Instincts and Evolution


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                                                     The Territorial Instinct

      It isn’t only our educational systems and enculturation that make the Nation State conceptual framework so intractable in our minds. We're instinctually programmed to create such territorial maps. The Territorial Instinct exists throughout nature. This instinct structures our spatial awareness in a way that differentiates ‘our group’s’ territorial boundaries from ‘other group’s’ territorial boundaries. Even wolves born and raised in captivity, if left within the territorial boundaries of a wolf pack in the wild will react immediately by becoming extremely nervous and agitated. They seek to escape back into neutral territory as soon as possible. It isn’t specifically the Nation State that's ‘soft-wired’ into our brain, the Nation State is but one form out of many that this inborn urge to create territorial maps has taken in our species.

     "The Nation State is just the most recent form of human territorial marker in the serial litany of fleeting names and shifting borders that we've spilled rivers of blood conquering and defending upon the same unchanging landmasses of our Earth. "

                                                                                 Maureen O'Sullivan 

        Chimps live in a chimp universe. Wolves live in a wolf universe. Blue jays live in a blue jay universe. And a large part of each species’ behavioral repertoire goes into marking, patrolling, and defending their troop’s, pack’s or flock's territorial boundaries. So too, this instinct compels us to super-impose our species-specific territorial markers over the natural world. And in so doing, our territorial markers come to represent 'The World' to us, just as scat or urine scents on tree trunks and rocks provide a sense of 'The World' to animals in the wild. 

     We've all had the experience of suddenly hearing the loud angry squawking of birds up in a nearby tree. From our human perspective, the bird's 'much ado about nothing' raucous squawking strikes us as mindless and stupid. To us, it reflects little other than the bird's myopic obliviousness to the 'bigger picture' of our more important human-scale reality. Planetization provides us with this very same kind of larger perspective on our myopic focus on our species-specific territoriality markers and boundaries... Through its much broader lens, we get a glimpse of our own general obliviousness to the much more important 'bigger picture' of our collective planetary presence and togetherness.

                                              Sub-Group Formation

     Nature has built into many species this instinctual template for separating out into sub-groups for a very practical reason. As populations of organisms continue to expand, eventually they deplete the food sources available to them in their local environment. So when a group of chimps, microbes or humans, grows too large to be sustained by its local food sources - some must inevitably branch out into new territory. Even bacteria in a petri dish show distinct patterns of sub-group formation as their numbers grow. Bacteria produce chemical waste products that repel other nearby colonies (sub-groups) from randomly diffusing into the borders of their territory. The inner cohesion and outer repulsion of these bacterial sub-groups is purely chemical. These bacterial colonies are of a distinctly different shape, color, border, etc. specific for each type of bacteria. In fact, microbiologists use the easily distinguishable differences between colonies to identify just what kind of bacteria they're viewing under the microscope.   

             Over long eons, higher life forms evolved more complex bio-chemical repellants and attractors to separate out and maintain their sub-groups. They elicit in higher life forms, both aggressive and antagonistic emotions that repel neighboring sub-groups - and cohesive emotional bonds that unite all the individuals together within a sub-group. These bio-chemicals are the neuropeptides, the bio-chemical basis of our emotions. Our gut, heart, brain and other organs are flooded with specific combinations and concentrations of these neuropeptides whenever we feel certain emotions.    

 

 

              Neuropeptides create an emotional antagonism or repulsion between sub-groups in higher life forms - rather than the purely chemical one of microbes, and an emotional bonding to unite us together within our particular sub-group. That's why sub-groups within a species, whether chimp, birds or human, are mostly antagonistic and threatening when their territory is invaded by one of their own kind - but are often largely indifferent to other species intrusions into their territory. (Domesticated dogs are an obvious exception here as they live in mixed-species packs).

 

               Chemical waste products of bacteria act as a 'glue' to keep bacterial colonies intact. In us, neuropeptides are responsible for the cohesive 'emotional glue' that keeps us bonded within our sub-group. These instinct-derived emotional bonds are difficult for us to view objectively because it's largely a taboo to question their validity, or to regard them in anything but a positive light. They cluster around our sense of idealism; and involve feelings of patriotism, loyalty, sacrifice, group pride, belonging and honor. The challenge of Planetization is to make us realize that as a species, we've outgrown the need for these emotions of cohesion that keep us bound within our respective human sub-groups. In fact, they're now actually preventing us from achieving the more inclusive unity at the species-wide planetary level that evolution is moving us toward.

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