whereas the early ethnologists saw these similarities as the result of cultural diffusion, more recent theories attribute them to cultural ‘convergence’, in the sense that systems with similar potentialities have tended to adapt in a similar way to similar environmental situations (see Appendix IV).Back to top
What is the goal? The answer is stability. This is not defined as a fixed point in space-time but as a course or trajectory along which discontinuities, i.e. disequilibria and their corrections, are reduced to a minimum, and which thereby ensures survival taken in its widest sense. Human societies until recently satisfied this requirement.11 Their culturally determined goal was the maintenance of traditional norms, which were upheld by public opinion, the council of elders, and the ancestral spirits. Stability is another word for continuity. It does not mean immobility, as an immobile system, being unable to adapt to a changing environment, would not be stable. Once we have accepted that stability is the goal, we have at our disposal an objective criterion for judging behavioural strategies, including those exploited to control human societies. Instead of making arbitrary or subjective judgements, we can evaluate these strategies in accordance with what can be the only objective criterion: the extent to which they contribute towards stability.
Unfortunately, if one applies this criterion, it is impossible to justify the principal features of the industrial way of life, indeed of industrial society in general, which tends systematically in that direction which can only lead to increasing instability—hence, to ever more serious discontinuities, and eventual collapse.Back to top
Stable systems must be self-regulating. They are maintained on their course by a control mechanism or ‘cybernism’ which, in all systems, regardless of their level of organisation, functions on the same principle. Data are detected, interpreted and ‘cybernised’ to constitute a model of the relationship of the system to its environment. In a social system this model is usually referred to as a worldview or Weltanschauung. The responses are mediated in terms of it, otherwise they would be random from the point of view of the larger system (made up of the system functioning within its environment) which would thereby be out of control.
The gene12 and the brain,13 however dissimilar they may appear to the outside observer, are functionally the same. They are both ‘cybernisms’ or control-mechanisms, as is a gene-pool and also that association of brains in which is organised the worldview of a society. The gene controls the process of protein synthesis, in a manner that has now been established in some detail. (See Note #4.)
The relationship between a gene and the corresponding process of protein synthesis is functionally that existing between any cybernism and the behavioural process that it mediates, for example, a society’s worldview and what we may call ‘sociosynthesis’—the process by which a society develops and is renewed with each successive generation. In each case, information organised in a cybernismic medium is transduced into that of a behavioural one. In other words, instructions are translated into action.
This first involves classifying the environment very precisely in terms of that ‘particular language or alphabet’ in which the information in the model is formulated. In the case of ‘sociosynthesis’, this alphabet, which, as we shall see, consists of kinship terms, serves to classify: a) all the members of the family; b) by extension, all those of the community, of the clan, and of all intermediary associations; c) the members of the pantheon, i.e. those members of the family, the community, the clan, etc., who have died and become ancestors; d) the physical environment.
It is in this way and only in this way that an individual can respond to his environment as a whole with a single integrated behaviour pattern based on a single integrated model of his total environment.Back to top
Behaviour proceeds from the general to the particular. In embryology this is referred to as Van Baer’s second law. The earlier stages are the most important, as they will colour all subsequent ones. This means that errors in the earlier parts of any behavioural process are of far more consequence than those occurring in the later phases. This explains the tremendous importance of the family, which provides the correct environment for the earlier phases of the ontogenetic process. Maternal deprivation in all animals requiring parental tutelage and hence brought up within the family environment must in general give rise to subsequent problems of social maladjustment.14Back to top
The reason why the generalities colour the particularities is that development occurs by differentiation and that the particularities of any behavioural pattern have been designed, by the developmental process involved, to assure the more adaptive implementation of strategies previously assured in a more general way. Thus, as we pass from the amoeba, whose single cell fulfils all those functions that are necessary to the maintenance of life, such as the seizing of prey, its digestion, the excretion of waste matter, respiration, reproduction, locomotion, etc., to the complex multi-cellular organism into which it eventually evolves, we find that the same functions are fulfilled but in an increasingly more differentiated manner.
In other words, there have developed specialised mechanisms that are increasingly well adapted for the performance of functions previously fulfilled in a more general way, originally by a single cell. The same is true, as we shall see, as the extended family evolves into a community.Back to top
As soon as systems associate to form a larger system, they are subjected to a new set of constraints. These do not replace the others but supplement them. Constraints, in fact, accumulate as systems advance up the ladder of life, as they move from one level of organisation to the next.
The actual strength of the constraints imposed upon a system is a measure of its order or negative-entropy—which terms are used synonymously. Order is usually defined in terms of limitation of choice, or what is the same thing, the influence of the whole over the parts.
A family displays order, and can thereby exist as a unit of behaviour or a system, because its members accept the constraints which membership of the family imposes on their behaviour. The acceptance of these constraints leads them to fulfil specific family functions to the exclusion of the others. They have thus become differentiated and hence interrelated parts of the social system. The greater the degree of differentiation, the greater their dependence on the other members of the family for the fulfilment of complementary functions. In this way, the influence of the whole over the parts is correspondingly increased, as is its order or negative-entropy.Back to top
Homeotely and the Hierarchical Cooperation Principle
In an ordered system the parts cooperate with each other—their behaviour tends towards the same goal. Their behaviour may be described as ‘homeotelic’ (from the Greek Homoeo = same, and telos = goal). When a system breaks down and its parts tend towards different goals, their behaviour will be referred to as ‘heterotelic’ (from the Greek hetero = different). Why, one might ask, should the parts of a system cooperate, especially as this means accepting constraints on their behaviour? The answer is that by virtue of the Differentiation Principle they have been designed phylogenetically and ontogenetically to fulfil specific functions within a given environment (that constituted by the larger system of which they are the differentiated parts). When the parts of a system are fulfilling the functions for which they have been designed they are themselves best adjusted, and their needs are best satisfied (the implications of this situation for the environment are considered below in the Optimum Environment Principle).
The operation of this principle at the level of the family is quite evident. By behaving in a certain way towards her husband and children, a mother fulfils her normal functions and thereby ensures the survival of the family. She behaves in this way because in so doing she best satisfies her own basic physical and psychological needs. The Hierarchical Cooperation Principle can in fact be stated thus: in an ordered system, that behaviour which satisfies the needs of the differentiated parts will also satisfy the needs of the whole. As we shall see, this is undoubtedly so in a traditional tribal society. It is no longer so, unfortunately, in a modern state—hence the need for institutions and external controls in order to force people to behave contrary to their natural inclinations.Back to top
Another principle of development which emerges from such an approach can be referred to as the Sequential Principle, or the Principle of Succession as it is known in ecology. All behavioural processes are arranged to form a sequence of steps. These steps must occur in the right order. If one step in the sequence does not occur, the sequence can proceed no further. In addition, the environmental situations to which behavioural processes constitute adaptive reactions, and to which each of its steps is therefore linked, must also occur in exactly the right order.
Thus, if a given step does not occur at the ‘right time’, it will not occur at all, or at best but imperfectly. Once more, embryology furnishes us with a very clear illustration of this principle.
Discriminatory ability is low in an embryological system, where the cytoplasm constitutes a very highly ordered environment. In such a situation, environment ‘A’ triggers off reaction ‘a’, which in turn gives rise to a modified environment, ‘B’, which in turn triggers off specific reaction ‘b’, etc. It is evident that in these conditions any departure from the correct sequence of environmental situations and of behavioural reactions will prevent the total process from occurring.
Similarly, in the development of an ecosystem, or of the ecosphere as a whole, the steps must occur in the right order. The biosphere cannot support carnivores until it has first given rise to herbivores, and the latter cannot possibly come into being unless the requisite vegetation has first appeared. Only a fixed sequence of events, from which but slight deviations can be tolerated, can account for the development of the highly complex biosphere of which we are part.
This partly explains why social maladjustments resulting from family maladjustments in early life, in particular maternal deprivation, are in general untreatable by medical or institutional means.Back to top
Continuity of Information
Systems must be looked at four-dimensionally. They exist in time as well as in space and their continuity can only be assured if the information transmitted from one generation to the next reflects the experience of the system as a whole, stretching as far back along its evolutionary history as is relevant to the conditions of the day.
We know that this is true of genetic information. That is why it appears so nonplastic—and why some scientists believe (wrongly) that it is not affected by environmental factors. What is not generally realised is that it has until recently been true also of cultural information. Education until recently consisted in imbuing youth with the traditional wisdom accumulated over many generations. In this way, the individual was led to adopt the worldview and the behaviour pattern which had proved most adaptive in the environmental conditions to which the society was subjected.
If these environmental conditions are modified too radically, the model is unlikely to represent the new situation adequately. The model must have a certain inertia. This inertia is adaptive, if the term is used correctly,15 since to modify the model in such a way that it gives rise to a totally new behaviour pattern would mean transforming the system too radically. This would be self-defeating, since it would entail a loss of continuity or stability, and, as we have seen, to maintain the system’s continuity is precisely the goal of behaviour. In any case the system could not survive if the model on which its behaviour pattern was based represented a short-term or freak situation that probably would never recur.
This is an essential point, although there is a general failure to appreciate it among the adepts of ‘progress’, who tend to be ignorant of the very principles by which information is organised and transmitted within natural systems. Significantly, systems can only classify things in terms of the classifications that have proved useful in interpreting their relationship to the environment to which they have so far been submitted. Thus, the Tahitians,16 when they first saw horses, classified them as ‘man-carrying pigs’, because the pig was the only quadruped of which they had any experience. If a rhinoceros were put in a shoe-factory, it could only classify the machines, the piles of shoes, and all the other constituents of this new and strange environment in a way relevant to its personal experience and that of its species. Because our industrial society is so far removed from that in which we evolved phylogenetically, our own situation is increasingly like that of the rhinoceros in the shoe factory.
It may be useful to coin the term ‘cognitive maladjustment’ to refer to this situation. (See also Chapter 4 ‘Science and Social Control’.) This is what Forrester speaks of as the ‘counter-intuitivity’ of our social environment, which he wrongly attributes to its growing complexity.17Back to top
The Optimum Environment
From what we have said, it follows that one can only understand the behaviour of a system by examining it in its optimum environment, that to which it has been adapted phylogenetically and ontogenetically. To examine it in an artificial environment is only useful in order to understand the resulting behavioural aberrations. Zuckerman18 made this mistake, when he assumed that the baboons in the London Zoo which he studied were typical baboons rather than very untypical ones living in the totally artificial conditions of captivity.
It is significant that for well over 90 per cent of man’s tenancy of this planet he has earned his living by hunting and gathering, and his activities have been limited to the fulfilment of his normal ecological functions in his natural environment, i.e., he has until extremely recently behaved as a normal differentiated part of the biosphere. When we generalise about man, we should consequently be referring implicitly to ‘man the hunter’.19 Man’s experience as an industrialist is not more than the equivalent of two days in the life of a man of 70, in fact quite negligible; it is certainly far too short a sample on which to base any generalisations about the behaviour of man. If one talks of man in general, one must thereby be referring to man the hunter.
It must follow that sociologists who only study man in the urban setting of today are making exactly the mistake that Zuckerman made when studying baboons in the London Zoo.Back to top
The Geneto-Cultural Continuum
The behaviour pattern of a natural system constitutes an integrated whole, not just an unrelated or random patchwork of expedients. We have seen above what are its organisational principles. This must be as true of the behaviour of a social system as of that of an organism (see Appendix V). For this to be so, such behaviour must be based on a single organisation of information or model of a system’s relationship to its environment. This has important implications which neither those involved in the so-called natural sciences nor those in the social sciences have been willing to face. The behaviour of an advanced mammal such as man is based on information formulated in a number of different media: notably the genetic and the cultural ones. This must also be true of the behaviour of societies which are composed of families and individuals. If this information constitutes, in each case, a single organisation or model—which has come into being as a result of the normal developmental process (proceeding from the general to the particular by means of steps occurring in a specific sequence and by the process of differentiation), then genetic and cultural information must develop according to the same rules and can only be studied in terms of the same single scientific discipline, as must also the associated behaviour pattern. This of course makes nonsense of the distinction between the natural sciences and the social sciences, and shows the inadequacy of present-day reductionist scientific method, in terms of which it is impossible to understand the behaviour of complex systems, in particular social ones.Back to top
Levels of Organisation
The notion of levels of organisation used by biologists can be shown to be applicable to the development of societies. The principle is a simple one. Particular types of organisation can provide the basis of growth within certain limits. A point is eventually reached, however, at which further growth ceases to be possible for reasons of communication and control, in particular because the specific set of bonds exploited to ensure the cohesion of the system cannot be extended to hold together any more subsystems, for all bonds, whether they be those which hold together the nucleus of an atom, or a human society, have limited extendibility. When the point is reached at which further growth becomes impossible, the systems must join together to form a larger system, whose cohesion will be ensured by a new set of bonds, and whose control will be maintained by a new and more elaborate control mechanism. Thus, atoms cannot expand beyond a certain point. Eventually they join together to form a molecule and a new level of organisation has been reached. The same is true when molecules join together to form a cell; and when cells join together to form a multicellular organism. With the development of sexual reproduction, a new level of organisation is achieved: that of the family. Often, the family is of a temporary nature. As the amount of information that has to be communicated from one generation to the next, via the cultural learning process, increases, however, so the family becomes permanent—as it is with man.
This process coincides with the development of what has been called ‘retardation’—the slowing down of the developmental process so that it can become more highly differentiated in time. This is the more pronounced the more advanced the species, reaching its culmination point in man, for whom the family is undoubtedly the basic unit of social organisation—so much so, that if it is not present, no other social structures can possibly develop.Back to top
1. Real science begins when interest shifts from the accumulation of trivia so as to determine in what minute ways things differ from each other, to the study of what they have in common. In this way ‘data’ are organised to constitute ‘information’ which can be of use for influencing policy.
2. Here in full is the comparison Tinbergen makes. “When studying the way in which a community is organised,” he writes,
“one is often struck by the many parallels that can be drawn between it and an individual. Both are composed of constituent parts; the individual is composed of organs, the community of individuals. In both, there is division of labour between the component parts. In both, the parts cooperate for the benefit of the whole, through it for their own benefit. The constituent partners give and receive. Thus they lose part of their ‘sovereignty’ as well as part of their capacity to lead a life in isolation. The loss of sovereignty can go so far that parts give their own life for the benefit of the whole. There is constant loss of skin cells in the individual; a lizard’s tail is left for the predator for the benefit of the rest of the lizard, so that this rest can live and reproduce. A mother duck defends her chicks even at the cost of her own life. The benefits that the parts derive from the whole is obvious in the individual; an isolated muscle cannot live long. But neither can an isolated worker of the honey bee nor an isolated polyp of a Siphonophore colony. Even in cases where individuals can live in isolation, they lose the manifold benefits they receive when living in the flock . . . Loss of capacity to live outside the community is more striking in the organs of an individual which has derived its name from it; yet the difference is one of degree only. There are individuals which can very well be divided into parts without fatal consequences; tape worms, Planarias and sea anemones are not ‘undividable’. Comparison of individual and community leading to the idea of the community as a ‘super-organism’ is of great use to the sociologist. Of course it must not be carried too far; organism and community cannot be identified; yet it helps one to realise that in both cases one has to do with a ‘going concern’, presenting problems of organisation and cooperation. The main difference between individual and community is one of level of integration, in a community integration has been carried one step beyond the individual.”
3. To constitute a unit of behaviour it must display order, which means that its parts must be differentiated and interrelated. It is this latter aspect of a system that has most attracted the attention of those involved in the study of general systems.9
One must be careful in distinguishing between behavioural systems and the man-made systems studied by engineers. As we shall see man-made systems do not display the basic features of natural systems as described in this paper.
4. The process of protein synthesis was first described by Quick, Griffiths and Orgel.12 An enzyme is a very large protein molecule. It consists of hundreds of amino-acid units, arranged in a chain in a very specific order. The ordering of the amino-acid units must be determined by a corresponding set of instructions, which are now known to be transmitted by the genes. Beadle, experimenting with a very simple form of life, the fungus Neurospora, showed that the genes specify which enzymes are to be synthesised—each gene specifies a single enzyme.
How this is accomplished was eventually shown by Crick and Watson. It was revealed that the medium or language in terms of which information is organised in a gene makes use of an ‘alphabet’ of four different nucleotides. Information organised in the protein molecules, on the other hand, makes use of an ‘alphabet’ having twenty basic classifications (the twenty different types of amino-acid unit). Crick showed how information is transmitted from one medium to another. If the four basic nucleotides are grouped into triplets, the number of combinations produced is sufficient to code the twenty classifications used by the protein. Crick went on to show how this transduction is achieved. An RNA molecule containing the information of the gene is produced in the nucleus and travels into the cytoplasm to a ribosome, where it serves as a template or model for the synthesis of a protein. The amino-acids that are to be linked together to form the protein first attach themselves to a molecule of so-called transfer RNA synthesised in the cytoplasm. In this way each amino-acid molecule is given an identity that makes it recognisable to the template RNA. The transfer RNA links each amino-acid to its own specific triplet on the template RNA and, when the amino-acids are joined end-to-end, the enzyme has been manufactured.Back to top
- Edward Hartpole Lecky, ‘The political value of history’ in Historical and Political Essays Longman Green & Co., London, 1908.
- Henry Thomas Buckle, A History of Civilization in England Vol. 11, Grant Richards, London, 1903.
- Gustave le Bon, La Psychologie des Foules Felix Alcan, Paris, 1906.
- Robert Lowie, Primitive Society Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1963.
- Lucy Mair, Primitive Government Penguin Books, London, 1962.
- Fustel de Coulanges, La Cite Antique Hachette, Paris, 1927.
- Maurice Maeterlink, La Vie des Termites Paris, 1927.
- N. Tinbergen, Social Behaviour in Animals Methuen, London, 1953. See also: R.W. Gerrard, ‘A biologist’s view of society’ General Systems Yearbook Vol. l, No. 1, 1956.
- A.D. Hall and R.E. Fagen, ‘Definition of system’ General Systems Yearbook Vol. 1, No. 1, 1956.
- C.H. Waddington, The Strategy of the Genes Allen and Unwin, London, 1957.
- Richard B. Lee and Erwin Devore (eds.), Man the Hunter Aldine, Chicago, 1968.
- Norman H. Horowitz, ‘The gene’ Scientific American October, 1956.
- Kenneth Craik, The Nature of Explanation Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1952.
- See, for instance, H. Harlow and Margaret K. Harlow, ‘A study of animal affection’ Natural History Vol. LXX, pp. 48-55.
- Stephen Boyden ‘Evolution and Health’ The Ecologist Vol. 3, No. 8, August, 1973.
- Alan Moorehead, The Fatal Impact Penguin Books, London, 1962.
- Jay W. Forrester, ‘Alternatives to catastrophe’ The Ecologist Vol. 1, No. 14, September, 1971; Vol. 1, No. 15, October, 1971. See also: Jay W. Forrester, World Dynamics Cambridge, Mass., 1971.
- S. Zuckerman, The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1932.
- Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1950.