The missing link
Mutation is often cited as the main driver of evolution's diversification (last paragraph). But as a problem-solving tool, mutation is extremely inefficient, being equivalent to random guesses about every problem, regardless of experience.
There is a missing link between the evolution of the species and its adaptation to the environment. For the DNA of a species to evolve to have certain characteristics that are adapted to its current environment, there has to be a change that is introduced to the DNA. Is this change random? Or is it more precise? Regardless, the new generation contains new traits that are combinations of their parents, allowing evolution to take its course.
But the question of the nature of the change that is introduced is interesting to understand the full cycle of interaction between the individual and its environment. We can speculate that the experiences acquired by the individual are somehow transferred to the DNA, enabling or inhibiting whole genes or gene complexes. The progeny receives those "temperaments" and expresses them. This closes the feedback loop on the learning algorithm that evolution really is.
Still, we've seen how an existing DNA is tempered/tuned, but not how it grows. Why is human DNA longer than amoeba DNA? We are all recombinant organisms. Humans, with the longest DNA, contains the summary of all other species. Our body is an ecosystem containing reptiles (the backbone), plants (blood, lymph, nerves), fish, bird, insect? The point is that newer species are simply agglomerates of prior species living in close symbiosis.
Life is trying to solve the problem of survival. The whole act of reproduction is about providing extension in time to a strand. Each individual's lifetime is that much extension given to the strand. Evolution is the survival algorithm of Life. NB. Life is also physical. It animates molecules. The building blocks of Life are contained in the Periodic Table of the Elements.
Parthenogenesis is embryo creation without male fertilization. It exists for humans. So virgin birth is no longer a miracle. Or at least, a miracle refers to an extraordinarily improbable event, that can still abide by the rules of logic and physics.
The brain categorizes new information and links it to existing information. When faced with a problem, the brain tries to map the problem, recursively, to a pattern and a set of sub-patterns that can be mapped to existing information. The similarities are used to map, the differences are used to go down the recursion tree. The outcome is the image of a process where generic actors are replaced with the actors present in the current problem. The "what-if" outcome of applying this process to the current problem is selected as best, among competing processes.
Thinking refers to tracing paths along the neural network, creating meanings. During problem-solving, thinking is used to perform the mapping above. The goal is to locate a sub-graph in existing information space that can be mapped to the problem graph.
Thinking and sensing are two parallel activities. At different times we do one more than the other.