Could someone explain to me what SCIENTIFIC evidence there is that genes criticise instincts in the conscious mind’s search for knowledge? Unfortunately, quoting Plato, Sir Laurens Van der Post and other thinkers, influential though they may be does not count as scientific. As far as I can see, there is no clear scientific evidence provided for the theory in Freedom.
Hi John. Solving the human condition required finding the clarifying difference between the way the intellect (which arose from our nerves) and the gene-based instincts work, and that is the great breakthrough that Jeremy Griffith has found, and which is presented in Video/Freedom Essay 3 and Chapter 3 of Jeremy’s definitive book ‘FREEDOM: The End of The Human Condition’.
The scientific ‘evidence’ that you seek is actually not in contest—it just needed a human-condition-confronting-not-avoiding approach to put the facts together. For example it is accepted that prior to becoming conscious our forebears were, like all other animals, instinctively controlled. It is also clear that at some point we then became conscious—see the evidence about brain size (which although imperfect, is the best indicator we have of consciousness) in chapter 8 of ‘FREEDOM’ for when this happened. So it is unavoidable that at some point our conscious mind must have wrested control from our instincts.
What would have happened at that point? It is not in contest that the intellect is insightful—for example our brain’s main reasoning centre is called the ‘association cortex’ ie it associates information, has insights. And it is also accepted that instincts are, at a point, inflexible. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, they 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 conscious intellect emerged it was neither suitable nor sustainable for it to be orientated by instincts—it had to find understanding 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. Our intellect began to experiment in understanding as the only means of discovering the correct and incorrect understandings for managing existence, but 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.”
Ultimately, when an insightful system takes over from a non-insightful system, the non-insightful system will blindly resist, there is simply no other possible outcome.
Jeremy demonstrates at great length throughout FREEDOM how the instinct vs intellect explanation for our angry, egocentric, alienated human condition demystifies all of our behaviour.
What becomes very clear John, is that not only are the facts and suppositions underlying his explanation not in question, but that on the basis of its explanatory power alone, his instinct vs intellect explanation of the human condition is overwhelmingly accountable.
I also suggest you read or watch Video/Freedom Essay 4 (and also Freedom Essay 53) which presents other great scientists who have recognised the instinct and intellect elements involved in creating the human condition. In retrospect, what becomes very clear is just how obvious it is that our instincts must have criticised our conscious intellect.
I understand what has been put forward. However, there is no evidence for the crucial idea that there was a battle that broke out between instincts and consciousness. Scientifically no matter how obvious something seems, we cannot be certain about our thinking. All propositions must be tested. For example, it was accepted many years ago that the earth was flat, we walk on flat surfaces, so why shouldn’t it be. But, as we gained more knowledge about the earth, gravity, etc. we realised this was not the case. Just because it seems to us that a war should have broken out between instincts and consciousness does not make it a scientific fact. Moreover, there are many flaws in Jeremy’s argument that I’ve outlined here:
Instincts cannot on their own make someone feel like a bad person. How could they feel they need to assert control if this is not evolutionarily advantageous for a human being? How could they feel they need to criticize the intellect or reassert control if instincts are not conscious? We cannot project our own ways of thinking onto instincts which are after all, inanimate objects. There are so many flaws in the argument that it is almost not viable to detail all of them here. What is the physical form that this ‘criticism’ takes in humans? How do genes tell someone they are bad? How could a biological reaction cause humans to get angry at instincts? Which gene is responsible for criticizing humans?
Finally, I believe much of the explanations in Jeremy’s books including the meaning of life being integrative meaning, the increasing alienation in the human race leading to pseudo-idealism etc. have been arrived at through introspection. As someone trained in psychology I always caution people from using introspection and subsequently claiming that what is spoken is the ‘truth’ without proper testing. The reason for this is that you lose the ability to self-reflect and hence loose track of the biases such as confirmation biases that we humans are naturally prone to.
These are not necessarily flaws in Jeremy’s argument. Explicit knowledge put forward in a book or even several books and a website like this is necessarily smaller than implicit knowledge of the author. Be careful not to fall into the Duning-Kruger-Trap. I have a lot of doubts about Jeremy’s argument, but I consider it possible that I’m just not well-informed enough to decide whether it’s valid or not. I’m curious to learn more about Jeremy’s epistemological principles. What is, for instance, Jeremy’s take on David Hume’s induction paradox? Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorems? Karl Popper’s falsification? Jeremy claims that his theory is based on induction, so this wouldn’t make it vulnerable to Goedel’ian incompleteness, but according to Popper, induction may only yield negative evidence. For me, as a historian, it’s impossible to read Gödel’s original proof; however I’ve understood a vulgarization of George Spencer-Brown’s “Laws of Form”, which makes an analogous argument. As to the use of analogies in scientific texts; there are good and bad analogies, but human thinking is entirely dependent on analogies, as Douglas Hofstadter pointed out, that is even what differentiates us from calculation machines. Aristotle and Plato had a high esteem of analogies as well. Finally, the point you’re trying to make about introspection not being scientific ironically cuts in two ways. Not only is introspection not recommendable as a scientific method, it is, strictly speaking, impossible. For your conscious mind, “Ego” is just an object like any other objects, not more or less certain. Consciousness is transitive (intentional): Self is Another. Which leads us directly back to the miracle of our conscious mind: in order to perceive things objectively, not subjectively, like our instincts, consciousness has to be “other-directed”, altruist in the most formal-logic sense of the term. I would even claim that the existence of consciousness proofs the physical principle of negative entropy – and not the other way around. I hope that helps. P.S: According to Gregory Chaitin’s randomness theorem, randomness of a given number is not mathematically provable. And Spencer-Brown (1957) says this: “The essence of randomness has been taken to be absence of pattern. But what has not hitherto been faced is that the absence of one pattern logically demands the presence of another”.
What has been said is very interesting. However, my original question – What is the scientific evidence? has not been answered. No scientific evidence has been put forward supporting the hypothesis that a battle should break out between consciousness and instinct when consciousness develops. If this theory is to be accepted as Science which is what it has been put forward as, it must meet the requirements.
I like to look at both Jeremy’s theory and what it predicts. It seems to me there is so much observational evidence (and empirical evidence in that each person is a human condition experiment in progress) supporting the theory and so much prediction success regarding human behavior that it is hard to honestly deny the ideas are correct. The changes in people that accept the ideas and “transform,” I think also supports the theory. All these osbervational and prediction successes are, I think, strong lines of evidence validating jeremy’s theory.
I am surprised that some government or analytics business has not been using or adopting Jeremy’s theory to predict human behavior, control behavior and make lots of money.
Dr Anna FitzgeraldParticipant
I think you mean that if a theory is to be accepted as ‘fact’ then it needs to meet certain requirements. There is no problem accepting Griffith’s theory as ‘science’. The universally accepted criteria is that to be scientific a theory must be testable and makes falsifiable predictions and Griffith’s instinct vs intellect theory clearly meets that criteria. I would add that the strength of a scientific theory is related to the diversity of phenomena it can explain and its simplicity. As 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.” On those bases Griffith’s theory is not only ‘scientific’, it qualifies as a ‘good’ theory.
Stephen J Gould made a similar observation to Hawking in his book ‘The Structure of Evolutionary Theory’, 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 been proven. The point is that the ‘veracity’ of a theory can be established based upon a wide raft of evidence.
So to look at Darwin’s idea of natural selection on the basis of Hawking and Gould’s criteria, Darwin’s theory was able to be accepted because it met these criteria, and, sure enough, it was effectively applied in plant and animal breeding. And I might mention that Darwin didn’t know about genes and the mechanics of how they actually work, but that didn’t discount the veracity of his theory.
Griffith’s ‘instinct vs intellect’ theory is very similar to Darwin’s in its ability to “accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements” and that it makes accountable, “definite predictions about the results of future observations”. Also, while we now know far more than Darwin ever did about the mechanics of the gene and nerve-based learning systems, no doubt there is still more to be learnt, but like Darwin’s idea of natural selection, the scientific validity of Griffith’s ‘instinct vs intellect’ treatise is readily able to be validated as science, indeed as first-rate science.
My background is a mechanistic one, and I have studied Griffith’s theory at great length. Not only am I content that he has established beyond doubt the ‘fact’ of the human condition, he has proposed a theory to explain it, namely the ‘instinct vs intellect’ theory, that, along similar lines to Gould’s estimation of Darwin’s theory, points to the coordination of so many pieces of evidence, that to my thinking, is the only conceivable explanation.
With regard to JDaniels post, I would like to include this actual passage from FREEDOM, which is a quote made by Professor Scott Churchill who was an expert witness for the scientific veracity of Jeremy Griffith’s work in a defamation case ultimately won by Griffith and his supporter Tim Macartney-Snape. Churchill wrote, “‘Griffith’s ideas have been criticized for not presenting the field of science with “new data” and “testable hypotheses.” But such a complaint is disingenuous since evolutionary processes are not subjectable to the same kind of “hypothesis testing” that one finds in the other sciences. An hypothesis is a “smaller, more compact thesis” that is “deduced” from a larger idea or thesis in such a way that one can test that larger idea piece by piece. Whereas, the kind of synthesis offered in Griffith’s book is presented both conceptually and metaphorically with an aim to tie together existing data, while correcting and expanding upon the more limited existing interpretations of those data…Such a perspective comes to us not as a simple opinion of one man, but rather as an inductive conclusion drawn from sifting through volumes of data representing what scientists have discovered’” (Review of FREEDOM submitted to New York Magazine, mentioned in paragraph 581 of FREEDOM)
From what I gather, there is no scientific evidence for the proposition that a war should break out between the instinct and intellect which was the original point of my question as evidenced by the fact that none has been put forward.
Mr Daniels, there are all the references Griffith makes to the instinct vs intellect idea, such as occurred in “all religions and mythologies” as Heinberg stated, and also from other pre-eminent thinkers and scientists; they are not being pulled out of thin air, but from experience of the instinct vs intellect clash being the case!
To respond some of your other commments…
jdaniels said “Instincts cannot on their own make someone feel like a bad person.” Certainly they can: our conscience makes us feel like we are a bad person all the time. This is what Griffith writes about them clashing — “I should clarify that while instincts are hard-wired, genetic programming and as such cannot literally criticise our conscious mind, they can in effect do so. Our instincts let our conscious mind know when our body needs food, or, as our instinctive conscience clearly does, want us to behave in a cooperative, loving way, and certainly our conscious mind can defy those instinctive orientations if it chooses to [because we have a conscious-mind-derived free will]. Our conscious mind can feel criticised by our instinctive conscience; it happens all the time.” And as Jeremy explains, when the conscious mind reacts in a defensive way (angry, egocentric) to those instincts, then that reinforces the feeling that they are a bad person.
jdanielssaid, “How could they [instincts] feel they need to assert control [over the consicious mind]”, and similarly “How could they feel they need to criticize the intellect or reassert control if instincts are not conscious?” The key here is that the self-adapting conscious mind is a relatively recent development, and occurred on top of pre-existing instincts, so when the conscious mind emerged the instincts could not help trying to assert control. That is the tragedy of the situation. And I would emphasise that Jeremy goes to lengths to explain that the instincts ‘in-effect’ criticise the intellect. An instinct is a neural highway developed through natural selection. Everybody has them. If you consciously decide to ignore or overide that instinctive highway, that highway will still be expressing itself, even though it may not be a direction that the conscious mind wants to go. This is the ‘criticism’.
jdaniels said, “How do genes tell someone they are bad? How could a biological reaction cause humans to get angry at instincts? Which gene is responsible for criticizing humans?” It isn’t genes telling someone they are bad, it is the effect of our rigid instincts—which are a product of the gene based learning system—resisting the conscious mind’s plasticity. If the conscious mind cannot explain itself, then it will feel criticised by the instincts’ resistance.
I have realised that what I’ve said here basically reiterates the position reached in an earlier post by Dr Fitzgerald.
Interesting. I have enjoyed reading your post. However, in most cases, experience, unless tested experimentally is not scientific evidence.
Firstly, I understand that instincts can tell us when we’re wrong and can orient us to behave selfishly or selflessly. That is not in doubt seeing as animals behave selfishly on instinct. What I meant when I said ‘Instincts cannot on their own make a person feel bad’ is that they shouldn’t make us feel bad for using our conscious mind. It simply does not make sense either evolutionarily or biologically. Feelings are certainly closely associated with our instincts as is evident in fear responses to certain situations, hyper arousal and the fight or flight response. What I should have written was that it does not make sense that instincts would make us feel bad for using our conscious mind, which was a point I expanded upon. Ultimately, the onus is on the person who put forward the theory to provide evidence for the idea that instincts criticize or make us feel bad for using our conscious mind.
Secondly, our instincts do tell our conscious minds when we need food etc. as you have stated. This is scientifically proven. We defy our instincts all the time but do not feel bad about doing so. For example, if we do not eat when we are hungry, we do not feel criticized by our instincts rather they only tell us that we should eat food. I would say that this is evidence against the idea that instincts criticize our intellect as opposed to evidence for it.
Finally, there has still been no scientific evidence put forward supporting the idea that instincts need to reassert control over consciousness and therefore feels criticized by our instincts. I understand that the conscious mind is self-adjusting and occurred on top of pre-existing instincts but the idea that instincts had to reassert control at that point is still conjecture. Ultimately, the only points for which scientific evidence has been provided are that we have a conscious mind and we have instincts. The idea of a battle or clash between is extrapolation which cannot be accepted as valid/true until a similar level of evidence supports it.
Dr Anna FitzgeraldParticipant
I think all your criticisms have been thoroughly answered in the various responses on this thread, and your response is now becoming absurd. Our conscious self does feel criticism from our instincts, we call it our CONSCIENCE. Everyone knows that, and being shared by us all means it’s instinctive – which Griffith reiterated with Darwin’s affirmation that “the moral sense affords the hightest distinction between man and the lower animals”.
In Freedom paragraph 380 Griffith quoted John Fiske’s sensible observation that “We approve of certain actions and disapprove of certain actions quite instinctively. We shrink from stealing or lying as we shrink from burning our fingers”. And he quoted the philosopher Immanuel Kant being so impressed by our instinctive moral conscience that he had the following words inscribed on his tomb: “there are two things which fill me with awe: the starry heavens above us, and the moral law within us” (read more descriptions of what our conscience is at https://www.humancondition.com/conscience/).
So of course instincts can make us feel bad, our instinctive conscience does it all the time. Frankly, I think it’s clear that what Mr Daniels is saying is classic evasive, mechanistic, doesn’t stand scrutiny, escape the issue of the human condition at all costs, dishonest, mumbo jumbo. It’s not constructive and I would encourage the WTM to discontinue this thread – and I would encourage Mr Daniels to consider the drawing at the end of paragraph 1187 of Freedom.
I might reiterate here the ruling from three NSW Appeal Court judges led by one of the most highly regarded judges in Australia at the time, Justice David Hodgson – which you can find in the very relevant Chapter 6:12 of Freedom. In overturning a judgement from a lower court that upheld the charge that Griffith’s work was of ‘such a poor standard that it has no support at all from the scientific community’, the three judges unanimously recognised the real problem was that the primary judge clearly found Jeremy’s work intolerably confronting, ruling that he did “not adequately consider” “the nature and scale of its subject matter”, in particular “that the work was a grand narrative explanation from a holistic approach, involving teleological elements”, and that other important submissions “were not adequately considered by the primary judge”, including that the work can make “those who take the trouble to grapple with it uncomfortable” because it “involves reflections on subject-matter including the purpose of human existence which may, of its nature, cause an adverse reaction as it touches upon issues which some would regard as threatening to their ideals, values or even world views”.
Finally, I would remind anyone reading this post that Griffith’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 one of the most esteemed scientists of all time Steven Hawking was impressed by Griffith’s treatise, which you can see on the WTM’s homepage.
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