May 7, 2010

Human Self-Destruction: Instinct or Intellect?

I've been having conversation with an acquaintance who challenges my position when I say that "humans do not practice species preservation", and our discussion has brought about some interesting concepts to ponder.

We know that in the animal kingdom a pack of wolves, for example, does not destroy his habitat, food supply, or resources as humans do. A human, on the other hand, is consciously aware of how his actions, or inactions, threatens his environment and resources for generations to come, yet continues the destructive patterns despite this knowledge.

Other animals have the drive of instinct, or "a typical inborn pattern of responses not clearly acquired through training", while humans have the advantage (?) of intellect, or "the ability to learn and reason, think abstractly or profoundly; the capacity for knowledge and understanding". I question whether intellect is always an advantage because it allows humans the ability to override instinctual behavior.

What is most perplexing is that our thought processes, unlike any other animals, includes the past, present, and future, yet it seems that having the ability to "think" in all three tenses at once has not caused us to positively alter our behavior in order to improve our chances for species survival. Even with this greater intellect, we continue to pollute our environments and destroy our resources. But why?

Is there actually a stronger instinctual drive at work? Perhaps our self-destructive patterns really ARE a method of human species survival. For example, if you place too many chickens in a confined area they will begin cannibalizing one another; lions (and many other animals) will fight among themselves to cull the weaker ones from the pride - insuring that only the strongest are left to mate and continue on; and humans commit all sorts of atrocities toward one another.

So the question then becomes, IF we are fully aware that polluting our environment, acting selfishly by taking more than the share of resources (of anything) we actually need, and attacking those we feel, or sense, to be somehow "less valuable" than ourselves is an act (consciously or subconsciously) of species preservation based on instinct for future survival, OR is it a complete disregard for the future of mankind because of our lack of instinctual behavior?

What are your thoughts?

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Inspired by her Native American roots and Bradbury lineage, Polly Taskey is a writer and grandmother in the northern USA.  She shares her wisdom and pagan interests through Pagan by Design and The Moonlit Grove.

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