05 May 2017

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Do we inherit experiences from our ancestors?

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Do we inherit experiences from our ancestors?

At face value this question falls within the province of science
especially biology moving on to psychology, neurology and genetics. So
what is the philosophy of this question?

As a topic this is quite an interesting one and even popular; indeed a
quick search on the internet will list quite a few articles including
popular style article. One reason, maybe, why this subject should be
interesting is that the more we move into large cities the more we
become anonymous individuals. But our past is something very much our
own and very much a fact of life and reality. Our past is ours and we
are not that anonymous in the past. The question whose life is a fact
and whose reality are we talking about?

Of course, by experience we cannot mean the actual sense perception when
a causal chain of events are happening in real time that later we can
call experience. By inherited experiences we can mean memories of the
experience, effects of the experience, and of course biological changes
to our body as a consequence of the experience which are then passed on.

Regarding the nature nurture debate, our parents, or even ancestors, can
only pass genes that are present in them at the time of conception.
Later gene changes can probably only be passed by complex circumstantial
events. Maybe say (and I am speculating here) a virus that affects one
of our parents, say by changing a gene, will also affect us by virtue
that we have inherited 50% of the genes of our parent.

However, what we know for sure is that a foetus can affect and maybe
change genes of the mother; after all a foetus is a foreign biological
body in the womb and hence in principle can affect adversely the mother.
This might for example happen when the foetus inherits a gene from the
father that causes a change in a particular gene (eg a blood/bone marrow
genes) via the foetus the gene is passed on to the mother. This chain of
causal events in well documented in the medical literature.

But there is also another route where an experience is passed on to
future generations. Family behaviours, maybe, such as rituals or as
memes can and do affect future generations. For example, cooking
traditions is a good case in point. When a member of a family has high
blood pressure it is very common for the family not to use salt in the
food. Of course, some members of the family might inherit high blood
pressure, but not necessarily all children of the parents will inherit
this disease. However, those with normal blood pressure might get used
to food without salt and this way of cooking will be passed on by this
particular person. Indeed it might be argued that this family do in fact
experience the perception of their ancestors; eating unsalted food is a
unique experience.

Returning to the theme of experience we might be forgiven in thinking
that by experience these have to be some sort of action packed events.
But not necessarily, since our mental events (thinking) are also
experiences and physical experiences. Of course, not all cases of
intelligent parents manifest themselves in intelligent children, or even
more intelligent children. There are more factors that shape
intelligence besides genes; our environment and circumstances play a
huge role.

There are many ways that our ancestors affect us and our behaviour
today. Of course, those who have children today will be affecting future
generations. But this does not mean that we are determined or wholly
determined by past generations. It only means that some traits, due to
experiences of our ancestors, might affect us. But we are as likely to
be affected by the experience of our ancestors as much as our new
experiences, including experiences of our partners.

But even then some experiences might be unique and therefore very hard
to repeat them or to be repeated. Not many people can claim to have
inherited experiences from one of their ancestors who had visited the
moon. But many experiences are practically the same: I have already
mentioned food without salt. Another experience is living in hot or
cold climates: the temperature is the same, how we cope with it is the
private experience.

Indeed, the domain of our topic is biology and related sciences, but
language is the domain of philosophy. Clarifying what we mean by such
interesting questions as our topic is the scope of philosophy. If the
devil is in the detail, philosophy must surely be the devil; maybe?

(note there are many more articles on the subject)
Memories Can Be Inherited, And Scientists Might Have Just Figured Out How

The Bad News: Trauma Can Be Inherited. The Good News — So Can Resilience

Los gusanos tienen marcados en sus genes los traumas de sus tatarabuelos

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/

PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every
Thursdays at Triskel in c/San Vicente Ferrer 3.
Time: from 19:30 to 21h

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Do we inherit
experiences from our ancestors?

No comments: