Instincts are bioprograms?

Jesse S. Cook III (jcook@AWOD.COM)
Mon, 19 Aug 1996 13:09:35 -0400

On 19 August 1996, Garry D. Goodman replied to my posting of 18 August 1996
in response to his posting of the same date. I'm going to take a few quotes
from his latest out of context:

"...the idle weekend brainstorming I sent mostly to see for sure my server
was NOW getting through to the list again." (Emphasis in original.)

"I wanted people [on anthro-l, presumably] to ask more about it, maybe be
inspired to see things from a different point-of-view [sic]. You
know--carry the discussion onwards."

"I used the term in part to spark some DISCUSSION..." (Emphasis in original.)

"But again this was brainstorming in hopes of seeing if people might be
interesting [sic] in exploring a bit more the "black box" of instinct."

Now that we have established that Gary was just "brainstorming" "to spark
DISCUSSION", let's see how he reacts to a response (without which, of
course, there is no discussion):

"I have no idea why Jesse Cook got his dander does seem he does have
a low tolerance for certain subjects..."

"And a term that suggests an [sic] contemporary anology that Mr. Cook seems
to think is an evil blasphemy!"

"Obviously for some arcane reason this really irritates the holy heck out of
you Jesse. Jeez--cool off!"

"Is that so terrible?"

"And it MIGHT prove useful to someone open-minded enough not to piss all
over it before it has been developed to a stage of real discussion!"
(Emphasis in original.)

"But Jesse--you seem to have appointed yourself a Gatekeeper against
Forbidden Concepts."

"You have already tried and convicted me of withholding 'enlightenment'
without a chance to respond. I am supposed to now trust in your
OBJECTIVITY?" (Emphasis in original.) "Why on earth should I?"

"Shoot first and ask questions later Jesse?"

"Hardly nothing to get so snippy about!"

Having cleared away the garbage (well some of it anyway) we can get down now
to responding to the substance of his reply. He says:

"...the word [instincts] seems rather vague and too general."

And "bioprogram" is specific and unique? If the word "instinct" "seems
rather vague and too general" to you, try looking it up in a dictionary,
preferably a dictionary of psychology. It is to be doubted, however, that
you will find "bioprogram" there.

"How does comparison of the brain's behavioral model to programmed responses
'confuse' the concept Jesse?"

Speaking of confused, that sentence is a bit. I'll reword it and then
answer it. How does comparison of the brain's behavior to a programmed
model confuse the concept? This is how: the brain is neither computer
hardware nor computer software. Any resemblence between the brain and a
computer is purely coincidental.

"We have gained a fair amount of data about how people live. But do we
really have much understanding of the WHY? Of the mechanisms of behavior?
Of cultures?" (Emphasis in original.) "I don't think so."

My answers to those three questions are as follows:

1. The why? No, but that's more in the line of religion than science.

2. Mechanisms of behavior? I don't know. What are they?

3. Culture? Yes, that's *how* people live, and you already said that "we
have a fair amount of data about how people live" with the implication that
we understand it.

I said: "And the anology, if it is what I think it is, is a bad one." To
which Gary responded:

"How do you KNOW it is a 'bad one'? (Emphasis in original.)

I don't KNOW, Gary. I prefaced my remarks with the phrase "In my opinion".
But I can tell you why I think it is a bad one: being a false anology, it
leads to false conclusions.

When I asked: "What are 'neuromechanisms'?" He answered:

"The mechanisms of the nervous system."

Not very helpful, Gary. But then he goes on the elaborate:

"It is a slang term I picked up...from a friend interested in AI
research...It is a way of referring to the neurological components of the
CNS as akin to processing units and chips. And the brain as a machine or

If I'm not mistaken, Gary, "processing units" in computers *are* chips. And
any resemblence between the brain and any machine or "device" is purely

"A way of upgrading the conception of neurons from the old Waldeyer 'fluid'
anology to infranets and computers."

What is the "old Waldeyer 'fluid' analogy"?

And how, in the name of heaven, could neurons ever be "upgraded" by anything
made by human beings as directed by the neurons in their heads? As the well
known Russian neuropsychologist Aleksandr R. Luria is reported, if I
remember correctly, to have said: "If the brain was simple enough for us to
understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn't." Obviously, any
machine or "device" we make, we understand or we couldn't make it. We are
nowhere near to understanding the brain.

I asked: "Or do you mean that the entire CNR is a 'genetic toolbox'?" And
he answered:

"Not entirely no. But that there are innate 'mechanisms' and 'bioprograms'
(see the usefulness now?) which the mind uses in its behavioral activities."

No, Gary, I still do not see the usefulness of "bioprograms". And what are
these "mechanisms...which the mind uses in its behavioral activities"? And
what "behavioral activities" does "the mind" engage in?

To my statement; "If the 'individual' you are referring to is the human
individual, that 'individual' has only been around for about 2.5 million
years [not 'dozens--if not hundreds--of millions of years']." He replied:

"Only if your cutoff for complete development of human behavior is homo
[sic] erectus [sic]."

I wouldn't have *any* "cutoff for complete development of human behavior";
it's still under development, or hadn't you noticed. But, in any event, the
first human species was not *Homo erectus*, it was *Homo habilis*, and we
have no evidence that they existed before about 2.5 million years ago.

" we really know when something like what we call 'language' or
'society' came into being among hominoids? How far back? Surely at least
to some extent to Australopitecus [sic]! And perhaps a lot further."

Hominoids include apes as well as humans; and, whereas they all have
societies of some kind, as far as we know only our species of humans has had
language. And we don't go back any further than 290,000 years ago at the
outside. Australopithecines, who lived between 4 and 1 million years ago,
certainly did not have language!

"And actually I was referring as much to the 'environment' as to the
'individual'. One our ancestors it seems did a lot to alter."

Very little, hardly noticeable, altering of the environment was done by "our
ancestors" prior to about 10,000 years ago when agriculture was invented.

Jesse S. Cook III E-Mail:
Post Office Box 40984 or
Charleston, SC 29485 USA

"Our attitude toward others is not determined by who *they* are;
it is determined by who *we* are."