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 The Third Basic Instinct

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Gnomon
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PostSubject: The Third Basic Instinct   Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:31 pm

I have started another book---with some pertinence to Deism---and as usual, I can't wait to tell someone about it. It's THE THIRD BASIC INSTINCT : How Religion Doesn't Get You, by Alex S. Key. I instinctively guessed that the 3rd Basic Instinct concept might shed some light on the perplexing question of why people find it so easy to believe in a mysterious, invisible, intangible supreme entity who issues essential, divine instructions via abstruse, round-about means. Sure enough, I think he has hit upon what makes rational humans so susceptible to faith in unbelievable things.

Spoiler alert! If you plan to read the book, don't read this paragraph. The author takes his time revealing what the 3rd instinct actually is. But I'm just going to blurt it out, right here. The First Basic instinct is obviously the drive to survive. The Second fundamental motive is to reproduce. And the Third ultimate urge is to know. Animals, of course are motivated by innate curiosity to explore and learn about their environment. But their motivation is typically limited to the satisfaction of the first two basic instincts.

For humans however, the Third Basic Instinct pushes people to have memetic intercourse*---to propagate their memes, their ideas and feelings. And that insatiable urge to know everything about everything is especially strong in religious truth-seekers, who will stop at nothing to know everything---even if it means accepting an IOU for future knowledge. Highly-motivated religious folks are often unwilling to admit (to themselves) that they don't know the answer to the most basic and general questions of human existence. So they are forced to pretend to know, or to accept the authority of ancient knowers on the subject, especially if they took the trouble to write it down.

You can probably see where this is going. So I won't belabor the point for now. But if you can't imagine what bottled-up curiosity** has to do with leaps of faith, you can read the book---or continue with this thread.



* BTW, when Adam "knew" his wife, that simply meant that he engaged in a deep and soulful conversation about intimate matters. Embarassed

** Along with threats to eternal survival, and rules about reproduction.


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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:35 pm

The author of THE THIRD BASIC INSTINCT has a few things to say about the Deism of the Founding Fathers, but I won't get into that now. Instead, I'll focus on one assertion that has previously been directed in my direction during a discursive discussion of dumbass Deism. Keys says that the word "god" is a "placeholder" in lieu of real knowledge of a supernatural deity. When people refer to "god" they are talking about something they know nothing about. He says, "God is the answer to a question with no other answer, yet". . . . "The only alternative to using 'god' is to admit you do not know something".

And I cannot deny the general truth of that summary statement. However, as a long-time Agnostic, I never hesitated to admit my ignorance of ultimate answers. But the "placeholder" argument is like telling an intrepid explorer that he knows nothing about the unexplored territory he is about to enter. When you are strongly motivated to know the truth, agnosticism is like a finger in the dike. Religious faith, on the other hand, is like taking someone's word that the little leak problem has been taken care of---don't worry about it. Uh-uh. My Third Instinct is not satisfied with second-hand revelation, and soothing assurances. I'm going to see for myself if the god question has been properly answered. And if not, I'll stick my own finger in the dike, to serve as a temporary placeholder, until I am personally satisfied with the existential repairs. When all is said and done, I may still be ignorant of ultimate things, but at least I am no longer an ignorant agnostic by-stander, by-god. Suspect
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:11 am

Gnomon wrote:
The First Basic instinct is obviously the drive to survive. The Second fundamental motive is to reproduce. And the Third ultimate urge is to know. Animals, of course are motivated by innate curiosity to explore and learn about their environment. But their motivation is typically limited to the satisfaction of the first two basic instincts.

It reminds me of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.




Or Clare Graves' Level Theory of Human Development.


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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:24 am

Psychologist Jane Loevinger offered a detailed description of some of the things that motivate people at the various levels of development.

Here is a description of three of those levels.

Loevinger's Conventional Stages Detailed

E4: Conformist Stage

In normal development, at school age or somewhere in the school years, the child negotiates the transition from the egocentric Self-protective stage to the group-centered Conformist stage. More psychologists and philosophers have described Conformity than any other stage. At this stage, the child identifies self with the group or its authority--be it parents, teachers, or peers. Rules are accepted just because they are the rules. This is the period of greatest cognitive simplicity: There is a right way and a wrong way, and it is the same for everyone all the time, or at least for broad classes of people described in demographic terms. What is conventional and socially approved is right. That is usually true with respect to conventional gender roles. However, a person who rigidly conforms to some unconventional gender norms is still a Conformist. Friendliness and social niceness are highly valued; disapproval is a potent sanction. The person is preoccupied with appearance, material things, reputation, and social acceptance and belonging. Inner states are perceived in the simplest language (sad, happy, glad, angry, love, and understanding), contrasting with an almost physical version of inner life at lower levels (sick, upset, mad, excited) and a richly differentiated inner life at higher levels. People, including the self, are perceived in terms of stereotypes based on social groups rather than in terms of individual differences. The way people are and the way they ought to be are not sharply differentiated. People at this stage usually describe themselves and others of their in-group in socially acceptable terms. Interpersonal interaction is seen primarily in terms of actions, not feelings, and the prototypic action is talking.
Group pressure can presumably encourage transition from the Self-protective to the Conformist stage. But what impels the transition out of pure conformity? Possibly, the young person during the primary school and secondary school years finds him or herself a member of different groups that demand conformity to somewhat disparate standards. One woman, for example, said that her mother punished her for some infraction by forbidding her to go to mass. She feared punishment in the Hereafter, but her mother was the clear and present danger. An individual can hardly endure such a dilemma without abandoning his or her absolute faith in at least one of the competing authorities.

E5: Self-Aware Stage

By whatever means, the person at the Self-aware stage has become aware that not everyone, including his or her own self, conforms perfectly all the time to the characteristics that stereotypes seem to demand. Once "what I am" is untied from "what I ought to be," the way is open to begin examination of self. The ability to conceptualize inner life expands; interpersonal relationships are described not merely as actions but also in terms of feelings. In many people at this stage, there is an acute sense of the distinction between self and group; emotions such as self-consciousness and loneliness are described. At the same time, the person perceives that there may be alternative possibilities in many situations that for the Conformist are covered by absolute rules or statements. Qualifications and contingencies are allowed, although they still tend to be stated in broadly demographic terms rather than in terms of individual differences: For example, some activity is okay if you are an adult, or if you are a boy, rather than if you are personally qualified or have a deep desire for it. Such modification of absolute rules may apply to anything from sexual mores to a woman having a career. The Self-aware stage is still basically a version of Conformity.

E6: Conscientious Stage

Growth to the Conscientious stage is another major and mysterious shift, for, as Freud ( 1930/1961) pointed out, so long as sanctions for misdeeds come from outside oneself, they can be escaped, but a bad conscience is ineluctable punishment. How are people induced to make that shift? The psychoanalytic answer is by identification with others admired, loved, or even feared; the social learning answer is that in the long run a person without conscience is punished or socially disapproved. The social learning answer seems more adequate to account for growth to Conformity than to growth past that stage, and intuitively conscience seems to be less calculating than is implied by social learning theory. However, research has no clear answers. The distinctive mark of the Conscientious stage is self-evaluated standards: I approve or disapprove of a given conduct not just because my family or my schoolmates or the authorities do, but because that is what I personally feel. Of course, most people at this level do choose to adopt conformity as an everyday rule, so the difference between this stage and the Conformist and Self-aware stages is not the behavior itself. At this stage, one is guilty not primarily, or not only, when one has broken a rule, but rather when one has hurt another person. Motives and consequences are more important than rules per se; ought is differentiated from is. Inner states and individual differences are described in vivid and differentiated terms. Long-term goals and ideals are characteristic. The Conscientious person is reflective; self and others are described in terms of reflexive traits. The only reflexive traits that regularly appear at a lower level are self-consciousness and self-confidence. The Conscientious person is self-critical but not totally rejecting of self, as are some persons at the lowest levels (as well as depressed people of any level). The recognition of multiple possibilities in situations leads to a sense of choice; decisions are made for reasons. The person strives for goals, tries to live up to ideals, and to improve the self. The moral imperative remains, but it is not just a matter of doing right and avoiding wrong; priorities and appropriateness are considered. Moral issues are separated from conventional rules and from esthetic standards or preferences. To make such distinctions entails greater conceptual complexity than at the Conformist level or lower. Achievement is highly valued, not only in terms of competition or social approval (which always retain some importance), but in terms of one's own standards. Work, rather than being purely onerous, is an opportunity for achievement, so long as it is not dull or boring. People at this level are more likely than those at lower levels to think beyond their own personal concerns to those of society. The conscientious character has the negative aspect that the person may feel excessive responsibility for others.

http://books.google.com/books?id=wB9s6lZStq8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_summary_r&cad=0

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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Fri Feb 13, 2009 1:34 pm

Quote :

It reminds me of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Yes. As the author was building up to revealing his term for the third instinct---"curiosity"---I was thinking "Self-Actualization". But all of these proposed hierarchies recognize that cognition, of all types, is a primary motive for human behavior. "Know thyself" and "know thy god" are typically lower on the list of urgencies for those who are unable to satisfy the first two needs, though. So thinking about important, but remote and abstract, things---such as cosmos and creator---are usually left up to those few, philosophically-inclined people who are motivated to spend more time thinking, than eating and mating. Rather than doing their own cognitive work, the less-motivated folks are happy to take your word for it on such less-essential subjects.

The point of the book seems to be that religion serves to satisfy a natural appetite, but that the food they are dishing-out is like an artificial sweetener---tasty, but non-nutritious. By contrast, Agnosticism and Deism are like going on a long, delayed-gratification, fast. But the author seems to realize that absolute Atheism is like swearing-off of food altogether. So he proposes a special diet that keeps you healthy, while avoiding both the artificial stuff, and that tasty-but-fattening natural sweetener : pure unadulterated Deus.
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Sat Feb 14, 2009 6:07 pm

NOT-SO-MODERN DEISM

As I mentioned before, the book has a chapter on Deism entitled, The Forefathers of the United States. He quotes several early presidents and revolutionary leaders to show their disdain for traditional religions. John Adams said that "Christianity is a system of holy lies and pious frauds". And Adams was originally one of the more staunchly religious politicians at the time of the revolution. Keys also quotes Jefferson, Franklin, and Paine. But he goes on to show that classical Deism was just a hesitant step toward the final solution of pure Atheism.

He excuses the early Deists for their clinging to the god-concept, because they knew nothing of Evolution, so they had no alternative theory, besides creation, to explain how Nature works her wonders. However, he is not so lenient on modern Deists." Quite simply, modern deism, while more logical than many other religions, still uses god to explain the unknown". So he recommends that we substitute the word "unknown" in place of "god".

That was also my opinion, as an Agnostic. But, even though I am quite familiar with modern Science and Evolution, I still find them to be incomplete and open-ended, without some kind of God Hypothesis. That's why I am now trying to reconcile, in my own mind, the progressing paradigms of modern science with the emerging worldview of modern Deism.

My evolving thesis of Enformationism is an attempt to explain the relationship of an eternal, preternatural Prime Mover to an automatically-evolving Mundane Nature. Ironically an unknown Deity may still be necessary---in this age of Science---to make sense of the known world. Yet not simply as a placeholder for mystery, but as a rational principle of existence. Perhaps my little hobby will help to foster a Deism for the 21st century, that even Alex Key could accept as a reasonable theory of existence.
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Sun Feb 15, 2009 5:30 pm

REASONS FOR DEISM

Ironically, in his efforts to reveal the irrationality of traditional god-concepts, the THIRD BASIC INSTINCT author seems to be making the case for a modern Deist conception of G*D. In one chapter he presents a Letterman-like Top Ten List of reasons to believe that god cannot possibly exist :

#10. He would not have left any doubt about which religion is the real and true religion . . .

#6. If god existed, he would not have created human curiosity, while insisting on the need for faith in religion.

#3. If god existed, he would not have human emotions of his own.

#2. He would know that science can provide a belief system to bring all people and all cultures together in peace.

#1. If god existed, he would have kept himself from being discovered, to let his creations live out their lives naturally, as he designed them, and not interfere with their progress.



He later says, "A divine creator would want his creations to function naturally. A divine creator would not send any messages down to earth to interfere with his own work. If you designed and created an incredible organism, you would prefer not to keep messin' with it. A belief system without religion* is divine for both a universe with a god, and an universe without one".

I don't presume to know what the Creator wants. But if I had to guess, I'd have to agree with the statement above.


* That's why I prefer to think of PanenDeism as the philosophical leading edge of Science, instead of a traditional religious belief system.
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:05 pm

I think you enter onto a very slippery slope anytime you start using what a God(s) would want, or not want, when you are attempting to prove, or disprove, God(s).

As the above, "A divine creator would want..."

In essence that is simply a rudimentary reductionism used to defeat the mythology of revealed religion. However, as a logical, philosophical, argument it is weak. It bases itself on an unprovable fallacy.
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Sun Feb 15, 2009 10:29 pm

Uriah wrote:
I think you enter onto a very slippery slope anytime you start using what a God(s) would want, or not want, when you are attempting to prove, or disprove, God(s).

True. The top ten list is better evidence of an Atheist's concept of a rational god-concept than of such a god's existence or non-existence. His idea of what a rational, non-anthropomorphic god would want is pretty close to my own understanding. The list wasn't really intended to be a proof of anything, though---except how irrational the bible-god concept is.

I think the author would probably be a modern Deist, if he took his own characterization of G*D seriously. Instead, he is just reacting sarcastically to a typical, historical god-concept, which has long been out-dated by scientific knowledge. Unlike scriptural religions though, a scientific philosophy, like Deism, is free to modify its speculative god-concept to fit the latest evidence.

As you indicated, it's presumptuous to project human thoughts into a non-human G*D's mind. But we do it all the time. And that's OK, as long as we remember that---like discussions of Eternity---anything we say is just a metaphor for things beyond human comprehension.
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:33 pm

I understand, and I wasn't trying to be argumentative. I agree with the basic Deist premise that God has left the universe (his creation) alone to run according to its "program".
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Tue Feb 17, 2009 11:25 pm

In The Third Basic Instinct, Alex Key makes a perceptive analogy between religious indoctrination and B.F. Skinner's experiments with pigeons in the 1940s. The pigeons were put in a "Skinner Box" where they were free to do what hungry pigeons do, which is mostly to peck at anything that looks remotely like food. This particular box was arranged to randomly reveal a food pellet, regardless of what the pigeon was doing. In earlier experiments, pigeons had quickly learned to peck at various "triggers" in order to consistently get the food. Yet ironically, Skinner found that an inconsistent food reward was even better at eliciting a consistent pecking behavior. He eventually learned that the pigeon's behavior was equivalent to what we call "superstition" in humans. Once they made an association between a particular behavior and a food blessing, they would repeat whatever bowing and bobbing and hopping dance that seemed to work in the past. What was surprising was that the bizarre behavior eventually became locked-in, regardless of the random reward schedule. The bird-brains would continue the fruitless dancing for thousands of repetitions, even with no reward at all. He observed that the pigeons were, in effect, praying to whatever gods may be, for another bite of the tasty tidbits. What originally began as pragmatic, goal-oriented activities, became frozen into pointless, pecking rituals.

The author then compares the bird behavior to professional athletes, who wear the same lucky underwear for a full season, regardless of their spotty record of success, and amateur gamblers, who become addicted to rationalized repetitions in anticipation of unpredictable payoffs. The key in each case was a random reinforcement schedule. But the actual point of the analogy was to reveal how animal nature can be manipulated by events beyond their direct control to repeat an objectively ineffective action. As denoted by the title of the book, human nature is driven by the same basic instincts that cause ritualistic behavior in birds. And yet, in humans, we would call it religious behavior. Our superior brain-power doesn't prevent the operant conditioning of the mind, but it does allow us to make-up elaborate stories to make sense of our otherwise irrational activities. God's answers to prayer tend to fall into no particular order : No; no; no; no; yes; no; no; yes; maybe; no;no;no;no;no. If our paychecks were that unpredictable, we might begin to lose faith in the benevolence of the payer.

Some Deists also have difficulty shedding the habit of praying to a remote, impersonal, faceless deity to violate He/r own rule of egalitarian, randomized providence, just this once, and grant them a little sign that the petitioner is special enough to receive a non-random, personal blessing. I can't condemn such animal behavior, because I have been guilty myself. But a sign of a mature Deist would be to redirect the natural instinct for such symbolic rituals into more practical channels.


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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Wed Feb 18, 2009 12:09 am

I have to ask: Why is it necessarily better to eschew the numinous power of symbols?

For one, I don't think it's quite that easy, because while the conscious mind may be able to look beyond the symbol, the unconscious mind communicates via symbols. Therefore, in order to truly seek wholeness, one should endeavor to become more adept at interpreting their symbols, not just ignore them.

For two, I think there is a collective, cultural, purpose that symbols play. In fact, I'd say that symbols are integral to culture, they are needed.
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Wed Feb 18, 2009 1:39 pm

Quote :
I have to ask: Why is it necessarily better to eschew the numinous power of symbols?

I don't think it's better to eschew symbolism. But I do think it's better to redirect the urge for superstitious symbolic rituals to something a bit more practical.

Athletes develop superstitious habits because the intense competition forces them to seek-out any little edge available. For some, the edge is steroids, for others it's cultivated luck or divine intervention. In the case of religious symbolism though, the numinous power is in the hands of those wielding the symbols, not those being manipulated by them. Religious rituals are intended to make people believe that they have an edge in the competition for heavenly favors. In Old Testament times, the smoke from burnt offerings rose to heaven as a sweet savor to God. But the practical result of such symbolic rituals was that the priests and Levites got to eat the best steaks avaliable.

As an Architect, I use concrete symbolism deliberately for its numinous effect on humans. I doubt that G*D is influenced one way or the other by them. The practical effects of architectural symbolism are pretty weak though, compared to the behavior-bending effects of supernatural symbols.


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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Wed Feb 18, 2009 2:00 pm

Gnomon wrote:
Quote :
I have to ask: Why is it necessarily better to eschew the numinous power of symbols?

I don't think it's better to eschew symbolism. But I do think it's better to redirect the urge for superstitious symbolic rituals to something a bit more practical.

Athletes develop superstitious habits because the intense competition forces them to seek-out any little edge available. For some, the edge is steroids, for others it's cultivated luck or divine intervention. In the case of religious symbolism though, the numinous power is in the hands of those wielding the symbols, not those being manipulated by them. Religious rituals are intended to make people believe that they have an edge in the competition for heavenly favors. In Old Testament times, the smoke from burnt offerings rose to heaven as a sweet savor to God. But the practical result of the ritual was that the priests and Levites got to eat the best steaks avaliable.

As an Architect, I use concrete symbolism deliberately for its numinous effect on humans. I doubt that G*D is influenced one way or the other by them. The practical effects of architectural symbolism are pretty weak though, compared to the behavior-bending effects of supernatural symbols.

I understand where you're coming from. However, I counter that symbols - by the very nature of how they interact with the human consciousness - are deeply spiritual. Certainly there is a blindness to superstitious dogma, and the view of ritual having outward influence and power on the universe. Though even that can be argued. There is also a certainty that blind ideologies are a destructive cultural force. But that is because they seek cultural homogeneity - stagnancy. The power of human culture is in the evolution of its memetic blueprint. Spirituality is an integral, and I believe completely legitimate, part of the human condition. Making meaning out of the mystery and giving purpose to our lives is important work. So important, in fact, that nature hasn't left it up to our consciousness at all, rather it stems from deep within the human unconscious. So while we can't allow our spiritual perceptions to remain stagnant, we can neither do away with them. We must then, allow room for collective, and personal, spiritual meaning making and part of this is ritual and symbology. I simply do not believe it is possible for mankind to be truly healthy, and to seek wholeness, without these tools.
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Wed Feb 18, 2009 4:29 pm

Quote :
The power of human culture is in the evolution of its memetic blueprint.

Precisely! And the power of stagnant religious symbols is in their ability to retard the evolution of ancient memes into meaningful modern memes.

BTW. I am not aware of any symbols specifically connected with Deism. Does that mean Deism lacks outward physical signs of spirituality??? Maybe in place of a cross or a fish, we could adopt/adapt the symbols for Omega or Infinity. I once proposed an upside-down Omega to serve as the symbol for Universism. That particular meme didn't catch-on. Very Happy




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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Wed Feb 18, 2009 7:55 pm

Laughing I get it, sorry I misunderstood you. Thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Wed Feb 18, 2009 10:22 pm

Quote :
BTW. I am not aware of any symbols specifically connected with Deism. Does that mean Deism lacks outward physical signs of spirituality??? Maybe in place of a cross or a fish, we could adopt/adapt the symbols for Omega or Infinity.

How about a multi-dimensional infinity symbol to stand for the ineffable deity?

The associated physical ritual could be to assume an equivalent Yoga posture. Smile

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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Wed Feb 18, 2009 11:44 pm

How about the question mark?

?


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PostSubject: Re: The Third Basic Instinct   Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:47 pm

Uriah wrote:
How about the question mark?

Nah! That would be too easy for Yogis to do. Mad

Actually, as an Agnostic Deist, the question mark would be appropriate. But I'm not sure all Deists would agree.
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