Balancing Free Will and Instinct

Human beings, I would argue, have both free will and instinct. Animals and everything else work on instinct. After watching primary predators, albeit on the discovery channel, it is evident that they act on instinct. Even sheep at the local farm flock to get fed almost instantly when it’s lunch time. Instinct drives these actions and hunger is one of those instincts that all life on Earth share to sustain themselves. Instinct is automatic, and in animals can’t be overrode. It is what makes nature, and the ecosystems within it, ebb and flow with the tides. The complex food chain network chugs on. 

Out of Sync Instincts

There is no evidence for organisms other than humans having any conscious awareness of their actions or whether they should act. How they know what to do and when is driven by the complexity of their genetic makeup and adaptability to their niche. Take a domesticated animal out of its niche, and you can guarantee it would have a hard time surviving. I often think about what would happen to my snake, Cyclone, if I did this. There would certainly be no dangling, frozen mice conveniently fed to him by his master every three weeks. What a weak animal! As I think this, what if I was thrown into the amazon jungle? There would be no Wal-Mart, and then I would be reduced to or below the competency that Cyclone has. I would imagine this would be the case for most modern humans living in their comfort driven niche filled with spongy mattresses and a cold box known as a refrigerator. 

Pre-Frontal Balance

Humans, as I mentioned, operate on both free will and instinct. The free will is something that our past ancestors might not have experienced to the degree we do. It is popular to think of our prefrontal cortex as the “seat of free will”. This brain region is the most recent feature in terms of evolutionary time. It puts the being in human beings and is responsible for free will. Restricting the definition of free will as the ability to override instinct is what separates humans from animals. This has led to humans evolving as the one species that can build things that will prove to be a benefit in the future, but require some sacrifice in the present. These things often help us meet basic survival needs and overcome them to a point where they are not even a forethought. You may think that this is a great thing, and it is! However, even in 2022, not everyone on Earth experiences this luxury. In addition, sometimes when humans act solely on free will, we incrementally move away from our very nature, causing discord. The indigenous know this and have centered many of their rituals around the important notion of acting in harmony with nature. Kids in general are known to have underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes which grow as they age. Therefore, it is the responsibility of their parents, peers, and education to teach them how to properly behave. Conditioning kids in this way is important to secure their place as well-rounded adults, however, too much doctrine may limit the need to discover uninhibitedly. 

To truly live in a harmonious state with nature is to balance between instinct and free will. Animals, plants, and everything else do this effortlessly because they don’t have that little voice in their head projecting on the consequences of their actions. Nike’s motto is “Just Do It” and they might as well have been talking about instinct. “Paralysis by analysis” also applies here. It is true that some people are more paralyzed than others, but it is equally true that instinct, when left unchecked, can make for a much more savage society. Conversely, if we exploit, manipulate, or modify nature and individual actions too much, the chaos will seek to return to balance through instinct. 

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