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Are we born with past memories and some knowledge about the world around us or is it all learned after birth?

do we possess some knowledge about the world around us innately or is it all learned through experience? instinctual behaviour shown by most of the animals gives evidence about their past knowledge. also some concepts like collective unconscious by Carl Jung try to explain innate knowledge. what is your viewpoint? also are there any concrete researches throwing light on this topic?

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    Mar 14 2012: In a metaphorical sense we are born with memories of past evolution. Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate (it's an ironic title) covers a lot of what's already in us as individuals before we're plunged into the world. There is a large part of language structure that is innate. Finding where the balance lies between the innate and the acquired is part of the bigger everlasting nature vs. nurture debate.
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      Mar 15 2012: "are we born with past memories...?"
      we are! as Pinker and so many remind us, just considering the amount of learning and experiencing going on in utero. It's a shame that for so long whatever took place before birth was not considered to affect who you are.

      Hey Matthieu, do you know about this experiment?
      Mice are sorted out into two categories, two separate cages. In one cage, you've selected, generation over generation, the anxious mice. After a while you've got a cage full of anxious-only mice.
      In the other cage, you do the same but with relaxed mice.
      So you've artificially created an anxious population and a relaxed population.
      A baby mice born in the anxious cage is always anxious. And a baby born in the relaxed cage is always relaxed.

      BUT. Give a relaxed new-born to an anxious mother... It STAYS relaxed.
      Same thing the other way around.

      First hasty conclusion is that the baby's character is purely affected by it's genes.

      NOW. Insert a relaxed embryo in an anxious mother... It BECOMES anxious.
      So the environment affected it after all. Turns out the environment has stronger impact before birth than after.
      Pinker writes about that too, fascinating. Isn't it?
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    Mar 14 2012: As I understand it all knowledge is available at birth on a unconscious level.
    Experience (interaction with the world) highlight fractals that become conscious knowledge.
    In a dream state more knowledge is accessible.
    Without focus one is able to roam the unconscious world. It contains all stories ever lived, all forms created within color, sound and smell associating with your present existence.
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    Mar 16 2012: Adding to the comments already listed, are autistic children who are born with specialized gifts. There are some who have a built in calculator and can add or multiply numbers without any effort. Just recently, I saw a program on the world's best chess player. He had no interest in the world around him, but he could play chess as if he was born with game programmed in his mind. Take Mozart who was able to write symphonies at an early age, or Einstein who had a natural gift for physics. Where does such knowledge come from?

    Let me give you a possible clue. Every atom in the universe has the same underlying structure. Every electron is exactly alike. The same is true for protons and neutrons. Particle accelerators are used to unravel the universal code. That same code is in each and every atom in our bodies, including our brains. The symmetry of nature is the same throughout. The patterns of nature are all repetitive. That is the basic premise of science. DNA tells the cells how to build our bodies. What tells the cells how to build our brains? That is an unanswered question, but what we know is gleaned from the universal code, and it might have an effect during development.

    Edgar Cayce was a clairvoyant of the last century. He diagnosed medical problems that stumped doctors, he himself not being a doctor. He claimed he received his information (while in trance) from the collective consciousness (which he referred to as the akashic records). He claimed the universe itself has a memory.

    During meditation, I saw the principles of quantum fields eleven years before I received any formal instruction on the subject. Throughout my life, I have felt guided by a higher power that has served me well. I believe that we are connected to the cosmos in some way. I believe that life is a river that flows though time. You may find some information from the Association of Research and Enlightenment. See link;
    • Mar 16 2012: hi Roy, your question about gifted people is worth considering. how exactly do they develop special abilities in specific field? the development of brain is one other mystery that you have rightly mentioned. however with all due respect towards Edgar Cayce, i find it difficult to believe in his psychic abilities at this point of time as i dont see many people like him existing today. I'll try to know more about it in future. thanks for your views
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        Mar 19 2012: Roy gave a good example of limitless knowledge by savants.
        Among them Daniel Tammet is known to produce the number Pi up to a length of decimals that exceeds the power of a supercomputer. People think he has a trick in math but this isn't the case.
        He just reads the numbers out one by one as shown to him in color and shape.
        They're available to everyone that can connect to the universe, mindless with a strong focus on the question.
        Every answer can be picked out of thin air as we aren't occupied with all the mental processes that are common to human beings.
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    Mar 14 2012: Hi Girish,
    There is quite a bit of research "throwing light on this topic". Here is an interesting TED talk addressing this issue.

    The child in the womb is so connected with the mother and the mother's environment, I cannot help but believe that the child is influenced way before birth. As I recall, Annie Murphy suggests that the child is already preparing, before birth, to enter the circumstances s/he will encounter after birth. I believe in the "collective unconscious" as Carl Jung called it. I believe there is an abundance of information available to us when/if we are open to the possibilities. I also believe in reincarnation, and depending on how aware we are of past lives, it may provide even more information.
    • Mar 15 2012: Thanks Colleen.
      the link was helpful. although it focussed more on pregnancy, it provided good info. I came to know about your life experiences through some of your other posts. That was inspiring. I'll be interested in knowing, if you had any insightful experiences about the unconscious knowledge within yourself, during your recovery from brain damage.
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        Mar 18 2012: Hi Girish,
        The life experience, for me, is an exploration, so yes, I've had many experiences from which I have learned:>)

        The near death incident was one of the biggest learning experiences, and although there was brain damage, it seemed to have opened many channels of the brain/mind and created more interconnections.

        While clinically unconscious in ICU, connected to life support systems, I was aware of a much bigger picture than I knew on a human level. I was aware of everything that was happening around me, aware of people's thoughts and feelings, and also aware of a much larger scene beyond the obvious.

        I feel that our brain is very much like a computer in that there are different programs operating at different times, or at the same time, allowing us to access different information. When I was unconscious, the program that allows me to speak and connect on a human level was shut down. Other programs were still running even though the body was close to death clinically.

        I had a review of my lives, and that was my first awareness that I may have had other lives. Reincarnation was not part of my belief system prior to the incident. The information I was aware of seemed to connect many things for me. For example, in this life, I have been very interested in body/mind healing, and that seems to be a thread that runs through many past lives. I had the opportunity to put information into practice with the head/brain injury. First, I was not expected to live, then I was told that I would never function "normally" again because of the damage to the brain.
        Although there are some symtoms that persist at times, I function at an emotionally, and physically high level most of the time. I knew that I would function at some level beyond the prognosis...I had that information when I regained consciousness. Some might say it was wishful thinking? Some may say I was not being realistic? I knew:>)

        We all have the ability to get more information when we open more channels.
        • Mar 18 2012: you surely had a great experience. I've seen that people who had near death experiences understand life in a different manner. i guess your high emotional state may be causing due to hyperactive limbic system. the other part of the brain which controls the limbic system activities may be damaged to certain extent. anyways great to see you recovering. thanks for sharing your experience. LIVE STRONG:-)
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          Mar 19 2012: Colleen,
          Last week I saw a report about a new medical initiative here that was set up to help people with emotional problems after being nursed in a ICU.
          Most people change and are confused because of their experiences that they can't explain to themselves or family.
          Also family are involved because they are confused either if confronted with a changed personality. It seems to be a problem for many. To deal with this after effect some support can help to be informed and adapt to the new situation.

          Reincarnation to me isn't the right word. As time isn't in fact real we live all lives now even though they appear to be centuries apart. We even can connect with future life's that are in progress. We connect telepathic through time as we connect through space. Any distance belongs to matter that to our soul doesn't matter.
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        Mar 18 2012: LOL!!!
        So Girish, you think my "high emotional state may be causing due to hyperactive limbic system" OK....whatever!!!

        No, it is not the part of the brain which controls the limbic system activities that is most damaged.
        I did some pretty extensive research based on medical model tests that were administered. It seems rather odd that you would try to diagnose...but....whatever!!!

        My guess is that the information I presented does not fit into your belief system, so you are trying to explain it with the information you have at this time....that's ok:>)

        I DO "live strong" Girish....and clear:>)
        • Mar 19 2012: Yes... I know I have very limited knowledge regarding brain activities. I wish I had taken the Biology lessons seriously in school. :) I always found it difficult to remember all those terms... Anyways I hope I'll learn all these things better in future...
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        Mar 19 2012: Girish,
        If you have "limited knowledge regarding brain activities", it is not appropriate to try to diagnose anyone, especially on a public forum. I am glad to give you information which you asked for, and I am less willing to share if I believe you are going to mis-represent any information I give you. You may learn more by listening to what people are telling you, rather than speculating.
        • Mar 20 2012: Sorry... but I wasnt trying to diagnose as such, I just made a random guess to apply my available knowledge. I was sure that you would correct me as you must be knowing the reasons for high emotional states. I just wanted to continue the topic further to gather some more info. Also If I dont try to apply my available knowledge, how will I come to know about my ignorance. I like to learn from my own mistakes. :)
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        Mar 19 2012: Yes Frans, I'm aware of all kinds of support for people coming out of ICU, and I gratefully accepted that support after my head/brain injury 22 years ago. I also had, and continue to have a GREAT, very extensive support system with family and friends.

        To the best of my knowledge, I have not had a personality change. My reference to symtoms above,(Although there are some symtoms that persist at times), are in regards to an oversensitivity to light and sound at times...balance issues, headachs, dizzyness at times. Thanks for your concern.

        It's ok if you don't think reincarnation is the "right word". I agree that time is a human construct, and does not exist in the spirit/energy form.
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        Mar 20 2012: Girish,
        You actually, very effectively demonstrated how we (humans) prevent ourselves from getting more information. You applied your "available knowledge". The knowledge you have at this time is probably accurate, and I've found, with my life exploration, that there is usually MORE knowledge. It's common for people to get "stuck" with the knowledge s/he has at any given time, and therefor, is not open to knew or different information.

        There are a multitude of "channels" by which we can gather information, and many of them have been mentioned on this thread...universal knowledge, collective consciousness, information passed on with DNA/evolution, instinct, intuition. If we get "stuck" with one thought, idea, opinion or belief, then we are using only part of our "recieving" system. Like a computer for example. If we always run the same program, we get and use the same information. When we explore more programs, open the "search engine" to more possibilities, we get more information.

        You ask in your introduction, do we get information "through experience", "Instinctual behaviour", "collective unconscious"?. In my perception, all of the methods you have mentioned, and more. Some folks use ONLY one or two methods of collecting information, thereby limiting themselves. The human body/mind is evolving all the time, and through science, we are recognizing more about how it works.

        For example, 22 years ago, when I sustained the brain damage, medical professionals believed that because certain parts of the brain were damaged, I would lose certain functions. They now know that different parts of the brain reprogram, and create new pathways/connections for information.
        Somehow, I knew that 22 years ago. Although they were telling me I would not function, I knew that I would. In the back of my mind (such as it was) I was thinking..."I learned these functions before, and I will learn them again at a level higher than anticipated"....and I did:>)
        • Mar 21 2012: agreed... very well said. We often get stuck to single way of obtaining knowledge as this way has worked for many times in the past. We need to be more open at times. Also It's great to know how you have overcome the damage to relearn different functions. I am evidencing similar things in case of my father, who is recovering from a mild paralysis attack. Although In his case doctors are hopeful of recovery as the attack was mild enough and the damage wasnt big. He had to work hard and sometimes it was a painful experience for him to relearn the functions which he used to perform normally before. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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        Mar 21 2012: Hi Girish,
        I wouldn't say that I have "overcome the damage". The damage is there, and will be for the rest of my life. I accepted that, and moved on. It's simply my perception of how I live my life. I do not "overcome" anything. I accept and move on to learn something new.

        I only mention this because I think/feel it is an important part of getting new information. When we are trying to "overcome" something, there may be a struggle to "fix" it, or make it go away, or resistance to the reality. When we accept our circumstances, at any given moment with the intent to be open to new and different information, sometimes the task is not so painful. After the injury, I accepted the fact that I was not functioning as I was previously, and I faced the challenge with acceptance, which allowed me to move faster through the process of gaining new information.

        It's important to be patient with ourselves throughout the process, understand and accept that we are in a different place physically and emotionally, which may be uncomfortable at times. I truly believe that acceptance is a big part of moving forward to create those new connections. Bodily systems are meant to flow, and when we resist or struggle, it actually blocks the systems from working as they "know" how to work.

        I'm sending loving, healing energy to you and your to you both Girish:>)
        • Mar 22 2012: Thank you very very much... I wish you the same. Learned a lot from your experience...
  • Apr 13 2012: any further ideas before the topic gets closed.
  • Mar 15 2012: Thanks to Matthieu and Frans for sharing your views. From our experiences, it's evident that some universal knowledge about world around us has been transferred from one generation to other generation during evolution. e.g. our innate fear towards harmful animals like snake, tigers. can you think of some other examples?
    One more question I've is how exactly this knowledge is transferred from one generation to other. Is it stored in the form of DNA? and why not all the memories are transferred from parents to children?
    I think the unconscious part of the mind is a never ending mystery and we'll never be able to know, what all we possess in it.
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      Mar 15 2012: There is no way by which behaviour, memories or thoughts can be encoded into genes and passed down generations. What you do does not affect your DNA.
      However, the brain has had tons of time to evolve the way it is, just by trial and error. Variation and selection. Innate knowledge is absolutely necessary for any living thing. What to like, what to avoid. For complexe animals such as us, the information is consequently huge. Our environment is much richer than that of a bacterium, in terms of our possible range of interactions with it.
      What makes us happy : love, children, friends, conversations, music, drawing, fighting, dancing, etc... is all innate.

      But I think I'd rather not use "knowledge". I think "wiring" is a better word, since eveything I mention, every thing innate, needs to be activated. The human brain is wired to allow precise control of the fingers, but if for some reason you're not allowed to move them while you're developping, then it's lost.
      We're wired to use both eyes and to build a 3D reality (which has nothing to do with reality), we're wired to enjoy sex, we're even wired to enjoy social networks such as this one (never mind the fact that it's online).
      But, like Jung's archetypes, they need activation. And this is what child developpement is about. Especially in utero developpement it seems.

      So Brains, hands, lungs, teeth... I would'nt speak of "past memories" to describe the information about them taht is encoded in our DNA. The only thing that our ancestor's hands did for our own hands is figure out a way to reproduce. What works at getting replicated is replicated. Simple as that, and not much to do with "collective unconscious", not in the way Jung meant it, at least.

      The nature vs nurture debate is as dead as the dodo. Everyone knows that "nature" expects "nurture" to happen.
      • Mar 15 2012: thanks Gerald. this is really knowledgeable. but i have one doubt. the wiring in our brain can explain about our general behaviour and perception about world. but how can we explain the transfer of factual knowledge? eg. few fishes and birds exactly know the locations and routes of their migration even if they have never travelled to those locations before.
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          Mar 15 2012: That's a good question. I'm afraid I don't enough about this kind of innate knowledge.
          But if I were to speculate, I'd start by asking myself how the first migrating bird got to the right location.
          You say the wiring can explain about general behaviour. So let's imagine a flock of birds taking off in many different directions, according to the random wiring of each. The one bird with the wiring leading to the best location will have an advantage and after some generations, every bird that will have inherited the correct wiring will behave accordingly and successfully reach the promise land.
          It does look like knowledge, but if you question the origin of that knowledge, I think it does seem like it's just behaviour that's been selected.

          For that, we need to assume that behaviour is not completely random, that we act according to many factors that include genetical wiring of brain.
          But we shouldn't have a problem with such an assumption.
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          Mar 17 2012: My guess would be that those birds and fish use certain physical features present in the environment to guide them. Like a program's algorithm, if the input is the same (the starting point) and the parameters are the same (whichever feature they use), you will get the same result regardless of the bird or fish concerned (the arrival point). So they don't remember that place per se, they just have a procedure that they follow passed down by their ancestors and that procedure, given the right starting conditions, always leads to the right place. It'd be interesting to displace populations (probably unethical though) at random and see how they fare.
      • Mar 16 2012: that is a feasible explanation. i think i should collect some more info on how knowledge gets stored in the brain. once again thanks for opening up my thinking.
      • Mar 16 2012: that is a feasible explanation. i think i should collect some more info on how knowledge gets stored in the brain. once again thanks for opening up my thinking.
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      Mar 17 2012: This 'knowledge' is stored in genes yes through evolution by natural selection. In a population that are prey to snakes, those who avoid snakes at all costs will be more likely to survive to reproductive age. Their aversion will be passed on and magnified by subsequent generations of better avoiders (the ones who are the best at avoiding the snakes will always have the better odds [unless of course it demands a lost of fitness in another domain like gathering food]).

      There are also more subtle bits of physical 'memory' that are passed on. The mother's immune system is passed on to its child as are some other features that fall under the header of epigenetic features (anything that is passed on vertically but not through genes).