40 years of faulty wiring

A Feral Boy Proves Pain, Fear are a Learned Myth

I wrote about feral children in an earlier blog.  Feral children are children who have been abandoned in a natural setting, usually a forest, who somehow manage to survive without adult protection, communication with human beings, or shelter. One of the children I researched was a little boy named Victor who spent the first 12 years of his life abandoned in a woods near Averyon in France. Victor was found wandering the woods near Saint-Sernin-sur-Rance, in 1797 and was captured but he managed to escape until January 8, 1800, when he simply left the woods and returned to the village. His lack of speech, as well as his food preferences and the numerous scars on his body, indicated he had been in the wild for the majority of his life. Of course the child soon became the subject of scientific interest: a philosophy during the Enlightenment Age was of the noble savage. Some believed a person, existing in nature, would be “gentle, innocent, a lover of solitude, ignorant of evil and incapable of causing intentional harm.” watch Victor of Aveyron

Victor didn’t display human emotion, nor did he seem inclined to socialize with anyone. He was unable to bond with other human beings and he appeared oblivious to this fact. While Victor did not learn to speak language, it seems that Victor did make progress in his behavior towards other people, demonstrating familiarity and some empathy. He was also accustomed to cold and when he went outside in the snow, Victor threw off his clothes, and started playing, rolling around in the snow, and running nude. Our perception of cold and warmth is mostly based on the experiences we have and the knowledge we are taught, so it seems that Victor was used to cold weather and spent his life outside.

 Another feral child, an Irish sheep-boy was discovered in 1672. He was described as a  youth of 16 years, who was brought up amongst wild sheep in Ireland. He was (according to “civilized standards“) rude, ignorant of fear, lacking softness and very fierce. He had firm flesh, scorched skin, rigid limbs, and bleated like a sheep. He chewed grass and hay. He lived on rough mountains and in desert places, and showed a preference for caves and dens. His appearance was of a wild beast and a long time passed before the boy began to behave in a more “civilizedmanner.
Caution, sensitivity to temperature, extreme pain, a need for nurturing, all of these behaviours are learned in human society; they are not innate and are not genetically inheritedLanguage, too, is a means of communication that must be taught during a child’s development or it can never be learned.Victor, the sheep-boy and many other feral children discovered in history were living proof that some of our basic human needs are not needs. They are wants, and they are learned wants. Of course needs and wants, as well as social behaviour, are vital to an advanced and intellectual civilization, thus the morality of teaching these experiences to ourselves and to our offspring is entirely justified. The lesson in the scientific research of feral children is a valuable one: just as we teach our children consciously to react to what we believe are adverse situations to ensure our survival, there is much that we assume needs to be learned.
Possibly, many of our “common sense” behaviours are unnecessary. The key words in describing the socialization of human beings is the aforementioned us of “common sense“. Feral children are living proof that the survival skills we acquire are not all vital. Rather, they are a reflection of the common society, a shared belief in the social mores and norms that define us as civilized beings, rather than fulfilling actual needs and offering us needed protection.

September 2, 2012 - Posted by | Animal Kingdom, Bizarre yet True, Education, Human Biology, Human psychology | , , , , ,

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