Re: Instincts and Bioprograms

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Sun, 18 Aug 1996 17:13:10 -0400

In message <> "Jesse S. Cook III" writes:

> 1. What does the word "bioprogram" do for us that the word "instincts" does
> not? Or, as I said in my post of 28 July 1996, is it merely "a euphemism
> for what some think of as a 'dirty' word"?
> 2. Does "bioprogram" increase our grasp of the concept? Or does it merely
> confuse the concept with the concept of a computer program?
> 3. In what way is "bioprogram" useful? And to whom would it be useful?
> In my opinion, it would be useful only to those who attempt to impress
> others without enlightening them. And the anology, if it is what I think it
> is, is a bad one.

Bickerton (Language & Species) uses the term "language bioprogram" to refer to
the innate, genetically given aspects of language which require a trigger effect
(a social and linguistic context) for full realization. Chomsky's more-or-less
comparable term is "universal grammar". This seems different from an "instinct"
(pace Stephen Pinker) which requires no such trigger effect. If language were
an "instinct" children raised in the absence of social/linguistic context would
just go ahead and speak anyway; but they don't.

It seems to me that the distinction is useful if you want to explain things like
language, and perhaps also culture more generally, which have elements which
appear to be innate and yet which require a social context for acquisition.

Ron Kephart