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Feral Children

Poppyflower's picture

Last Thursday, the class debated over the issue of whether or not certain human behaviors are hard wired into us or if they are learned through outside influence. Personally, I believe that the only thing that is "hard-wired" into us is out ability to breath, which comes with out having to think about it, and our natural need to survive. However, it is not really hard-wired into how exactly to survive. We are not born knowing how to hunt or how to gather, these are things we are taught. But then there is also the issue of what defines us as human. Are we human because we build shelters for ourselves and because we can do things other animals can't, or are we taught to be human by other humans? In class, I mentioned a story I had heard about a girl who essentially, from age 3 to 8, was raised by dogs, becoming a feral child. Her parents were alcoholics who left her outside and she crawled into a hovel that was occupied by non-domestic dogs for warmth. While the girl's search for warmth was perhaps instinctual, her ability to act human was, apparently, not. She would run like a dog, bark like a dog and at other dogs, would not eat with her hands, and would drink water with her tongue. This is an obvious scenario of how outside forces influence the development of the human attitude. And although it is difficult to say if this girl chose to act like a dog for some other reasons other than learning them as her mind developed, it is very likely that had she grown up around humans, she would have acted like one. 



skindeep's picture


well, i actually remember this story from class, and it makes an interesting argument - so being human wasnt hardwired into her, but once she was raised by dogs, the behavior she learned was - i think it took them a long time to teach her how to walk and eat with her hands (correct me if im actually blatantly wrong). and this only further adds to the argument that we are hardwired.  no ones saying we are hardwired by our genes when we are born, our genes act like a recipe for what we turn into, they're certainly not a blueprint of it, and it most definitely is society that does the hard wiring, making us believe that we act the way we do because 'thats the way its always been' or 'thats just the way to do it' - and these notions then limit what amount of free will we might have once had.

Sarah Schnellbacher's picture

How long before humanity locks in?

It's interesting that the feral girl was three when she joined a pack of dogs as most three year olds speak quite a bit. Perhaps she first ventured after the dogs as little kids do because they are cute and cuddly and eventually forgot her human ways. I have a cousin who was adopted from Guatamala and spoke fluent Spanish but within a few years she had completely forgotten her Spanish. I guess at that age you can still forget what makes you human. This story certainly takes the romance out of Zeus being raised by a goat and Romulus and Remus by the She Wolf. 


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