I was born stupid.
I wasn't born knowing how to build my own house, like a bird builds its nest, or knowing how to weave a complex trap to snare my prey, as a spider weaves its web.
Most cats prefer to drink running water, while we have to learn from our parents, or by experience, that it's better to drink from a babbling brook than a stagnant pond.
We humans are born stupid.
We tend to think of skills as being something that always need to be learnt, so to us it can seem that other animals are born with a staggering amount of "ancestral knowledge" - knowledge that is contained in their DNA, rather than transmitted by tradition.
But are we really born so stupid ?
No - we have a skill at least as special and unique as those I cited, of the spider and of the bird - our capacity to learn languages is hard-wired into our brains.
Of course, we're not born knowing any specific language, but we don't have to learn how to learn a language.
And just as the spider is equipped with a spinneret with which to realise it's innate skill for web-spinning - we humans come equipped with our own special tool with which to make use of our special skill for learning languages - our big, fat, giant, over-inflated balloon brains.
Still, compared to most animals, we are born seriously lacking in terms of specific knowledge. Relatively speaking our infants are a 'blank slate' - which makes us, as a species, extremely adaptable to different environments - a huge evolutionary advantage.
I imagine the amount of "preset" skills and knowledge that we were born with must have diminished as our capacity for language developed, for the development of language meant we could pass on increasingly sophisticated survival strategies verbally, thus increasing our adaptability, enabling us to flourish in a diverse range of environments.
Think about it - the latter development of written language even enables us to communicate an unutterably vast and specific body of knowledge after we are dead ! - a body of knowledge that each of us can pick and choose from, as individuals, according to the various requirements of the circumstances we encounter.
Furthermore, the development of the Internet has to be the most significant advancement in the evolution of the way we share information collectively since written language emerged, as it gives us a far more immediate means of accessing, and contributing to, this unimaginably enormous body of accumulated data.
Consider - through the administration of a drug scientists have induced sleep-walk in a kitten that has never been outside. The kitten acts out a dream - it appears to be chasing a butterfly, though it has never seen one.
I use this example to draw your attention to how difficult it is to separate the reality of ancestral memories of skills from the possibility of ancestral memories of specific things or even of specific events.
It is here that we enter waters uncharted by modern scientific thought, the muddy twilight realms of pseudo-science and mysticism. Perhaps these are areas that will remain indefinitely unverifiable via scientific methods. Yet "that which cannot be proven to be so" is not necessarily "not so".
Personally - when I consider the remarkable variety of human experiences that appear to verify the existence of a larger and more detailed ancestral memory amongst humans than science today acknowledges, or that we are consciously aware of existing - I am inclined to say that the existence of such a collective memory is "probable".
The various "rational" explanations for these phenomena - that they are the manifestation of complex psychological aberrations, or the child-like coping mechanisms of primitive pre-scientific belief systems - strike me as somewhat tenuous.
If science was able to penetrate this area ? - we could be one step closer to the unification of human knowledge.
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