WTM FAQ 1.41  What are instincts and what is consciousness, and how do they differ? / Isn’t it simplistic to say that instincts and intellect are completely separate? / To what extent is consciousness separate from our instinctive self?


The following explanation of what instincts and consciousness are is taken from paragraphs 247-248 of chapter 3:3 of FREEDOMand please note that this is an elaboration on what was included in the First Edition of FREEDOM, so to see this description please go to the revised pars 247248 in the Second Edition of FREEDOM that is available in all versions of FREEDOM on our website, because it is not yet in the printed copies (which are all First Editions):


Firstly, to explain what instincts are. While animals largely depend on their nervous system to coordinate their movement and control how they react to their environment, other systems such as their hormonal, circulatory, digestive, immune and reproductive systems also influence how they behave. Obviously all these systems that affect how a species of animal moves and behaves have been acted on by natural selection in the course of adapting that species over many generations to its environment. It is these naturally selected genetic traits that orientate an animal’s movements and behaviour that are referred to as its instincts. Animals move about and behave in many different waysthey fight and court each other, they build nests, they search for food, they migrate, etcand natural selection has given them genetic programming, ‘instincts’, to control and orientate all this movement and behaviour. Plants could be said to have instincts for the control and orientation of their behaviour, but because they don’t move about and have such constantly changing behaviour as animals, instincts for the control of movement and behaviour are more associated with animals than plants. In the case of consciousness, there is one aspect of nerves’ ability to control how animals react to their environment that has the potential to give rise to consciousnessand this is an aspect that is largely independent of any instinctive orientations of an animal’s nervous system that have developed through natural selection. This aspect of the nervous system that gave rise to the potential to develop a conscious understanding of cause and effect is nerves’ ability to store impressionswhat we refer to as ‘memory’. An electric current passed through a nerve leaves an imprint of its passage in the nerve after the current has passed. This imprint represents a memory of that piece of information that passed through the nerve. This ability to remember past events makes it possible to compare them with current events and identify regularly occurring experiences. This knowledge of, or insight into, what has commonly occurred in the past makes it possible to predict what is likely to happen in the future and to adjust your behaviour accordingly. Once insights into the nature of change are put into effect, the self-modified behaviour starts to provide feedback, refining the insights further. Predictions are compared with outcomes and so on. Much developed, and such refinement occurred in the human brain, nerves can sufficiently associate information to reason how experiences are related, learn to understand and become CONSCIOUS of, or aware of, or intelligent about, the relationship between events that occur through time. Thus consciousness means being sufficiently aware of how experiences are related to attempt to manage change from a basis of understanding.

(I should mention that admitting the above obvious explanations of what instincts actually are and what consciousness actually is has been avoided by human-condition-avoiding mechanistic science. This is because while we couldn’t truthfully explain our corrupted human condition, any admission that we have cooperative and loving moral instincts and a conscious mind that corrupted that pure, innocent state was unbearable. And so to avoid any thought journey getting underway that might lead to those condemning realisations, the keepers of the lie (mechanistic scientists) realised it was best to stop that thought journey at the outset by claiming we just don’t know what instincts actually are and consciousness actually is. When I tried to explain my instinct vs intellect explanation of the human condition to the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, Lord Robert May, at Oxford University in 2014, he said, ‘But Jeremy, we don’t know what instincts actually are, or how we actually got them’ (WTM records, 13 Nov. 2014). Certainly instincts are somewhat complicated, but, as the explanation and description of instincts that I have just given evidences, not nearly as bewildering as May tried to make out. In the case of consciousness, chapter 7:2 [of FREEDOM] describes in some detail why and how consciousness has been deliberately left cloaked in mystery and confusion. Chapter 7 also explains much more about the nature of consciousness, and also how we humans managed to become conscious when other animals haven’t.)

So while the ‘gene-based learning system’ does involve the genetic selection of nerve pathways and networks, what is meant by the ‘nerve-based learning system’ is that dimension or aspect of the nervous system that is to do with understanding cause and effect. This honest but not very explanatory definition of instincts makes this particular difference clear: instincts are ‘a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary; see www.wtmsources.com/144). The significance of the nerve-based learning system becoming sufficiently developed in humans for us to become conscious and able to effectively manage events, was that our conscious intellect was then in a position to wrest control from our gene-based learning system’s instincts, which, up until then, had been in charge of our lives. Basically, once our self-adjusting intellect, or ability to ‘reason’, emerged it was capable of taking over the management of our lives from the instinctive orientations we had acquired through the natural selection of genetic traits that adapted us to our environment. Moreover, at the point of becoming conscious the nerve-based learning system should wrest management of the individual from the instincts because such a self-managing or self-adjusting system is infinitely more efficient at adapting to change than the gene-based system, which can only adapt to change very slowly over many generations of natural selection. HOWEVER, it was at this juncture, when our conscious intellect challenged our instincts for control, that a terrible battle broke out between our instincts and intellect, the effect of which was the extremely competitive, selfish and aggressive state that we call the ‘human condition’.


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Watch Jeremy Griffith present the breakthrough redeeming explanation of the human condition in Video/​F. Essay 3, or read chapter 3 of FREEDOM. You can read more about consciousness in FAQ 5.4 How did consciousness emerge in humans? / What is consciousness?