Instigator / Pro
14
1558
rating
25
debates
64.0%
won
Topic

Unique behavior in highly intelligent species is largely learned, not instinctual

Status
Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

Arguments points
6
0
Sources points
4
0
Spelling and grammar points
2
2
Conduct points
2
1

With 2 votes and 11 points ahead, the winner is ...

K_Michael
Parameters
More details
Publication date
Last update date
Category
Science
Time for argument
One week
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
Two weeks
Point system
Four points
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
10,000
Contender / Con
3
1421
rating
127
debates
31.89%
won
Description
~ 391 / 5,000

Unique: exclusive to a particular group.
Behavior: all the ways animals interact with other organisms and the physical environment; a change in the activity of an organism in response to a stimulus, an external or internal cue or combo of cues.
Highly intelligent species: Animals that are widely considered to have human or near-human intelligence, such as corvids, primates, and cetaceans.

Round 1
Pro
First off, it will be noted that instinct and learning were not defined in the debate description. I did this because I wanted to encourage Con to think critically about these two terms rather than blindly accepting whatever term I start out with. If Con disagrees with my definitions below, then I think we should settle on a definition in the comments before going to round two, as this is a shorter debate.

Instinct: an innate (genetically heritable), typically fixed pattern of behavior* in animals in response to certain stimuli.
Learning (in regards to behavior): The acquisition of knowledge and skills based on observation and experience.

*The title of this debate specifically says unique behavior because certain body processes common to most if not all animals such as breathing and reproduction will not be considered in this debate. Behaviors specific to intelligent species are up for grabs, such as grooming, mating rituals, communication, and mourning. If you can make a good case for a behavior being unique to the extent that it should be considered valid for this debate. You could go as general as things flight or swimming since different species do it in different ways. 

Second, since I forgot to note this in the description, I will not be putting forward any new arguments in the third round, and hope that you do the same, as it would be impossible for me to contend an argument made in the final round.

Argument 1: Childrearing and socialization

A general rule across the most intelligent species is that they have longer childhood in relationship to their lifespan. Humans are of course the most obvious example. Most countries do not consider a person to be an adult until 18 (all but 5 consider it to be between 16 and 21), and studies show that human brains are not fully developed until about 25.[1],[2] This is approximately between ¼ and ⅓ of the average human lifespan of 72.[3] 
A few other intelligent animals’ maturities and life expectancy (some numbers are based on sexual maturity when I was unable to find a definitive range of when they become independent of their parents):
Species: maturity, life expectancy (oldest age noted in captivity), % of life in childhood
Crows: 3-5, 20-30 (59 in captivity), 25-10% (5% in the case of the captive, but this is the only number here that comes under 10%)
Elephants: 18, 60-70 (89 in captivity), 30-20%
Bottlenose dolphins [Link #2]: 5-13 female, 9-14 male, 40-60 (captive dolphins live equal or fewer years than wild), 35-12%
Chimpanzee [Link #2]: 10-13, 40-50 (79 in captivity) 32.5-12.7%
Humans: 18-25, 79 (122 record), 32-15%
By comparison
Reptiles are largely self-sufficient from hatching, which should be noted, but is hard to gather statistics on
In less intelligent bird species, the percentage drops. 
Chicken: 6-12 weeks, 5-10 years (record 14), 2.3-1.6%
Mouse: 6 weeks, 1-3 years (7 years), 11-1% (Mice like all mammals are fairly intelligent, so it makes sense for this number to be moderately high)

Why is a long childhood important?
Humans learn in school and from their parents and peers. Even fairly basic skills like walking on two legs require models to learn from. Oxana Malaya, a feral child raised by dogs, was unable to walk on two legs when she was found. So clearly it was a learned behavior, not instinct. Parents serve as teachers and models. 

Community
All of the intelligent animals above tend to live in communities (in the case of the crow, they are largely solitary, but other corvids such as the pinyon jay live in large permanent social groups), which preserves and aids learning across generations. Humans are once again the prime example. If you would like sources for these claims I can link them in the next round but right now I just want to get the ball rolling.

Why is a community important?

Many species born into captivity, even when raised with wild parents, cannot be released to the wild. Dolphins, for instance, never have a chance to learn the complex hunting behavior that their pods use to hunt.[4] 

Conclusion: Longer childhoods and the connected social groups in intelligent animals (along with examples of intelligent animals that don’t have social groups NOT developing the same behaviors) indicate that most unique behaviors in these species are LEARNED, not instinct.

Con
firstly, I will object to feral child by saying Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, firstly because that is a data sample of ONE person, secondly because she was raised by dogs, and so con can only prove that learned behavior can overcome instinctual, not that unique behavior is largely learned. Keep in mind that even experts agree that walking is BOTH learned AND instinctual. Pro must prove majority overcoming in order to win this debate.

Now onto my main argument

Learning IS instinctual
A Professor of Cognitive Biology, Mr. Fitch, has researched this thoroughly and came to a conclusion: We have the instinct to learn language. As he states: "The instinct to learn language is, indeed, innate (meaning simply that it reliably develops in our species), even though every language is learned.  As Darwin put it in Descent of Man, "language is an art, like brewing or baking; but … certainly is not a true instinct, for every language has to be learnt.  It differs, however, widely from all ordinary arts, for man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children; whilst no child has an instinctive tendency to brew, bake, or write."
 
And what of culture? For many, human culture seems the very antithesis of "instinct". And yet it must be true that language plays a key role in every human culture. Language is the primary medium for the passing on of historically-accumulated knowledge, tastes, biases and styles that makes each of our human tribes and nations its own unique and precious entity.  And if human language is best conceived of as an instinct to learn, why not culture itself? "

As you can see, because most young infants already want to speak if they can speak, this is instinct. And this instinct to speak leads to our unique behavior of learned language. However, the "speaking" itself is much more a concrete behavior than "language", a vague idea. So long as Pro is unable to defeat this, he loses the debate. Because instinct is the cause of learning, I stress. Without instinct, pro's argument cannot even exist. Even if 1% of something caused 99% of the rest of it, "largely" could still mean the 1% wins, not because of majority component, but because of cause. For example, let's assume The Big Bang did cause the universe to exist. If this debate was "the universe's continuation is largely due to the Big Bang", pro would likely win, because even if Big Bang was only a split second compared to 13 billion years, it was still the crucial cause to ALLOW the universe to continue in the first case.

In short:
a) take away learning, we still have unique babbling
b) take away instinct, we do not even have learning

I move the floor to con.
Round 2
Pro
Refutations
[Pro] can only prove that learned behavior can overcome instinctual, not that unique behavior is largely learned. Keep in mind that even experts agree that walking is BOTH learned AND instinctual. Pro must prove majority overcoming in order to win this debate.
First of all, if learned behavior can overcome instinct, then it follows that an intelligent animal's behavior is learned, not instinctual. If the instinctual behavior is not expressed, then it is not the behavior of the animal. Point to Pro.

Second, Con claims that "experts agree that walking is BOTH learned AND instinctual." however, the same link says that "In some animals, walking is instinctive... In humans, walking, like most of our behaviors, is learned" (emphases added by me). While Con claims that walking is instinctual and learned, he neglects to mention that walking is instinctual to some animals and learned by others. This is deliberately misleading.

Con's Main Argument:
Learning IS instinctual
This seems pretty clearly true to me. After all, you can't learn to learn any more than you can read a book on how to read when you are illiterate. However, this claim does not mean that learned behaviors are instinctual because learning is instinctual. That seems blatantly false to me.
Furthermore, modes of thought ARE learned. As an example:

The mirror test. A standard mark test of self-awareness and human-like intelligence. Many animals pass, but even humans do not pass at birth. Humans tend to have MSR (mirror self-recognition) at about 18 months. Orangutans of 2 years of age have been shown to fail the mirror test while older orangutans pass.

In humans, it is obvious that an infant is not as capable of learning as an older human. Our skills and modes of thought are developed, not instinctual.

If this debate was "the universe's continuation is largely due to the Big Bang", pro would likely win, because even if Big Bang was only a split second compared to 13 billion years, it was still the crucial cause to ALLOW the universe to continue in the first case.
The key phrase there is "due to" which is not found in this debate's title. Although many behaviors are influenced and stem from instinctual behaviors, they are not instinctual themselves, and as Con himself already stated "learned behavior can overcome instinct[]." 

Conclusion:
Learned behavior overrides instinct, and therefore determines unique behavior in intelligent species.
Learning as the most basic process is instinctual in intelligent species, but is altered and developed by learning itself, and so is largely NOT instinctual.

I move the floor to Con.
Con
Pro asserts that because we are more complex this learning must be necessary, however, he has given very little evidence and dropped my contention of Texas Sharpshooter fallacy. Babies already have developed instinctual grabbing of furniture to stand upright, gradually moving onto the process of walking. Indeed, a study explains precisely why humans take so long to do this: 

"Sure enough, they saw a pattern that could mostly be explained by differences in brain mass. The fact that the pattern only showed up when looking at the time from conception suggests brain development occurs along this continuum that extends from conception through early development out of the womb, Garwicz said.

They also found limb biomechanics was involved in the timing of walking onset, though not as important of a factor as brain mass. Specifically, animals that stand on the full length of their hind feet (like us) take longer to reach those first steps.

The researchers suspect this link is also related to the brain, because the hind limbs of this so-called plantigrade stance are more complex biomechanically than those of horses, say, that don't place their heels on the ground. That biomechanical complexity likely requires more brain power to operate, and thus more time to get moving in early development."

Pro has not negated the fact that our instinct is indeed to learn these ideas, these unique behaviors embedded within us. He cannot state "largely learned not instinctual", because instinct is the crux that cannot be avoided. Tell me, if a battery powers the car, is it "largely" the car that is moving? I doubt it. It's 50/50 split, without the car, there's nothing to power, but without the battery, the car stands still. So moving requires the combination of instinct and learning at equal parts. He has not managed to prove that the learning is more important than the learning. Pro has tried to prove this learning is more "powerful" since it is able to overcome learning, but because instinct is learning, wouldn't it be the same process modifying itself? A study suggests that our complex "learning" could just be a different version of instinctual behavior:  "Even very simple organisms trade off information for rewards. While their information-seeking behavior is not typically categorized as curiosity, the simplicity of their neural systems makes them ideally suited for studies that may provide its foundation" [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4635443/]

Consider if a program modifies itself, is the later program any more influential than the initial program? As "instinctual behavior" shifts to "learned behavior", we have a "Ship of Theseus" problem where con argues merely because the behavior has seemingly changed, that it is no longer the same instinctual behavior. But when the instinctual ship of behavior has modifiers from learning, can you really say that this is "largely due to modifiers, that this ship has become itself"? We needed the original ship of Theseus in order to have this "brand new Ship of Theseus". Even though it changes over time, we can still call it the ship of Theseus, even with brand new material and completely different look. As such, the addition of "learned behavior" is arguably the same as replacing the material on the ship of Theseus, making it seem different, but being the same behavior essentially as the crux.

Conclusion: In order for pro to win, he must assert that learned behavior and instinctual are not the same thing, unlike the ship of Theseus which highly depended on the original basis in order for modifications to succeed. Because instinct evolves into learning, I argue that they are arguably the same idea. Without the modifications on the ship, I still have the original, and hence I would win because instinct is all that is left. But without the original ship of Theseus, how can I modify something that doesn't even exist? Pro's argument falls apart as such.
Round 3
Pro
Round 2 Contentions: (as agreed upon, there will be no new arguments in Round 3)
Pro asserts that because we are more complex this learning must be necessary
I have never said that learning is necessary. Con stated that learning is instinctual. I have also never brought up the idea of complexity once in this debate. I mention complex behaviors at the end of my first round, but this is completely removed from organism complexity.
dropped my contention of Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.
Con has failed to define the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy and gave no clear explanation of how my example is an instance of it.

Con goes on to say:
con can only prove that learned behavior can overcome instinctual, not that unique behavior is largely learned. 
As I have already stated, if the learned behavior overcomes instinct and is the factor that determines the actual observed behavior, then this is only further evidence towards my position. 
Babies already have developed instinctual grabbing of furniture to stand upright, gradually moving onto the process of walking.
Con already cited a source in his first round that stated (not where he quoted it, but rest assured it is the same link.) 
In some animals, walking is instinctive... In humans, walking, like most of our behaviors, is learned
R1 contention:
In yet another quote by Con, it is stated:
man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children; whilst no child has an instinctive tendency to brew, bake, or write."
You may notice that while Con used this quote to support the claim that language is instinctual, the same quote also lists three human behaviors that are learned, completely undermining the argument, and the credibility of Con's claims.

If the voters feel that Con's use of sources that DIRECTLY CONTRADICT his position is indicative of a lack of careful research, they should award Sources to Pro.

 if a battery powers the car, is it "largely" the car that is moving?
This is a False Analogy, to start with. First of all, most cars are not powered by batteries. While diesel and gasoline automobiles contain batteries, all movement is powered by the internal combustion engine, so this analogy doesn't work anyways. Second, even if we're talking about a Tesla here, the car is doing all of the moving, since the battery is part of the car. A more correct analogy would be if instinct was the battery, and the engine is learning, and the movement of the car is behavior. In this analogy, we would ask whether the engine or the battery is the largest factor in the movement of the car. So while the battery is necessary to get the engine running, it does not itself determine what movements the car exhibits, and instinct does not determine the behavior that an intelligent animal exhibits.

As "instinctual behavior" shifts to "learned behavior", we have a "Ship of Theseus" problem where con argues merely because the behavior has seemingly changed, that it is no longer the same instinctual behavior. 
This analogy is also false. The Ship of Theseus, for those who don't know, is a thought experiment involving replacing every part of a ship over time and asks the question of whether it is still the same ship after every piece has been replaced from the original. Con goes on to talk about modifiers, but this isn't accurate to the original thought experiment. The Ship of Theseus problem requires that all original components be completely removed, whereas learned behaviors build upon and override original behaviors.
Even if the analogy was correct, this isn't a valid argument because the ship of Theseus dilemma does not have a commonly accepted correct answer. By comparing my argument to it, Con might as well ask that voters decide based upon their opinion on the Ship of Theseus question rather than the debate arguments. This would be a violation of the DArt Voting Policy, as it states:
Votes Considering Outside Content
The voter must assess the content of the debate and only the debate, any reasoning based on arguments made or information given outside of the debate rounds is unacceptable.
And finally:

 because the behavior has seemingly changed, that it is no longer the same instinctual behavior.
By definition, changed behavior is not the same behavior. I literally have no way to state this more clearly. Instinct is genetic, and no amount of learning will change your genetics.
I defined (and Con didn't contend) instinct as " innate (genetically heritable)." Any learned behavior is not genetically heritable and is therefore not instinct by the accepted definitions of this debate.

***VIEWERS! Vote please, I put quite a bit of research and writing into this debate, and while debating is gratifying in and of itself, it would make me feel a lot better if I knew that someone besides seldiora was taking the time to read these.***
Con
in the end, pro's sole argument is that because we add upon these modifiers that the learning is "largely" the attribute for our behavior. However, he has continuously dropped my argument about how even babies babble on to show that language is not unique to humans, despite culture seemingly so. As long as the professor's point stands, pro cannot win. Even if the engine tells the car exactly how to move and how to execute everything, the battery is still needed to power it. I have proven time and time again that even without learning, we would still have our unique behaviors as highly intelligent species (even if not cooking, baking, etc.), and instinct would lead itself to learn new things, thus modifying itself and becoming human. On the other hand, without instinct, it is impossible to even learn anything, as we would not have anything to tell us that we need to learn in the first place. No matter how many modifications we have upon the original idea, it cannot be said to more "largely" impact than the original idea. Newton's laws are just as important as his successors who had experiments and ideas to try to further them and revolutionize the science community. With voting for pro, you are saying that humans would be fine without their foundation, which is absurd. Remember, "largely" means to the greater extent, looking for the core, the main idea. And what is more fitting than the instinct, in this case?

Vote for con.