Instincts and Bioprograms

Gary Goodman (sap@TANK.RGS.UKY.EDU)
Mon, 19 Aug 1996 02:42:10 EDT


I have no idea why Jesse Cook got his dander up over the idle weekend
brainstorming I sent mostly to see for sure my server was NOW getting
through to the list again. But it does seems he does have a low
tolerance for certain subjects or manners of discussion.

Poster: "Jesse S. Cook III" <jcook@AWOD.COM>:

JC>On 18 August 1996, Gary D. Goodman, in replying to a posting by Ron Kephart
JC>of 28 July 1996 (who was replying to a posting of mine of the same date) wro

JC>"Personally, I like the word 'bioprogram' to refer to...what we can
JC>generally term 'instincts' seems a useful analogous concept."

JC>I have a few questions:

JC>1. What does the word "bioprogram" do for us that the word "instincts" does
JC>not? Or, as I said in my post of 28 July 1996, is it merely "a euphemism
JC>for what some think of as a 'dirty' word"?

I wonder WHO thinks of "instincts" as a "dirty word"? I have not noticed
any such reaction here. Rather, that the word seems rather vague and too
general. "Bioprogram" seems to offer a useful term for at least some of
the elements of behavior and reflexive actions that are part of what is
generally covered by the term "instinct." And a term that suggests an
contemporary analogy that Mr. Cook seems to think is an evil blasphemy!

JC>2. Does "bioprogram" increase our grasp of the concept? Or does it merely
JC>confuse the concept with the concept of a computer program?

How does comparison of the brain's behavioral model to programmed
responses "confuse" the concept Jesse? Surely you are aware of the many
models of human thinking and behavior that derive from computer and
modal logic? And more modern systems of logic and structural
analysis. One way Artificial Intelligence is being approached is by the
effort to replicate a simplified version of the human brain using
computer software and program subroutines.

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

JC>3. In what way is "bioprogram" useful? And to whom would it be useful?

In the same way that studying any complex system can offer insights. Or
studying primate and mammal behavior. 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?

I don't think so. We do not really seem to have any building-block terms
of the components of instinctive behavior we can use to generate a
general model of instinctual response. I just thought "bioprogram" in a
cyber-savvy age offered possibilities!

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!

JC>In my opinion, it would be useful only to those who attempt to impress
JC>others without enlightening them. And the anology, if it is what I think it
JC>is, is a bad one.

How do you KNOW it is a "bad one"? I never fully specified what the
analogy really was! This was deliberate. I wanted people to ask more
about it, maybe be inspired to see things from a different
point-of-view. You know -- carry the discussion onwards. But Jesse --
you seems to have appointed yourself a Gatekeeper against Forbidden

HOW was I trying to "impress" people especially? You have already tried
and convicted me of withholding "enlightenment" without a chance to
respond. I am supposed to now trust in your OBJECTIVITY?

Why on earth should I?

JC>Moving right along, there are a few other terms that Gary uses that puzzle
JC>me. He says:

JC>"The more we discover about neuromechanisms..."

JC>What are "neuromechanisms"? Is it meant as an umbrella term? In that case,
JC>does it include structural or functional items? That is to say, does it
JC>cover anatomical or physiological items? Just what did you have in mind?

The mechanisms of the nervous system.

It is a slang term I picked up in from a friend interested in AI
research. I have heard a few other people use it also, but I guess it
never made it to where you are. 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 device. The brain is, whether you
like it or not, rather like an analog computer network and server.
Certain parts acting like neurological signal processing devices
handling the inputs and transmission and processing of information. A
way of upgrading the conception of neurons from the old Waldeyer "fluid"
analogy to infranets and computers.

I suspect that like you, most people groked the basic concept of this
obvious neologism. I used the term in part to spark some DISCUSSION --
something you do not really seem interested in.

Shoot first and ask questions later Jesse?

JC>"...the more we start to understand the means by which behavior is initiated
JC>or repressed...or modified via the genetic toolbox of the central nervous

JC>What is a "genetic toolbox" and how is it related to the CNR? Or do you
JC>mean that the entire CNR is a "genetic toolbox".

Not entirely no. But that there are innate "mechanisms" and
"bioprograms" (see the usefulness now?) which the mind uses in its
behavioral activities. Ones that are generally shared in a species. Some
of which working in concert and to trigger we call call "instincts."
Others the mind uses to tailor more individual responses. The analogy to
the built-in tool boxes we find in certain programs seems pretty obvious.
Since these are innate I used the term "genetic," which in afterthought
could have been improved upon.

JC>The only thing that could be called a "genetic toolbox" that I can think of
JC>is the cell, which has all the genes and the "tools" for producing them.

The ONLY thing Jesse? Come on -- the *only* thing... Genetic also means
genic and thereby means resulting from the inherited constitution of the
organism. Was a poor choice I already admitted, but is imprecise, not
wrong. Besides, we loosely discuss "instincts" as being genetic...

JC>"But the potentialities of the individual are those that have developed
JC>within a socially influenced environment..."

JC>Now, had you stopped right there, I would have nothing to say. But you
JC>didn't. You went on:

JC>"...for it is fairly certain for dozens--if not hundreds--of millions of
JC>years. And the evolving culture nearly as old."

JC>That just doesn't make any sense. If the "individual" you are referring to
JC>is the human individual, that "individual" has only been around for about
JC>2.5 million years. But what other "individual" could you be referring to?

ONLY if your cutoff for the complete development of human behavior is
homo erectus. If so, why study primates or mammals? Did homo erectus give
up in total all previous built-in behaviors and instincts? And the possible
socially transmitted behaviors; do we really know when something like
what we call "language" or "society" came into being among the
hominoids? How far back? Surely at least to some extent to
Australopitecus! And perhaps a lot further. Generally, the trend has been
the last thirty years to keep pushing dates on these things BACK... I
was trying to make the point we share a lot of characteristics quite
probably with very distant ancestors!

And actually I was referring as much to the "environment" as to the
"individual." One our ancestors it seems did a lot to alter. Including
the elements of what we call in at least one sense culture.

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

And if "bioprogram" could serve a useful purpose.

Hardly nothing to get so snippy about!

Gary D. Goodman

Pentad Communications
McDaniels/Hardinsburg, KY


"The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself
accepted in the competition of the marketplace... We should be
eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression that we
--Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.