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Acti11g a11d Reactill.l?

T he organism', to quote Coghill once more, 'acts on the en-

vironment before it reacts to the environment.' This statement
seems to apply to every level and every aspect of organic life.
The lowliest creature and the highest, the moment it is hatched or
born, lashes out at the environment, be it liquid or solid, with cilia,
flagellae, or contractile muscle fibre; it crawls, swims, glides, pulsates;
it kicks, yells, breathes, feeds, and sucks negative entropy from its
surroundings for all its worth.
The patterns of these built-in motor activities we saw to be to a
large extent autonomous; 'the structure of the input does not produce
the structure of the output, but merely modifies it.' Moreover, the
input itself is actively controlled and modified by the central nervous
system from the moment it impinges on the peripheral receptor
organs; and recent developments have caused, at least among an
unorthodox minority of psychologists, a distinct 'shift from the notion
that an organism is a relatively passive, protoplasmic mass whose res-
ponses are controlled by the arrangement of environmental stimuli
to a conception of an organism that has considerable control over what
will constitute stimulation.'l
Even below the level of the single cell, organelles such as the mita-
chondria and kinetosomes carry on their autonomous activities; their
shadowy patterns under the electron-microscope are a reminder that
the emergence of life means the emergence of spontaneous, organized
exertion to maintain and reproduce originally unstable forms of
equilibrium in a statistically improbable system in the teeth of an
environment governed by the laws of probability. The live organism
succeeds in this by creating an inner environment with which to