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  Topic: A very young child awakes one morning ...< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Tim



Posts: 40
Joined: Sep. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,06:08   

... into a world much like our planet earth, but devoid of people.

The child manages to survive to a young adult age by eating the plentiful fruits and animals of the forests and savannahs she finds herself in.

She remembers nothing of awaking here in her early childhood, she has only ever been aware of the world she sees, feels, hears and smells around her.

As she sits thoughtfully one day by a lake, gazing at the view around her, does she think to herself ... :

A) ... that this magnificent world she finds herself in to be so utterly wondrous, bountiful, supportive of her life, and incredibly complex, that it must have all been created by some magnificent, omnipotent creator.
She sits back contentedly at this thought, quietly comforted with the feeling that there is an indecipherable higher power somewhere looking out for her who has created these wonders for her.

B) ... that this magnificent world she finds herself in is indeed wondrous, and is a little curious to find out why it is so wondrous. Where does the fruit she eat come from. Why are there fish in the lake. Why is the sky blue during the day, but red in the morning and evening. Why are there insects buzzing about, eating the discarded remains of the fruit. Why do those animals with big teeth chase and eat those other large grass-eating animals? Why does some fruit agree with me but others make me sick. Why are there some animals that are as happy in the water as they are on land.
In finding these questions in her head, she sits back contentedly and decides to start investigating all these wonders the minute she wakes up the following morning.

  
Occam's Toothbrush



Posts: 555
Joined: April 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,06:33   

Your child would have no grasp of language and would have no tools with which to abstract any of these concepts.  Without the word "why," you can't ask why, much less speculate about possible answers.

I know that misses your point, but that's what your scenario made me think of.

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"Molecular stuff seems to me not to be biology as much as it is a more atomic element of life" --Creo nut Robert Byers
------
"You need your arrogant ass kicked, and I would LOVE to be the guy who does it. Where do you live?" --Anger Management Problem Concern Troll "Kris"

  
improvius



Posts: 807
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,06:40   

And, obviously, she would have no concept of a "creator".  But if she happened to notice that, by coincidence, thunder struck once when she was near a particular rock or something, she might attribute supernatural powers to the rock.

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Quote (afdave @ Oct. 02 2006,18:37)
Many Jews were in comfortable oblivion about Hitler ... until it was too late.
Many scientists will persist in comfortable oblivion about their Creator ... until it is too late.

  
Arden Chatfield



Posts: 6657
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,06:48   

Quote (Occam's Toothbrush @ May 02 2006,11:33)
Your child would have no grasp of language and would have no tools with which to abstract any of these concepts.  Without the word "why," you can't ask why, much less speculate about possible answers.

I know that misses your point, but that's what your scenario made me think of.

That was my first reaction, too. Minus any language, she wouldn't have been able to have all those deep thoughts.

Besides, many of the ideas you're describing are all cultural constructs anyway. Subtract out the culture and I doubt we'd be able to predict much of what could go through this gal's mind.

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"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus

  
Russell



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Joined: April 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,08:08   

Hmmm. Interesting thought. I guess I used to have a notion that society, culture, etc. distorted human nature, and that one might contemplate this "feral child" scenario to get an idea what we're really "supposed to be" like.

But an older and wiser me thinks now that we evolved the brains that we did as social animals, that language - and the exercise thereof - is central to our natures, and that, interesting though this thought experiment is to contemplate, large chunks of this child's brain would be essentially lost due to disuse. (Much like, I believe, if you're deprived of light for the first few years of life, you'll be essentially blind for life.)

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Must... not... scratch... mosquito bite.

  
Chris Hyland



Posts: 705
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,08:32   

The scientist in me says B, but the lazy bas**rd in me says A. Tough call.

  
TCE



Posts: 3
Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,09:29   

Quote (Occam's Toothbrush @ May 02 2006,11:33)
Your child would have no grasp of language and would have no tools with which to abstract any of these concepts.  Without the word "why," you can't ask why, much less speculate about possible answers.

I know that misses your point, but that's what your scenario made me think of.

That's untrue :-)

Deaf people and those unfortunates who are deaf and blind, form language, grasp complex concepts and practice 'human morals' long before they learn to communicate in a spoken/signed language.

  
C.J.O'Brien



Posts: 395
Joined: Aug. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,09:35   

But there's a relatively narrow 'window' in which a child must experience spoken or signed language, or the capacity never develops. After 5 or 6 years old, maybe 8 tops, without exposure to speech, conceptual thinking is literally impossible.

Sign languages are fully grammatical 'natural languages.' There is no difference in principle between them and spoken languages for the purpose of first-language acquisition.

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The is the beauty of being me- anything that any man does I can understand.
--Joe G

  
PuckSR



Posts: 314
Joined: Nov. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,10:32   

I dont know about that relatively narrow window.....
But i believe that the discussion of her mental faculties might easily be resolved by adding an additional person to the equation....
In that case her original "thought" could be exchanged with a dialogue between the two...

I would tend to believe that she would assign supernatural properties to many of the natural phenomenom that she couldnt explain....however I believe she would fall short of assigning it all to a single creator.  Why do you think early, primitive religions were mostly polytheistic?  They saw the "supernatural" nature of several things...but at the same time they observed the conflicting and imperfect nature of the world.  They assigned the good to the supernatural, and the bad to either the evil supernatural, or conflict between the supernatural.....

Why do you think Christians have such a strong mythology around Satan and ####?  It easily explains much of the evil in the world....and does so without complicated theological debate....perfect for religions in short supply of theological debaters....

  
C.J.O'Brien



Posts: 395
Joined: Aug. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,11:00   

It's true, as far as we can tell from the feral children who have been studied. Here's theWikipedia article on language acquisition. There's a link there to the feral children article.

Of course, as with most social science, 'hard' experimental results could only be gained at the expense of committing an atrocity, so I hope we never 'know for sure.'

Quote
I would tend to believe that she would assign supernatural properties to many of the natural phenomenom that she couldnt explain....however I believe she would fall short of assigning it all to a single creator.  Why do you think early, primitive religions were mostly polytheistic?  They saw the "supernatural" nature of several things...but at the same time they observed the conflicting and imperfect nature of the world.  They assigned the good to the supernatural, and the bad to either the evil supernatural, or conflict between the supernatural.....


All of these ideas, however 'primitive' they seem to us, grew out of millennia of people in groups, thinking and saying and singing, doing all the things that lead societies to have traditions. Even two individuals with, we'll say, intact conceptual thinking skills, would not be a culture, capable of organizing experience into shared myth. I have a feeling that in a 'state of nature' the line between 'supernatural' and 'natural' would have been so completely blurred as to not really be comprehensible to you and me. But I certainly agree with what I think is your central thesis: there is nothing especially 'natural' or inevitable about believing in a Sky Father.

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The is the beauty of being me- anything that any man does I can understand.
--Joe G

  
TCE



Posts: 3
Joined: May 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,16:13   

Quote (C.J.O'Brien @ May 02 2006,14:35)
Sign languages are fully grammatical 'natural languages.' There is no difference in principle between them and spoken languages for the purpose of first-language acquisition.

That just isn't true; I'm deaf myself :-)

I certainly don't "think" in sign which I learnt before I could lip read. I don't "think" in English either ;-)

  
Eldin



Posts: 12
Joined: April 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,16:14   

Relatively relevant:

http://www.feralchildren.com/en/index.php

Unifying features are animalic conduct and not being able to smile/laugh. Difficulties with language and culture ensue after a critical period is over (~9-12 years old).

Genie especially is a tragic case.

  
Joe the Ordinary Guy



Posts: 18
Joined: April 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,16:50   

I’ve often wondered how religion came to be, and my speculation runs along these lines:

At some point very shortly after the first true homo sapiens appeared, there was a group of them, and they did as well as they could with what they had. They could kill and eat animals, and they could gather edible plants. They dealt with whatever the world threw at them: thunder, lightning, rain, snow, insect bites, sunburn, predators. They understood CAUSE and EFFECT. And that’s about all.

One day, while the group is taking cover in a cave from a rainstorm, one of them runs outside and is instantly stuck by lightning and killed.

Later, a youngster asks his dad, “What the heck was that?” And the dad, being the first guy ever, did a classic guy thing: he made something up. “There’s a big guy in the sky, and he throws these things down at us.”

Now, why didn’t the dad make up a “better” answer? Why didn’t he say, “Well, the temperature inversions at high altitudes cause positive charges to separate out and then…”

Why did he not do that? BECAUSE HE DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THAT STUFF! He was working with what he had. He threw spears at animals; maybe a bigger version of himself threw this bigger version of a spear. Sounded plausible to him. More importantly, it sounded plausible to EVERYONE ELSE.

This is why polytheism came first; it postulates gods who are very much like us, only more so. And there’s one for each observed phenomenon.

As homo sapiens gathered more experience and more knowledge, perhaps the need for individual gods went away, and attention could be turned to “bigger picture” questions, which are better answered by monotheism. But the basic dynamic remained: when in doubt, make something up. The really good maker-uppers managed to spread their stories more widely that than the lesser ones. What made a good story is what science seeks today: explanatory power. And religion has the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything: "Goddidit." If a particular thing REALLY doesn't make sense, then the answer is: "The ways of the Lord are mysterious."

Science is a comparatively recent development, but it has proven far superior to religion in delivering explanatory power.

And now a question: were there atheists prior to science? OK, of course there were. What I really mean is, how did they reason in the absence of the scientific method? Any tips on books or articles on this topic would be appreciated.

  
Arden Chatfield



Posts: 6657
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,17:19   

Quote (TCE @ May 02 2006,21:13)
Quote (C.J.O'Brien @ May 02 2006,14:35)
Sign languages are fully grammatical 'natural languages.' There is no difference in principle between them and spoken languages for the purpose of first-language acquisition.

That just isn't true; I'm deaf myself :-)

I certainly don't "think" in sign which I learnt before I could lip read. I don't "think" in English either ;-)

If you don't mind my asking, what language (sign or otherwise) did you learn first, and how old were you?

--------------
"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus

  
C.J.O'Brien



Posts: 395
Joined: Aug. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 02 2006,19:11   

Quote (C.J.O'Brien @ May 02 2006,14:35)
Sign languages are fully grammatical 'natural languages.' There is no difference in principle between them and spoken languages for the purpose of first-language acquisition.

Quote (TCE @ May 02 2006,21:13)
That just isn't true; I'm deaf myself :-)

I certainly don't "think" in sign which I learnt before I could lip read. I don't "think" in English either ;-)


I think I understand what you're saying.
But perhaps I didn't make myself clear. I was warding off the impression that sign languages are like pidgins, not possessed of their own grammar, or are dependent somehow on a spoken language for their basic syntax.

Also, I said 'in principle.' In practice, acquisition of a sign language as a first language must introduce many complications. But children (and please correct me again if I am wrong and then I'll be quiet) acquire sign languages 'organically' in signing linguistic environments. Meaning when the caregivers are deaf and/or sign fluently, and the child is known to be hearing-impaired. It occurred to me, though, just in thinking this over, that an obvious complication that can't be avoided is the need to be able to see the speaker.

So I in no way meant to imply that there are no differences at all between spoken and signed languages. In calling sign a grammatical language I was differentiating it from codes, pidgins, and various forms of animal communication. In sign, as in any language, you can say anything that comes into your head, on the spot, using just a few rules of syntax and a lexicon of a given sophistication. Now, we often fail to do just that, no matter what language we use, so, clearly, no one thinks exclusively "in" any language. I suspect that there is a continuum of variation among people, such that some "think in language" more than others, who might be predominantly visual thinkers, or what have you. The evidence for a 'universal grammar' has led some to posit a 'mentalese,' a universal cognitive 'machine language' that would be the medium of pre-linguistic thought. In any case, everyone is familiar with thoughts that 'can't be put into words.'

With Arden, I would be interested if you felt like elucidating your experience. A couple of undergrad Linguistics courses, more theory than practice, doesn't tell you much about the ordinary details that comprise real life.

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The is the beauty of being me- anything that any man does I can understand.
--Joe G

  
Tim



Posts: 40
Joined: Sep. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 03 2006,01:16   

Lots of interesting comments ...

I posed the question really because I am under the impression that one 'becomes' religious almost entirely due to the influence of ones parents as one grows up, and to a lesser extent the influence of ones immediate community, rather than through simply automatically feeling a spirituality as one develops in early life.

So I was curious to see what other people thought about this, about a person born into a world without any pre-conceived ideas of spirituality or structured religion. Would such a person develop their own spirituality which would lead them to thoughts of an almighty creator? Or is the idea of a creator one which has developed steadily over the generations, and is nothing more than a contrived idea born of time and perpetuated by our earlier developing society?

Perhaps it really is down to the individual? Some of us have more of a scientific bent. Some of us are more curious to see how the world around us functions. Others perhaps have more of an in-built spirituality, and have a need to satisfy that through structured worship.

  
PuckSR



Posts: 314
Joined: Nov. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 03 2006,12:09   

The belief in the supernatural seems to be a universal trait of all human beings.  Without exception, cultures throughout the world believe in supernatural occurences.
(Yah...i know this sounds eerily familiar...but its actually a fairly good piece of evidence for archetypal beliefs...in other words...all cultures also know that floods can be disastrous)

It seems to me that the child would most likely believe in a supernatural explanation as well...since most children tend to believe in supernatural explanations readily.

The belief in the supernatural seems to stem from our ability to think.  A dog most likely doesnt consider the supernatural v. natural explanations of events.  He is simply concerned with cause and effect.  He simply doesnt concern himself with the complex thought of why something happens.  We have minds that think about this sort of thing...and we ask questions.

Early supernatural beliefs probably didnt involve "gods".  Think of luck, superstition, magic....
The entire concept of an entity behind "magic" must have come much later....

In all honesty...I would argue that naturalism is not inherent, but rather a worldview that must be taught.  Humans naturally pursue the best explanation, and in all honesty supernatural explanations are the most complete...

Naturalism asks one to reject supernatural arguments because of the irrationality of the belief, rather than the explanatory power of the belief.  With this in mind, no one is born an atheist(if we define atheism as the belief that the supernatural does not exist).  We all seek the "most complete" explanation at birth, it is only later that we learn to question the sanity and rationality of the explanation.

  
beervolcano



Posts: 147
Joined: Dec. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 03 2006,12:19   

Quote (TCE @ May 02 2006,21:13)
[quote=C.J.O'Brien,May 02 2006,14:35]Sign languages are fully grammatical 'natural languages.' There is no difference in principle between them and spoken languages for the purpose of first-language acquisition.

That just isn't true; I'm deaf myself :-)

I certainly don't "think" in sign which I learnt before I could lip read. I don't "think" in English either ;-)[/quote]
This is something that has come up before.
I hear fine and I speak English, but I don't necessarily think in English.

It's not like I sit there talking to myself in my head. Maybe sometimes but not most of the time. Actually, when I do that, I tend to start talking aloud to myself (if I'm alone).

But in my head, I can't say that most of the thinking is done in any language per se. I guess I just have notions and ideas of some sort that become translated as I speak about them or describe them, if I can.

You know, when you try to explain your thoughts on something but can't put it into words.

So, please people tell me that I'm not a freak and most people don't really think in English to themselves. That seems very inefficient and cumbersome.


edit: should have fully read CJOBrien's post above before posting...o well...

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("It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into."--Jonathan Swift)

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: May 05 2006,05:52   

I suspect that thinking in a language is indeed what most people experience. I have spent a good deal of time in central America and I notice that after a few weeks of being there, I start "thinking" in spanish. I have asked dozens of people about this experience and I have recieved unanimous confirmation. I would guess that words are symbols that we can't do without in order to define and conceptualize ideas that exist in time (planning or reflection).

THere must be hard scientific evidence and research on that concept somewhere.
Anyone???

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Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
Stephen Elliott



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Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: May 05 2006,06:02   

I have memories from before I had language (or at least I am pretty sure this is the case). Was thinking in pictures.

Don't blame you if you don't believe me. My parents didn't either (at first).

  
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