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Biological Programming Vs. Social Conditioning: What Does It Mean?


Is this another Nature vs. Nurture debate?

Typically, this debate is called "Nature vs. Nurture," but that's not what I want to explore here. I would like to consider what it is that makes our actions based on our deep rooted instincts in comparison to how we react based on the way our society is built around us. Nature vs. Nurture generally revolves around the idea of how genes create the physical you, and how that influences the way you act and think, while nurture deals solely on the environment you were raised in.

I would like accept both things, accept that your genetic make up has a huge influence on you, though mostly I want to look at the instincts that were inherited and how our culture/society, location, neighborhood and parents support or repress them.

What is Human Nature?

Perhaps here it is essential before we go on that I define human nature in my terms, so as not to confuse with the typical definition in these conditions. Human Nature in general is what is biologically programmed into us. For example, we are naturally a pack animal. Usually when we think of the term "pack animal" we think of wolves, who together raise pups, hunt together, and have an order. For our ancestors, this meant something similar, though with different roles. In the "packs" of our ancestors, men were the hunters, thus providers, and women were to look after the homestead as a group and raise the children. Men were built physically stronger, thus, they were hunters. Women collectively, alongside of looking after the children, did the gathering. This is where natural programming came into play for women to be more chatty than men - as they gathered, their voices kept predators at bey. Similarly, this is why men are general silent, can mimic noises that women have more difficulties with, and communicate better with body language. These skills were needed during hunting parties when parroting another creature could lure game closer, and communication with other hunters was mandatory silent.

It is programmed into us biologically (thus making it instinctual) to eat naturally sugary things and do a little as possible. This means eating carbohydrates, and conserving that energy. Fruit was a natural choice, which is why we are drawn to sweet things, because it is easy to digest (thus doing little to process it), and provides the nutrients and energy needed should a hungry tiger come around. We conserved our energy so that when we had to be up on our feet as quick as possible, we could be, and allow the fight of flight response to do its thing.

These are a couple examples of biology programming us for the greater survival rate. Our instincts. Instincts are what have kept us alive and succeeding in life. It is the need to survive and to procreate. That is Human Nature. Basic Instinct.


What is OUR Human Nature?

Our human nature (for the purpose of this Hub being defined as Western Culture, or our socially programmed nature) becomes a combination of recent history (by that I mean the last few thousand years) and biological direction. The book Ishmael: An Adventure into Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn, explained it best. The teacher asks the main character what our story is, then asks if this is the whole story. The story, or what we call our history, was that we figured out fire, we discovered agriculture, claimed land and cultivated it to our needs. This meaning, that we had decided the earth is ours, thus having full rights to it, which caused us to be territorial on a larger scale and in ways different to just hunting grounds. We developed religion of all sorts, we built empires, and we became violent. We forgot that we co-existed with other creatures - this became our planet, nothing else's. Thus, we are destroying it, which has become our nature. This is not our natural biology.

Some Helpful Books on Human Nature, Our Nature, and our Mental Programming

What is Personal Nature?

If you look at people like computers, and you look at each computer as individually programmed, then the personal nature would be the programming of baby computer by the parents. They either went to Best Buy and bought a brand name computer, and thus had a programmed child to follow a certain standard way in society (whether it be military, conservative, religious, etc.). These backgrounds give the start of a person to have ideas brought to them and they are told they need not question them, and if they do, the answers are already there. This is not a bad thing, though it does not promote evolution of thought. The other computing option when producing the programming for a child, is the parents bought the parts separately and learned how to build and program their own computers, creating theirs from scratch. This does not necessarily mean that the computer will generate its own ideas in time, but simply that it started with an alternative programming method.

All computers can be re-programmed. A personal history through life can alter the programming and cause it to evolve into another nature. For example, a child raised atheist that loses both his or her parents in a car crash when s/he is ten might turn Christian and to God, and thus alter their programming. A very conservatively up-brought college student might discover they are wheat and dairy intolerant and be forced to shop at the local co-op to get the foods they need, thus being exposed to a different life style, and find themselves leaning more towards liberal stances.

Personal nature is born at the start and growth of life, but is not limited to those teachings. Personal nature is far easier to chance than biological or social natures.

How Is This Relevant?

Biological nature has of course played a huge role in how we are socially programmed and thus our cultures. However, with the development of our cultures, we have lost some of the ways of our biological nature which put us more in touch with our habitat. “Primitive" people did not destroy their environment. However, some Native American tribes would burn crops and forests, though doing so to bring nutrients back into the ground so that the vegetation would grow back stronger and healthier.

One could argue that subconsciously, our self-destruction stems from the roots to burn things down to create a stronger growth, which would be a good argument. Perhaps our instincts are telling us to burn the earth to make the way for a healthier one.

However, it is safe to say that Western nature is different than that of say Japanese nature. Our biological nature is something that we as a whole can share and is not developed by cultures.

Are Either Biological Or Social Natures Necessary?

As stated before, it is a combination of the two natures which creates who we are today. Primitively, we were territorial, mainly for hunting grounds. Now we are territorial on a much larger scale, and far more violent. We are programmed to provide for our families biologically, which has altered in our social natures into the need for money. The need for money, in our Social Nature has caused more territorial disputes, especially as money can be made from war. We are biologically programmed to consume easy-to-digest carbohydrates and use as little energy as possible. Our brains are biologically programmed release adrenalin which triggers our fight-or-flight response when we come into threatening situations. Another example would be women experiencing the infamous biological clock which urges reproduction.

We are at a stage in our evolution where we can ask “why?”
"Why do I feel threatened by this individual?”
“Why does this country shake me up so badly I want to start a war with them even though there are oceans between us?”
“Why do I need this doughnut?”
“Why do I want ten babies?”

This development of being able to ask “why” to all our urges and be able have these questions float through our heads is showing our evolution in consciousness as well as the beginnings of being able to take a hold of our own biological nature and socially programmed nature.

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It is possible for the mind to create its own nature (above: Personal Nature), and come around to a sound and logical one. By simply questioning the natural impulses and understanding why one may have the reaction they want, they can question if their reaction is a fair one, a constructive one. Once these sets of questions begin, then one begins to see things from different angles and can thus realize their programming and see if their logic settings are still current or need to be updated.

Some religious cultures have set strict rules based on biological history. For example, the no birth control rule set in some of the older, though still prevalent religions. This goes back to when it was unexpected that a child should reach adulthood. Thus, to keep numbers in population (a note, a larger population meant a better defense in territory disputes), women were meant to have as many offspring as they could. Biologically (not just human biology, but the nature of the planet Earth) interacted with humans and would often kill people off via disease or other. As we evolved and found conventional medicine and ways to prevent the spread of disease and unwanted pregnancies, the whisper of the biological programming is still engraved in the church’s way of thinking, to keep the population up, and thus, forbid or heavily frown upon birth control. This biological programming does not just reside in religious communities, of course.

These ways of thinking, which were once logical and pertinent to our survival, are now outdated. With the growing population of human kind, as a whole. and the biological programming to breed, breed, breed to save our species, we are going to destroy ourselves.

Another example of a bad combination of social nature and biological nature is money. Biologically we are told to survive, and money has become our social means of survival. Money buys us food and shelter, and thus causes a great deal of greed. Money has become Man’s peacock feathers. Instead of showing off physical strength and ability to provide, we show of what we can provide with how much cash we have. If we were to break the biological nature to display what can be provided by a mate, and break the social nature which labels money as attractive, then greed in its intensely high levels it radiates at now, can be dialed down, at least a little.

In order to be able to go forth successfully, we need to be aware of our Personal nature, We as a society, and our Biological natures. We need to be able to question, to see what is necessary and constantly ask how it can contribute the betterment of the surrounding world, and not just ourselves. Part of this is killing the Ego.

The Tower

The tower represents complete destruction in order to build anew.

The tower represents complete destruction in order to build anew.

Ego or Egor?

The ego is a strong drive in Personal nature. It is, as Freud explains it, the thing which communicates and translates between reality and the self. That is not to say that the ego is fluent in either language spoken by the self or reality. An excellent example used by another great mind speaks of a person walking by another person, the former cuts the latter’s arm. The ego tells the injured person to lash out at the person with the knife, in a sense to defend their honor. Instinct, or biology, should be telling the injured party to take care of the wound. The reality of the situation is that a person is injured. Their self is shouting that it is angry at the indignity, and the combined efforts directed by the ego causes energy to be released in the wrong direction.

In order to create a balance to reprogram the Personal, Biological and Social natures, we have to commit murder, and that murder is of the ego. Once the ego is gone, then we can listen to our biological instincts, hear them and decided whether or not they are necessary. Is it necessary to produce a child every year? Is it necessary to consume all carbohydrates and conserve energy in case that tiger attacks us? If everyone is asking these questions, then it will alter the social nature as a whole.


Nicola Thompson (author) from Bellingham, WA on February 06, 2015:

This was a long time ago that I wrote this, and sadly I never got back to the comments! I'm very sorry!

Erik - You are completely right. There are a lot of disjointed concepts. This is something I'm in the process of editing through and fixing now, hopefully will have it re-written and clearer soon!

Thank you for reading, An AYM. The goal of writing this was to produce the question in the peoples' minds, and make them consider the root of their actions and thoughts and see if they are truly productive or an outdated instinct (to be clear, some instincts of course do have their purpose, though some are unnecessary in this modern world, in my opinion).

Thanks for reading, Watergeek. Thanks for your support! I plan on jazzing this up, providing some studies, connecting the ideas a bit better and evolving the idea as a whole a little bit more. I appreciate you stopping by!

Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on October 20, 2012:

And that questioning is our Spiritual or Creative Nature. That one supercedes all. That one acknowledges that, ultimately, we are creators of our own lives, and that living with others and the earth in harmony (and fun) is in our best interests and theirs. Win-win is the order of the day, whether between us and a business partner or "competitor," us and a child we may or may not have, or us and someone with different political views. We all create. And when we get to THAT point of awareness, then we can all thrive. GOOD article, ThompsonPen!

An AYM on September 24, 2012:

I agree with what you're saying. What makes me sad and gives me limited faith in humanity is that I don't believe people will ask "Why" as a whole. I think we (Most of humanity) are too stricken by easy gratification to contemplate introspection.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 21, 2012:

Seems like a bunch of leaps to disjointed concepts. What does this mean?; " If everyone is asking these questions, then it will alter the social nature as a whole" I checked your profile and concluded I understand your bent but I do not get this. Help.

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