Friday, November 9, 2007

Instinct

Nick has a theory about food that certain colors go together. One day I was making chicken, bacon, & ranch to put in a sandwich. Nick said it looked like it wanted something green, so he threw in some green peppers. Yesterday, he put a glass of Maker's Mark in front of me and said "just look at that...I want to drink it." He said that the color just looked appetizing. I think it's kind of cool how we can eat things that are bright yellow or purple ketchup or (Sarah's favorite) blue raspberry. Those colors aren't normally good for you. In fact, instinct should tell you to stay away from them. However, we've been conditioned enough by living in our cushy non-survival-of-the-fittest-kind of world that we don't hesitate to pop some neon colored food or drink in our mouths.

Nick asked what do we have left in our repertoire of actions that could be attributed to instinct? He suggested sex. I don't know. I think that it's possible for someone who's been kept in isolation to have instinctual feelings about sex, maybe even a good idea of how to do it. However, I'm pretty sure that the sex that surrounds us on TV and billboards, conversation and radio songs, books and paintings, has led to a rewiring of that instinct. I mean, you should never instinctively even consider a Cleveland Steamer (nor should you even think about actually doing it). Nick's only valid example of an instinct is suckling. He says that babies know how to suckle and nobody teaches them. I agreed. I said what about breathing? I guess that falls in the category of nearly continuous autonomous functions, which don't count. What about getting into the fetal position to comfort yourself? Does that count?

I think that the only way you can know that something is an instinct is to react to a stimulus in a split second in a situation for which you've never been trained, conditioned, or informed. This significantly reduces the possible space of opportunities to find that you actually have some sort of instinct. Other things that we're programmed to do may fall beneath your perception. For instance, when cold water hits your face, your heart immediately slows down and your blood vessels contract in your extremities. While you may just write that off as a physiological reaction, how else would you define an instinct?
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