Evolution Of Instinct

March 1, 2015 Instinct is species-wide built-in behavior - automatic, no need to think too much about it, It is hardwired, it’s just there - deal with it, you will be getting a lot of help from parents, teachers, co-workers, friends and siblings throughout your life.  Animal instinct evolved for an array of reasons across 3.5 billion years.  Our current set of human-centric  instincts have proven roadworthy for 65 million years, since we were rats .  The genes that code for instinct are conserved i.e. they change very little over eons.  Any attempts to mutate are dealt with instantly and harshly.  Conserved also means that these genes for instinctive behavior are shared throughout thousands of species of animals and plants.  Fill in the blanks for your language specifics, acknowledge the existence of your relatives, respect those with more social clout, note your God of choice and worship it, tell stories about your origins in deep time, make art, music and dance, find a mate, take care of the kids, fight or flee.  Education among humans is filling in details of instinct specific to one’s cohort, club, swarm, pack, gang, class.  Find a belief system and show  respect, pay dues, show the signs and hopefully you won't be ejected from your group. Humans share a strong instinct to cut the tall poppies, marginalize the “other”, If someone is not strictly  with the tribal program they are by definition “mentally ill”. isolate them, silence them before they infect the tribe.  See: Catholic Inquisition, Protestant sectarian violence in the age of the Puritans Quakers, Baptists, Hugenots of 17th century Europe.

Animals, especially humans,  have an instinct to innovate, to risk, to explore, to find a rule and break it, to walk the line, the razor’s edge, to explore outside the box, the envelope, the comfort zone.  Hominids evolved in Africa and spread across the biosphere.  There has been a lot of exploration mixed with our hardwired conservative tribalism.

There is a hierarchy of hardness to our instinct wiring - some things are more ingrained than others, more pliable, flexible, mutable, variable.  It is this mutable behavior that is unique to humans,  or so it seems without going Garciorrea ( hippie new age unscientific woo-woo speculation-a conflation of Uber hippie Jerry Garcia and logorrea) with the assertion  that humans have no traits not shared by plants, fungi or any animal. Let’s say that our ability to rationalize, use tools and make plans are unique to humans - a pre-Gaian notion but just for argument’s sake. The Gaia paradigm, that the Earth is a single organism, makes  sense. The new-age fringe sap it up. Cue the George winston muzak.

The  tribal population ideal is a hard-wired instinct.  At numbers greater than 80 there is lack of leadership and thus lack of  tribal cohesion. The likelihood of some young Turk able to knock off the chief becomes too great. Chief turnover isn’t good for tribe strength leading to success in battles with neighboring tribes or in disputes requiring wisdom, stealth or the ability to engage in Machiavellian behavior.  That 10% who never get the word becomes too many wayward, potentially rebellious or otherwise dangerous souls for tribal health.  Before efficient communication and government systems emerged it was 80 persons max, then 160 then 1,500 then 5,000.  As communication and administration evolved, viable group size expanded.  we now have groups of global scope.  From 4.5 million to 5,000 years ago,  when village population critical mass was reached, a new cohort of young people was sent away to take root elsewhere, to start a new village, allowing a new leader to emerge.

A chimp size cortex is fine if no Machiavellian behavior is afoot - It takes a lot of high-level brainpower to outsmart other humans. That single genetic mutation resulting in the doubled cranial capacity was put to immediate use and conserved, though strange at first, it was no defect.

Tribal leaders emerged as a result of intense intra-tribal competition between males - duels to the death, relentless maneuvering, showboating, constant spending on potlatches, celebrations, gift exchange.  He who gave the biggest parties with the fattest roasted pigs and yams eventually became the chief.  People reward  generosity and respond with enthusiasm to free food.

The human cortex evolved to its present large size in order to sort out the avalanche of social cues needed to compete in human intra tribal social competition and village defense from other humans; any odd men out were consigned to the wilderness. Social skills, the ability to read body language, to get with whatever program was in style was a matter of life or death though life was, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, ”solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

Humans - the only species to attack its own kind just for the hell of it. The healthier and stronger the tribe the more frequent its attacks on neighbors.

Two primary questions.

Number One:  Why are humans so poorly served by their instincts today?  We have devastated the environment for all plants and animals in ten thousand ways and continue to do so at an alarming rate.  When any species of plant or animal becomes extinct, the entire biosphere suffers,  humans suffer.  When a forest or a bacterial or viral  biome is destroyed, life giving oxygen production is negatively impacted.  This is not news.  We poison our food, our water and one another.  What instinct,  if any, drives  this global destabilization?

Number Two:  If humans have such marvelous brain capacity, why do we allow global environmental destruction to continue?

Secondary questions:

Is Capitalism, The Enlightenment Project, Judeo-Christianity,  a cancer on humanity, all life? on the planet?

Are humans the cancer?  the disease itself?

If so, can the disease cure itself?

“The Earth has a disease -  humans.”

Humans now need to make an evolutionary leap regarding our instincts.  A colossal pivot must occur in human behavior immediately or we are doomed.  99% of the Earth’s individual organisms will not even notice that we have left the building.  Humans may live in every corner of the globe but our actual  numbers of human individuals are a rounding error in terms of organisms on Earth.  We have been grossly insensitive for 200 years.  The piper must be paid.

Current manifestations of instinct in America:

  1. Desire to own property
  2. Desire to get married
  3. Desire to raise a family
  4. Desire to fit into a community: Church attendance, sport or music event attendance, theater, dance,movie attendance, dining out, art museum, science museum attendance,
  5. Elections: a social ritual designed to raise collective serotonin levels permitting moderate swarm function in humans in order that we may select leaders that will hopefully serve community, state and federal interests in a hierarchy of causality.
  6. participating in avante garde or avante garde lite: art, music, dress, tattoos, speech.  What is “heavy” avante garde today? Probably not art-making which has become very mainstream - a career path with hierarchy more rigid than career progress up the corporate ladder at G.E.
  7. securing old guard-garde: Poorly modulated capitalist-Industrial-banking behavior, military spending, free ride for the One percent, gun rights, acknowledging Ted Nugent, flag-waving, unhealthy diet, respect for predatory institutions though a victim of them all.  Old Guard security is active at all socioeconomic levels.
  8. What is at the root of Capitalism? ( if it is a part of our cancer) Property rights, Inviolability of the Contract, the Newtonian-Mechanistic paradigm, the Descent of the Grid.

Overpopulation is reversing the epochal intention of much instinctive human behavior resulting in untenable enviro-catastrophe. Instincts that served the organism well over eons now have the opposite effect. Instead of helping us, they are causing our extinction.

Can we blame instinctive human-mammal-animal-organism instinctive behavior for our demise or is it  simply the mathematics of over-crowding,  of excessive numbers derailing our relationship with nature,  reversing the meaning of much of human behavior - instinctive or learned.

The tipping point for human population on Earth has been reached.  If the rainforests and the northern evergreen forests are destroyed, which appears imminent, the Earth’s aerobic bacteriome will be forced to multiply in an effort to restore atmospheric oxygen balance and in so doing mammal immune systems will be overwhelmed by bacterial variety and numbers.  Mammals are on Earth exist in light of  bacteria and viruses’ good graces as we help them fill some of Earth’s niches - if one of us “higher” animals misbehaves, goes rogue ( as humans have already done) - it’s curtains for us all .  But only a  minor mass extinction as mass extinctions go.

Innaism: A philosophical doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge therefore the mind is not a “blank slate” at birth as empiricists such as John Locke claimed.  Innatism assets that not all knowledge is gained from experience and the senses.

Nativism:  Grounded in the fields of genetics, cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, nativists hold that certain beliefs are in some way genetically programmed to arise in our mind - that innate beliefs are the phenotypes of certain genotypes that all humans have in common.

What if the extra 21 billion brain cells in our unique  neocortex turn out to be a big evolutionary misstep and we have filled nature’s marvelous gift of added brain space with destructive nonsense independent of instinct and common sense?  It is only a very small gene sequence that gives humans our neocortex rather than the chimp’s much smaller brain. A slip up 5 millions years ago that separated humans from our innate mammalian good sense and launched this cosmic hayride called civilization.


  1. Do colonies of bacteria or colonies of virus get cancer or other diseases?
  1. Is 250 years of Western science any more than heuristics?  tools for learning about the real deal.
  2. When did the chromosome as an integrated structure evolve?
  3. When did autonomic brain function evolve?  How?
  4. Do mitochondria have their own golgo apparatus enclosed within the mito-membrane?
  5. When did calcium ion process / mechanism evolve in hearing?  In vision?  what were its precursor forms?  Did it evolve all at once or gradually as Darwin would have it?  did this calcium ion process have a previous unrelated function and get re-assigned?  does it exist in bacteria or viruses or archaea?
  6. How many rigorous chemical, photo-chemical processes such as the Krebs Cycle that are now vital, begin as nature’s horseplay to be harnessed later?
  7. Why would DNA molecule EVER team up with histones? Is this a form of symbiosis or parasitism?
  8. Is there a difference between symbiosis and parasitism? Was all currebnt symbiosis once parasitism?
  9. Has a plant ever evolved into an animal or vice versa?
  10. Are worms just highly evolved chromosomes?
  11. Yin-yang-animal / plant
  12. Yin -yang - animal / climate
  13. Yin-yang - animal / air chemistry
  14. Yin-yang mandelbrot: trending yin, trending yang  A cascade of trends - as in human history or crummy urban neighborhoods, whole cities
  15. East SF Bay - broken membrane between rich and poor
  16. Menlo Park and Palo Alto: membrane intact  (though permeable) via septum highway 101
  17. Organism as an entire ecosystem - a Margulis theme
  18. Does any living thing infect a virus?  Are they home free so to speak?
  19. Might there evolve a directly sentient plant i.e. plant with cerebral cortex?  We know plants have some sort of large brain already
  20. What was birth order of DNA molecule and other polypeptides and organelles? Can we get within one hundred million years on this?
  21. Do viruses of different species enter into symbiosis/parasitism with one another?
  22. If so, where might we find such organisms?  Ha anyone looked for them?
  23. Have three, four, five or more different virus species ever formed a colony?
  24. Do viruses have swarm-non swarm capability like the locust?  Do bacteria?
  25. Are there any candidates in the human bacteriome for a role as a new organelle?
  26. One that filters out stupidity in neurons?
  27. Humans harbor thousands of species of “good” bacteria.  Do we also harbor “good” viruses.
  28. Can the same bacteria or virus that is typically “good” go bad?  How many human bacterial symbionts are neutral for the most part i.e. take ‘em or leave ‘em?
  29.  Are cholera, TB, whooping cough, tetanus,syphilis, bubonic plague, leprosy bacteria present in our bodies at all times but inert?
  30. Are one or two or all them engaged in constructive roles until they go bad?
  31. Are we invaded by these pathogens or do we carry them 24/7 with our white blood cells and other immune mechanisms keeping  them inert? or perhaps even providing useful proteins or catalytic services in certain cells?