A daring blog post title. Especially considering the 90-minute lecture series on YouTube where the smartest and most knowledgeable among us claim the surprising opposite. So, are they on to nothing? Not exactly. But, what they discuss is instincts without brains. Striking enough as it is.
Instincts give biological creatures a set of options that help their overall survival. The difference with human intelligence is that that gives creativity that is not limited to a very small choice of alternatives.
Inanimate things don’t have opportunities. They react quite passively to their environment. Which doesn’t say that that can’t be impressive.
Lower animals, starting from single creatures, may move away or close up when threat or poison is detected, or get closer when favorable conditions or food are sensed. The system can be fooled though. That’s how we catch flies. Humans also have such stuff. When we eat poison, we may end up throwing up, without our stomach being very intelligent.
Higher animals can even learn instincts. This is called conditioning.
These things are all available to human beings. But at the end of the day, we have an intelligence that can let us choose based on principles and ideas besides on just feelings. An animal has a hard time choosing life when its set reaction or conditioning says not to do so.
But, humans can opt for long-term considerations, sacrificing to help others, moral arguments, doing unhelpful things as a deep scream for emotional help, experimenting to learn, training themselves to get good at something, beauty over success, etc., rather than just doing what is comfortable or feels nice in the short run or simply pro-survival.
Plus, moral victories seem only possible for humans. There are rumors that machines (computers) can be as intuitive and creative as humans. But they can’t train themselves to go against their comfort (computers have no feelings) and meritoriously opt for what is morally superior.
With doesn’t mean that the most successful people are the most intelligent or the other way around. The smartest humans seem rather socially very handicapped but they give us an inkling about how much intelligence stays untapped in most of us.
Poisoning may greatly hinder our flexible intelligence. Desperation to address past emotional hurt may strongly motivate us to ignore all other considerations. Habit and strong feelings may hinder us from becoming our best. But, we all tend to move to greater freedom, intelligence, creativity, no matter what. Until physical injury of the brain hinders that.
Telling people that we are mere animals hampers the belief in and use of our higher mental functions and options.
You’re not a realist if you’re not chronically totally amazed and deeply respectful of every human’s brains and all of nature’s ingeniousness.