The development of animal behaviour was the main field of investigation of the research conducted by Patrick Bateson, Emeritus Professor of Ethology at Cambridge University and biologist of worldwide renown, who passed away recently. In particular, Bateson conducted highly authoritative studies into the processes through which both genetic and environmental influences are assimilated into habitual behaviour.
His studies were focussed on various animal species, often investigating the question of pain perception, in which he always showed keen sensitivity towards the ethical implications of scientific research. La dinamica della vita was Bateson’s last work and it confirms the quality of his research, conducted over decades and always with the same thoroughness. In this book, which is also accessible to non-specialised readers, the author suggests that the nature versus nurture dichotomy can be misleading. Instead, he argues that we should pay attention to whole systems, rather than exclusively considering the straightforward links between causes, when trying to understand the complexity of human development.
Bateson examines topics here such as imprinting and its importance for the attachment of offspring to their parents; the mutual benefits of communication between parents and their young; the importance of play in learning how to choose and control the “right” conditions in which to thrive; and the vital function of adaptability in the interplay between development and evolution.
Bateson challenges the idea that a simple link can be found between genetics and behaviour. What an individual human or animal does during its life depends on the reciprocal nature of its relationship with the world around it; and this awareness also explains how the behaviour of an animal – and of a person – can give rise to a variation that will go on to influence the subsequent course of evolution.
Sir Patrick Bateson FRS (1938-2017), British biologist of worldwide renown, was Emeritus Professor of Ethology at Cambridge University.
He occupied the role of Biological Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society; he was President of the Zoological Society of London, Provost of King’s College from 1988 to 2003, and head of the Sub-Department of Animal Behaviour at King’s College.
He wrote hundreds of scientific articles and numerous essays.
Plasticità, robustezza, sviluppo ed evoluzione, written with Peter Gluckman, was published by Aboca Edizioni in 2012.