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Do humans have inborn instincts to spread plant seeds?

Do humans have inborn instincts to spread plant seeds?


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I have been noticing for quite a while that I have this instinct to tear off and throw seeds from trees and plants.

This happens quite literally without any thought and I rarely even notice the act.

Is it possible that humans evolved with an instinct to spread wildlife similar to pollinating or is it just a weird habit?


Spiritual Philosophy

Shrii Shrii Anandamurti visited Istanbul in 1979. I was a third year student in Boğaziçi University at that time and I did not know about him. He gave 3 lectures in English on September 14 and 15 in 1979. I missed these special gatherings but I have read the text of the discourses countless times. I translated the Istanbul discourses into Turkish. You can find the Turkish versions in the links given at the end of this page. Baba’s Istanbul discourses have been preserved by Ananda Marga but I think that more people should read them.

Mysticism and Yoga
14 September 1979, Istanbul

When the aesthetic sense, based on the subtle aesthetic science, comes to touch a certain standard, it is what is called mysticism. And when this mysticism reaches the pinnacle of human glory, or the excellence of human glory, it is called spirituality. What is mysticism? Mysticism is the never-ending endeavour to find out the link between the finite and the infinite. It is a never-ending endeavour to find out a link between the self and the Super-Self, khud and Khudá. This is mysticism.

It is one of the human wonts that human beings are never satisfied with something finite. They are never satisfied with something limited. In Sanskrit it is said, ‘Nalpe sukhamasti bhunaeva sukhamasti’ [Human thirst cannot be satisfied with something limited, human hunger cannot be satisfied by something finite].
That is, in the quest for the Infinite, human beings first come in contact with aesthetic science. Aesthetic science does not always mean to get something pleasant it may mean to get something troublesome, something embarrassing – it may or may not be something pleasant. Aesthetic science is that which one can express in a subtler way, from subtle to subtle, and when it reaches the subtlest point, that point is the pinnacle of human glory. Now, it is the duty of artists to express their work in a nice way, in a lucid way, and place it before the world. Not everyone can do this. But enjoying something with aesthetic taste or aesthetic charm is within the capacity of each and every human being.

When human beings started their movement towards the Supreme Being, in quest of Supreme Bliss, they first came in contact with spirituality. As spirituality is coming in contact with the Infinite, that is, the finite comes in contact with the Infinite, it is called yoga. Yoga is the unit moving in quest of the Infinite, the finite moving towards the Infinite in a mystic style. In Sanskrit, yoga means “addition”. For instance, two plus two is equal to four. But for a mystic, for an aspirant of the mystic goal or the mystic desideratum, yoga is not only addition here yoga means “unification”. What sort of unification? It is just like sugar and water. Say there are two plus two apples. In the case of addition there will be one apple, then two, then three and then four apples. Every apple will maintain its individuality or its identity. The identity of the apples remains unchanged before and after the addition. But in the case of unification, that is, in the example of sugar and water, the sugar does not maintain its identity because it becomes one with the water. This is unification. In the realm of mysticism, yoga means this type of unification. That is, it is unification like sugar and water, and not simply addition like two plus two.

Now the starting point is aesthetic taste or aesthetic science. The culminating point, that is, from the culminating point, starts the movement of Supreme charm. In that movement with the goal of Supreme charm, human beings become unified with the Supreme Entity, whose seat is above the pinnacle of existence.
This movement for yoga, for the unification of the unit with the Supreme, the finite with the Infinite, is a must for each and every human being. The human physical and psychic structure is most suitable for this purpose. Animals and plants act according to their inborn instincts. They are mentally undeveloped, and because of this their brain is also undeveloped. The cranium is very small and the conscious portion of the mind is sufficient for them there is no necessity or little necessity for the sub-conscious or unconscious strata of the mind. A plant gets pleasure or pain when its inborn instincts are either encouraged or discouraged. When the inborn instincts of a plant or an animal are encouraged it gets pleasure, and when the inborn instincts are discouraged, suppressed or depressed, it gets pain. This is how the brain or the mind of plants and animals functions. But in the case of human psychology, human psycho-spiritual movement cannot be suppressed, cannot be checked. There lies the speciality of human existence.

Now yoga. Yoga is the most developed and most valuable expression of human wonts, so it is in the first phase of yoga that one expresses oneself through so many arts and sciences. The final point of all artistic movement and the final point of all branches of sciences is the supreme source, the perennial source of all energies, the supreme seat of all energies. It is Parama Puruśa, the Supreme Entity, who is the Father of all, the Causal Matrix of all created beings in this universe, both animate and inanimate. That is why for all people, whether they are intelligent or illiterate, thin or fat, educated or uneducated, the Supreme Entity must be the goal of life. That is, the Supreme Entity is the culminating point, the desideratum of all human expressions. When human beings are lacking in this spirit of movement, they degrade themselves from the human status. All you boys and girls, you should remember this supreme expression of veracity.

Shrii Shrii Anandamurti

“Mysticism and Yoga” was originally published in English in Ánanda Vacanámrtam 14, 1981. Second English publication was in Yoga Psychology, 1991.
Ananda Marga Publications


Animal Instinct vs. Human Intuition: Are They the Same?

As I grew up, I seemed to always look at nature for solid answers or confirmation to ideas I was thinking about. To understand something, it’s always easier to look at nature. God gave the animals instinct to see them through their lives. What did He give to us humans? He gave us intuition.

To show the magnitude of intuition, I’d like to present some inspired information I have put together concerning animal instinct and human intuition. Through this channeled viewpoint, our connectedness with the animal realm will be validated. We will look at the events that could have happened to create the split between animals and humans, and how this influenced their evolution and ability to communicate.

Everything that was created or manifested by the Source was brought about through energy. All substance and physicality shared the same atoms. So, we all (animals, humans and plant life) were of the same essence.

We Are All One-Primordial Knowing
From the beginning of time, since all was created, life evolved in different ways as a result of the manner in which situations were experienced. But for a very long time, all remained as one, co-habiting perfectly.

Millions of years ago all breathing, sentient beings were in the infancy of humanity. This included animals and humans. For all practical purposes, there was no difference between the two. They were aware of outside occurrences, but did not “realize” that awareness.

We could call this inchoate consciousness: The basic movement towards humanity was in its beginning stages, at a very rudimentary starting point. For many generations, humans and animals lived on instinct and shared their spot together on earth.

That cohabitation was normal and created a base of paradigm thinking. This idea is based largely around oral folklore. Many consider folklore, or oral stories that have been passed down through the generations as being anecdotal. Hence, the stories are not considered as viable sources of information.

However, when stories are shared at length, and then published in a paper or review of some kind, they are then considered as case histories. This offers much more credence to traditional customs and beliefs. According to Webster’s dictionary, folklore provides the science that investigates the life and spirit of “a peoples”.

We also know that many indigenous people never recorded their history in the form of written words or scripts. But they kept their historic information, traditions and lineage contained in the oral teachings of one person usually called the records keeper.

This being said, we will consider the folklore shared here as being a reliable source with which to evaluate. The myths of that magical time when animals and humans shared cohabitation, tell that there were no boundaries. Animals and Humans lived peacefully together and shared a common language. Being able to speak and hear through the eyes and ears of humans and animals combined, brought about a phenomenal essence of majesty and the divine.

Humans and Animals originally were one and the same. At a time when there was no judgment or comparison—that is, a time of love and acceptance—all living creatures were breathing the breath of the Creator. All was One. Humans, animals and plants all lived within the earth as one organism.

An Okanogan Legend, “Creation of the Animal People”, will show the original spiritual connection of the two kingdoms. “The earth was once a human being: Old One made her out of a woman. “You will be the mother of all people,” he said.
“Earth is alive yet, but she has been changed. The soil is her flesh, the rocks are her bones, and the wind is her breath, trees and grass are her hair. She lives spread out, and we live on her. When she moves, we have an earthquake.

“After taking the woman and changing her to earth, Old One gathered some of her flesh and rolled it into balls, as people do with mud or clay. He made the first group of these balls into the ancients, the beings of the early world.

“The ancients were people, yet also animals. In form some looked human while some walked on all fours like animals. Some could fly like birds others could swim like fishes. All had the gift of speech, as well as greater powers and cunning than either animals or people. But deer were never among the ancients they were always animals, even as they are today.

“Besides the ancients, real people and real animals lived on the earth at that time. Old One made the people out of the last balls of mud he took from the earth. He rolled them over and over, shaped them like Indians, and blew on them to bring them alive.”
—reported by Ella Clark in the 1950’s.

Primordial Knowing
For several million years, our archaic ancestors lived in the faint dawn of reflective consciousness. Their capacity for ‘knowing that we know’ was almost entirely undeveloped. Consequently, our earliest human ancestors functioned primarily on instinct and habit. As a result their way of life remained virtually unchanged over thousands of generations.
–Promise Ahead, by Duane Elgin.

This instinct/intuition allowed for the natural response to events and situations. Those actions (opposed to re-actions) were honored and respected.

35,000 years ago, our instinct was sharp and necessary. We relied on primordial knowing. Acting in a perfectly assimilated environment came easily. Re-action only occurred when the first knowing (or instinct) was doubted or thought out twice. Reaction then became a contrived response, not the natural one. The human began to acknowledge self as separate. As humans evolved away from animals, they lost their primordial knowing. It diminished eventually to a state of mystery only a special few could tap into.

We, as humans have chosen not to rely on instinct in this day and time. Intuition is a luxury that only some people feel the need to develop or even admit to. It somehow has taken on a frivolous and rather illusive connotation. Our society has required more concrete means of maneuvering in this dimension. And many long forgotten abilities have become passé. The more we limit, the more we are boxed into paradigm issues.

Shift in Evolution: Separation
In his book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, Rupert Sheldrake states: “In hunter-gather cultures, human beings do not see themselves as separate from other animals but as intimately interconnected.” This is made very apparent when you look at shamans, who are specialists at communication with other worlds by way of their guardian power animals. They are able to connect with the powers of the animal world.

This creates a type of mystique between human and animal. But they are guided by the animal energy and it imbues them with certain powers and abilities. It is ideal to show the extreme connection between man and beast.

Animals, existing closer to the earth, were able to encapsulate the spirit qualities within themselves: each one holding a different concept. When humans realized this, they became jealous and developed the ego instead. This was not right or wrong—only the way things were.

This change in awareness, perceiving self as different, created a very drastic shift in human development, which ultimately separated humans from the One. The “awakening of humanity,” if you will, transformed oneness into separate identity, and recognizing reality in a different way. The new human perception started to create its own reality, or dream.

The change in perception happened, by all accounts, around 35,000 years ago. Archeologists have recorded developments occurring around that time in the use of stone tools, burial sites, cave art, and migration patterns. A separate identity, ego, was slowly developing, and wanting to express itself in numerous ways. Instinct seemed to take a new direction by expanding artistic and creative senses.

Suddenly, humans began to “know.” It provided a sense of self-importance. And the separation from the One became deeper. As a result, humans began to feel superior to other beings, even though the others were still connected with the One and in total spiritual awareness. Humanity began on its adventure as a toddler in its growth. Humanity was moving away from universal unity, in an attempt to define Self.

Effects of Forming Society: Denial
Society, as well as other aspects, contributed greatly to the divide of what once was total telepathic communication.

On the way to becoming totally sentient beings, humanity has lost some very important things. Perceived connection to the universe is one. While developing the idea that we could “know that we know,” we also realized that we had separated ourselves from the One. Operating as one organism became the perceived illusion. Separating from all else was the reality that humans designed into existence. By doing that, we denied the validity of everything else.

Humanity began to think of itself as supreme intelligence. I tend to think of this time in evolution as being the adolescent: old enough to have a mind of its own, but too young to know how to use that mind. If we could use the example of a child around the age of 11, then we can see just how humanity was at that stage. The body is growing too fast to allow the mind to catch up, and the child just goes on its merry way, trying to fit in and make a stand in society.

This is very close to what humans were doing in their adolescent time frame. New ways to maintain lifestyle were being invented all the time. Self, and ways to accommodate Self, were the main focus. The fact that humans lived on the earth instead of with the earth became very apparent. We started abusing the very things that sustained us. The connection we once had to our animal relatives became even more disconnected.

As a result of that disconnection, humans lost the instinct and communication abilities that once were very much a part of our lives.

But the whole time, animals played a large part in our lives. They helped us cultivate and plant crops, travel long distances and even served as food. Stories of animal and human contact abounded. Folklore, such as that of the Native American story told earlier, was passed down through the generations. In the indigenous cultures, animal totems or fetishes became important parts of their lives, as well as, the belief that animal spirits protected them from danger, or could move them into heightened states of awareness.

As far away as we tried to go from our relatives, they were never that far from us. I believe animals knew that humans needed to return to the connection, so they did what they could to stay near-by.

Search for Spirituality: Recognizing All is One
As we started to view the universe as being a living organism, with us as an integral part of the whole, we could see that human beings really are connected to animal and plant life as well as mother earth. By realizing that important point—that we are connected to All—begins the step back to the One. Separation was only the dream.

Cosmo-Wholeness
As we bring in the thought of cosmo-wholeness, we generate a special frequency that can raise the vibration of the universe. And recognition of responsibility to the world becomes paramount. Suddenly we realize that the animals are our relatives. During this time of recognition, humans had developed a refined way of awareness. I believe that it was a type of instinct, but rather a “human version of instinct.” This was the beginning of intuition, as we know it.

This logically brings us to animal totems and guides. Also involved is Psycho Navigation, which is out of body flight through spirit animals.

Psycho Navigation is a type of meditation that is most conducive to connecting with spirit realm energies such as spirit animal guides. It represents a blended understanding of spirit animal energies, and learning to navigate through them.

This time in the evolution of mankind, the animal kingdom awakens us again to the connection we already have in the spiritual oneness. The spirit animal guides give us a chance to recognize this first through an inner search for self.

We search now for that past time of love and acceptance, when no judgment or comparison divided the One.

Opening the Door to Communication

“Instincts depend on the species’ habitual behavioral fields patterning the activity of the nervous system. They are influenced by genes and also inherited by morphic resonance. Through morphic resonance newly learned patterns of behavior can spread rapidly throughout a species. The learning of these new skills can become progressively easier as time goes on, and as they become increasingly habitual.”

“In human psychology, the activities of the mind can be interpreted in terms of morphic fields interacting with the physicochemical patterns of activity in the brain. But these fields are not confined to the brain. They extend outward beyond the body into the environment. These extended mental fields underlie perception and behavior. They also enable paranormal phenomena, such as telepathy and the sense of being stared at, to be interpreted in such a way that they seem normal.”
—Rupert Sheldrake, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home

Instinct, as the noun is defined as: natural and unreasoning, prompting to action. The adjective, instinctive, is pertaining to nature, or prompted by, determined by natural impulse. Syn. Natural, involuntary, spontaneous, automatic, innate: intuitive. Instinctive connotes innate impulse or spontaneous aptitude intuitive implies direct perception or apprehension, without reasoning.

So after awhile, humans may turn away from intuition, tiring from having to always defend their feelings, dreams and inner knowledge.

Humans have moved into the teenage years, recognizing that they had become more informed, but not always sure when that knowledge could be used. Becoming familiar with intuition as a viable form of information takes awhile to come to terms with, and use spontaneously.

Path to Completion
On our way to full completion: that of returning to our source of Oneness, we find ourselves always in contact with our animal friends. The bonding with animals formed very early on our childhood. Besides most of us having pets at sometime in our lives, we have been given teddy bears or stuffed animals as children. And who has not been told a childhood story about animals?

A normal aspect of human nature had been responding to life by forming relationships. And animals have been one of the most solid relationships we, as humans, have had. Isn’t it interesting that our pets always retain a close connection with us, and are exceedingly affectionate, no matter what the circumstances are? I feel this is yet another aspect showing that animals are instinctively keeping close to protect their relatives. (Quite the huge primordial knowing, I would say.)

The more we admit to intuition, and cultivate its tendencies, the closer we will come to the total intellect of the universe. We will realize the connection to All That Is, and by recognizing the Animal Kingdom. The combined energy can cultivate a serious surge in thought evolution. This brings Humanity into the young adult stage of evolution.

It appears that through our search of Self, we steered ourselves away from the very important part of ourselves—the animal kingdom. But as we continue on our search, we have found ourselves full circle back into the possibility of connecting again with our long lost cousins, and our original instinctive tendencies.

Copyright 2009-2015 Melissa Leath. All rights reserved.

About Melissa Leath: Melissa has been using her instinct/intuition all her life. And has taught others how to use it for at least 35 years. To find out how you can learn from her go to her website. She teaches many online classes and workshops, as well as mentors one-on-one.


Animal Instinct vs. Human Intuition: Are They the Same?

As I grew up, I seemed to always look at nature for solid answers or confirmation to ideas I was thinking about. To understand something, it’s always easier to look at nature. God gave the animals instinct to see them through their lives. What did He give to us humans? He gave us intuition.

To show the magnitude of intuition, I’d like to present some inspired information I have put together concerning animal instinct and human intuition. Through this channeled viewpoint, our connectedness with the animal realm will be validated. We will look at the events that could have happened to create the split between animals and humans, and how this influenced their evolution and ability to communicate.

Everything that was created or manifested by the Source was brought about through energy. All substance and physicality shared the same atoms. So, we all (animals, humans and plant life) were of the same essence.

We Are All One-Primordial Knowing
From the beginning of time, since all was created, life evolved in different ways as a result of the manner in which situations were experienced. But for a very long time, all remained as one, co-habiting perfectly.

Millions of years ago all breathing, sentient beings were in the infancy of humanity. This included animals and humans. For all practical purposes, there was no difference between the two. They were aware of outside occurrences, but did not “realize” that awareness.

We could call this inchoate consciousness: The basic movement towards humanity was in its beginning stages, at a very rudimentary starting point. For many generations, humans and animals lived on instinct and shared their spot together on earth.

That cohabitation was normal and created a base of paradigm thinking. This idea is based largely around oral folklore. Many consider folklore, or oral stories that have been passed down through the generations as being anecdotal. Hence, the stories are not considered as viable sources of information.

However, when stories are shared at length, and then published in a paper or review of some kind, they are then considered as case histories. This offers much more credence to traditional customs and beliefs. According to Webster’s dictionary, folklore provides the science that investigates the life and spirit of “a peoples”.

We also know that many indigenous people never recorded their history in the form of written words or scripts. But they kept their historic information, traditions and lineage contained in the oral teachings of one person usually called the records keeper.

This being said, we will consider the folklore shared here as being a reliable source with which to evaluate. The myths of that magical time when animals and humans shared cohabitation, tell that there were no boundaries. Animals and Humans lived peacefully together and shared a common language. Being able to speak and hear through the eyes and ears of humans and animals combined, brought about a phenomenal essence of majesty and the divine.

Humans and Animals originally were one and the same. At a time when there was no judgment or comparison—that is, a time of love and acceptance—all living creatures were breathing the breath of the Creator. All was One. Humans, animals and plants all lived within the earth as one organism.

An Okanogan Legend, “Creation of the Animal People”, will show the original spiritual connection of the two kingdoms. “The earth was once a human being: Old One made her out of a woman. “You will be the mother of all people,” he said.
“Earth is alive yet, but she has been changed. The soil is her flesh, the rocks are her bones, and the wind is her breath, trees and grass are her hair. She lives spread out, and we live on her. When she moves, we have an earthquake.

“After taking the woman and changing her to earth, Old One gathered some of her flesh and rolled it into balls, as people do with mud or clay. He made the first group of these balls into the ancients, the beings of the early world.

“The ancients were people, yet also animals. In form some looked human while some walked on all fours like animals. Some could fly like birds others could swim like fishes. All had the gift of speech, as well as greater powers and cunning than either animals or people. But deer were never among the ancients they were always animals, even as they are today.

“Besides the ancients, real people and real animals lived on the earth at that time. Old One made the people out of the last balls of mud he took from the earth. He rolled them over and over, shaped them like Indians, and blew on them to bring them alive.”
—reported by Ella Clark in the 1950’s.

Primordial Knowing
For several million years, our archaic ancestors lived in the faint dawn of reflective consciousness. Their capacity for ‘knowing that we know’ was almost entirely undeveloped. Consequently, our earliest human ancestors functioned primarily on instinct and habit. As a result their way of life remained virtually unchanged over thousands of generations.
–Promise Ahead, by Duane Elgin.

This instinct/intuition allowed for the natural response to events and situations. Those actions (opposed to re-actions) were honored and respected.

35,000 years ago, our instinct was sharp and necessary. We relied on primordial knowing. Acting in a perfectly assimilated environment came easily. Re-action only occurred when the first knowing (or instinct) was doubted or thought out twice. Reaction then became a contrived response, not the natural one. The human began to acknowledge self as separate. As humans evolved away from animals, they lost their primordial knowing. It diminished eventually to a state of mystery only a special few could tap into.

We, as humans have chosen not to rely on instinct in this day and time. Intuition is a luxury that only some people feel the need to develop or even admit to. It somehow has taken on a frivolous and rather illusive connotation. Our society has required more concrete means of maneuvering in this dimension. And many long forgotten abilities have become passé. The more we limit, the more we are boxed into paradigm issues.

Shift in Evolution: Separation
In his book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, Rupert Sheldrake states: “In hunter-gather cultures, human beings do not see themselves as separate from other animals but as intimately interconnected.” This is made very apparent when you look at shamans, who are specialists at communication with other worlds by way of their guardian power animals. They are able to connect with the powers of the animal world.

This creates a type of mystique between human and animal. But they are guided by the animal energy and it imbues them with certain powers and abilities. It is ideal to show the extreme connection between man and beast.

Animals, existing closer to the earth, were able to encapsulate the spirit qualities within themselves: each one holding a different concept. When humans realized this, they became jealous and developed the ego instead. This was not right or wrong—only the way things were.

This change in awareness, perceiving self as different, created a very drastic shift in human development, which ultimately separated humans from the One. The “awakening of humanity,” if you will, transformed oneness into separate identity, and recognizing reality in a different way. The new human perception started to create its own reality, or dream.

The change in perception happened, by all accounts, around 35,000 years ago. Archeologists have recorded developments occurring around that time in the use of stone tools, burial sites, cave art, and migration patterns. A separate identity, ego, was slowly developing, and wanting to express itself in numerous ways. Instinct seemed to take a new direction by expanding artistic and creative senses.

Suddenly, humans began to “know.” It provided a sense of self-importance. And the separation from the One became deeper. As a result, humans began to feel superior to other beings, even though the others were still connected with the One and in total spiritual awareness. Humanity began on its adventure as a toddler in its growth. Humanity was moving away from universal unity, in an attempt to define Self.

Effects of Forming Society: Denial
Society, as well as other aspects, contributed greatly to the divide of what once was total telepathic communication.

On the way to becoming totally sentient beings, humanity has lost some very important things. Perceived connection to the universe is one. While developing the idea that we could “know that we know,” we also realized that we had separated ourselves from the One. Operating as one organism became the perceived illusion. Separating from all else was the reality that humans designed into existence. By doing that, we denied the validity of everything else.

Humanity began to think of itself as supreme intelligence. I tend to think of this time in evolution as being the adolescent: old enough to have a mind of its own, but too young to know how to use that mind. If we could use the example of a child around the age of 11, then we can see just how humanity was at that stage. The body is growing too fast to allow the mind to catch up, and the child just goes on its merry way, trying to fit in and make a stand in society.

This is very close to what humans were doing in their adolescent time frame. New ways to maintain lifestyle were being invented all the time. Self, and ways to accommodate Self, were the main focus. The fact that humans lived on the earth instead of with the earth became very apparent. We started abusing the very things that sustained us. The connection we once had to our animal relatives became even more disconnected.

As a result of that disconnection, humans lost the instinct and communication abilities that once were very much a part of our lives.

But the whole time, animals played a large part in our lives. They helped us cultivate and plant crops, travel long distances and even served as food. Stories of animal and human contact abounded. Folklore, such as that of the Native American story told earlier, was passed down through the generations. In the indigenous cultures, animal totems or fetishes became important parts of their lives, as well as, the belief that animal spirits protected them from danger, or could move them into heightened states of awareness.

As far away as we tried to go from our relatives, they were never that far from us. I believe animals knew that humans needed to return to the connection, so they did what they could to stay near-by.

Search for Spirituality: Recognizing All is One
As we started to view the universe as being a living organism, with us as an integral part of the whole, we could see that human beings really are connected to animal and plant life as well as mother earth. By realizing that important point—that we are connected to All—begins the step back to the One. Separation was only the dream.

Cosmo-Wholeness
As we bring in the thought of cosmo-wholeness, we generate a special frequency that can raise the vibration of the universe. And recognition of responsibility to the world becomes paramount. Suddenly we realize that the animals are our relatives. During this time of recognition, humans had developed a refined way of awareness. I believe that it was a type of instinct, but rather a “human version of instinct.” This was the beginning of intuition, as we know it.

This logically brings us to animal totems and guides. Also involved is Psycho Navigation, which is out of body flight through spirit animals.

Psycho Navigation is a type of meditation that is most conducive to connecting with spirit realm energies such as spirit animal guides. It represents a blended understanding of spirit animal energies, and learning to navigate through them.

This time in the evolution of mankind, the animal kingdom awakens us again to the connection we already have in the spiritual oneness. The spirit animal guides give us a chance to recognize this first through an inner search for self.

We search now for that past time of love and acceptance, when no judgment or comparison divided the One.

Opening the Door to Communication

“Instincts depend on the species’ habitual behavioral fields patterning the activity of the nervous system. They are influenced by genes and also inherited by morphic resonance. Through morphic resonance newly learned patterns of behavior can spread rapidly throughout a species. The learning of these new skills can become progressively easier as time goes on, and as they become increasingly habitual.”

“In human psychology, the activities of the mind can be interpreted in terms of morphic fields interacting with the physicochemical patterns of activity in the brain. But these fields are not confined to the brain. They extend outward beyond the body into the environment. These extended mental fields underlie perception and behavior. They also enable paranormal phenomena, such as telepathy and the sense of being stared at, to be interpreted in such a way that they seem normal.”
—Rupert Sheldrake, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home

Instinct, as the noun is defined as: natural and unreasoning, prompting to action. The adjective, instinctive, is pertaining to nature, or prompted by, determined by natural impulse. Syn. Natural, involuntary, spontaneous, automatic, innate: intuitive. Instinctive connotes innate impulse or spontaneous aptitude intuitive implies direct perception or apprehension, without reasoning.

So after awhile, humans may turn away from intuition, tiring from having to always defend their feelings, dreams and inner knowledge.

Humans have moved into the teenage years, recognizing that they had become more informed, but not always sure when that knowledge could be used. Becoming familiar with intuition as a viable form of information takes awhile to come to terms with, and use spontaneously.

Path to Completion
On our way to full completion: that of returning to our source of Oneness, we find ourselves always in contact with our animal friends. The bonding with animals formed very early on our childhood. Besides most of us having pets at sometime in our lives, we have been given teddy bears or stuffed animals as children. And who has not been told a childhood story about animals?

A normal aspect of human nature had been responding to life by forming relationships. And animals have been one of the most solid relationships we, as humans, have had. Isn’t it interesting that our pets always retain a close connection with us, and are exceedingly affectionate, no matter what the circumstances are? I feel this is yet another aspect showing that animals are instinctively keeping close to protect their relatives. (Quite the huge primordial knowing, I would say.)

The more we admit to intuition, and cultivate its tendencies, the closer we will come to the total intellect of the universe. We will realize the connection to All That Is, and by recognizing the Animal Kingdom. The combined energy can cultivate a serious surge in thought evolution. This brings Humanity into the young adult stage of evolution.

It appears that through our search of Self, we steered ourselves away from the very important part of ourselves—the animal kingdom. But as we continue on our search, we have found ourselves full circle back into the possibility of connecting again with our long lost cousins, and our original instinctive tendencies.

Copyright 2009-2015 Melissa Leath. All rights reserved.

About Melissa Leath: Melissa has been using her instinct/intuition all her life. And has taught others how to use it for at least 35 years. To find out how you can learn from her go to her website. She teaches many online classes and workshops, as well as mentors one-on-one.


Spiritual Philosophy

Shrii Shrii Anandamurti visited Istanbul in 1979. I was a third year student in Boğaziçi University at that time and I did not know about him. He gave 3 lectures in English on September 14 and 15 in 1979. I missed these special gatherings but I have read the text of the discourses countless times. I translated the Istanbul discourses into Turkish. You can find the Turkish versions in the links given at the end of this page. Baba’s Istanbul discourses have been preserved by Ananda Marga but I think that more people should read them.

Mysticism and Yoga
14 September 1979, Istanbul

When the aesthetic sense, based on the subtle aesthetic science, comes to touch a certain standard, it is what is called mysticism. And when this mysticism reaches the pinnacle of human glory, or the excellence of human glory, it is called spirituality. What is mysticism? Mysticism is the never-ending endeavour to find out the link between the finite and the infinite. It is a never-ending endeavour to find out a link between the self and the Super-Self, khud and Khudá. This is mysticism.

It is one of the human wonts that human beings are never satisfied with something finite. They are never satisfied with something limited. In Sanskrit it is said, ‘Nalpe sukhamasti bhunaeva sukhamasti’ [Human thirst cannot be satisfied with something limited, human hunger cannot be satisfied by something finite].
That is, in the quest for the Infinite, human beings first come in contact with aesthetic science. Aesthetic science does not always mean to get something pleasant it may mean to get something troublesome, something embarrassing – it may or may not be something pleasant. Aesthetic science is that which one can express in a subtler way, from subtle to subtle, and when it reaches the subtlest point, that point is the pinnacle of human glory. Now, it is the duty of artists to express their work in a nice way, in a lucid way, and place it before the world. Not everyone can do this. But enjoying something with aesthetic taste or aesthetic charm is within the capacity of each and every human being.

When human beings started their movement towards the Supreme Being, in quest of Supreme Bliss, they first came in contact with spirituality. As spirituality is coming in contact with the Infinite, that is, the finite comes in contact with the Infinite, it is called yoga. Yoga is the unit moving in quest of the Infinite, the finite moving towards the Infinite in a mystic style. In Sanskrit, yoga means “addition”. For instance, two plus two is equal to four. But for a mystic, for an aspirant of the mystic goal or the mystic desideratum, yoga is not only addition here yoga means “unification”. What sort of unification? It is just like sugar and water. Say there are two plus two apples. In the case of addition there will be one apple, then two, then three and then four apples. Every apple will maintain its individuality or its identity. The identity of the apples remains unchanged before and after the addition. But in the case of unification, that is, in the example of sugar and water, the sugar does not maintain its identity because it becomes one with the water. This is unification. In the realm of mysticism, yoga means this type of unification. That is, it is unification like sugar and water, and not simply addition like two plus two.

Now the starting point is aesthetic taste or aesthetic science. The culminating point, that is, from the culminating point, starts the movement of Supreme charm. In that movement with the goal of Supreme charm, human beings become unified with the Supreme Entity, whose seat is above the pinnacle of existence.
This movement for yoga, for the unification of the unit with the Supreme, the finite with the Infinite, is a must for each and every human being. The human physical and psychic structure is most suitable for this purpose. Animals and plants act according to their inborn instincts. They are mentally undeveloped, and because of this their brain is also undeveloped. The cranium is very small and the conscious portion of the mind is sufficient for them there is no necessity or little necessity for the sub-conscious or unconscious strata of the mind. A plant gets pleasure or pain when its inborn instincts are either encouraged or discouraged. When the inborn instincts of a plant or an animal are encouraged it gets pleasure, and when the inborn instincts are discouraged, suppressed or depressed, it gets pain. This is how the brain or the mind of plants and animals functions. But in the case of human psychology, human psycho-spiritual movement cannot be suppressed, cannot be checked. There lies the speciality of human existence.

Now yoga. Yoga is the most developed and most valuable expression of human wonts, so it is in the first phase of yoga that one expresses oneself through so many arts and sciences. The final point of all artistic movement and the final point of all branches of sciences is the supreme source, the perennial source of all energies, the supreme seat of all energies. It is Parama Puruśa, the Supreme Entity, who is the Father of all, the Causal Matrix of all created beings in this universe, both animate and inanimate. That is why for all people, whether they are intelligent or illiterate, thin or fat, educated or uneducated, the Supreme Entity must be the goal of life. That is, the Supreme Entity is the culminating point, the desideratum of all human expressions. When human beings are lacking in this spirit of movement, they degrade themselves from the human status. All you boys and girls, you should remember this supreme expression of veracity.

Shrii Shrii Anandamurti

“Mysticism and Yoga” was originally published in English in Ánanda Vacanámrtam 14, 1981. Second English publication was in Yoga Psychology, 1991.
Ananda Marga Publications


"Biophilia" is an innate affinity of life or living systems. The term was first used by Erich Fromm to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital. [4] Wilson uses the term in a related sense when he suggests that biophilia describes "the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life." He proposed the possibility that the deep affiliations humans have with other life forms and nature as a whole are rooted in our biology. Both positive and negative (including phobic) affiliations toward natural objects (species, phenomenon) as compared to artificial objects are evidence for biophilia.

Although named by Fromm, the concept of biophilia has been proposed and defined many times over. Aristotle was one of many to put forward a concept that could be summarized as "love of life". Diving into the term philia, or friendship, Aristotle evokes the idea of reciprocity and how friendships are beneficial to both parties in more than just one way, but especially in the way of happiness. [5]

In the book Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations edited by Peter Kahn and Stephen Kellert, [6] the importance of animals, especially those with which a child can develop a nurturing relationship, is emphasized particularly for early and middle childhood. Chapter 7 of the same book reports on the help that animals can provide to children with autistic-spectrum disorders. [7]

Human preferences toward things in nature, while refined through experience and culture, are hypothetically the product of biological evolution. For example, adult mammals (especially humans) are generally attracted to baby mammal faces and find them appealing across species. The large eyes and small features of any young mammal face are far more appealing than those of the mature adults.

Similarly, the hypothesis helps explain why [ original research? ] ordinary people care for and sometimes risk their lives to save domestic and wild animals, and keep plants and flowers in and around their homes. In other words, our natural love for life helps sustain life.

Very often, flowers also indicate potential for food later. Most fruits start their development as flowers. For our ancestors, it was crucial to spot, detect and remember the plants that would later provide nutrition.

Because of our technological advancements and more time spent inside buildings and cars disconnects us from nature, biophilic activities and time spent in nature may be strengthening our connections as humans to nature, so people continue to have strong urges to reconnect with nature. The concern for a lack of connection with the rest of nature outside of us, is that a stronger disregard for other plants, animals and less appealing wild areas could lead to further ecosystem degradation and species loss. Therefore, reestablishing a connection with nature has become more important in the field of conservation. [8] [9] Examples would be more available green spaces in and around cities, more classes that revolve around nature and implementing smart design for greener cities that integrate ecosystems into them such as biophilic cities. These cities can also become part of wildlife corridors to help with migrational and territorial needs of other animals. [10]

The hypothesis has since been developed as part of theories of evolutionary psychology in the book The Biophilia Hypothesis edited by Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson [11] and by Lynn Margulis. Also, Stephen Kellert's work seeks to determine common human responses to perceptions of, and ideas about, plants and animals, and to explain them in terms of the conditions of human evolution.

In architecture, biophilic design is a sustainable design strategy that incorporates reconnecting people with the natural environment. It may be seen as a necessary complement to green architecture, which decreases the environmental impact of the built world but does not address human reconnection with the natural world. [12] Caperna and Serafini [13] define biophilic design as that kind of architecture, which is able to supply our inborn need of connection to life and to the vital processes. According to Caperna and Serafini, [14] Biophilic architecture is characterized by the following elements: i) the naturalistic dimension (ii) the Wholeness [15] of the site, that is, "the basic structure of the place" (iii) the "geometric coherency", that is, the physical space must have such a geometrical configuration able to exalt the connections human dimension and built and natural environments. Similarly, biophilic space has been defined as the environment that strengthens life and supports the sociological and psychological components, [16] [17] or, in other words, it is able to: [18] [19] (i) unburden our cognitive system, supporting it in collecting and recognizing more information in the quickest and most efficient way (ii) foster the optimum of our sensorial system in terms of neuro-motorial influence, avoiding both the depressive and the exciting effects (iii) induce a strengthening in emotive and biological terms at a neural level (iv) support, according to the many clinical evidences, the neuro-endocryne and immunological system, especially for those people who are in bad physical condition.

Having a window looking out to plants is also shown to help speed up the healing process of patients in hospitals. [20] Similarly, having plants in the same room as patients in hospitals also speeds up their healing process. [21]

Canadian author Hilary Scharper explicitly adapted E.O. Wilson's concept of biophilia for her ecogothic novel, Perdita. [22] In the novel, Perdita (meaning "the lost one") is a mythological figure who brings biophilia to humanity.

American philosopher Francis Sanzaro has put forth the claim that because of advances in technological connectivity, especially the internet of things (IOT), our world is becoming increasingly driven by the biophilia hypothesis, namely, the desire to connect to forms of life. [23] Sanzaro applies Wilson's theories to trends in artificial intelligence and psychoanalysis and argues that technology is not an antithesis to nature, but simply another form of seeking intimacy with nature.


Scientific evidence of reproduction urge? July 11, 2007 3:37 PM Subscribe

Disclaimer: I'm not well educated in Biology. Or at least as much as I should be.

I've always believed there is, because it was always taught as a given, but I've never actually read any scientific studies to that effect. Is our opinion that all animals have an innate/instinctual urge to reproduce purely based on non-scientific evidence?

This question is sparked because my brother feels that animals actually only have an innate/instinctual urge to have sex and that reproduction is only a by-product, in that it's not intentional, either intellectually or innately/instinctually (and that with humans it's a bit different due to the intellectual aspect of it). I disagreed in that I always thought the urge was to reproduce and that sex was the by-product. I do agree though that I feel with humans it's a bit different due to the intellectual aspect.

I tried to google for some scientific evidence, but any mention of such urge is only in passing or editorial.

I'm fairly certain that I hold the majority viewpoint, so I don't just need people saying yes or no, this is right or that is right (although, viewpoints based on actual knowledge of the field are welcomed). What I'm wondering is if we can scientifically study that these urges exist, and if so, what have been the outcomes of such studies?

Sorry about how long-winded this is, but I just wanted to get this question out there.

My sociology professor spoke at length about how humans don't have any instincts, so here's that theory:

Instincts are things that animals do without being taught, and all of the animals of a species do it. The common example is one bird that builds a spherical nest. even if it's raised in captivity and never meets another bird, it still builds the same shape nest. There's no behavior that all humans do without fail and without being taught - from reproduction, to sheltering themselves, even survival and walking upright (as evidenced by feral children) - all are learned behaviors.

I'll see if I can dig out the studies referenced this is a pretty common sociological theory.
posted by lhall at 3:46 PM on July 11, 2007

my brother feels that animals actually only have an innate/instinctual urge to have sex and that reproduction is only a by-product

Your brother's theory doesn't take into account organisms that reproduce asexually. Before animals gained the ability to reproduce sexually, they still had the instinct to reproduce.
posted by rancidchickn at 3:50 PM on July 11, 2007

It's not an either/or question. There's an urge to mate, and later there's an urge to care for the young (unless were talking about the many animals that don't invest any care at all towards their offspring).

Some animals have sexual behavior that has nothing to do with reproduction--homosexual pairings, or the sexual free-for-all of bonobo social relations, for example.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:57 PM on July 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the response. keep them coming. These explanations definitely do touch upon some of what I already knew, but for some reason I was having trouble backing up my understanding.

I should read more about biological and evolutionary science. Side question. anyone have any books relating to this discussion that a layman could pick up and enjoy/learn from? Bonus points if it's not ultra-dense.
posted by defenestration at 3:58 PM on July 11, 2007

It is more of a semantic question than a factual one that can be proved/disproved by experimentation. The urge is to engage in behavior that maximizes the chance for reproduction of the animals genes. Everything else is a side effect. I highly recommend The Selfish Gene for an engaging read that lays a good foundation for understanding this.

"no behavior that all humans do without fail and without being taught"

Pulling one's hand away from contact with flame would seem to be instinctual behaviour.
posted by Manjusri at 3:58 PM on July 11, 2007

Two things: 1) Not all reproduction is sexual. 2) Why stop at animals? Think about each of these, and whether it's having "sex" for pleasure. Chimpanzees. Rhinos. Mice. Chickens. Jellyfish. Elm trees. Yeast. Viruses. A few bits of RNA.

They all reproduce. Everything that fails to have a strong drive to reproduce doesn't make copies of itself, and when it dies, the ambivalence dies with it.

We all have a common ancestor: a teeny few bits of atoms that tended to make copies of itself from the environment. The copies were never always perfect, and some self-copying accident results were better at making self-copies than others. Most everything didn't work and died. But, the stuff that lived and made copies, lasts. 2 thousand thousand thousand years later, it led to hummingbirds outside, still making copies of themselves.

Everything that gets in the way of making copies is a hindrance to the survival of that hunk of information. The hunk of information in you, elm trees, rhinos, and viruses has a strong, strong history of giving your very good direction to reproduce.

What we call the act of sex is pleasurable and we do it because, to not do it or find it enjoyable makes us far less likely to pass on our genes. It's continually reinforced, and those who have a stronger drive will create offspring with that stronger drive.
posted by cmiller at 4:02 PM on July 11, 2007

Response by poster: I was definitely already aware of non-sexual reproduction. I just forgot to include it in the question.

I'm definitely buying "The Selfish Gene" the next time I'm at a book store. Any more insights and recommendations are welcome!
posted by defenestration at 4:09 PM on July 11, 2007

All great responses, and much to my satisfaction, it's not a cut-and-dry issue-- especially good point about the distinction between reproductive behavior and sexual behavior (specifically among Bonobos). I tend to agree that it's a semantical question as did my brother, but my main position was a naturalist one which precluded the notion of reproductive "urges" as it seems anthropomorphic. I defended this position by stating that sex was the behavior which led to reproduction, and that this behavior would be selected due to its positive gain. However, the intent to reproduce seemed, IMHO, too clairvoyant to be realistic. How does the Darwinian explanation tackle this?

It made sense to me that reproductive behaviors, like sex, were instinctual, but my position was firm that the behaviors were instinctual not the "intended" consequences.

Caring for young, etc. although not universal is a good argument towards knowledge of what was to come (e.g. building a nest, etc.), and it certainly makes the subject murky. If these animals are choosing to reproduce, then it's not strictly an instinct as we have been discussing.

More naturally, the asexual reproduction is instinctual, and a great point to make. My only concern is there is not intent towards these behaviors, and it's just a process these organism and even insects undergo.
posted by quanta and qualia at 4:12 PM on July 11, 2007

Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl is fascinating and quite readable by the non-expert.

"Courtship, sex, affection, gathering food, finding a home--they have all been observed among a range of partners, from heterosexual to homosexual to somewhere in between," Bagemihl says. "And there are some animals who don't have sex at all." Although he doesn't claim to know the motivations of animals, Bagemihl says he does know procreation is not always the driving force: "Same-sex couplings occur in the presence of the opposite sex, in and out of captivity, and in and out of mating season."
posted by Carol Anne at 4:21 PM on July 11, 2007

Pulling one's hand away from contact with flame would seem to be instinctual behaviour.

The sudden jerk your hand does when you get it into a flame without realizing it is a spinal reflex, not a "behavior" as that word is usually defined. That reflex can be overcome with attentive effort some people can hold their hands in flame until all the skin crisps away. (In fact, this ability was used in Frank Herbert's Dune as a test to segregate humans from animals, as it is a fundamentally human ability.)

Understanding the inner life of animals - how they make their decisions, what they are thinking or feeling from time to time - is not a scientific pursuit it is a philosophical one. The same is true of humans, in fact, and it will continue to be true unless reliable mind-reading technology is developed.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:26 PM on July 11, 2007

+1 manjusri. If you have urges to engage in behaviors that maximize your reproductive chances, is that different from having an urge to reproduce? Especially if you're an animal with no theory of mind? Seems like a semantic distinction.

Taking care of the young is just one of the ways that sexually reproducing animals maximize their chances. There are all kinds of elaborate, subtle, or surprising ways that animals do this.

One recent news item discussed females in pair-bonding species that will cuckold their males, to get it on with a more genetically desirable male.

In baboon societies, you get dominant males with harems of females as one type of social group, and "bachelor tribes" as the other. When a bachelor tribe happens upon a harem, first the bachelors kill the dominant male. Then the bachelors all duke it out with each other, until only one is left. Then they kill any young offspring, which sends the females into estrus.

Dragonfly males have "spades" on their penises that they use to dig out any sperm left behind by other males when they impregnate females.

And so on.
posted by adamrice at 4:27 PM on July 11, 2007

Do some reading on the phenomena of estrus. Estrus is when a female of a species comes into season and becomes interested in mating. Sexual activity outside of estrus is not going to lead to reproduction.

In many species, sexual activity rarely happens outside of estrus. Males tend to live with males (or alone) and females tend to live with females and offspring. There may be one or two males as part of a herd, but they are generally there for the purposes of organization, defense, and protecting the right to mate when females are in season.

The females really don't want to have anything to do with the males in many species when they are not in estrus. That's actually one of the reasons that Pandas are so endangered. They are too cross to fuck. When its not breeding season, they can't stand to be around each other and wander far afield. The period of estrus is pretty narrow in that species, so they have a hard time finding mates when the season is actually right.

Humans (and a handful of other creatures) are novel in respect to estrus. We have what is known as hidden ovulation. It can be difficult to tell when a woman is ovulating and therefore ready to breed. This has a number of ramifications for our social structure and male/female interactions and those consequences are a matter of some debate.

So I would say that all animals have a reproduction instinct. Some animals also seem to have a sex drive that is not intrinsically related to breeding. I think that's a really neat thing about humans, but should not be abstracted to other animals.
posted by afflatus at 4:46 PM on July 11, 2007

The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins would give you a fairly good scientific background on why your argument is incorrect.

Functionally: The instinct/urge is for sex and other behaviours like care of offspring etc., with reproduction as a by-product. Animals (including humans, regardless of what many sociologists think) have instincts which cause behaviours which cause reproduction, so the instincts cause reproduction indirectly. It doesn't make sense that a mouse has sex because it desires the presence of baby mice a few weeks down the line, for that to work the mouse would have to actualy understand the link between sex and birth, and I don't think mice know that, or reason that far ahead. Animals are born with instincts which cause wants and behaviors, not knowledge.

Teleologicaly: Those instincts are only there because they cause successful reproduction. The desire for sex (along with caring for offspring etc.) is an outcome of natural selection (for successful reproduction), so reproduction is the ultimate "reason" for the urge for sex, and indeed every other instinct.

In the life of one animal, sex causes reproduction. Over evolutionary timescales, reproduction causes sex.
posted by Canard de Vasco at 4:49 PM on July 11, 2007

There's no behavior that all humans do without fail and without being taught - from reproduction, to sheltering themselves, even survival and walking upright (as evidenced by feral children) - all are learned behaviors.

This theory is massively amplifying the significance of human exceptions, I think.

For example, lots of people argue that animals are less sensitive to low level environmental radiation than humans. However, the effect of such radiation on humans is actually very subtle, a slight increase in the leukemia rate here, a slight increase in breast cancer there.. It is easy to detect statistically unlikely things in human populations, but very hard to detect the same in animals.
posted by Chuckles at 5:02 PM on July 11, 2007

The central tenet of evolution:

That which reproduces most effectively in the previous generation is more prevalent in future generations.

Do you think that organisms that lack a desire to reproduce will last for very many generations in the presence of competing organisms having such an instinct?

Non-human animals (and seemingly, many humans as well) don't understand that sex -----> reproduction, hence the desire to have sex is what drives reproduction in animal populations.

Exercise: Consider the question for plants as well.
posted by mharper3 at 5:30 PM on July 11, 2007

I'd like to offer the ostrich as a case study.

In the wild, a male ostrich mates with as many females as he can. He also builds a nest. When his mates are ready to lay eggs, they show up and use his nest, leaving fertilized eggs behind which are (usually) his offspring. Once they've laid their eggs, he chases them away. (Until they show up ready to lay again.)

Eventually he ends up with quite a nest full of eggs, (nearly) all of which are his children. He then sits on them until they hatch, and cares for the chicks until they're old enough to have a decent chance of surviving on their own. And if anything or anyone tries to get near his chicks while he's caring for them -- including the females who contributed eggs to his clutch -- he will chase them away violently.

Which can be pretty violent. A full grown ostrich can easily kill a human with a disembowling kick.

It's obvious that the male ostrich is doing a lot more than just looking for opportunities to have sex with female ostriches.

Another example: the Nile crocodile. A female Nile crocodile climbs up on a river bank, dig a hole, lays her eggs, and buries them. Then she guards the nest until the eggs hatch. Afterwards, the young crocodiles stay near her for protection until they're pretty good sized.

When danger approaches, they hide in her mouth. (Early observation of this completely misunderstood it and assumed that the female crocodile was engaging in cannibalism because she was too stupid to know better. Later research has corrected that misapprehension.)

She doesn't eat while any of this is going on, a period of several months.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:42 PM on July 11, 2007

The central tenet of evolution: That which reproduces most effectively in the previous generation is more prevalent in future generations.

If there is a central tenet of evolution, that's not it. That might be a good tenet of natural selection though.

How can you study your question scientifically? I think the question is ill-formed. You would need to define how you would know that something is reacting to an urge to reproduce rather than an urge to have sex. And if you want to have a meaningful discussion with your brother on the subject, you'll have to agree on the definitions.

Until you do that, you can't really get a good answer here.
posted by grouse at 6:00 PM on July 11, 2007

"The sudden jerk your hand does when you get it into a flame without realizing it is a spinal reflex, not a "behavior" as that word is usually defined."

Webster's defines behavior as "b: anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation." Are you using more of a technical/jargon definition that excludes reflexes?

I'm also a bit puzzled by the original assertion that instincts cannot be overridden. Websters defines instinct as: " a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency", which is a bit vague but implies that there are exceptions.
posted by Manjusri at 6:30 PM on July 11, 2007

My understanding is that humans are born with far less pre-programmed (instinctual) behavior than most other species, but that they certainly do have instincts. Anyone who has ever been around an infant knows that they do not need to be taught to cry when they're hungry or to suckle. There is at least enough instinctual behavior in humans to help them survive infancy.

The instinct to care for infants is probably unrelated to sex, as I see it. Of course, it's likely that it has also been selected for, because the descendants of animals that care for their young are more likely to survive to adulthood than the descendants of animals that don't. But it does seem logical that there was no real way for early humans, or any animal for that matter, to truly understand the connection between sex (especially if they have a lot of it with a lot of partners) and birth (some lengthy period of time afterward).

This book review relates some interesting points on caring for infants, including the idea that at some times, infanticide is the wiser evolutionary choice,
posted by Miko at 7:17 PM on July 11, 2007

My sociology professor spoke at length about how humans don't have any instincts . There's no behavior that all humans do without fail and without being taught

Your professor is utterly, totally full of shit.

The list of biologically driven behaviors on display by humans is nearly endless. Starting with infants, you have APGAR grimace tests, suckling reflexes, Moro reflexes, the Palmar grasp, Plantar grasp, rooting reflexes, stepping reflexes, tonic neck reflexes, swimming reflexes, etc, etc. These are all things humans do without being taught.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:42 PM on July 11, 2007

Anyone who has ever been around an infant knows that they do not need to be taught to cry when they're hungry or to suckle.

As a three month premie baby, I was born not knowing how to suckle. While 'taught' is probably not entirely accurate given the likely impossibility of teaching anything at that age, it seems at least somewhat true to say that I needed to be taught to suckle.

That said, and so I actually contribute to the thread in this post, it seems to me that 'reproduction' is a bit high level, and what we can observe is an instinct towards activities leading to and associated with reproduction.

As for the issue of asexual reproduction, is there actually anything that reproduces asexually which is complex enough to possess the abstraction of 'instinct'? I can't think of anything, so it seems like a bit of a false issue on this topic. Likewise, plants don't have an instinct towards reproduction because I don't see where they can be meaningfully said to have an instinct towards anything.

Maybe we need to come to an agreed upon definition of what an instinct is here, because it doesn't seem immediately obvious that everyone here is in agreement on this.
posted by Arturus at 8:57 PM on July 11, 2007

"My sociology professor spoke at length about how humans don't have any instincts"

This is apparently a common assertion in introductory sociology texts, but it sounds highly dubious, and perhaps based on differences in use (or misuse) of terminology as Arturus noted.
posted by Manjusri at 10:39 PM on July 11, 2007

The "nature versus nurture" argument is an old one in social science circles, but for many involved it's become politically incorrect to contend that anything is "nature". To even suggest such a thing will land you in hot water. You wouldn't believe the names you'll get called. Just ask Lawrence Summers.

That sociology professor who claimed that humans don't have any instincts was toeing the party line. It would be interesting to know what he'd say about that subject in private, to people he trusts.

It's sad. That's not how science is supposed to be done. This kind of abuse of the process is one of the reasons why the social sciences have fallen into such disrepute in the last twenty or thirty years.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:34 PM on July 11, 2007

While 'taught' is probably not entirely accurate given the likely impossibility of teaching anything at that age, it seems at least somewhat true to say that I needed to be taught to suckle.

No, it's not really true at all. It's just not at all a valid description of what occurred in your example. As a preemie, you lacked the neurological development at that stage for the reflex to be present in a significant fashion. Given a few more weeks in utero, you'd have been fully cooked, so to speak. Instead, the rehabilitative process included treatments where you were prompted to suckle, and given opportunity to suckle something that provided additional neurological stimulus (i.e. feeling something in your mouth, feeling/tasting nutritional stimulus, etc), in order to hopefully speed along the final neurological development that results in the healthy reflex.

Calling this rehab "teaching and learning" is a misuse of terms that leads to greater misunderstanding. If you lift weights, you are not "teaching" your muscles to grow bigger. If you are frightened by a scary movie, your heart does not "learn" to beat faster.

When sociologists get off the ranch and start ignoring the biology involved, and spread their wrongheaded ideas around, that's when you get an AskMe question with a lot of wrong answers. -)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:41 PM on July 11, 2007

Understanding the inner life of animals - how they make their decisions, what they are thinking or feeling from time to time - is not a scientific pursuit it is a philosophical one. The same is true of humans, in fact, and it will continue to be true unless reliable mind-reading technology is developed.

Such a technology may already exist, at least to a limited extent.
posted by flabdablet at 6:07 AM on July 12, 2007

You wouldn't believe the names you'll get called. Just ask Lawrence Summers.

Sorry for the derail, but Lawrence Summers wasn't in the position of making a scientific point when he proposed that males and females might have different abilities in math and science. He was the president of Harvard which is an administrative position and I assume he had a large influence on who was hired or fired at the University. For a person in such a position to make the proposition he made is completely irresponsible and female scientists had every right to doubt that he would treat them fairly.
posted by afu at 6:15 AM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree that this discussion and what happened to Lawrence Summers are two vastly different things but not least because there is a difference in saying some few behaviors are instinctual at birth, and that abilities such as skill at math are instinctual at birth. Most scientists are agreed, as noted above, that some behaviors appear spontaneously in humans, but very few, in comparison with other species. Humans have much more learned behavior than instinctual behavior. Suggesting that skill at math is biologically pre-determined by gender shows a reductive understanding of nature and nurture that is embarrasingly reductive and unscientific Summers' misunderstandings set him up to be a very poor administrator. But it isn't an entirely black-and-white phenomenon (it's all instinctual! It's all learned!) Most human behavior is learned, but nature and nurture interact in complex ways which are not yet well understood.

Cool Papa Bell is right about the preemie argument, as well. In a state of nature, a baby born without the ability to suckle would not be likely to survive. Premature infants are able to survive to the degree that they are in today's world only because centuries of observation, reliable data, experiment, and standard medical practices have created protocols for treating babies like this that enable them to overcome the lack of development at premature birth, which once was almost always a death sentence. Babies who had completely developed in the womb and had the suckling instinct firmly in place would be more likely to survive and thus reproduce. Most babies don't have to be taught - the ones who are able to learn despite developmental delays or early birth are benefitting from the helps of modern medical science which can in some cases counteract a life-threatening biological disadvantage.
posted by Miko at 6:37 AM on July 12, 2007

"My sociology professor spoke at length about how humans don't have any instincts"

This is apparently a common assertion in introductory sociology texts, but it sounds highly dubious, and perhaps based on differences in use (or misuse) of terminology as Arturus noted.

As ikkuy2 pointed out, instinct is generally distinguished from a reflex. An example of instinct would be the elaborate mating rituals of many birds. If you raise a male bird from the time it is hatched and never allow it to see another bird of its species and then expose it to a female at the appropriate age, it will perform a mating dance that is indistinguishable from birds that have grown up around their own kind.

The complexity and variety of instincts lessens with the animal's ability to learn, so mammals in general have fewer instincts that birds or reptiles. A monkey raised in captivity will not know the mating signals of wild monkey, and indeed may never develop any effective mating behaviour at all---my primates prof showed us a picture once of a juvenile male monkey raised in captivity masturbating next to an adult female who was presenting (the monkey signal for 'take me now'). This lack of knowledge about how to mate has been widely observed in monkeys raised in isolation or near isolation. Similarly, apes have little success raising their own first babies in zoos, such that the babies are often either removed for the first few weeks and then returned, or removed and given to an ape who has had experience raising babies (who may then be moved to the same enclosure as the bio-mother so that she can learn parenting skills).

Apes also have enough intelligence to be aware those instincts that they do have. A chimp in captivity was once observed to come across some food that was not enough to share. It began to call out--an instinct for chimps--but clamped its hand over its mouth so as to muffle the sound and eat the food itself. It seems reasonable to suggest that as intelligence increasing allows for overriding and changing instinctual behaviour, instincts will become less selected for.

By the time you get to the intelligence of humans, there do not seem to be any encoded behaviours. Saying that humans do not have instincts IS NOT THE SAME as saying that their biology does not affect their behaviour. If humans had instincts in the way the word is normally applied to animal behaviour, we'd find universals that are far more specific than the list Pinker uses. We'd find really specific things that didn't vary a lot between societies or languages. So, if absolutely everyone in the world, regardless of the language they learned, called out the equivalent of "Hey, look at this!" every time they found a bush with berries on it, that would be an instinct. If all dates followed the same format, that would be an instinct. On the other hand, finding that every society develops music certainly implies something about a biological influence, but a proclivity for music at the level of society is not the same as an instinct. It would be instinct if every person was born knowing the same song.

So, SCDB, it is not actually toeing any "party line" to say that humans don't have instincts. It is using the term in the biological rather than the colloquial sense. Larry Summers didn't say that human's have instincts. He said their were innate differences in genders. Whether that is right or wrong is irrelevant to the question of whether humans have instincts.

Whether desires are instinctual is much harder to determine. You have to use indirect measures, which is tricky. I would separate out a few factors to look at a desire to reproduce: there is the desire to have sex, the desire to have one's own biological children, and the desire to raise children.

In humans, the desire to have sex acts independently of the desire to have or raise children, as evidenced by the number of people who do not want to have or raise children at the time that they are having sex. I don't think we need to look for an instinct to have sex, since there is abundant evidence that animals will engage in pleasurable pursuits when the opportunity arises, and sex for humans is (once you learn how to do it right) generally a pleasurable experience.

The desire to have one's own biological children is a bit more difficult to sort out. On the side of innate desire, there are the people who go to extraordinary lengths to have a child that is biologically linked to them, rather than adopting, or adopting as a final measure only. On the side of not innate, there are/have been many societies where certain social conventions and/or rituals are considered the primary source of relationship, and biology is secondary or unimportant. Further, in the societies where people go to great lengths to have biological children, biological relationships are often considered more 'real' than other relationships, thus complicating whether the desire to have one's own children derives from something innate or a cultural value.

People from every living society seem to have the desire to raise children. Again, it is difficult to determine the role of cultural values in this. In industrial societies we have seen the number of by-choice childless couples increase, but that again could come from cultural values rather than a (lack of) innate desire. Anthropologists have done studies that show people reshaping their desires according to certain principles, which suggests that many desires which might be termed 'innate' in humans are also fairly plastic.

My own feelings, which are based on education in human and primate evolution and human social diversity, but which are not based on some specific study, are that the desire to *raise* children has biological influences, but not in as strict a way as an instinct. The desire to have sex is certainly linked to biology, through the physicality of pleasure. However, I suspect that the 'desire to reproduce' in the specific sense that 'reproduce' implies is a cultural desire formed at the intersection of valuing biological relationships and learning about evolution.
posted by carmen at 7:25 AM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

As ikkuy2 pointed out, instinct is generally distinguished from a reflex.

An example of instinct would be the elaborate mating rituals of many birds.

So, instinct implies a fairly complex action, over time.

The complexity and variety of instincts lessens with the animal's ability to learn,

That is a really interesting observation, but.. Well, we need a concise definition of instinct then - draw a line.

it began to call out--an instinct for chimps--but clamped its hand over its mouth so as to muffle the sound and eat the food itself.

Well, comparing the bird to ikkyu2's reflex example.. I have to think the chimps action sounds a lot more like reflex than complex behaviour to me..

I certainly can appreciate that the bird's nest, or spider's web, are entirely more complex than any "instinctual" behaviours humans exhibit. But, reflex doesn't seem to cover enough territory to capture unconscious human flirting displays. Women wear less clothing closer to ovulation, men tend to be more competitive as soon as a woman is around to impress, and so on..

Could it be that the definition of instinct is teleological? Humans do not have instincts, all other animals have instincts, and to maintain this truth as we learn more, the definition is changed. Is there another word for actions which are between instinct and reflex (maybe I just missed it up thread)?
posted by Chuckles at 9:53 AM on July 12, 2007

Women wear less clothing closer to ovulation, men tend to be more competitive as soon as a woman is around to impress, and so on..

These examples do not hold up cross-culturally. While there may be greater or less degrees of interaction between biology, desire, and behaviour going on in these types of examples, it is not particularly meaningful to describe them as either "reflex" or "instinct".

Is there another word for actions which are between instinct and reflex (maybe I just missed it up thread)?

"As ikkuy2 pointed out, instinct is generally distinguished from a reflex."

Ikkyu2 was asserting a division between behavior and reflex in general usage. However, it appears that reflex is a subset of behavior, and of instinct in colloquial usage.

The technical/jargon usage of instinct seems somewhat muddled, with attempts to shape the definition to reach the conclusion that humans are free from instincts. This article relates some of the history of its usage, and contains the spot-on quote: "In both popular and scientific literature the term instinct has been given such a variety of meanings that it is not possible to frame for it an adequate definition which would meet with general acceptance."

Perhaps the term "innate behavior" is at least partially intended to clarify this. If so, then it is a questionable choice of words as the issue still appears muddled. A quick google didn't turn up much information, but of the three links I found: one asserts that reflexes are a subset of innate behavior. Wikipedia is ambiguous and a thin entry besides, and this definition appears to exclude reflexes.
posted by Manjusri at 12:01 PM on July 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I may have been wrong in my assertion, actually. I am so steeped in neurology that it's not always clear to me what "general usage" is.

When I think of "behavior" I think of the things that simply don't happen anymore after bilateral frontal lobectomy, as distinct from the lower reflexes (withdraw from pain, patellar tap) which are preserved.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:47 PM on July 12, 2007

My sociology professor spoke at length about how humans don't have any instincts, so here's that theory:

That's absurd. For one thing, even a single example disproves it. Sneezing, hickups, and sleep, blinking as things are coming close are all instinctual for example. Man, why would a sociology professor know about that anyway?
posted by delmoi at 7:18 PM on July 21, 2007

Could it be that the definition of instinct is teleological? Humans do not have instincts, all other animals have instincts, and to maintain this truth as we learn more, the definition is changed. Is there another word for actions which are between instinct and reflex (maybe I just missed it up thread)?

That seems to be be the problem. After all, "instinct" "reflex" and "behavior" are all general terms thought up by people, not hard and fast rules like you might find in physics. No one would ever confuse gravity with electromotive force, for example.

So the question of where to draw the line can be more complicated. If it's an "instinct" for a chimp to call out when it sees food, how is that different then a person calling out during orgasm, or in pain?
posted by delmoi at 7:33 PM on July 21, 2007


Interdependent Co-Evolved Instincts

I read a recent article in a science magazine that suggested that the instinct to pick up and protect a cute baby is an evolutionarily beneficial instinct.

If you can imagine two different tribes of people, one tribe that had the protect the cute baby instinct and another try that had the don’t protect the cute baby instinct, it’s clear to see how the first tribe would be successful while the second tribe will be less successful.

There is an interesting idea from natural selection called co-evolution, where two completely different species evolve a kind of interdependence upon one another.

Plants and Instincts

This is most prevalent in insects and plants because are so many different plant species and there are so many different insect species they often share the same environment.

The most commonly known co-evolution between plants and insects is between bees and flowers. It’s almost as if they’ve made some kind of trade agreement. The flower gives the bee free nectar and in exchange for getting free nectar the bee will cross pollinate the flowers.

A very common co-evolutionary relationship exists between primates and fruit bearing trees and flowers. They believe that one of the reasons that primates, including humans, developed the ability to discern different colors was to be able to detect which fruit bearing plants and flowers have the biggest and the juiciest fruit.

Trees and Primates

From the tree’s standpoint, the surrounding area of the seeds, which is the most important part of the tree, is the most delicious part to humans. Just like there’s kind of an unwritten agreement between bees and flowers, there seems to be an unwritten agreement between fruit bearing plants and trees and primates.

The primates are attracted to the colors of the fruit. The primates are attracted to the sweet taste of the fruit. In exchange the primates will pass the seeds through their digestive system and then plant the seeds further away from the original tree to kind of help spread the tree.

The fruit bearing trees and plants provide free food to primates and primates help to spread the seed of the fruit bearing tree.

Storytelling Watcher

One interesting idea from neurology is that most of our decisions are instinctive and outside of our conscious control. There’s this idea that our conscious mind is more of an after-the-fact storyteller than an actual chooser.

We watch our instincts happening and we like to believe that we are choosing to do the right thing. One of the ways this comes out is when you think of the hero’s journey, where the hero during the hero’s journey has to go through a necessary inflection point where he risks his life to save his friends.

Almost every hero’s journey movie, there is one important scene called the belly of the whale, according to Joseph Campbell, where the hero has to risk everything to save his friends and family.

Take One For The Team

It might turn out that this is a very powerful instinct. It feels very good to think about this instinct. It feels very good to be reminded about this instinct. It feels very good to watch this instinct played out on the screen.

If you can imagine two tribes of people, one tribe that had the protect your friends at all cost no matter what instinct, and another tribe that said if it gets too dangerous take care of yourself only, it’s easy to see how this first tribe would be much more successful than the second tribe.

All of these instincts we like to believe they are our conscious choices that we follow these instincts with our conscious mind and there’s some type of signal of our moral righteousness.

Instinct Watching Device

It could be that these are all instincts are completely outside of our conscious control and we can just watch them and kind of take credit for them. That’s another theory as to why we have our conscious minds. We like to take credit for things that we watch happening as it makes us feel good.

It’s a kind of a ego protection trick that keeps us taking care of ourselves so long as we think we are super important.

One of the reasons we like colors so much, and certain combinations of colors is because it’s based on this instinctive trait to be able to discern different trees to see which ones have the most brightest colors and the brightest colors are not only a signal that there is some delicious fruit there but there also a signal that there’s water nearby because fruit bearing trees and plants need a lot of water to produce the fruit.

Women In Sexy Dresses

Whenever you see an attractive woman in an attractive dress or an attractive painting with attractive colors, that’s all potentially based on our ancient instinct to recognize different colors and associate those different colors with sweet tasting fruit.

Another example of co-evolution is between humans and domesticated animals. Over time, just like bees and flowers, humans and animals developed a kind of overlapping interdependency. The animals do work for humans and humans provide free food and protection to the animals. Just like bees and flowers and primates and fruit bearing trees.

Learn Hypnosis

Mind Persuasion has plenty of books and courses to teach you how to speak hypnotically and persuasively.


Are humans wired to survive?

So are humans wired to survive? It sure seems like it. There are many examples of hard-wired human instincts that help keep us alive. Perhaps the most obvious case is the fight-or-flight response, coined by Harvard University physiologist Walter Cannon in 1915. When humans are faced with danger or stress, a biological trigger helps us decide whether to stay and fight or get the heck out of there -- flight.

When we're stressed or staring danger in the face, the brain's hypothalamus is activated. It initiates a series of chemical releases and nerve cell responses that gets us ready for the impending scenario. Adrenaline is released into the blood stream, our heart rate increases, blood is pumped more quickly into our muscles and limbs. Our awareness, sight and impulses all intensify and quicken. You can thank our caveman ancestors for this one. Early man faced a lot of dangers, and the fight-or-flight response evolved to help them evade or battle those dangers in order to survive. Today, it's what allows an ordinary Joe to rush into a burning building or a mother of three to lift a car off of one of her children -- a phenomenon known as hysterical strength. It also helps us out in non-life threatening situations like a boss screaming in your face or possibly fleeing -- or getting involved in -- a barroom brawl.

Another way we seem to be hard-wired to survive is in how we pick and choose our reproductive partners. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) produced a show called "Human Instinct" that tested an interesting theory about how we pick our partners. You're probably thinking it's all about visual appeal. Would you believe it has more to do with your nose? Here's how it works: Humans all have different genes that help determine how our immune systems work. Some people are better at fending off certain sicknesses more than others. When we pick reproductive partners, they would ideally have a set of genes that supports an immune system different from our own. That way the offspring would get both sets of genes and be able to fight off a larger range of sickness and disease.

So that part is easy enough to understand. Here's where the nose comes into play. In its study, the BBC supposes that a human's smell has more to do with our instinctual attraction than sight. To test it, the BBC went to Newcastle University and recruited six women as test subjects. Their blood was tested and six genes were identified to indicate what kind of immune system they had. Then each woman wore a T-shirt to bed on consecutive nights. The shirts were placed in separate jars, and the show's host smelled each one to pick out which scent was most appealing to him.

The findings revealed that the two scents the host preferred shared none of his immune system genes. In this case, opposites attracted and the hypothetical baby they would produce would have the most wide-reaching immune system gene set. The host didn't know what any of these women looked like -- he only had his nose to do the work for him. The results indicate that humans have a hard-wired ability to choose a partner that would produce a robust, healthy baby and help to ensure the survival of the human race.


Neurons: Size vs. Numbers

And yet, all those remaining humans would still have the same average 16 billion neurons in their cerebral cortex as they had before, a number of neurons so large, that take so much energy to sustain, that no other animal on the planet can afford anything close at best, gorillas and orangutans carry about half as many neurons in their cerebral cortices. 1-3 So many cortical neurons endow humans with cognitive capabilities that are unparalleled in nature, but somehow are not enough to guarantee, in and of themselves, the amazing abilities accrued by humanity. What is it that allows biological capabilities, such as representing quantities and ideas, to get shaped into cognitive abilities such as multi-part mental problem-solving, strategizing, and creating contingency plans? Another human invention made not just possible but necessary by all the technologies those 16 billion cortical neurons have produced and accumulated over time: schooling.

Fortunately, the experiment of taking technological achievements away to separate human abilities from biological capabilities does not have to be made, other than as mental exercises in dystopian science fiction . Anthropologists and paleontologists have already revealed what human biology achieves without modern technology and cultural transmission. Modern humans have been around for at least 200,000 years shaved and suited up, the sapiens variety of human that took over Europe after the last Ice Age would probably have looked very much like a modern businessman. 4. The distribution of some genes in the population may have changed over the millennia, as foods underwent artificial selection and wheat and cheese were introduced as diet staples in some societies, and myopia and other biological shortcomings became fixable with the likes of glasses and surgery. 4 The size of the modern human brain, however, has been roughly the same, which, given what we have learned in my lab about how brain size relates to numbers of neurons within and across species, means that the first modern human of 200,000 years ago most likely already had the same 16 billion neurons in the cerebral cortex that we do today. 3

There certainly are human-specific genes that code for human-specific features, just like there must be chimpanzee-specific genes, duck-specific genes, and hummingbird-specific genes. Our research has shown, however, that there doesn’t seem to be a distinctively human brain, but rather a primate-specific way of organizing neurons (much as there is, say, a rodent- or carnivoran-specific way of putting brains together)—and of those primate brains, ours happens to be the biggest, with the most neurons in the cerebral cortex. 5 The biological grounds of human uniqueness might thus lie simply and foremost (even if not exclusively) in being the primate species with the most cortical neurons. 6

Since neurons are the basic information-processing units of the nervous system, the 16 billion cortical neurons with which humans are endowed provide a uniquely large biological capability to process information. The cortical processing that finds patterns, infers conclusions, tells the good from the bad, remembers events, makes plans, changes plans as circumstances demand—it’s all there. Importantly, none of these capabilities is exclusively human. Brains as different as those of a pigeon, a mouse, a macaque, and a human all share similar layouts in how their neurons are connected: each version of a cortex has multiple sensory, motor, and associative zones that appear to function similarly in representing, cross-referencing, and storing information. 7

From logical reasoning and understanding symbols to using and even making tools, recognizing itself in the mirror, or planning for the future, there doesn’t seem to be any fundamental functionality of the human brain that is not shared with other species. 6 Thanks to many years of behavioral psychological studies based on the growing suspicion that non-human species might be more capable than human hubris once conceded, cognitive differences across species are now believed to be a matter of quantity, not quality: not whether a species can do something, but how well, and how flexibly, they can do it. 8 If cortical neurons are like Lego blocks, we humans have the most to play with, which means that, to the extent that they can be rearranged while still obeying the same generic layout, the larger number of assembling blocks in the human cortex endows it with immensely more possibilities.

Because we are primates, not only do we have an enormous pile of Legos, we have fairly small Legos, which means that our brain can do a lot while still not being humongous. Incidentally, our neuronal Legos are not the smallest: even the largest crows and parrots as well as the smallest mammals have neurons that we calculate to be on average much smaller than human cortical neurons. 9 What distinguishes humans from other species is not how small or large, dense or scarce our cortical neurons are, but simply how many we have to do the job of navigating through life. 9


Why don't plants get sunburned or genetic damage/cancer being out in the sun all day?

When UV-B radiation and other solar radiation hits plants like trees or grass, why does it not cause genetic damage to the plants DNA?

It does and they do. Though as others here noted, many things help them defend against it.

Leaves are disposable though, and the outer layers of bark are usually dead plant material that protects the rest.

Most crucially, most plants don't have cells circulating like animals do, so they can't really get anything like metastatic cancer. They also lack vital organs that can become diseased and kill the whole plant.

Plants get tumours of sorts for all kinds of reasons but they can't generally spread and kill the whole organism.

Iɽ also like to add that bark and leaves, which take the brunt of the UV, do not live for 70+ years like human body parts and so have much less time to accumulate genetic damage.

This makes a lot of sense! Thank you for the best answer so far

Plants are the superior lifeform over animals. I, for one, accept my new masters.

Oak trees get cancer often right? Those are the bunches of leaves that don't seem to know when Autumn hits if I understand. Is this correct?

So what I'm taking away from that is if I don't want cancer to spread I should drain all my blood.

There's a few forms of cancer that spread through the phloem in plants and while they don't have cells circulating there are diseases that just work the same as in animals, infect, plop open and then instead of using lympathic, nervous, blood or other 'pathways' they use the phloem.

Also plants do have organs and some of those if infected by disease or cancer will kill the whole plant, Xylem or Phloem are both systems that if destroyed will result in plant death. (while the Xylem is dead at functional maturity.)

In general a lot of cancer is related to virus vector, some of the best known and vaccinated against and the � cancer' dogs in australia transmit to each other or that is ravaging quite a few species nowadays is all virus transmitted and caused, just in case someone thinks cancer can't be virus related.

There's also pretty crazy, virtual immortal as well as super infectious cancer, just on it's own, HeLa for example and some think that HeLa contaminated a majority of all tests in laboratories up to a certain date, but no idea on that.


Artificial grammar reveals inborn language sense, study shows

Parents know the unparalleled joy and wonder of hearing a beloved child's first words turn quickly into whole sentences and then babbling paragraphs. But how human children acquire language -- which is so complex and has so many variations -- remains largely a mystery. Fifty years ago, linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky proposed an answer: Humans are able to learn language so quickly because some knowledge of grammar is hardwired into our brains. In other words, we know some of the most fundamental things about human language unconsciously at birth, without ever being taught.

Now, in a groundbreaking study, cognitive scientists at The Johns Hopkins University have confirmed a striking prediction of the controversial hypothesis that human beings are born with knowledge of certain syntactical rules that make learning human languages easier.

"This research shows clearly that learners are not blank slates rather, their inherent biases, or preferences, influence what they will learn. Understanding how language is acquired is really the holy grail in linguistics," said lead author Jennifer Culbertson, who worked as a doctoral student in Johns Hopkins' Krieger School of Arts and Sciences under the guidance of Geraldine Legendre, a professor in the Department of Cognitive Science, and Paul Smolensky, a Krieger-Eisenhower Professor in the same department. (Culbertson is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester.)

The study not only provides evidence remarkably consistent with Chomsky's hypothesis but also introduces an interesting new approach to generating and testing other hypotheses aimed at answering some of the biggest questions concerning the language learning process.

In the study, a small, green, cartoonish "alien informant" named Glermi taught participants, all of whom were English-speaking adults, an artificial nanolanguage named Verblog via a video game interface. In one experiment, for instance, Glermi displayed an unusual-looking blue alien object called a "slergena" on the screen and instructed the participants to say "geej slergena," which in Verblog means "blue slergena." Then participants saw three of those objects on the screen and were instructed to say "slergena glawb," which means "slergenas three."

Although the participants may not have consciously known this, many of the world's languages use both of those word orders-that is, in many languages adjectives precede nouns, and in many nouns are followed by numerals. However, very rarely are both of these rules used together in the same human language, as they are in Verblog.

As a control, other groups were taught different made-up languages that matched Verblog in every way but used word order combinations that are commonly found in human languages.

Culbertson reasoned that if knowledge of certain properties of human grammars-such as where adjectives, nouns and numerals should occur-is hardwired into the human brain from birth, the participants tasked with learning alien Verblog would have a particularly difficult time, which is exactly what happened.

The adult learners who had had little to no exposure to languages with word orders different from those in English quite easily learned the artificial languages that had word orders commonly found in the world's languages but failed to learn Verblog. It was clear that the learners' brains "knew" in some sense that the Verblog word order was extremely unlikely, just as predicted by Chomsky a half-century ago.

The results are important for several reasons, according to Culbertson.

"Language is something that sets us apart from other species, and if we understand how children are able to quickly and efficiently learn language, despite its daunting complexity, then we will have gained fundamental knowledge about this unique faculty," she said. "What this study suggests is that the problem of acquisition is made simpler by the fact that learners already know some important things about human languages-in this case, that certain words orders are likely to occur and others are not."

This study was done with the support of a $3.2 million National Science Foundation grant called the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship grant, or IGERT, a unique initiative aimed at training doctoral students to tackle investigations from a multidisciplinary perspective.

According to Smolensky, the goal of the IGERT program in Johns Hopkins' Cognitive Science Department is to overcome barriers that have long separated the way that different disciplines have tackled language research.

"Using this grant, we are training a generation of interdisciplinary language researchers who can bring together the now widely separated and often divergent bodies of research on language conducted from the perspectives of engineering, psychology and various types of linguistics," said Smolensky, principal investigator for the department's IGERT program.

Culbertson used tools from experimental psychology, cognitive science, linguistics and mathematics in designing and carrying out her study.

"The graduate training I received through the IGERT program at Johns Hopkins allowed me to synthesize ideas and approaches from a broad range of fields in order to develop a novel approach to a really classic question in the language sciences," she said.

Story Source:

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