Ten oz

Instinct vs Consciousness

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Ten oz    570

In numerous threads ranging from ethics regarding animal treatment to religion and general philisophy discussions about the mind I seeing what appears to be a fairly popular position repeated that animals other than humans operate on instinct alone rather than conscious thought. That even when a domesticated animal apears sentient it is just imitation or a trick of our own human projection. If animals truly operate without consciousness how does their behavior come to be and evolve? To me the implication of a purely instinctive mind vaguely implies all animals are programmed. If true what is responsible for determining that program some sort of natural god proxy; it seems unlikely.

 

Spiders evolved to create complicated webs. We can say they build them out of instinct but didn't the ability still have to have been developed at some point? Spiders have not always existed and as such haven't always instinctively known how to make geometric webs. Instinct only behavior doesn't promote change and new instinctive habits does it? If it is in a wolf's nature to howl how did it get in to wolves nature? I believe animals are conscious. Different minds are capable of processing information to different degrees. No animal o earth is intelligent as humans but I don't see why animals would not be conscious. The biology is the same, evolutionary process the same, and big picture the genealogy is the same.

 

If animals operate purely on instinct how does their behavior(s) evolve? If instinct is akin to a program what or who is responsible for the program?

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HallsofIvy    41

I don't know where you got the idea that animals act only by instinct. There have been plenty of experiments on all kinds of animal's, down to one-celled planaria, problem solving skills- and problem solving cannot be done by instinct.

Edited by HallsofIvy

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Ten oz    570

I don't know where you got the idea that animals act only by instinct. There have been plenty of experiments on all kinds of animal's, down to one-celled planaria, problem solving skills- and problem solving cannot be done by instinct.

I don't think animals act only on instinct. I am asking why the notion is so popular.

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koti    118

I don't think animals act only on instinct. I am asking why the notion is so popular.

Putting religion aside (which does play a big role in this) I think its that people like to put themselves on a pedestal and are atracted to the notion of being "better than them"

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cladking    97

There's no such thing as "instinct".

 

More accurately "instinct" is nothing like we humans believe it is. Individuals of each species have a natural wiring that will tend to lead to them acting similarly in identical situations. It is this wiring which is the basis of their consciousness through which they act. Consciousness drives behavior where it applies. If a cat knows a specific dog just wants to play it will not run or attack when approached by it.

 

Humans can't see this because we are the odd man out. All other animals have their wiring at the root of their behavior and communication while we have modern language at the root of ours. Modern language is not tied to wiring because human knowledge became far too complex to support our natural language between 4,000 and 5,200 years ago. We had to adopt a new operating system and we lost touch with animals.

Edited by cladking
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Area54    103

There's no such thing as "instinct".

 

More accurately "instinct" is nothing like we humans believe it is. Individuals of each species have a natural wiring that will tend to lead to them acting similarly in identical situations. It is this wiring which is the basis of their consciousness through which they act. Consciousness drives behavior where it applies. If a cat knows a specific dog just wants to play it will not run or attack when approached by it.

 

Humans can't see this because we are the odd man out. All other animals have their wiring at the root of their behavior and communication while we have modern language at the root of ours. Modern language is not tied to wiring because human knowledge became far too complex to support our natural language between 4,000 and 5,200 years ago. We had to adopt a new operating system and we lost touch with animals.

Can you confirm this is just an opinion and lacks any broad support in the relevant scientific communities?

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dimreepr    615

I remember a BBC documentary that broadly dealt with this subject; it showed a nesting duck that, when one of it's eggs was outside the nest, it would usher the egg back into the nest.

 

However, if the egg was removed, the behaviour continued despite the lack of an egg.

 

This leads me to conclude, that instinct and consciousness exists on a spectrum; self awareness at one extreme and simple reaction at the other.

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Ten oz    570

I remember a BBC documentary that broadly dealt with this subject; it showed a nesting duck that, when one of it's eggs was outside the nest, it would usher the egg back into the nest.

 

However, if the egg was removed, the behaviour continued despite the lack of an egg.

 

This leads me to conclude, that instinct and consciousness exists on a spectrum; self awareness at one extreme and simple reaction at the other.

Some humans repeat behaviors despite varying conditions as well. Not sure that support instrinct over conciousness anymore than it supports the idea that ducks have limited problem solve skills.

There's no such thing as "instinct".

 

More accurately "instinct" is nothing like we humans believe it is. Individuals of each species have a natural wiring that will tend to lead to them acting similarly in identical situations. It is this wiring which is the basis of their consciousness through which they act. Consciousness drives behavior where it applies. If a cat knows a specific dog just wants to play it will not run or attack when approached by it.

 

Humans can't see this because we are the odd man out. All other animals have their wiring at the root of their behavior and communication while we have modern language at the root of ours. Modern language is not tied to wiring because human knowledge became far too complex to support our natural language between 4,000 and 5,200 years ago. We had to adopt a new operating system and we lost touch with animals.

Language certianly made learning and working as a team easier which in turn made individuals less reliant on innate personally abilities. I am not sure what you mean in biological terms when you say humans adopted a new operating system?

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cladking    97

Can you confirm this is just an opinion and lacks any broad support in the relevant scientific communities?

 

It's just a logical argument I derived from coming at it from a back door. I'm sure no one will want to discuss the science of it in this thread and if history is any guide the discussion would be unproductive anyway.

 

I think the logic is sound, however. It merely postulates that it was complex language which created humanity rather than intelligence.

I am not sure what you mean in biological terms when you say humans adopted a new operating system?

 

Humans are capable of various modes of thinking.

 

I believe humans used to think in a consciousness expressed by the natural wiring of the brain while now our consciousness is an expression of language.

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Area54    103

 

I think the logic is sound, however. It merely postulates that it was complex language which created humanity rather than intelligence.

That sounds perilously like a circular argument. Probably because it is.

 

 

 

 

Humans are capable of various modes of thinking.

 

I believe humans used to think in a consciousness expressed by the natural wiring of the brain while now our consciousness is an expression of language.

The first statement is demonstrably correct. Because that is the case the second statement is consequently false. Many people, perhaps all people, do some of their conscious thinking without the use of language. I believe there was a thread about this here a couple of months ago.

Edited by Area54

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iNow    4508

Humans ARE animals. Not much different, really. We're generally just better with technology.

 

When people make this distinction, it's IMO a weak attempt to falsely elevate humans above other members of the animal kingdom. Religion often plays a role, but not always and is not required for this "my dad can beat up your dad" mindset we're discussing here.

 

The problem IMO is not suggesting that animals act solely on instinct and unconscious drives, but instead lies in suggesting that humans don't do exactly that same thing... that we somehow have freewill and everything we do is because we want or choose to. As best I can tell, that's simply not the case.

Edited by iNow
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Itoero    44

If animals operate purely on instinct how does their behavior(s) evolve? If instinct is akin to a program what or who is responsible for the program?

You might call it 'survival of the fittest instincts' or 'survival of the fittest biological factors'.

Your instincts are phenotypes.

 

Any behavior is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning), and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors.

 

Sea turtles, newly hatched on a beach, will automatically move toward the ocean. A kangaroo climbs into its mother's pouch upon being born. Honeybees communicate by dancing in the direction of a food source without formal instruction. Other examples include animal fighting, animal courtship behavior, internal escape functions, and the building of nests.

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cladking    97

That sounds perilously like a circular argument. Probably because it is.

It would certainly be one without the evidence and logic that says it is not. But my point remains that we exist and it follows that there is some logical means by which this has happened whether it's the hand of time operating on stardust or the hand of God on reality.

 

 

Because that is the case the second statement is consequently false.

Because people think in different ways we can't be a product of the nature of our wiring?

 

Not all thought is in language but, I believe, all thought is within the grammar of language and its structure. We can skip steps but we still exist in a world created and perceived by language. It is the fact that we each experience language differently that we don't think alike. As a rule individuals who express themselves similarly have the most shared beliefs. Such individuals will also tend to experience things similarly.

 

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Ten oz    570

Humans ARE animals. Not much different, really. We're generally just better with technology.

 

When people make this distinction, it's IMO a weak attempt to falsely elevate humans above other members of the animal kingdom. Religion often plays a role, but not always and is not required for this "my dad can beat up your dad" mindset we're discussing here.

 

The problem IMO is not suggesting that animals act solely on instinct and unconscious drives, but instead lies in suggesting that humans don't do exactly that same thing... that we somehow have freewill and everything we do is because we want or choose to. As best I can tell, that's simply not the case.

All good points. Additionally I think mortality plays a role. Even spiritual and religious people don't believe anything happens to animals when they die. Acknowledging we (humans) are essentially no different than other animals would mean that the absolute futility most relate to the existence of animals would apply to us. Even amongst agnostics and athiests that can depressing thought which reflexively stimulates denial.

Sea turtles, newly hatched on a beach, will automatically move toward the ocean. A kangaroo climbs into its mother's pouch upon being born. Honeybees communicate by dancing in the direction of a food source without formal instruction. Other examples include animal fighting, animal courtship behavior, internal escape functions, and the building of nests.

Human babies automatically breathe, cry, suckle, and etc. Despiet the efforts applied towards teaching there are a variety of things humans cannot be taught until specific stages in development. No amount of instruction can teach a 1o month old to speak or a 6 month old to walk. Additionally a child not adopting those habits, regardless of "formal instruction", by certian time periods are signs of developmental problems. Humans do not formally learn everything. Many parents labor over the best way to teach infants but millions of parents also don't. In many cases the formal instruction parents provide infants 'n toddlers really just serves as emotional bonding with no significant knowledge or ability passed. That fact humans develop a variety of abilities naturally is never used as evidence we lack consciousness. The fact some bird adopt certian courtship practices without instruction isn't different in my opinion. Human males are not taught how to have rections or nocturnal emission.

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Eise    152

Just my 2 cents:

 

I do not think there is a contradiction between instinct and consciousness. Instinct might exist without consciousness in lower animals, but I am even not sure about that. On the other side, many human actions are also driven by instinct, but they may well be very conscious of what they are doing, but maybe not why they are doing it.

 

I see the main difference between human an non-human animals in the flexibility of the brain, i.e. experiences we have greatly affect the brain. And of course, of many experiences we are conscious, and can also consciously reflect on them ('I should have taken only one beer.'). Much of the sources of experience are also of cultural nature, i.e. we learn from our parents, friends, books, science... I assume culture can only exist when a big part of the brain can be affected, and is not already fixed by instincts; so it will only exist in higher animals.

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Ten oz    570

I see the main difference between human an non-human animals in the flexibility of the brain, i.e. experiences we have greatly affect the brain. And of course, of many experiences we are conscious, and can also consciously reflect on them ('I should have taken only one beer.'). Much of the sources of experience are also of cultural nature, i.e. we learn from our parents, friends, books, science... I assume culture can only exist when a big part of the brain can be affected, and is not already fixed by instincts; so it will only exist in higher animals.

 

"the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein persons of low ability suffer from illusory superioty, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude. Without the self- awarenessof metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

 

I wonder if humans don't broadly overvalue their/our abilities. While it is true that humans have the ability to shape the world in ways other animals do not it is also the case that the average person lacks the knowledge and ability to design, build, or even maintain to various things which support ther daily lives. Despite nearly all humans being able to drive automibiles only a small fraction of people would be able to design and build one. Most people are nervous about adding oil or checking air pressurebefore a road trip. We all watch TV yet even with a parts list, tools, and detailed instructions most people couldn't assemble one. I have friends that need help assembling furniture from Ikea for goodness sakes. So while it is true that collectively over time humans have built technology and reshaped the world I think the average person overvalues their role and contribution.

 

I don't mean any of that as a slight against humanity broadly. Just that I think when people discuss how much superior our minds are to the minds of other animals we get a little carried away. We commonly seem to assume our minds are greater by magnitudes of millions of times over when it might be more like a handful of times over.

 

*not implying your post made any such assumptions. My post is merely what came to mind after reading yours.

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Eise    152

While it is true that humans have the ability to shape the world in ways other animals do not it is also the case that the average person lacks the knowledge and ability to design, build, or even maintain to various things which support ther daily lives. Despite nearly all humans being able to drive automibiles only a small fraction of people would be able to design and build one. Most people are nervous about adding oil or checking air pressurebefore a road trip. We all watch TV yet even with a parts list, tools, and detailed instructions most people couldn't assemble one. I have friends that need help assembling furniture from Ikea for goodness sakes. So while it is true that collectively over time humans have built technology and reshaped the world I think the average person overvalues their role and contribution.

 

I think this is just where culture comes in. When a child grows up, it does so in its 'natural environment', i.e. everything it encounters is just a part of its world. It gets used to to it by guidance of parents (first) and then other teachers and peers. But I think there is no formal distinction between a child growing up in the stone age, learning what it can eat, how to find the way in the woods, how to hunt etc., and a modern day child: only the contents differ. Now this 'wild child' has also no idea how strawberries grow, but it is enough to know that he can eat the berries, as for us it is not needed to know how a car works, as long as we can drive it.

 

So one could say, culture is our natural environment.

 

I don't mean any of that as a slight against humanity broadly. Just that I think when people discuss how much superior our minds are to the minds of other animals we get a little carried away. We commonly seem to assume our minds are greater by magnitudes of millions of times over when it might be more like a handful of times over.

 

Well I think our minds are superior (which does not mean other minds do no suffer just as we do!). But it is only partially because of our biological constitution. Minds are just as much formed by culture. The way we assign free will, responsibility, knowledge, identification with our bodies, thoughts and feelings, is greatly influenced by the culture in which we grow up. But that means also, that this 'superior mind' is also a cultural artifact, and most people do not greatly contribute to this 'superiority'. So, yes, no reason for anyone to feel bigheaded...

 

Newton in a letter to Robert Hooke:

 

What Des-Cartes [sic] did was a good step. You have added much several ways, & especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen further it is by standing on the sholders [sic] of Giants.

 

Edited by Eise

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MigL    492

Give yourself some credit, Ten oz...

You can be taught how to build a car or a television, or even how strawberries grow.

( If you don't already have this knowledge )

 

No other animal can accomplish this.

And as Cladking says, it is language which facilitates our learning abilities, and 're-wiring' of our thinking.

( which doesn't mean our native 'instincts' are ever totally submerged by our thinking )

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StringJunky    1487

....No other animal can accomplish this....

"So Long, and Thanks for All the fish". Why would a dolphin want a television or grow strawberries? It's like saying "I can get to level 125 on Asteroids, you can't!". Basically, you are using metrics that make humans appear to be the top dogs... or dolphins :) We don't know what we don't know.

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dimreepr    615

No other animal can accomplish this.

And as Cladking says, it is language which facilitates our learning abilities, and 're-wiring' of our thinking.

( which doesn't mean our native 'instincts' are ever totally submerged by our thinking )

 

There are many animals that have a language, from prairie dogs to killer whales.

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iNow    4508

Basically, you are using metrics that make humans appear to be the top dogs... or dolphins :) We don't know what we don't know.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
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dimreepr    615

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

 

That's essentially why so many Englishman, Irishman, etc... jokes show the Irish as stupid. It stems from an IQ test, given to the Irish, that only referenced English culture.

Edited by dimreepr

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