If some fetuses make choices, logically they have language

(Christy Hemphill) #61

If you have two choices, plate A or B, and B is poisoned , you most certainly can intentionally (non-accidentally) choose one of them without knowing anything about the poison. How is me picking A not a choice unless I can can deduce the presence of poison? I don’t have to even know it’s food or have to eat it. I can be deluded or mistaken and think it’s rocks. If I pick A, I pick A, I make a choice. No labels or knowledge required. Choices do not have to be informed at all, a choice is just the elimination of other options.

I don’t know what you are talking about with seeing color in three versus four ranges, but I do know that perception of color and labeling of color are two separate things. Color studies were a big thing in linguistics, when people were arguing about the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Some cultures only label three colors, black, white and red. Eleven basic color terms exist cross-linguistically. That doesn’t mean people’s eyes work differently or that people from those cultures are unable to correctly choose between differing shades they have no distinct term for (as in pick the color tile that matches a tree leaf and pick the color tile that matches blood.)

(Nick Levinson) #62

Food: Yes, but that’s a different case, because I had lumped food into one mass (which either had poison or didn’t) and you had divided onto two plates (one poisoned but not both). I was addressing whether you do something to get rid of the poison; you’re addressing whether you eat the nonpoisonous plate of food. The labeling of anything already familiar to us is usually subconscious but not less than a label for being subconscious; it is also usually rapid and not less than a label for being rapid; even combining both subconsciousness and rapidity does not make the signifier less than a signifier.

Color: I was referring to the physical condition, not a cultural one. Human eyes have nerve receptors in the retinas that sense within a color range; most of us have those for three color ranges, with the ability to perceive one hundred shades in each range (combining yields 100 x 100 x 100 = 1,000,000 colors). Estimates are that two percent of women and zero percent of men have genes for tetrachromacity but that of the two percent of women very few biologically express that genetic characteristic, due to epigenetics. It’s also likely that culturally we are taught as children not to see additional colors; a tetrachromat’s parents probably are not tetrachromats and they’ll teach their children how to understand what they see, especially since human children, unlike any members of other species, see pictures in books and on TV and those media don’t support tetrachromacity, so the most of the children who do have tetrachromaticity will ignore it, just as we learn in the first few months of life to ignore vocal echoes that aren’t useful. While many retailers sell products for the “long tail” (few sales per item across many items), such as for books (Barnes & Noble as of a few years ago reportedly carried many titles that sold at a rate of one copy every 3-4 months per store), I have not seen that effect (in the big city where I’ve lived for years) for product color choices that would appeal only to tetrachromats, so they’re not likely to be anywhere near two percent of the population. One tetrachromat lives near a river and can see, in the river, colors most people don’t see, so tetrachromats evidently find some of the additional colors not only in paintings and color swatches (arguably artificial) but also in nature. There is a little bit of research on the subject available online.

Some cultures name only two colors (white and black, or, I think about as likely, light and dark) and there’s a sequence for add-ons (if there are only three colors named, most three-color cultures have the same third color, if there are only four colors named, most four-color cultures have the same fourth color, and so on, but not all the way to very large name sets, probably because agreement evaporates near the high end). It’s likely that they don’t find it useful to distinguish more colors, perhaps because, for what’s important to them, other characteristics suffice to distinguish the items. If we need to distinguish between elephants and giraffes, we don’t need “gray” and “orange” because there are enough other differences. And even for a culture without a name for ‘green’, that’s a name composed of sounds or writable characters; if they match a green specimen to a palette of greens, either the sample doubles as a signifier and the palette is a palette of signifieds or the palette is a palette of signifiers and the sample doubles as a signified. That’s like a child pointing to someone; the someone is a signified and the pointing motion is a signifier.

On Sapir-Whorf: I agree that language influences perception in individuals and cultures, but I’m not relying on that here. Rather, I’m arguing that perception, in this case that a choice is available and what that choice is, influences language and, earlier in life, biocommunication systems that can accept symbols.

The assigning of communication symbols is probably driven by utility. We can tell pet cats apart but most of us, facing a forest, would have a hard time telling oaks from other thick trees, never mind oaks from each other. Some primates, however, know each oak individually. We can look at a valley of grass and enjoy it but we’d hardly give every blade its own name. Few would try, even for fun. But identifying mushrooms would be vital, because some are delicious and some will kill you. And humans are not the only one who had better identify mushrooms. Mushrooms can’t run away, so their survival may depend on prolific reproduction or discouraging eating them, and discouraging works much better if prospective diners remember which is which. Prospective eaters include many animals, including birds. Having a bird brain may be a very good thing, noted one ethologist.

(George Brooks) #63


I believe they say they baptize people of a moral age for the remission of sins.

That doesn’t appear to be the reason they baptize infants. I would have spent more time on this issue if I had realized that this the part you find impossible to believe. I’ll chalk it up to you having great diplomacy skills…

(George Brooks) #64

Here is an official page for the Orthodox community… I think it is the kind of gravitas you were looking for ( I had to cut it into 3 sections if it was going to be legible…)





I acknowledge that they don’t believe in original sin. But they do recite the Nicene Creed at the Baptismal service, saying,
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.?

But my main point has been to counter what you originally claimed. You originally said
that baptism for them is often merely to offer comfort to the parents, and that “very few of them use the word sin anywhere in the context of infant baptism.”

btw, I don’t think much of this web site. “They claim that Protestants believe infant baptism is unbiblical.” That is outrageously false.

Does the Eastern Orthodox Church View Infants as Without Sin?
(Christy Hemphill) #66

@beaglelady and @gbrooks9

This discussion of Orthodox baptism practices is completely tangential to the OP. If you really must continue the discussion, do so via PM, please.

(George Brooks) #67


After further reflection, I will start a new thread that specifically addresses the issue of Sin and the Eastern Orthodox communities. That should smooth things out! :smiley:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Obsolete - -

I would like to mildly protest your edict.

The way millions of Eastern Christians perceive the sin status of infants seems quite relevant to the problem of Paul, Sin and Adam.

It’s the specific reason I have brought it up. And just as @beaglelady and I are coming to terms with what to many is a pretty alien world view… you want to shut down the whole discussion?

Could you reconsider that idea please?

Note to @beaglelady - I noticed that off-base note… which i think confirms more of my position. The Eastern communions don’t really know the West that well… and we don’t know them that well!

(Christy Hemphill) #68

But the OP isn’t about any of these things.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #69


Oh wait… wrong thread…



(George Brooks) #71
  1. Thats why I just went ahead and created a separate thread.

  2. As for this thread here… you don’t think the question of “fetal sin” was a more productive aspect of a thread asking about fetal language?

I guess there is a taste for every one…

(Nick Levinson) #72

@Christy re post #60: That may be. If either of us can clarify our respective positions and show the other an error in either one’s basic proposition, fine. And if I’m not altogether wrong, I like refining my argument. I think there’s something pursuable here, although I don’t have the time to gather everything together for that and maybe someone else can pick it up for a refereed journal.

Without having dug up my years-old list of fetal words (now symbols), it’s likely they were all related to immediate practicalities, e.g., ‘mouth’, ‘hand’, ‘hands’, ‘foot’, ‘feet’, ‘left’, ‘right’, and ‘kick’. Per a comment from above, I’d likely now add ‘spin’ or ‘turn’ (if ‘spin’ is only multiple turns then ‘spin’ is unnecessary). I don’t see a need for ‘leg’ as long as ‘foot’ is symbolized. A neonate’s list would be longer, since a neonate would add symbols related to new experiences (e.g., ‘eye’ or ‘see’ but not necessarily both) and would not yet risk forgetting any fetal symbols. I’ll think about whether there would be fetal symbols for memory, short- and/or long-term.

In the example of greens, we could reasonably break one thing down further: if the palette of greens is the signified, pointing at one of them with a finger is a signifier and one of the greens on the palette is a signified.

(Christy Hemphill) #73

I don’t think newborns know their limbs belong to them or that they are in control of them. Haven’t you ever watched a baby stare at its own hands and seem shocked when it moves?

(Nick Levinson) #74

I haven’t seen that but I’ll take your word that the surface appearance often happens. However, a few decades ago, a study found that babies just a few days old knew that a black-and-white caricature of a face with facial parts rearranged was not normal whereas a caricature of a normal face was okay, and most neonates likely don’t see their own reflections or recognize their reflections as being of themselves. I’m doubtful that they don’t know that their limbs are their own; even a newborn can sense pain from its rear end when the doctor slaps it (if doctors don’t anymore they did) and I think the baby’s brain does have a basic understanding of the body’s nerve structure. Pain gives us valuable information (it can be shut down when the information would be useless), and that’s true only if the brain knows which point in the brain is associated with which distant part of the body, so that pain (or another sensation) can be associated with a source outside the brain.

But, back to the arms, a baby can have that knowledge but still be amazed at what control they do (or don’t) have over a limb. They may not know how much control they have but still know they have some kind of control. I once had an experience as a teenager that was the result of having slept on my right arm causing circulation to be impeded (which causes tingling) and having just turned over before awakening; while hardly awake yet, I raised my arm, which promptly fell on my face as if my arm was dead and separate, which startled me awake, so I ran my other hand over the wayward arm from the shoulder down and determined that it was still attached (a then-recent news story was about someone waving through a train window and not seeing that the train was entering a tunnel, which chopped off his arm). In that case, I knew it should be attached and I checked. The amazed baby may be wondering about attachment (if that) because the baby has then had very little experience with different events and so may be less certain about many things that we adults are more certain about. The baby may have intended very little movement but the resulting movement may have been larger than intended. Many of us go through experiences like that in learning many things.

Also decades ago, babies only a few days old were put through an experiment about diet (described in an undergraduate psychology one-semester or one-year college textbook that I read in the 1970s). They were fed different foods from differently-colored containers for at least a day. Then, one day, they were allowed to choose which color they wanted to eat from whenever they ate. What was found was that the sequence of what they ate over the course of the day was bizarre but that by the end of the day they had eaten balanced diets. Evidently, they had associated foods with container colors and remembered them. Someone not in the field said to me that perhaps the babies simply chose their favorite colors, but I think in that case they would have chosen to repeat a color and eaten an imbalanced diet. (I use a variation of that pattern now, on the premise that if I want to drink milk my body probably wants a certain nutrient and tells my brain something, which subconsciously concludes that I need that nutrient and remembers that milk has it, so I drink it.)

Ethology has revealed that various nonhuman animals have knowledge scientists (if not pet owners) used to think they didn’t have. Dogs understand the process of elimination, for instance. Babies, too, have more knowledge than we credit them with (we may credit them for general knowledge but not as often with some specific knowledge). We’re still trying to catalogue more of what it is preverbal children know.


Absolutely correct! They don’t have a sense of self vs non-self.

(Phil) #76

That would be an interesting experiment for breast fed babies.

(Christy Hemphill) #77

Yeah, what ‘different’ foods do babies a few days old eat? Breast fed or formula fed, there just isn’t much variety there.

(Nick Levinson) #78

@beaglelady: Whether babies have a sense of self vs. non-self may need definitions and clarification. Babies have a sense of something that is somewhat about self vs. non-self. If two babies are near each other, many times I’ll see one cry but the other not; the latter is refraining from concluding that because one baby is crying therefore the other should, too (with some exceptions). You can give a toy to one without the other necessarily trying to grab it, too, even though the second will accept another toy when you offer it moments later. And, at any rate, if a fetus thinks something like, “eat [now]”, it doesn’t matter whether the fetus is considering that the nearby food is not part of the fetus or is.

@jpm: A breast-feeding choice experiment: I’m not sure we need one for purposes of this thread but also I’m not clear how we’d design one. Babies tend to prefer their own mothers over other women unless they get hungry and their mothers are not around. There is at least one medical condition in which it’s helpful to pass a breast-feeding baby from woman to woman, but this has a drawback: During one feeding, a baby can communicate what antibodies they need, and, in a later feeding, the breast milk will often include it. For that to be useful to the baby, feedings have to be from the same woman (even if it has to be via a pump). So, we can’t (at least not ethically) test a multi-woman mode.

(Nick Levinson) #79

As long as they’re different enough for the baby to get different nutrients, e.g., protein vs. vitamins, it doesn’t matter how much more different they are. Flavors, smells, and food colors could be uniform and yet may be irrelevant to neonates. As long as the nutritional values meet consumers’ needs, and given that a consumer usually does not need all of the values all at once (which is partly why we adults can eat several meals a day), if there’s any way for the consumer (young or old) to distinguish food sources, that can suffice.


How would a newborn only a few days old be able to consume different foods? How would it note the color of the container it was eating from? Even if it could note the color, how would it be able to indicate the color of container it wanted to eat from?