Re: Patriarchy: Re: What Matriarchy?
Fri, 26 Jul 1996 14:34:07 -0700

Bryant wrote:

> In article <>, <> wrote:
>>Gerold Firl wrote:

>>> Instincts, in humans, are tendancies, not absolutes.

>>Instinct is unlearned behavior, not a predictor of behavior (ie a
>>tendency). Instinct is easily overshadowed by an animals capacity to
>>learn. Thus, instinct is never an absolute.

> This is a naive view of the learning instinct. Learning is in large part the
> non-arbitrary information acquisition from evolutionarily relevant components
> of an organism's environment.

I have no idea what you mean by €learning instinct.€

What I stated was stated simply, as the topic is not ethology and I
didn€t want to get to far off track. However, if you would like an
expanded form of the argument, no problem.

Instinct is unlearned behavior. (ie it exists in complete form the
first time an animal reacts to an appropriate stimulus). Instinct
results from a neural organization which is specific to an animal€s
genotype. This does not mean that instinct is strictly genetic.
Genetic code is merely an information generating device and is in part
dependent on environment. Instinct is commonly identified by
stereotypical behavior. However, as I was pointing out to Firl that this
does not mean that instinct is stereotypical behavior. Instinctive
behavior can be modified through experience. This is called learning.

Learning is the modification of behavior by experience (ie it depends on
experiences of an animal as it interacts with it€s environment).
However, it is not strictly determined by environment. It also depends
on genetics. The brain, through genetically determined development,
develops the ability to acquire learning at specific stages in the
animals development. This is what I termed as €capacity to learn.€

My point: instinct is not an absolute (Firl€s reference, I believe, to
an absolute determinant of behavior vs a tendency toward a certain

> Like the genes "versus" environment argument, learning "vs." instinct
> debates perpetuate naive views of ontogeny.

My argument focuses on genetic aspects of behavior. This does not mean
that I am na€ve about the fundamental aspects of behavior, it merely
means that environment was not relevant to my argument. (Although, I can
just as easily present an environmental argument which would have the
same general conclusion. But Firl, based on an earlier reference he made
to sociobiology, seemed more likely to appreciate the genetic argument,
even if it was presented simply). As I did not even address learning,
but rather the €capacity to learn€, it can hardly be considered a
€learning vs instinct€ argument.

The interesting thing is that, while you critically label my argument as
€learning vs instinct,€ and compare it to €genes vs environment,€ you
yourself present the old nature vs nurture argument by emphasizing
environment over genes. You state that €learning is in large part the
non-arbitrary information acquisition from evolutionarily relevant
components of an organism's environment.€ By using the phrase €in large
part€, you are suggesting that genetics, arbitrary information from the
environment, and non-arbitrary information which is not evolutionarily
relevant, somehow play a smaller role in the learning process? I don€t
think so. First, without the brains capacity for learning, learning
would not take place regardless of the experience thus genetics is
equally important to learning. Second, since non-adaptive behaviors
often result in death, adaptive behaviors would, of course, be more
common. However, not all learned behavior is even focused on adaption
(in simple terms, not all learning is based on €the non-arbitrary
information acquisition from evolutionarily relevant components of an
organism€s environment€).

Please at least have the courtesy to respond to what I write (how
learning capacity effects the concept of instinct as an absolute
determinant) and not some far fetched conclusion as to what you might
think I intended to write (instinct vs learning). Of course, we€ve
already been here, haven€t we? But then, as I said, not all behavior is
adaptive, and adaptive behavior requires the capacity to learn.