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Solomon, Molly Maxfield, 2006, Psychological Inquiry: An International Journal for the Advancement of Psychological Theory, 17:4, 328-356, DOI: 10.1080/10478400701369542, Kirkpatrick and Navarette’s (this issue) first spe- cific complaint with TMT is that it is wedded to an out- moded assumption that human beings share with many other species asurvival instinct.They argue that natu- ral selection can only build instincts that respond to specific adaptive challenges in specific situations, and thus could not have designed an instinct for survival because staying alive is a broad and distal goal with no single clearly defined adaptive response. Our use of the term survival instinct was meant to highlight the gen- eral orientation toward continued lifethat is expressed in manyof an organism’s bodily systems(e.g., heart, liver, lungs, etc)and the diverse approach and avoid- ance tendenciesthat promote its survival and reproduc- tion, ultimately leading to genes being passed on to fu-ture generations. Our use of this term also reflects the classic psychoanalytic, biological, and anthropological influences on TMT of theorists like Becker (1971, 1973, 1975), Freud (1976, 1991), Rank (1945, 1961, 1989), Zilborg (1943), Spengler (1999), and
Darwin (1993). We concur that natural selection, at least initially, is unlikely to design a unitary survival instinct, but rather, a series ofspecific adaptationsthat have tended over evolutionary timeto promotethe survivalof an organ- ism’s genes. However, whether one construes these ad- aptations as a series of discrete mechanisms or a gen- eral overarching tendency that encompasses many specific systems, we think it hard to arguewith theclaimthat natural selectionusually orients organisms to approach things that facilitatecontinued existenceand to avoid things that would likely cut life short.This is not to say that natural selection doesn’t also select for characteristics that facilitate gene survival in other ways, or that all species or even all humans, will al- ways choose life over other valued goals in all circum- stances. Our claim is simplythat a general orientation toward continued lifeexists because staying alive is es- sential forreproduction in most species, as well as for child rearing and support in mammalian species and many others. Viewing an animal as a loose collection of inde- pendent modules that produce responses to specific adaptively-relevant stimuli may be useful for some purposes, but it overlooks the point that adaptation in- volves a variety of inter-related mechanisms work- ing together to insure that genes responsible for these mechanisms are more numerously represented in fu- ture generations (see, e.g., Tattersall, 1998). For exam- ple, although the left ventricle of the human heart likely evolved to solve a specific adaptive problem, this mechanism would be useless unless well-integrated with other aspects of the circulatory system. We be- lieve it useful to think in terms of the overarching func- tion of the heart and pulmonary-circulatory system, even if specific parts of that