1. ABOUT THE HUMAN CONDITION
AND ITS RESOLUTION
WTM FAQ 1.20 What scientific evidence is there for the ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation of the human condition?
Firstly, we have history’s confirmation of the scientific ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation of the human condition
As Jeremy has pointed out, “Certainly history teems with non-scientific mystical, superstitious and super-natural reasons for humans’ often brutally aggressive and selfish nature or condition, such as that an evil force called Satan came out of some terrifying realm and dragged us humans into the clutches of evil and sin, condemning most of us to a dreadful purgatory in a fiery Hell. However, for anyone who has been prepared to stop and think sensibly about our existence, the rational, scientific ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation of the human condition is actually very obvious—because of course when we humans became conscious that self-adjusting capability must have clashed with our already established dictatorial instincts’ orientations that had been managing our lives prior to us becoming conscious—and many thinkers, in fact many of the recognised greatest thinkers in history, such as Moses and Plato, recognised that the emergence of our conscious mind is what led to our departure from our species’ original ‘Garden of Eden’ instinctive state of innocence.”
This quote from researcher Richard Heinberg’s book Memories & Visions of Paradise summarises how universal the acknowledgement of the ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation of the human condition has been: ‘Every religion begins with the recognition that human consciousness has been separated from the divine Source, that a former sense of oneness…has been lost…everywhere in religion and myth there is an acknowledgment that we have departed from an original…innocence and can return to it only through the resolution of some profound inner discord…the cause of the Fall is described variously as disobedience, as the eating of a forbidden fruit [from the tree of knowledge], and as spiritual amnesia [forgetting, blocking out, alienation, denial, psychosis]’.
Science’s recent understanding of the difference in the way the gene-based, naturally selected, instinctive learning system and the nerve-based, conscious mind’s learning system work further confirms the obvious ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation of the human condition
Science’s discovery of the difference in the way our nerve-based conscious intellect and our gene-based instincts work has allowed biologist Jeremy Griffith to add further confirming clarification of the long recognised ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation of the human condition. He presents this breakthrough clarification in and in of his definitive book, FREEDOM: The End of The Human Condition.
It was Darwin’s mid-1800s discovery of natural selection (as well as Watson and Crick’s subsequent discovery of the DNA molecule, the mechanism behind natural selection), and science’s discovery of how the nervous system works, in particular that nerves are able to remember events, that allowed Jeremy to explain that the nerve-based learning system operates from a basis of understanding the world while the gene-based learning system can only give species’ orientations to the world around them (see , in particular paragraphs 247–248), and that this difference explains why an upsetting clash must occur between our instincts and conscious intellect; that upsetting clash being the reason for our angry, egocentric and alienated human condition.
So the scientific basis for the confirming and clarifying difference between instincts and intellect is not in contest—in fact, natural selection and the discovery of DNA, and our understanding of the nervous system and how it is able to remember events and by so doing make sense of experience are among the most important and respected pieces of scientific knowledge we have—it just needed a human-condition-confronting-not-avoiding approach to recognise and acknowledge the significance of that difference.
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To elaborate, using this key, confirming and clarifying difference between nerves and genes, Jeremy has logically explained that when we humans became fully conscious some 2 million years ago a battle for the management of our lives must have broken out between our already established gene-based, naturally-selected instinctive orientations and our newly emerged nerve-based, understanding-dependent, self-adjusting, fully conscious mind. As he explains in and in , when our intellect began to experiment in understanding as the only means of discovering the correct and incorrect understandings for managing existence, the instincts—being in effect ‘unaware’ or ‘ignorant’ of the intellect’s need to carry out these experiments—‘opposed’ any understanding-produced deviations from the established instinctive orientations: they ‘criticised’ and ‘tried to stop’ the conscious mind’s necessary search for knowledge.
Like the science that underlies the clarifying difference between nerves and genes, the elements of the ‘instinct vs intellect’ clash are also scientifically accepted.
For example, it is scientifically accepted that prior to becoming conscious our forebears were, like all other animals, instinctively controlled. It is also accepted that at a subsequent point we became conscious—the evidence about the increase in brain size, especially of the association cortex, that is given in is one of the indicators that this occurred some 2 million years ago. Thirdly, it is also accepted that humans today are governed by their conscious intellect, not their instincts. So it is unarguable that at some point our conscious mind wrested control of the management of our lives from our instincts.
What would have happened at that point? It is not in question that the intellect is insightful—for example, as just mentioned, our brain’s main reasoning centre is called the ‘association cortex’, i.e. it can (as explained in ) ‘associate’ or compare experiences and by so doing identify regularly occurring experiences and on the basis of what has regularly occurred in the past, make predictions about what is likely to happen in the future, and adjust behaviour accordingly. In time this self-modifying behaviour starts to provide feedback, refining the insights further—predictions are compared with outcomes and so on. Our ‘association cortex’ can learn or reason or understand or gain insight into the relationship between ‘cause and effect’. It is a reasoning, insightful self-adjusting system. And it is also elementary science that instincts are, at a point, inflexible. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, instincts are, ‘a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason.’ And so, as Jeremy explains: “when our [insightful] conscious intellect emerged it was neither suitable nor sustainable for it to be orientated by instincts—it had to find understanding [use ‘reason’] to operate effectively and fulfil its great potential to manage life. However, when our intellect began to exert itself and experiment in the management of life from a basis of understanding, in effect challenging the role of the already established instinctual self, a battle unavoidably broke out between the instinctive self and the newer conscious self.” ().
Inevitably, when an insightful management system emerges in the presence of a non-insightful system, the insightful system will experiment in managing the world around it from a basis of understanding, and the non-insightful system will blindly resist; it will, as mentioned, ‘oppose’ any understanding-produced deviations from the established instinctive orientations—there is no other possible outcome.
Jeremy then explains how the intellect then defied this opposition or ‘criticism’ from the instincts, resulting in the defensive and retaliatory anger, egocentricity and alienation that characterises the human condition (see ).
The ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation is testable
For a hypothesis to become accepted as true, the scientific method dictates that it must first be tested, and in the case of a hypothesis about the human condition the ultimate test is how accountable it is of our own lives. That greatest of all physicists, Albert Einstein, once said that ‘truth is what stands the test of experience’ (Out of My Later Years, 1950). So, fantastic a claim as it may seem, what is being presented here is the long-sought-after, desperately needed, psychosis-addressing-and-resolving, human race-transforming explanation of the human condition. And the reason you will know that this is that breakthrough explanation is because once you understand the explanation and begin to apply it, you will discover it is so able to make sense of human behaviour it makes it transparent. This transparency of ourselves and our world—for example, the exposure of all our falseness—that this understanding of the human condition brings, is the ultimate ‘test of experience’ that confirms that the understanding being presented here is the long-sought explanation of the human condition. In this particular scientific study—the biological analysis of the human condition—we humans are the subjects, which means we can experience, feel and know the truthfulness or otherwise of the explanations being put forward.
The extraordinary explanatory power of the ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation
Throughout FREEDOM it is demonstrated how the ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation demystifies not just the human condition, but all aspects of human behaviour.
It quickly becomes clear that not only are the facts and logic underlying the ‘instinct vs intellect’ explanation established and unarguable, the theory also has an extraordinary ‘explanatory power’, which is one of the essential qualities of a scientific theory.
Indeed, the strength of a scientific theory is related to the diversity of phenomena it can explain. As the physicist Stephen Hawking wrote, ‘A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations’ (A Brief History Of Time, 1988).
The evolutionary biologist Stephen J. Gould was applying a similar methodology to Hawking’s when he argued that Darwin’s theory of natural selection pointed to the coordination of so many pieces of evidence that no other configuration other than his theory could offer a conceivable explanation, and that in this way natural selection has, in effect, been proven (The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, 2002).
Jeremy’s ‘instinct vs intellect’ theory is very similar to Darwin’s in its ability to coordinate so many pieces of evidence that it is clearly the only conceivable explanation, in this case, for the human condition. For example, it directly explains why humans are angry, egocentric and alienated, but in doing so also explains human development, the hominid fossil record, why science has been mechanistic, the relationship between men and women, sex as humans practice it, the role of nurturing, the source of our morality, why bonobos are the most cooperative of all extant apes, why humans are the only animal to develop consciousness, the divide between children and adults, teenage angst, racism, materialism, politics, political correctness, culture (including art, humour and swearing), the alarming growth in mental disease, all manner of mythology (e.g. Adam and Eve, Judgment Day, Prometheus, Noahs Ark), the practice of religion, Christ, the development of order in the universe, what we mean by ‘God’, and much more.
It should be noted, that even in Darwin’s own time, despite genes and the mechanics of genetic heredity not yet being known, the theory of natural selection was able to be verified because it met Hawking’s and Gould’s criteria of simply coordinating so much evidence that it was clearly true; and, sure enough, it was effectively applied in plant and animal breeding. And while we already know a great deal about the mechanics of the gene-based and nerve-based learning systems, no doubt there is still more to be learnt, however, like Darwin’s idea of natural selection being verifiable before the current understanding of genetics, an excess of evidence also already exists to establish the scientific validity of Jeremy’s ‘instinct vs intellect’ treatise.
Accordingly, Jeremy’s treatise has received support from such extremely eminent scientists as Professor Prosen, former President of the Canadian Psychiatric Society, who wrote in his Introduction to FREEDOM, ‘all the great theories I have encountered in my lifetime of studies of psychiatry can be accounted for under his explanation of human origins and behavior’, and even the aforementioned Steven Hawking, one of the most esteemed scientists of all time, was ‘impressed’ by Jeremy’s treatise (see Hawking’s response, along with those of others leaders in the scientific community, in the section on the WTM’s homepage).
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Watch biologist Jeremy Griffith present first-principle-based biological explanation of the human condition in , or read of his definitive presentation on the subject, FREEDOM: The End Of The Human Condition.