Re: [asa] What is life?

From: <>
Date: Wed Oct 17 2007 - 02:13:34 EDT

>> The first problem here involves instincts, which are commonly denied to
human beings.

The prevailing wisdom used to be that instinct is vestigial, primitive and fading from the human repertior.? But science is finding more and more that instinct is inherent in the human experience in ways we are just now beginning to discover.? Steven Pinker's, "The Blank Slate" refers to these myriad, common human responses and behaviors as "human nature" and points out exhaustively that we are far more instinctive than we think, literally.?

There are two basic types of identified neurological behaviors in the animal world.? The Instinctive response and the conditioned response.? The instinctive response is thought to be any behavior that is inherent or inherited, and not learned or conditioned.? Things like nesting, territorial behavior, mating, flocking, herding and feeding are widely thought to be instinctive in most animals.? But to think that humans are without these same instincts, after 300 million years of largely instinctive evolution and only 10 million or so years of cerebral evolution, is naive.? Plenty of women have a nesting instinct (compulsion) to get their house clean and bills paid anywhere from a week to several days before menstruation without regard to her rational assessment of her chances of becoming pregnant.? Daniel Kahneman points out that something so fundamental and pervasive as the perception of color is an instinctive response.? You can't learn what is red.? You learn the verbal and
 written symbols for the sensation of red, but you don't learn red.? Instinct is alive and well in humans in ways we have so long taken for granted that we don't see the forest for the trees.?
>> There may be a suckling instinct in the newborn, along with a
grasping instinct that apparently is soon lost. But preparation for the more
advanced abilities, like learning language, seem not to be instinctive but fit
in a different category.

It is interesting you mention language.? Noam Chomsky made a name for himself in proving that all humans have an common grammar across all languages.? The structure of language is inherent, like all our emotions, common across all cultures and societies (instinctive).? The specific symbols (words) of languages and the extra-verbal relationships between those symbols are different (conditioned, learned) one language to the next, but the structure is the same (instinctive).? We've always tried to imagine ourselves as dramatically different from the other animals, but we aren't.? All we are is animals with enormous capacity for conditioned responses (learning, reason).

>> The last two paragraphs would be more telling if there weren't so many
creatures that function very well without the human specializations. I recall a
professor who claimed that his horse had an esthetic sense because?it
paused whenever they came to a notable view. But I'm betting on a signal being
passed from the rider, as in the horse that could count. Come to think of it, I
didn't think much of his discernment in other matters, but that's another tale.
Only human beings worship.

Tell that to a my neighbor's dog (but not to my cat).

>> As to morals, it appears that human beings are the
only creatures that penalize unfair division even to their own loss. /Science/,
318:15, 107-109 (2007), reports that chimps will accept any deal, with no
attempt at fairness. But then I note that there are those humans who will take
everything they can from a sucker. I have not seen any evidence that either of
these behaviors?is unlearned.

Dave (ASA)

The specifics of how humans apply our notion of fairness from one circumstance to the next is all over the map (especially when the subject is involved in the process), but the notion of what is fair from an objective view is quite common across all cultures and societies.? Fairness is another aspect of human behavior that is inextricably involved with many instinctive responses.??
If a thing is common, across a wide spectrum of human circumstance that can't be specifically taught, it's instinctive.
Red is red.?? Anger, love, hate, all instinctive human responses.? You can learn when or at what to direct your anger, or to avoid it almost completely, but anger is in there from the get go.?




On Tue, 16 Oct 2007 17:50:13 -0400 writes:

Altruism is probably a combination of
  instinctive aspects of human cognition that

are alternately reinforced or
  degraded by environmental conditioning.? That is, I think

that we are
  all almost the same in our instinctive makeup, the more evolved aspects

  which can be characterized as altruistic.?

If we are brought up
  in a highly evolved society those higher (more altruistic) species

  survival mechanisms will be expressed in our lives by the mutual state of

of our fellow humans as supported by the population's
  spiritual inclinations.? In a less evolved

(or highly distressed)
  society altruism is supplanted by more immediate individual survival

tactics and more primitive survival instincts that sacrifice the species
  well being for

personal survival.

In fact, the individual's
  survival is fundamentally conflicted with the species survival

  via competition issues.? Like other commandments, "thou shalt not
  kill is

a bottom line species level survival imperative drawing the line
  where competition ends

and evil begins.? Evil is the individual being
  rationally self-interested to the detriment of

the species well
  being.? Being good is being paradoxically self-disinterested in deference

to what is best for the collective, which is altruistic.

Individuals aspire to survive in
  different time frames than the species.? Individual survival

  finite, temporary.? Species aspire to evolve and survive forever.?
  And the only thing that

can promote our species evolutionary imperatives
  over our rational, individual survival tactics

and more primitive
  instinctive survival impulses is our most evolved instinct of all,

instinct for God.? The ultimate authority for human behavior is
  our certainty of how God

would have us behave.? And that's largely
  the same across all religions and cultures

as well as being pretty
  unambiguously altruistic in nature. ?

And our belief in God is
  not "just some evolutionary quirk" to "fool" us into behaving

in a way
  that turns out to be good for us in the long term.? The belief in God is
  an accurate

instinctive perception of the universe in terms of our
  survival (salvation).? Neurological

survival traits aren't selected
  for their ability to fool us into anything.? Such traits are

naturally selected predominately on one criteria.? They reflect
  within the perception of

the organism an accurate representation of the
  real world.?

Good visual cortex, good hand-to-eye coordination,
  even reason itself are all selected

based on how accurately the allow us
  to characterize the real world in pursuit of our

survival.? Our belief
  in God is no different.? A belief in God is how we accurately place

the entire context of human life in the universe in absolute terms.?
  Our belief in God is

the ultimate product of human brain evolution in terms
  of directly sensing what the

universe is all about.?




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Received on Wed Oct 17 02:14:52 2007

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