Re: Instincts and bioprograms

mike shupp (ms44278@HUEY.CSUN.EDU)
Tue, 30 Jul 1996 21:02:52 -0700

On Sun, 28 Jul 1996, Ronald Kephart wrote:
> Humans are not mice. Humans (and other hominoids?) may well share with mice
> (and perhaps all mammals?) a gene for something like a "maternal instinct."
> But the fact is that hominoids, as social animals, have shifted many
> behaviors of this sort from the straight expression of genetic programming
> to an acquisition process which must occur within an appropriate social
> context. Mice, as far as I know, do not need a social context to become
> mice; humans and other hominoids, on the other hand do need such a context.
> This is the difference between instinctive behavior and bioprogrammed behavior
> (I borrowed the term "bioprogram" from Derek Bickerton's work on language).
> If for example language were "instinctive" people should acquire language
> under all conditions, including the lack of any social input whatsoever.
> We know that this does not happen. People acquire language in all sorts
> of varying social contexts, but the social aspect has to be there.
> Given the evidence, I think mothering behavior in humans has to be
> similarly acquired, even if there is a gene that programs us for it.

Sounds reasonable. Instinct is for very basic stuff-- infant sucking,
for example, behavior which has to work without any degree of training.
Mothering behavior doesn't need to be built into the genes _IF_ the
culture can provide a substitute.

As it obviously does. Leaving the question of whether genes for
mothering behavior are still present in the species (producing some
sort of drive mediated by our brains and our culture), or whether the
whole process is now _only_ a product of culture.

I find the latter possibility a bit nerve-wracking.

Mike Shupp
California State University, Northridge