Saturday, September 19, 2020


493. Nature, nurture and pre-wiring

 The principle discussed in this item may be already be familiar to the reader.

 A puzzle in the familiar debate between ‘nature and nurture’ is this. How can traits be innate, as a result of evolution, as well as the result of experience, in upbringimg, education and action and response in the world?

 An answer lies in ‘prewiring’ of the brain or ‘virtual innateness’, where we are not born with ready-made features of thought and feeling, but with a potential to develop them in a certain direction, depending on the environment. That gives the malleability and adaptability conducive to survival.

 For example, according to Chomsky, but this is controversial, humans have a universal ability to acquire a language when young, with common features, across languages, concerning a structure of verbs, nouns and adjectives. Individual languages vary, but the underlying structure does not. This also yields a human bias in the construction of language, in conceptualizing abstract things in metaphor to concrete things moving in time and space and being acted on, which were most crucial in the early developmen of Man. Earlier in this blog I called that the ‘object bias’.

 Another example is that people have an internal, general disposition towards fear, and whether this develops into fear of snakes, spiders or crocodiles depends on the habitat.

 That malleablity arose as a quirk of evolution, when Man started to walk upright as it also developed a larger brain, narrowing the pelvis, and this necessitated premature birth, to let the enlarged head through before full development, which then could be geared to the environment. A disavantage of that was that the human baby needed more care and protection than animals who were more fully developed at birth. However, humanity learned to deal with that, with he aid of social coperation in kinship groups and widening communities, with the aid of language. The larger brain was needed for that.

 A similar potential to produce features rather than giving a full, repertoire of pre-formed ones, was offered in ‘Object Oriented  Ontology’, discussed earlier in this blog. A fixed, predetermined repertoire requires  a large capacity of memory and lacks adaptivenss to unforeseeable circumstances.

 However, as the potential to develop becomes wider, less specific, the time to develop something useful takes longer, and the period of vulnerable infancy takes longer, and this becomes an evolutionay trade-off.


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