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Molly Pieri's picture

I-functions and CPG's...

Wow... first of all, I'd love to read a write up of that experiment. I'm glad to hear that the birds didn't seem to suffer any long-term damage. But feelings of sympathy for little birds in straight jackets aside, the study raises some really important questions concerning how much of our behavior "we" (that is, our I-functions) can be held responsible for...

Let's say, for argument's sake, that some human behavior is at least semi-analogous to a birds ability, according to this study, to fly. If, as this study suggests, such an ability is 'pre-programed' into an infant's nervous system, we might decide to call it an "innate behavior", that is a behavior which we are hard-wired to perform, regardless of upbringing or personal choice.

Now, when we're talking about baby birds learning to fly, that seems like a pretty innocent statement, after all like the old saying goes, "fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly". But what if we were to find that some of the uglier aspects of humanity were similarly hard-wired into our neo-natal brains? What about concepts like racism, xenophobia, sexism? Certainly, these questions must be raised in relation to the idea of CPGs- especially if we are going to assert that such neural pathways are developed during embryonic development.

If we are to accept that some patterns of behavior are innately programmed into our nervous systems, then I think that we must at the same time take up the question as to whether life truly is "nasty, brutish and short." If we'd like to conclude otherwise, I think we'd better start searching for biological justification of an I-function pretty soon, because without it I don't see much hope for any argument to the contrary.

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